Rockford is a city in the Rock River Valley in Northern Illinois. With a population of over 145,000 (2019), it is the third largest city in the state.

Get in[edit]

By plane[edit]

Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD IATA) is the nearest full-service airport and is directly connected to Rockford by Interstate 90.

Dane County Regional Airport (MSN IATA) in Madison, Wisconsin, is about an hour and 20 minutes north of Rockford in Interstate 39/90 and is served by six airlines.

By car[edit]

Barber–Colman Company Historic District

Rockford is located at the intersection of US Route 20 and Interstates 90 and 39, just 95 miles east of Dubuque, Iowa, 20 miles south of the Wisconsin border, 60 miles west of Chicago O'Hare International Airport, and 130 miles north of Bloomington.

By bus[edit]

  • Coach USA/Van Galder runs a bus service from Rockford to O'Hare International Airport, Midway Airport, and Union Station in Chicago on a regular basis.
  • Greyhound Bus Lines has a stop at the transit center at 725 N Lynford Rd near Route 20 and I-39. There is a bus that leaves Chicago at 6:15AM and it arrives at 8:15AM in Rockford. A bus leaves Freeport at 5:25PM and arrives at 6PM. Take the #11 local bus from the Greyhound stop to downtown Rockford.\

By train[edit]

Rockford is not served by passenger trains, with the railway lines in the city only served by freight trains. However, Amtrak's throughway bus service provides a connection to Chicago Union Station for rail passengers. A new passenger route from Chicago is expected to open in 2026.

Get around[edit]

By car[edit]

Rockford is relatively easy to navigate by car and has little traffic congestion compared to other larger cities. Taxicab services are also available.

The 4 most important roads in Rockford are State Street, which runs from east to west as part of US Highway 20; Main Street, which runs south from downtown to the airport as part of Illinois State Route 2; Second Street, which runs north from downtown to the Wisconsin border as part of Illinois State Route 251; and Riverside Boulevard, which bends into to Harrison Avenue and Springfield Avenue, and can be a easy way to get around the entirety of the city.

By transit[edit]

The Rockford Mass Transit District offers bus service in Rockford, Loves Park and Machesney Park.


Burpee Museum of Natural History
Tyrannosaurus Jane

When traveling in the Rockford Region, you will see the rolling hills of Northern Illinois, the Rock River and many trees and forests (Rockford is known as "the Forest City"). Although Rockford has the population of a larger city, it has a small-town feel.

There are many original restaurants, sites, attractions and events that can only be found in Rockford.

The Riverfront Museum Park houses three museums:

  • 1 Burpee Museum of Natural History. Home to Jane, the world's most complete juvenile T. Rex skeleton. Burpee Museum of Natural History (Q5000284) on Wikidata Burpee Museum of Natural History on Wikipedia
  • the Discovery Center Children's Museum, ranked fourth in the nation by Child magazine
  • Rockford Art Museum, the largest art museum in Illinois outside of Chicago.

Other museums in the area include:

  • Midway Village and Museum Center
  • Tinker Swiss Cottage
  • Historic Auto Attractions
  • Erlander Home Museum and Ethnic Heritage Museum.


Arts and culture[edit]

  • 1 Coronado Performing Arts Center, 314 North Main St, +1 815 968 5222. A historic "atmospheric" style theatre that was built in 1927 and fully restored in 2001. The Coronado offers a full season of Broadway shows, concerts and other performances. Coronado Performing Arts Center (Q5172165) on Wikidata Coronado Theatre on Wikipedia
  • The BMO Center, Rockford's downtown 10,000-seat arena, is home to music, athletic and exposition events.
  • In the summer months, Starlight Theatre on the campus of Rock Valley College features classical and contemporary musical productions. The theatre has a unique mechanical roof that opens out like a blooming flower on clear nights.

Rockford also has a symphony orchestra, dance company and several theatre companies.

Outdoor fun[edit]

Anderson Japanese Gardens
  • Rock Cut State Park is one of the largest state parks in Illinois and features camping, hiking, biking, birding, fishing, horseback riding and kayaking.
  • Klehm Arboretum & Botanic Garden has over 500 different species of trees, shrubs and vines.
  • Established in 2011, the Nicholas Conservatory is home to many exotic plants and ecosystems. Check their website for monthly free days and other events. You may be lucky enough to get licked by a butterfly on butterfly month.
  • Rockford has a large variety of low-cost public and private golf courses.
  • In the fall and winter, locals and visitors enjoy many apple orchards and Christmas tree farms.
  • During the summer, Hurricane Harbor, offers families a fun way to cool down in the summer heat.
  • 2 Anderson Japanese Gardens, 318 Spring Creek Rd, +1 815 229 9390. Anderson Japanese Gardens (Q4754109) on Wikidata Anderson Japanese Gardens on Wikipedia

Spectator Sports[edit]

The Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League offer an excellent family entertainment option.


During March, the Midway Village & Museum Center hosts the Sock Monkey Madness Festival featuring vendors, crafts, make-your-own-monkeys, activities, and information on sock monkey history.

Relatively new to the area, the Screw City Beer Festival occurs every September. Come and eat food, hangout, hug a stranger, and most importantly try some delicious craft beer.

The Rockford City Market is an outdoor market held every Friday evening from May to September. Food, local craft beer, drinks, live music, locally produced artisanal products, and farm vendors are featured at this weekly event.



  • JMK Nippon. Has decently high quality, reasonably priced sushi. The teppan-yaki is much better than that of such chain restaurants as Benihana, and they even offer traditional Japanese dishes such as sukiyaki and shabu-shabu. This is a must-eat restaurant if business or pleasure brings you to Rockford. The owner Mas, while shy, is very friendly, as is his son John.
  • GreenFire Restaurant Bar & Bakery, 6795 East Riverside Blvd. Wood-fire pizza, burgers, steaks, seafood, cakes, pies, cupcakes. Kitchen is open until midnight every day. Natural & organic cuisine. The owner, chef Philippe is a Rockford institution when it comes to food. Try the famous chicken crepe. The bakery also puts out tasty items.
  • Potato Shak (In nearby Loves Park, IL). Cheap, cheap, cheap breakfast and lunch options. Breakfast is simple to order: choose option A, B, or C. It'll only run you a couple bucks. And the best busboy in the city, Ace, will give you some friendly conversation.
  • Illinois Machine Shed. Offers reasonably priced perfectly done basic farm cooking, with huge portions.
  • The Olympic Tavern, 2327 N. Main St, +1 815 962-8758. 11AM-midnight. In business since 1945. Has a world class beer selection, and family-friendly casual fine dining, in a Frank Lloyd Wright architecturally award winning atmosphere, as well as the fine patio in the warmer months. The Olympic is a long standing Rockford tradition.
  • Stockholm Inn, 2420 Charles Street, +1 815 397-3534. The Stolkholm Inn serves American and traditional Swedish food in a family restaurant atmosphere. Swedish specialties include Swedish pancakes, Kroppkakor (meat-filled potato dumplings), Swedish Meatballs and Kaldolmar (cabbage rolls).


  • Carlyle Brewing Co., 215 East State Street. Has a wonderful selection of freshly brewed beers and root beer. Food selection is great for an area bar. Known for their signature Vanilla Cream ale. Their signature thin crust pizza is their highest ordered food item.
  • Pig Minds Brewery (In Machesney Park (northern suburb)). Has the same style of a brewpub but offers a vegan menu.
  • Oasis Micro-Pub (on the corner of East State and 5th St across from Uncle Nicks). Although they do not brew their own beer, they have a constantly changing beer menu with dozens of craft beers and wine. The bartenders are both friendly and sassy, and if you are lucky you may even see Uncle Nick (owner) in all of his suspender-ific glory.


Stay safe[edit]

In the past Rockford used to be one of the most dangerous cities in the United States. Crime has decreased and Rockford is mostly safe but some parts should be avoided especially at night.

Go next[edit]

Routes through Rockford
MadisonBeloit  N  S  RochelleNormal
MadisonBeloit  W  E  ElginChicago
DubuqueFreeport  W  E  ElginChicago
END ← Beloit ← becomes  N  S  DixonSterling

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