Quad Cities (IA/IL) pandemic road trip?

For over a year (a pandemic year), we grandparents here in Des Moines have been searching for mid-way meeting spots to rendezvous with our 18-month-old Chicago grandson and his parents. Until this week, Iowans were on Chicago’s quarantine list, discouraging visits there.  And last I heard, our grandson’s child care center still requires him to NOT attend for two weeks after stepping foot into Iowa. Hence the search, in particular, for meeting spots on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River.  I had high hopes for the  John Deere Pavilion and  Tractor & Engine Museum in Moline (Illinois) which has cool combines, tractors and other heavy farm equipment laid out (presumably safely) for kids to explore.  But it is still closed.   It’s part of the four-building John Deere headquarters.  which I’ve long wanted to see for reasons that would not excite a toddler — its architecture (designed in 1964 by Eero Saarinen) and  stunning art collection. At one point, I was desperate enough to consider the Quad Cities Airport (also in Moline) as an indoors meeting place during the bitter cold winter . This PR list below offers a few other options although most are in Iowa — which still may be an issue for us. It does mention that the John Deere “family mansions” are open but again, not so much fun for a toddler.


#1. If you have littles, the Family Museum is a great place to explore.  Besides interactive exhibits, their newest addition is the Luckey Climber. It’s the first in Iowa, and the Quad Cities.  The Luckey Climber reaches two stories high.  The custom-designed vertical maze of climbing platforms is both a jungle gym and work of art. The vertical maze is enclosed inside a seamless netting made from handwoven vinyl-coated, steel cable.  In addition to the fun of climbing, kids have a great destination once they reach the second floor — The Imagination Studio consisting of the Think Shop along with art and clay studios welcome the climbers.  For more information, contact 563-344-4106 or www.familymuseum.org

#2. John Deere is an important part of the Quad Cities legacy and economy, and the Deere-family mansions are a popular stop for visitors.  Spend some time in the afternoon on a free tour of the Deere-Wiman and Butterworth Center homes—the first being built in 1872 and the latter in 1892. A special feature of Butterworth Center is the library, built in 1917. The room was designed to hold an 18th century Italian ceiling painting originally found in Venice, Italy.  Believed to have been painted by Gaspare Diziani, the painting is one of only six known Venetian ceiling paintings existing in the U.S. today. Tours include both homes and begin at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.  Preregistration is required on the website at www.butterworthcenter.com or by calling 309-743-2700.

#3. Live Action Games will keep your throwing arm in good shape as you try to hit the bullseye with an axe.  Sounds easy enough right?  Not really.  This adventure is for ages 10 and up.  The challenges do not end there.  You’re trapped and surrounded by enemies. The clock is ticking on your survival. Can you keep your calm and find your way out? Put your skills against the clock at the Live Action Games’ escape rooms.  They have a variety of breakout games for you to try and conquer. Make reservations online at www.lagqc.com or 563-594-1952.

#4. The Quad Cities is known for its many local flavors and ice cream is certainly one of them. Indulge in a culinary ice cream adventure and dip into places like Whitey’s Ice Cream, Here’s the Scoop, Country Style, Lagomarcino’s, and Carnevale Gelato.  Find more information at visitquadcities.com.

#5. For America: 200 Years of Painting from the National Academy of Design is a new, world-renowned exhibit at the Figge Art Museum.  For America features over 90 works made between 1810 and 2010 by some of the greatest American artists, drawn from the collections of the National Academy of Design in New York.  For America presents a unique history of American art and the country as seen through the lens of artists.  You can visit in person and purchase tickets in advance or take a virtual 3D tour on www.figgeartmuseum.org.  Plan for their March Free Family Day on March 13 featuring an introduction to the For America exhibit.  A free registration grants your family 2-weeks of access to a virtual line-up, which means you can choose your day to play.

#6. Explore the role of toys and play in society through Play: The story of Toys at the Putnam Museum, one of three exhibits currently in place at the museum. For all ages, Play takes a look at toys that are educational, creative, and meant for the outdoors. Visitors will be able to reminisce about favorite toy fads and dangerous toys they may have had growing up as well as view new inclusive and technological toys. Faces of the Past explores portraitures around the world and across time.  Visitors can expect to see faces representing 20 countries and 35 cultures.  Birds and You examines the role we all can play in protecting and preserving the birds we see every day in our backyards and fields. Visitors can expect to see a variety of taxidermy mounts, eggs, and nests from the Putnam’s collection while learning about the issues facing birds today and the simple things they can do to help. For more information, contact 563-324-1933 or www.putnam.org

#7. You can plan a photo scavenger hunt contest with others or do one on your own.  How it works: use your phones to take pictures as guided by a list. Upload photos to a Google photos album shared among the others participating. Do a screen share on a Zoom call and look though the photos together while sharing stories. Here’s an example of a QC family scavenger hunt.  Or go searching for public art murals in the Quad Cities.  It’s a chance to explore and see the murals in the QC up close.  It’s fun whether you are a Quad Citizen exploring your own backyard, or you can make it a family event when visiting the QC. Here’s a list of murals in the QC

#8. Try a slice or two of Quad Cities’ style of pizza.  There are several hallmarks of “Quad Cities-style” including the hand-tossed malt crust, crumbly sausage with fennel, toppings hiding under the deliciously, gooey layer of mozzarella cheese, and scissor-cut into strips.  Locals have their favorite QC-style pizza places whether at the long-time establishments like Harris, Frank’s, Clint’s, Gunchie’s, or newer ones such as Benny’s or Quad City Pizza Co.  You can tell we’re into pizza here because over 40 years ago, Happy Joe’s founder Joe Whitty invented the taco pizza here.  Yes, it’s just like it sounds with sauce, spiced up meat, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and crushed taco chips on top.

#9. Immerse yourself in Native American history.  Listed as one of the 7 Wonders of Illinois, Black Hawk State Historic Site takes you back through history beginning with the Sauk and Meskwaki Native American Indians and the warrior Black Hawk to woodland trails and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).  Explore the museum, lodge, amazing history of this site, and miles of wooded hiking trails. For more information, visit www.blackhawkpark.org.

#10. Take in the heat and humidity at the Quad City Botanical Center and explore the tropical plants and trees, feed the Koi fish, enjoy the waterfall and venture outdoors to see the conifer gardens.  You can check out their website to see what’s blooming at www.qcgardens.com.

#11. Get outdoors and stroll or bike the trails along the Mississippi River, pull out the Mountain Bike and take a challenging ride on trails at Sylvan Slough and Sunderbruch Park.  Green space is abundant in the Quad Cities and Scott County Park, Loud Thunder Forest Preserve, Illinwek Park, and Wildcat Den State Park offer trails to hike and get back in touch with nature through forests, hilly terrain, rocky outcroppings, and amazing views.  Start exploring at visitquadcities.com.

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