21 Fun Things to Do in Rock Island (IL)

Rock Island is a diverse community with a lot of friendly people. It is located between the Mississippi River and the Rock River.

Numerous parks and riverside areas that are perfect for walking and sightseeing are available on the island. It also has the best nightlife in the Quad Cities.

This article will discuss some of the best things to do in Rock Island, IL, for families, adults, couples, kids, and for the weekend!

Let’s get started!

Where is Rock Island, Illinois?

Rock Island is a city in Illinois, United States. The city’s original name, derived from the nearby area of Rock Island County, is now referred to as “Arsenal Island.”

Rock Island had a population of 37,108 during the 2020 census. It is located in the Mississippi River Valley, part of the Quad Cities, and close to Bettendorf and Davenport.

The city is also home to the Rock Island Arsenal, a weapons manufacturing facility. This facility employs over 6,000 individuals.

Rock Island had a total area of 17.872 square miles in the census. Of this, 16.85 square miles is land, while the water portion is 1.022 square miles.

See Also: Best Things to Do in Quincy IL

Fun Things to Do in Rock Island, IL

1. Rock Island Museum

The museum on the island of Arsenal, which was opened in 1905, is regarded as one of the oldest US Army museums.

It displays various artifacts related to the island’s history. Some of these include the fort at Fort Davenport, the site of a summer camp for Native American tribes, and the Arsenal.

Inside the museum, you’ll find an impressive collection of military vehicles and artillery, including howitzers, anti-tank guns, and rockets. 

Also, over a thousand small arms are on display. This is the second-largest collection of these weapons in the US Army.

The exhibits at the museum explain the various processes involved in the production of military equipment at Rock Island. 

Address: The Rock Island Museum is at 1 Rock Island Arsenal, Building 60, 3500 North Avenue, Rock Island, Illinois 61299.

2. Rock Island Arsenal

Located in the Mississippi River, Arsenal Island is a well-known military facility. 

It houses the headquarters of the First Army and the US Army’s Center for Excellence for 3D Printing. This facility is regarded as an active part of the US Army.

Over the years, the island has maintained strong ties with the government. 

It’s regarded as the largest government-owned weapons production facility in the country. 

The original structures of the Arsenal have been designated as National Historic Sites.

Address: The Rock Island Arsenal is in Rock Island, Illinois 61299.

3. Schwiebert Riverfront Park

The waterside park is located near the river’s edge and is slightly downstream from the island. 

It offers a view of the area’s landmarks, including the Centennial Bridge and the fort at Fort Davenport.

The Schwiebert Riverfront features a variety of public art pieces and a digital playground. It also has a couple of spacious lawns and an interactive fountain.

It’s an excellent location for outdoor concerts, as it’s near the river’s edge. 

During the winter season, the park is also an excellent spot to watch bald eagles as they migrate to the area. 

Address: The Schwiebert Riverfront Park is at 101 17th St, Rock Island, IL 61201, United States.

4. Downtown Rock Island

The downtown area of Rock Island is full of various businesses and restaurants.

It also has a variety of live music venues and a historic hotel. This area is the arts district of the Quad Cities and has an events calendar that can accommodate thousands of people.

Over a thousand people live on the island, and it employs over 3,500 individuals.

The vibrant and eclectic architecture of Rock Island’s downtown area is a must-see. 

Many of its commercial buildings have been transformed into residential lofts. These additions to the area’s center have injected life into the area.

Address: The Downtown Rock Island is at 1830 2nd Ave | Rock Island, IL 61201.

5. Great River Trail

Sunset Park is located on Rock Island’s western portion. It’s the starting point for the Great River Trail, a 62-mile-long walking and cycling trail connecting the Quad Cities. 

It can be used to explore the area by passing through various areas, such as the John Deere Pavilion on Rock Island. The trail is on an old spur of a railroad line. 

It can be used to explore the area by passing through various regions, such as the John Deere Pavilion on Rock Island. It also features bike trails and waterfront levees.

Address: The Great River Trail is in Rock Island, IL 61201.

6. Quad City Botanical Center

The Quad City Botanical Center is a magnificent facility that opened in 1998. 

It features a 70-foot-long glass atrium enclosed by a tropical fruit-filled garden with plants such as bananas, coconut, and coffee. There’s also a stream and a large pond.

The Children’s Garden is a must-visit for families in the summer. It features various water features, educational materials, and a collection of rare conifers. Also, a model railway can be used for multiple projects.

Address: The Quad City Botanical Center is located at 2525 4th Ave, Rock Island, IL 61201.

7. Mississippi River Visitor Center

Photo by Ken Lund via Flickr

For over 200 years, the US Army Corps of Engineers has worked to make the Mississippi River in Rock Island, Illinois, as navigable as possible. 

The Mississippi River Visitor Center is near the river on the island of Arsenal.

From April to December, you can watch barges pass through the dam and lock system during winter. 

This area is a vital feeding ground for bald eagles. From January to March, the area becomes a spectacle for eagle lovers. 

Address:  The Mississippi River Visitor Center is at 328 Rodman Ave, Rock Island, IL 61201.

8. The Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum

Photo by Ebyabe via Wikimedia

This building is one of the 17 branches of the Karpele’s Manuscript Library Museum.

It was founded in 1983 by David and Marsha Karpeles, real estate developers from California.

The collection of manuscripts and historical documents that the museum holds is considered the largest known collection of its kind. 

Some notable works it holds include Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, the Bill of Rights, and the Gutenberg Bible.

Every visit to the museum is different, and it features rotating exhibitions designed to highlight various aspects of the collection. 

One of the most exciting features of the museum is its inner dome, which features 8,000 fish-scale glass panes.

Address: This museum is located at 700 22nd St, Rock Island, IL 61201.

9. Broadway Historic District

This residential area southeast of Rock Island’s downtown is a must-visit for anyone who enjoys 19th-century architecture. It features various homes.

The Broadway Historic District in Rock Island features over 550 Victorian houses. 

It’s known for its various styles, including Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, and Greek Revival.

The area has been on the National Register for Historic Places since 1998. It’s also known for its innovative ways of preserving its past.

Address: The Broadway Historic District is located at 7th Ave, Rock Island, IL 61201.

10. Black Hawk State Historic Site

Photo by Chris Light via Wikimedia

One of the most prominent places in Illinois related to the history of the Black Hawk War is a 208-acre state historic site.

This area is home to the birth of Black Hawk, who was a crucial figure in the conflict between 1812 and 1838.

This area is known for its peaceful picnic areas and various hiking trails. The trails run through the hills and along the riverbank.

If you’re interested in learning more about the history of the Meskwaki and Sauk Native Americans, the museum at the Hauberg Indian Museum is a must-visit. 

The museum also features exhibits about the Civilian Conservation Corps. During the Great Depression, the group helped build the trails in Rock Island’s Park.

Address: The Black Hawk State Historic Site is located at 4801 11th St, Rock Island, IL 61201.

11. Whitewater Junction Aquatic Center

The outdoor pool complex in the southern portion of the Broadway Historic District is usually open during the summer season. 

This facility features multiple slides. Another popular area on Rock Island is the Whitewater Junction. 

This facility features four slides, including the Rocket, Cannonball, Express, and the Zephyr.

The park also features various spray features and a tumble bucket. This facility is operated by the Rock Island Parks & Recreation Department. 

It additionally offers swimming lessons and other aquatic activities.

Address: This Aquatic Center is located at 1601 Longview Drive, Rock Island, IL 61201.

12. Circa ’21 Dinner Playhouse

The theater was designed in an Art Deco style. It was opened in 1921 to the silent film “Mistlin’s Magic,” directed by William DeMille. 

The film star, Lily Lee, was in the building that night. The building’s facade features polychrome panels from various native American and Illinois motifs.

The building’s interior features a series of Native American heads resting on its proscenium arch. 

It’s also known for hosting various musical performances. The venue can additionally be used for events such as dinner theater shows.

Address: This theater is located at 1828 3rd Ave, Rock Island, IL 61201.

13. Ya Maka, My Weekend

Rock Island’s downtown area has been transformed into a reggae festival since August 1992. 

The Ya Maka My Weekend event draws visitors from the Midwest. 

Aside from music, this festival also features various food items and activities to enhance the experience.

Address: This festival is hosted at 19th Street Rock Island, IL 61201.

14. Fryxell Geology Museum

Photo by talk via Wikipedia

One of the Midwest’s largest collections of rocks, fossils, and minerals is currently on display at Augustana College’s Swenson Hall of Geosciences.

The facility was established in honor of Fritiof Fryxell, a geology professor at the university for almost four decades. 

Its collection started during the 1880s and has since grown to more than 20,000 items. It has also featured 1,500 specimens at one time.

The museum features various exhibits, such as the skeleton of a massive dinosaur discovered in Antarctica. 

Address: The Fryxell Geology Museum is located at 820 38th Street, Rock Island, IL 61201.

15. Jumer’s Casino

A Las Vegas-style hotel and casino is also in the southwest part of Rock Island. 

It has 200 rooms and several restaurants and bars. The facility, called the Rock Island Casino, has 43,000 square feet of gaming space.

It features over 1,000 slot machines and a live poker room. The facility also has 18 table games.

It also has a restaurant known as DJ’s Steakhouse, which is regarded as the best in the area to provide its patrons with the best possible dining experience. 

Its signature item is the scallops with sesame salmon and smoked carrot aioli.

Address: The Jumer’s Casino is at 777 Bally Blvd, Rock Island, IL 61201.

16. Sunset Park

Sunset Park features a variety of water-powered equipment, such as canoes and jet boats. 

It also has a lookout tower that allows people to see the river from a higher vantage point.

Address: Sunset Park is located in Rock Island, Illinois.

17. Colonel Davenport House

The Colonel Davenport House was constructed in 1833 and is a historical structure in Rock Island, Illinois. 

It can be visited through an educational tour. Initially, it was considered a mansion.

Address: The Colonel Davenport House is at Davenport Ave, Rock Island, IL 61201, United States.

18. Backwater Gamblers Water Ski Show

Rock Island is a holiday destination that hosts various musicians who perform at free shows. 

The Gamblers are also featured in the shows. The free performances are a great way to spend time with family and friends.

Address: The Backwater Gamblers Water Ski Show is at 5000 44th Street, Rock Island, IL 61201.

19. ComedySportz Quad Cities

The ComedySportz Quad Cities was established in 1990 to provide residents with various comedy performances. 

Besides regular shows, the group also offers workshops and theater rentals.

Address: The ComedySportz Quad Cities is located at 220 19th Street, Rock Island, IL 61201.

20. Hauberg Museum

The John Hauberg Indian Museum is a historic site that showcases the artifacts of the Meskwaki and Sauk tribes. 

The museum was established in Rock Island and is named after philanthropist John Hauberg.

Address: The John Hauberg Indian Museum is located at 1510 46th Avenue, Rock Island, IL 61201.

21. Rozz-Tox

The establishment known as the Rozz-Tox is a combination of a bar and coffee shop that features live music and a variety of foreign and cult films. It also hosts bands.

Address: The Rozz-Tox is located at 2108 3rd Avenue, Rock Island, IL 61201.