Day trips from Chicago: Kalamazoo, Kenosha, Gary and Rockford
Nope, there wasn't a court case involved. We went to these gritty cities because we wanted to.
A hostess at the Anderson Japanese Gardens (318 Spring Creek Rd, 815-316-2256) offered us an overview of the menu: “We have Filipino, Hawaiian, Chinese, Japanese. And we have regular food, too.”
Okay, so you’re not visiting Rockford to impress foodie friends. You’re visiting because this former industrial city 90 miles west of Chicago offers a wealth of outdoor recreation and family-friendly spots, and it’s cheap. Like the exquisite Japanese gardens (318 Spring Creek Rd, 815-229-9390, $7), which offer a serene place to wander and reflect. Or the Rockford Art Museum (711 N Main St, 815-968-2787, $6) and, in the same complex, the spacious kids’ museum (Discovery Center Museum, 815-963-6769, $6), whose outdoor giant maze of a playground turned us into giddy seven-year-olds. Or the Stockholm Inn (2420 Charles St, 815-397-3534), which nods to Rockford’s Swedish past with cabbage rolls, potato dumplings and Swedish pancakes (plus regular food!). One day may not be enough to fit in Rock Cut State Park, water parks and regional chain the Machine Shed restaurant. But with prices like these, you can’t afford not to go back. —Rebecca Maughan