The Mississippi River separates them. It also unites them. The Quad Cities present visitors with a variety of activities and attractions. You can float along Old Man River on a riverboat or take in some culture at area museums. And let’s not forget the delicious Midwestern food.
We spent a fun-filled weekend in the Quad Cities, which consist primarily of Davenport and Bettendorf in Iowa and Rock Island and Moline on the Illinois side of the Mississippi. Additionally, other area communities fall under the cities’ umbrella – including LeClaire, Iowa – to make the Quad Cities the 136th largest metropolitan area in the United States.
Our visit brought us to the birthplace of Buffalo Bill Cody. The western showman was born in LeClaire. The home where he was born is now located in Cody, Wyoming. But, his childhood home still stands and is open for tours. The house includes some family heirlooms and artifacts from the era his family lived there.
LeClaire’s Buffalo Bill Museum looks at Buffalo Bill’s life, as well as the region’s history. James Ryan invented the flight recorder (black box), seat belt and crash bumpers for automobiles.
LeClaire’s connection to the water is the riverboat Twilight. The riverboat offers a variety of river tours Memorial Day weekend through late October. We visited the boat while it was docked. The view of the Mississippi River from aboard the boat only whetted our appetite for a cruise.
A stop in LeClaire isn’t complete without checking the American Pickers antique store. The American Pickers are stars of a television series on the History Channel. While the team has the Iowa store, they also focus attention on a newer one in Nashville, Tenn.
LeClaire is home to the Crane and Pelican restaurant. The eatery is in an old house and offers a delicious lunch menu. The river view is impressive from the restaurant’s property.
Making our way into Davenport, we checked in to the Radisson hotel downtown. It was our base of operations for the weekend. Our room gave us a great view of the Mississippi River and the city’s Riverway.
Our first night out in the Quad Cities took us to the Isle Casino in Bettendorf. We enjoyed dinner with the Quad Cities visitors bureau. The steak dinner I enjoyed was truly impressive. Dessert was mouthwatering with fried strawberries.
Our first full day in the Quad Cities was a busy one. We got a taste of nature, culture, the river and farming.
Our first stop was at the Nahant Marsh in Davenport. The wetland is home to 4,000 species of plants and about 200 types of birds. As we walked a couple of trails, we saw some frogs – including one that survived an attack by a predator. The marsh offers several beautiful views.
The marsh had some flooded areas due to overflow water from the Mississippi River. But, it didn’t deter anyone from having a fun trip to the wetlands. The water level in the marsh changes throughout the year.
Following our nature hike, it was back to the city for some culture, aka the Putnam Museum. The city museum features a variety of interesting activities and attractions. The museum has an interactive science center, regional history exhibits and special exhibits, such as one featuring Rock ‘n’ Roll’s Beatles.
After a busy morning, we needed to refuel. We couldn’t have picked a better place to have lunch than Moline’s Lagomarcino’s. Family owned since 1908, Lagomarcino’s is known for its chocolates and candy, as well as dynamite food. The eatery has been featured in national magazines. It also is a James Beard medal winner for outstanding culinary.
Lagomarcino’s has made its own ice cream for decades. We each tried sundaes. They were delicious. I can see why people flock there to take in the atmosphere and enjoy great food and treats.
We needed to walk off lunch, so we headed back to the car and took off for the Mississippi River. A walk along the river? While that would be appealing, we opted for a riverboat cruise aboard the Celebration Belle. We enjoyed a 90-minute cruise that highlighted the Rock Island Armory, a military base that has operated since the 1800s, as well as other area attractions.
Moline is home to the headquarters of John Deere. Some of you may recall my mentioning how much my dad loved John Deere. That love continues with me. While I never farmed like my dad, being a John Deere fan helps keep my dad’s memory alive. Our eldest daughter has a friend whose young son loves John Deere so I enjoyed getting him a souvenir.
John Deere Pavilion in downtown Moline offers visitors a brief look at the company’s history. My dad’s first tractor was a “D” series. That model and newer ones are on display.
Lisa and I visited the pavilion about 10 years ago. Boy, has it changed. The exhibit has grown to include several more vehicles. A unique exhibit featured a logging machine. One of only two in existence, the vehicle was built with the intent of improving logging operations. The vehicle – which we thought resembled a “Transformer” – was too expensive to build.
We had dinner reservations in Davenport after our John Deere visit. I was excited to dine at Front Street Brewery. We ate there last summer when we spent the night in Davenport on another trip. Lisa and I actually ended up ordering the same things we had then – pulled pork sandwich and a Cajun burger. We again enjoyed the entrees. LOL. Front Street is a great place to eat and has a casual atmosphere.
Following dinner, we headed to Wide River Winery’s tasting room in the East Village of Davenport. The historic area is a popular shopping and entertainment district. The winery – with its vineyard and main location in Clinton – was created by a former lawyer and judge. The couple used their legal careers to name the wines, such as Miss D’Meanor White and Double Jeopardy. The winery has produced champion wines.
We topped our day with a walk along Davenport’s Waterway. Checking out the area at night gave us a view of the Mississippi River with lights reflecting off the water. Bridges were illuminated. High school kids out on prom dates were lined up for rides on a Ferris wheel a few feet from the river’s banks.
I must say the Radisson in Davenport has a very comfortable bed that allowed us to sleep well after a very busy day in the Quad Cities.
As the sun rose for our final day of the trip, we headed out for a day time walk along the river. The dam and locks not far from the Radisson gave us a great view of pelicans flying overhead and people taking in river activities walking and fishing.
Pelicans were abundant on the river, floating along and hanging out near people fishing. I think they were eager to steal some fish or maybe wait for some scraps.
Davenport’s Farmers Market kicked off its 2017 summer season during our visit. Vendors from area communities gather in the parking lot of the Freight House Marketplace. The marketplace is home to permanent businesses as well as the seasonal vendors. The farmers market was an interesting place to visit, with products made in area communities, including sorghum, honey, candles and lavender.
Not only did we get to enjoy the farmers market, we were able to take in the area’s arts festival at the Figge Museum. The festival featured artists and vendors from around the Midwest. The art on display and available for purchase was impressive, ranging from blown-glass art to spray paint art.
The Figge is a nice museum to visit. Its permanent exhibits feature works from Iowa artist Grant Wood to international works. The museum offers special exhibits, such as one featuring Iowa football or a World War I poster campaign. An upcoming exhibit focuses on Iowa’s cornfields. Beginning June 24, “Maize” will feature repurposed plastic bottles resembling corn stalks. It will be at the museum until Sept. 24.
As our trip to the Quad Cities neared its end, we grabbed lunch at Café D’Marie. The restaurant, which is located in a historic neighborhood, offers an attractive but healthy menu. One of the owners is a former Omahan.
We finished our whirlwind visit to the Quad Cities with a stop at the Quad Cities Botanical Center in Rock Island. It features a nice collection of flowers and plants, as well as a railroad exhibit that is one of the best we’ve seen.
The botanical garden staff is proud of the children’s garden. It combines a play area with nature. One of the exhibits represents the Mississippi River from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico.
We enjoyed our visit to the Quad Cities. Though we were there for three days, it seemed like we saw a week’s worth of attractions. The area has so much to offer visitors. We highly recommend visiting the Quad Cities.
For more information on the Quad Cities and their attractions, please visit www.visitquadcities.com.
Disclaimer: Thank you to Quad Cities visitors bureau for the complimentary hotel stay, meals and attraction admissions. However, all opinions and views are ours.