Rock Island and the Quad Cities
Experience the region like a local
Driving into Rock Island from the Chicagoland area, or even from the Moline Airport, may give the impression that the area isn’t much to look at. Often mistaken for a rural area with little to do, this anything-but-sleepy community will pleasantly surprise you if you just give it a chance.
Rock Island is part of the Quad Cities, a diverse community of 400,000 people spanning the border between Illinois and Iowa on the Mississippi River. Made up of four cities in Iowa and Illinois, the Quad Cities includes Rock Island and Moline in Illinois and Davenport and Bettendorf in Iowa. Some people also include East Moline.
No matter where your interests lie, there’s something in these four (or five, depending on who you ask) cities for everyone.
Below, we’ve created a 24-hour agenda for just about every interest you can think of. Stick to one, or mix and match. Either way you’re sure to experience the best of the best of Rock Island and the larger Quad Cities.
Be sure to stop by one of our local coffee shops. Not sure which one to pick? Let the wheel decide for you:
See a full index of places here, or choose your adventure below.
• Where to stay: Stay in the heart of downtown Moline (and the home of John Deere) at Radisson on John Deere Commons-Moline (1415 River Dr, Moline, IL). Even better, it’s walking distance from your first ag-themed destination.
• Morning: Start the day at John Deere Pavilion (1400 River Drive, Moline), an interactive experience you won’t want to miss. Climb on machines, operate simulators and learn about the history of John Deere.
• Lunch: If climbing on all that farm equipment left you hungry, stop by Fresh Eatery & Wine Bar in downtown Moline (1514 5th Ave, Moline). Enjoy a wide selection of sandwiches, wraps, salads, flatbreads and more.
• Afternoon: Get a behind-the-scenes look at a modern factory during a guided tour of John Deere Harvester Works and/or Deere’s distinctive, award-winning headquarters to see new and old machines.
• Dinner: Keep the agricultural theme going with dinner at Steel Plow Burger Company (2180 53rd St., Moline). This family-friendly restaurant features creative burgers with meat choices that go beyond your usual ground chuck, and imaginative “above the rim” shakes that you’ll have to see to believe.
"As a student when I was tired of eating fast food and frozen pizza, Fresh Eatery is where I would go. The food is fresh, healthy and so delicious!"
• Where to stay: Surround yourself with the works of Midwestern artists at The Current Iowa (215 N. Main Street, Davenport IA), an art-themed boutique hotel from the Marriott Autograph Collection. Located in downtown Davenport, it’s close to museums, restaurants and nightlife.
• Breakfast: Start your day well-caffeinated with a New Orleans-style iced coffee and breakfast sandwich from Redband Coffee Company (329 E. 4th St., Davenport IA). The lines are often long and there’s no indoor seating, but we promise it’s worth it. Walk up or drive through and enjoy your breakfast on the go or find a sunny spot outside.
• Morning activities: After breakfast, stay in downtown Davenport and explore the Figge Art Museum (225 W. 2nd Street). The permanent collection features many nationally and internationally known pieces spanning from the 15th century to the present. Visit their website to learn more about the permanent collection and traveling exhibits.
• Lunch: If you’re looking for a hearty, made-from-scratch meal, The Diner has what you need. Located in the Freight House (421 W. River Drive, Davenport), this spot touts "home cooked" meals like meatloaf, fried chicken and waffles, burgers, pies and more.
• Afternoon activities: After lunch, visit Quad City Arts in Rock Island (1715 2nd Ave, Rock Island IL). This local gallery features art exhibitions by regional artists and a store with fine arts and crafts for purchase.
• Dinner & Entertainment: Catch a show in one of the area’s historic theaters. Try Circa ‘21 Dinner Playhouse (1828 3rd Ave, Rock Island IL), one of two remaining dinner theaters in the country featuring a performing waitstaff, for both internationally known musicals and plays and smaller scale local and regional productions.
Downtown Davenport’s Adler Theater (136 E. 3rd St.) is a great place to catch Broadway musicals, big name music acts and comedians and more.
"I go out of my way for Redband's New Orleans Style Iced Coffee! Then take a walk over to the Farmer's Market or just along the river."
Beer & wine connoisseur
• Where to stay: Spend the night in downtown LeClaire at the Wide River Winery Inn (106 N. Cody Road, LeClaire IA). This cozy one bedroom apartment is located above the tasting room in the winery’s LeClaire outpost. Just a few steps from shops, restaurants and more. Plus, it’s even fewer steps to enjoy a glass of local wine.
This alcohol-themed day doesn’t really get rolling until noon, so feel free to sleep late and enjoy a leisurely breakfast.
• Noon: Start the day with a tour of Mississippi River Distilling Company (303 N. Cody Rd., LeClaire IA). See the entire process from cleaning, milling and cooking the grain to fermentation to bottling and everything in between. Afterwards, enjoy a cocktail or flight of spirits in the Cody’s Cocktail house.
• Lunch: Head into Davenport and grab lunch downtown at Armored Gardens (315 Pershing Ave., Davenport IA), a local favorite designed to give you a country club vibe. Enjoy upscale pub food (with vegetarian and vegan offerings!) and choose from 100 beers on tap.
• Dinner: Grab a bite at Front Street Brewery (208 E. River Drive, Davenport IA). This brewpub is nestled inside a century-old brick and wood warehouse. Enjoy some cozy comfort food inside or out in the beer garden.
• After dinner: If you need one more drink before heading to bed, stop by Cru (221 Brady Street) a wine bar with a fantastic seasonal cocktail menu and selection of craft beers. They’re known for themed pop-up bar nights (think Harry Potter, Tipsy Pineapple Tiki Bar and roaring 20’s-style speakeasy).
• Morning: Take a walk on the Mississippi River Trail (MRT) in Iowa or Illinois. The concrete and asphalt path passes through riverfront communities on both sides of the river and offers sweeping riverfront views all along the trail.
The MRT in Illinois stretches for 34 miles from Rock Island to Cordova. The trail connects to many neighborhoods, shopping districts, parks and recreation areas.
In Iowa, the MRT starts in Buffalo and stretches 18.5 miles to Riverdale. The trail runs through downtowns, residential areas and historic districts, passing through many riverfront parks.
• Lunch: Grab a bite at Zeke’s Island Cafe, a chill spot for Hawaiian-, Asian- and Caribbean-inspired plates. Enjoy the casual atmosphere, large portions and affordable prices.
• Afternoon: If you’re still craving river views after your morning walk, head to the Skybridge in downtown Davenport. Enjoy an expansive view of the Iowa/Illinois border framed by the Mississippi River, Arsenal and Centennial bridges.
After, visit Vander Veer Botanical Park (215 W. Central Park Ave., Davenport). Spanning 33-acres in the middle of town, Vander Veer was modeled after New York City’s Central Park and is believed to be one of the first botanical parks west of the Mississippi River. The park features changing flower displays throughout the year, decorative fountains, a conservatory and All-American Rose Selection gardens.
• Dinner: La Rancherita (4118 14th Ave., Rock Island), is beloved by Augustana students, faculty and staff. This unassuming restaurant is a great place for authentic Mexican cuisine at a great price. Portions are fair and the staff is friendly.
"La Rancherita: great food, super affordable and really close to campus. 10/10 would recommend!"
• Where to stay: The relaxed Northwoods theme makes Stoney Creek Inn (101 18th St., Moline) the perfect cozy space for traveling families. Located on the scenic banks of the Mississippi River in the heart of downtown Moline, this hotel is just a short drive from most Quad Cities destinations.
• Breakfast: Take advantage of the hotel’s free hot breakfast bar before hitting the town
• Morning activities: Kids will love the John Deere Pavilion (1400 River Drive, Moline), an interactive experience that gives kids and adults alike the opportunity climb on real farm equipment, operate simulators and learn the history of John Deere.
Once you’ve gotten your fill of farm equipment, head toward Rock Island to take in the tropical atrium, outdoor gardens and educational greenhouse and children’s garden at the Quad City Botanical Center (2525 4th Ave., Rock Island)
• Lunch: Stop by the QC Coffee and Pancake House in the heart of downtown Rock Island (1831 3rd Ave, Rock Island). This family-friendly diner has become legendary for its taste, presentation and generous portions.
• Afternoon: Cross the Centennial Bridge into Iowa and go up the hill to the Putnam Museum and Science Center (1717 W. 12th Street, Davenport IA), a great place for kids and adults alike to learn by doing, making and experiencing. Take a peek at ancient mummies, dig for dinosaur bones, experiment with a 3D printer and more. You can even take in a movie in the Giant Screen Theater.
• Snack: After a morning full of learning and exploring you’ll be ready for a snack by mid-afternoon. Swing by Whitey’s Ice Cream (locations in Iowa and Illinois) for a taste of this award-winning Quad Cities icon. With more than 30 ice cream flavors, shakes, malts, smoothies and more, there’s something for everyone.
• Dinner: Still have some leftover energy to burn off? There’s no better place for families to have fun than QC Family Entertainment (4401 44th Ave., Moline IL 61265). Have dinner at Frankie’s Sports Bar and Grill, then spend the rest of the night bowling, playing laser tag or hanging out in the arcade.
"Whitey's Ice Cream- Home of original flavors that are out of this world. My family does not enter or exit Rock Island without a trip to Whitey's!"
• Where to stay: Historic and modern go hand-in-hand at Element Moline (316 12th Street, Moline IL), a stylish new hotel located in an old warehouse downtown. The historic, loft-style rooms feature kitchenettes and stylish accommodations. Or if you're into something with more of an old school feel, The Axis Hotel in Moline is a nationally recognized historic hotel with timeless character and charm (and a great restaurant/bar on the main floor).
• Morning: Take in a great view of the Mississippi River and some seriously great coffee at Milltown Coffee in Moline (3800 River Drive #2). The rustic-modern decor, simple breakfast and lunch menu and wide selection of caffeinated beverages make this a great place to hang out.
• Lunch: Get lunch (and a local beer, if you’re so inclined) at Bent River Brewery (1413 5th Ave.), a staple in downtown Moline for over 20 years. The brew pub offers a wide range of food and drink in a relaxing atmosphere.
• Dinner: Don’t miss a chance to visit Baked Beer & Bread Co. in the Village of East Davenport (1113 Mound Street). This bakery/brewery/restaurant combo features brunch, lunch and dinner menus you’ve got to see to believe. Think glazed donut burgers, mac & cheese bread bowls, cocktail flights, and so much more.
• After dinner: Grab a drink and relax at Devon's Complaint Department (304 E. 3rd Street, Davenport), a dive bar atmosphere set up with a retro-basement feel. This cozy spot features daily drink specials, cheap and craft beers and a surprisingly upscale cocktail selection.
"Milltown has a relaxing environment to study and $3 bottomless coffee (with syrup flavors in your coffee)!"
• Morning: Start your day at the Rock Island Arsenal, an active US Army facility on an island on the Mississippi River. The island features many historical attractions, including the Colonel Davenport House, Rock Island Arsenal Museum and a national cemetery.
• Late morning: Located in an historic building in downtown Davenport, the German American Heritage Center and Museum is designed to give visitors a glimpse of the german immigrant experience of the late 1800s.
• Lunch: River House Bar & Grill is a local favorite nestled in the heart of downtown Moline. It features a casual atmosphere and an expansive menu.
• Afternoon: Step back in time and tour two homes that once belonged to descendants of John Deere: Butterworth Center and Deere-Wiman House.
• Dinner: Inside the historic Hotel Blackhawk is Bix Bistro, a stylish, contemporary restaurant serving modern American cuisine.
• Morning: Start your day with breakfast and a gourmet coffee from 392 Caffe (502 W. 3rd Street, Davenport), a new and increasingly popular spot in downtown Davenport. The remodeled industrial interior, latte art and upscale wall treatments are just begging to be photographed.
Then, explore downtown. Enjoy shopping, the Mississippi riverfront, the Skybridge, Figge Art museum and more!
• Lunch: If you love Thai, Korean or Vietnamese food, take a trip across the river to Lemongrass Cafe (1419 5th Ave, Moline, IL). Locals love the Asian fusion cuisine, lively atmosphere and photo-worthy dishes.
• Afternoon: Back in Iowa, take a stroll through the Village of East Davenport, home to shops, dining, a beautiful park with rolling hills, river views and more.
• Dinner: Grab a bite to eat back in downtown Davenport at Me & Billy Kitchen + Bar (200 W. 3rd Street, Davenport), a place run on a simple idea -- a bar with great food. With a lively atmosphere, a menu that changes with the seasons and friendly service, this is a local favorite.
"392caffe is the absolute CUTEST coffee place I have ever been too. The vibe is super chill and the baristas actually care and want to get to know you. Their sugar cookies are also really good!!"
Rock Island Legends
• Breakfast: Get your caffeine fix and a breakfast burrito and sandwich at the counter before sliding into a booth at Theo's Java Club (213 17th St., Rock Island). Locals love the funky atmosphere and friendly staff.
• Lunch: Get a made-to-order deli sandwich or loaded baked potato at the deli voted “Best Lunch” 16 years running. Arthur’s Garden Delicatessen (3727 46th Ave, Rock Island) is a favorite of Augustana students and QC residents alike, making it a great place to meet friends or just eat a delicious, affordable meal.
Or, try Hungry Hobo another local favorite for subs, grilled sandwiches, chili and baked potatoes.
• Dinner: When it comes to pizza in the Quad Cities, people fall firmly into two camps. Those that prefer the region’s signature Quad City-style slices, and fans of Happy Joe’s, a more traditional pizza with inventive toppings.
If you go Quad City-style, try the original Harris Pizza in Rock Island (3903 14th Ave). You can expect a nutty, toasted crust, sauce that’s more spicy than sweet and toppings under the cheese instead of on top. Another clue you’re enjoying QC style? The pizza is cut into strips rather than slices.
Happy Joe’s is known as the inventor of taco pizza, a polarizing flavor that’s worth trying at least once. The Taco Joe features a base of refried beans, sausage and taco seasoned beef all topped with lettuce, tomato and taco chips and served with tangy Spicy Joe’s taco sauce.
"I'm sad that I didn't have Happy Joe's until my senior year at Augie. I highly recommend the taco pizza."
• Where to stay: Enjoy affordable luxury in downtown Davenport at the hip and historic Hotel Blackhawk (200 E. 3rd Street). Overlooking the majestic Mississippi River, this hotel features an on-site spa, barbershop, restaurant and bar, and even a bowling alley.
• Morning: Just a few blocks down from Hotel Blackhawk you’ll find the Figge Art Museum (225 W. 2nd Street, Davenport), a premier art exhibition and education facility with more than 4,000 works of art. Spend your morning browsing the collection housed in a building that is a work of art in itself.
• Lunch & Afternoon: Take the short drive along the Mississippi River to LeClaire, IA. This historic river town is one of Iowa’s most beautiful hidden treasures. Stop for lunch at Crane & Pelican (127 S. 2nd Street, LeClaire), a restaurant serving classy comfort food in a converted riverboat captain’s mansion. After lunch, stroll the scenic streets near the river and visit antique stores, gift shops, a winery and more.
• Dinner: Treat yourself to a nice dinner at Duck City Bistro (115 E. 3rd Street, Davenport), a candlelit restaurant in downtown Davenport that’s great for intimate conversation or larger groups. Featuring a globally-influenced menu, a full bar and excellent service, this bistro is a QC favorite for a reason.
Or, try The Half Nelson an eatery and lounge offering upscale American fare and craft cocktails in a mid-century modern setting.
• After dinner: Take in the best views the Quad Cities has to offer from Up Skybar (215 N. Main Street). This rooftop bar features signature cocktails and a cozy environment with killer views.
"For the best view of the Quad Cities, visit the Up Skybar. Get a cocktail, take a selfie, and look for Augustana's Old Main dome off to the east."
• Shopping: Visit Ragged Records, one of the midwest’s largest record stores with over 30,000 records and locations in Davenport and Rock Island.
• Catch a show: The Quad Cities music scene is striving with local, regional and national acts performing in a variety of venues nearly every day of the week. Check online to see who’s playing while you’re in town at any of our most popular venues:
If you’re willing to drive a little out of town, Codfish Hollow Barnstormers is only 45 minutes north of the Quad Cities in rural Maquoketa, Iowa. This one-of-a-kind venue regularly brings in premier-level artists for unforgettable nights in an intimate barn-turned-music venue.
"At Codfish Hollow, experience the best new indie bands live onstage in a round-roofed barn surrounded by Iowa hills. It’s Grant Wood meets Justin Townes Earle. Bring a picnic for before the show, then ride down to the barn in a hayrack, and afterwards you can pitch a tent under the stars in the nearby camping pasture."
• Morning: Enjoy the cultural history and diverse natural resources of the Quad Cities at Blackhawk State Historic Site. Hike the 208 acres of public use areas, prairie and nature preserve along the Rock River, and discover the history of Black Hawk and the Sauk and Meskwaki people in the John Hauberg Indian Museum.
• Lunch: Grab lunch at Cool Beanz Coffee House (1325 30th Street, Rock Island), a favorite of Augustana students and the surrounding community. The menu features panini sandwiches, wraps and salads plus a wide selection of coffees, espresso drinks, teas and alcoholic offerings in the evening.
• Afternoon: After lunch, take a stroll through the Quad City Botanical Center gardens and tropical atrium. As a public garden, they maintain hundreds of plants ranging from tropical varieties to regional perennials. The tropical atrium is open year round and offers a warm respite from Illinois winters.
Next, head across the river and visit Nahant Marsh (4220 Wapello Ave., Davenport), a 305-acre nature preserve in southwest Davenport. The marsh is part of one of the largest urban wetlands on the upper Mississippi and features grassy hiking trails, a dock and a boardwalk that leads to a wildlife viewing blind.
• Dinner: Harris Pizza is a local favorite for Quad City-style pizza. Our signature style features a malty, nutty crust, sauce that is spicier than sweet and toppings safely tucked UNDER the cheese. After being cooked to perfection in a gas oven, the pie is cut into strips instead of slices.
"My roommate and I go hiking along the trails at Blackhawk Park when we need a study break. It's amazing that these beautiful nature views are so close to campus!"