Riverfront Museum Park
This arts and humanities complex houses Rockford Dance Company office and studios, Northern Illinois Public Radio offices and Rockford Symphony Orchestra offices. It’s also home to Discovery Center Museum and Rockford Art Museum, and is connected to Burpee Museum of Natural History by a walkway tunnel.
In 2012, a renovation and redesign of the museum complex brought a new joint display gallery and outdoor fixtures including a riverwalk along the shore of the Rock River, a terrace and outdoor amphitheater, play and outdoor educational areas and landscaping.
Discovery Center Museum
Named No. 5 in the 10 “Best Museums for Families” by USA Today in 2015, and ranked among “The 12 Best Children’s Museums in the U.S.” by Forbes magazine in 2012, Discovery Center makes science an adventure.
With Burpee’s more than 250 interactive displays and exhibits to explore, kids can take a virtual snowboard ride; see a tornado form; manipulate pulleys, levers and gears; build a robot; create a news show; and more.
New in 2014 was the Body Shop, giving kids lots of ways to explore the human body, and in 2015, the Tot Spot, for visitors ages 6 and younger (and their parents), was expanded to include even more age-appropriate rotating and permanent exhibits, along with a Baby Spot for babies 18 months and younger.
Discovery Center boasts the nation’s first community-built outdoor science park featuring 8,000 square feet of wooden fun including a two-story maze, water play area, dinosaur fossil dig pit and a Secret Garden.
Discovery Center is open daily, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission is $8.
Rockford Art Museum
In 1913, Rockford Art Museum (RAM) was officially incorporated as the Rockford Art Association. A century later, the organization is consistently named a Partner in Excellence of the Illinois Arts Council.
RAM’s mission is to enrich the quality of life for people of all ages, through visual arts programs, collections, exhibitions and education. From its beginnings as the Rockford Sketch Club in 1887 to its programs today, RAM’s history is closely intertwined with our region’s past, present and future.
Located on the north end of downtown Rockford, RAM encompasses 17,000 square feet of exhibition space across three galleries: Funderburg and Kuller galleries, which typically feature contemporary works by regional and national artists, and Anderson Gallery, which displays a constantly rotating exhibit of works from the museum’s permanent collection. RAM’s collection contains more than 1,900 works of primarily modern and contemporary art, photography, outsider art, contemporary art glass, and regional art with an emphasis on Illinois artists.
Its critically acclaimed Spiezer Collection is considered one of the most significant collections of Chicago art, inside or outside the city.
The RAM Art Annex, located next to the Discovery Center Museum, serves as an arts education space.
Thousands of adults and children visit RAM every year for its rotating exhibitions, regular classes, periodic lectures and artist-in-residence programs. Rockford Art Museum Store provides additional financial support.
The nonprofit public museum is supported by memberships, individual and corporate contributions, and a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.
RAM is open daily, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission is $8, $3 for seniors and students, and free for ages 12 and under.
Burpee Museum of Natural History
Burpee Museum of Natural History first opened its doors in 1942, in the Barnes Mansion adjacent to Riverfront Museum Park.
Today, the museum’s administrative offices occupy the Barnes Mansion, and the public portion of the Burpee Museum is now in the Solem Wing, which opened in 1998.
The museum hit the national spotlight in 2001, when a Burpee-led expedition in Montana unearthed “Jane,” the most complete and well-preserved juvenile T-rex in the world. In 2005, another Burpee expedition to the same area yielded “Homer,” a “teenaged” Triceratops. Both are on display at the museum, along with exhibits that chronicle the archeological digs. Each March, Burpee hosts its annual PaleoFest.
In 2010, Burpee and the Discovery Center Museum completed a $10 million expansion that joined the two facilities and created a Smithsonian-approved exhibit hall. The exhibit hall attracts environmentally sensitive traveling exhibits that the museums couldn’t host previously.
Families can also experience four floors of engaging exhibits, including Windows to Wilderness, the Green Roof (Burpee’s rooftop garden), a Native American exhibit with full-sized dwellings, and a viewing lab to see Burpee staff working on dinosaur specimens.
Burpee Museum is open daily, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for children. Additional fees apply for some special exhibits and activities.