They call themselves the Quad Cities, but really, five communities make up the area hugging the Mississippi River on the Iowa-Illinois border: LeClaire, Bettendorf, and Davenport on the Iowa side and Moline and Rock Island on the Illinois side. More than 100,000 people call the area home.
The Quad Cities region is home to outstanding attractions, food, and fun. You’ll want to plan a long weekend to take in the views and enjoy the culinary scene.
Here are nine unique things to do when you visit.
1. Cruise The Mississippi On A Riverboat
To get the lay of the land, consider enjoying an ice-cold beverage aboard a riverboat cruising along the Mississippi River. On either of the two riverboats available, you can get great views of the Mississippi and the Quad Cities region.
Grab a seat on the open deck of the Twilight and enjoy a 90-minute cruise north of the Quad Cities featuring scenic views of the shoreline. You’re sure to catch sight of waterfowl and unique birds like herons or maybe even a bald eagle. The Twilight permits food to be brought onboard, but it also offers a cash bar along with sodas and water.
Cross the bridge into Illinois to catch a view of the Quad Cities’ southern end on the Celebration Belle. With three decks, the Celebration Belle launches from Moline and travels south, offering a view of the area’s attractions from the river. You’ll pass by the historic Rock Island Arsenal, a military installation dating to the early 1800s. The Celebration Belle offers a variety of cruises, including themed lunches and evening outings.
2. Browse For Antiques At The Original American Pickers Store
The American Pickers may be History Channel television stars now, but in the early days, they were antique dealers from LeClaire. Their original store, Antique Archaeology, remains a popular stop where you can find vintage items for sale as well as American Pickers memorabilia. From neon signs to old coffee mugs, there’s something for everyone at this store. Don’t forget to snap a selfie with the antique car parked outside!
3. Enjoy A Nature Walk At Nahant Marsh
With more than 250 acres of wetlands, Nahant Marsh offers visitors an opportunity to explore Iowa’s natural beauty only a few miles from downtown Davenport. With easily walkable trails, the marsh features up to 200 types of birds -- including herons and ducks -- and more than 4,000 plant species. Check out the wooden blind along the way -- it offers an outstanding view of a pond area where birds, muskrats, and waterfowl live together in harmony.
The visitor center is a nice spot to stop in and get a glimpse of the special exhibits that are open to the public.
4. Learn About Art And Science At The Local Museums
There are two major museums to visit in Davenport, and you’ll want to budget an hour or so at each.
The Figge Art Museum features paintings from the 15th century onward, including a collection of works by Iowa artist Grant Wood. Oil paintings, sculptures, and even furniture make this spot a focal point of eastern Iowa’s art scene. Located a short walk from the Mississippi River, the Figge’s contemporary design shines against the backdrop of the river.
The Putnam Museum will be a hit with your grandkids, but the science museum also has exhibits that will appeal to adults. Check out the displays that will challenge your agility and strength. History enthusiasts will appreciate learning about life along the river, as well as life in ancient Egypt and in early Iowa.
5. Tour The Historic Homes At Rock Island Arsenal
Still an active military installation, the Rock Island Arsenal dates to the early 1800s and is open for tours. On special occasions, Quarters One is open; it was once home to the arsenal’s commanding officer. The Italianate structure was once the largest federal building in the country after the White House. Quarters One is not handicap accessible.
A short walk away, the Colonel Davenport House -- built in 1833 and considered a mansion at the time -- was the home of Davenport’s first postmaster. Locals honored him by naming the city of Davenport after him. Guided tours offer a look at life in the mid-1800s.
6. Purchase Some Produce At Freight House Farmers Market
Built by the Chicago, Milwaukee, Saint Paul, and Pacific Railroad, the Freight House in Davenport served as a storage center for the railroad in the early 1900s. Today, the classic brick building is home to the Freight House Farmers Market, which is open year-round (except the outdoor section, which is only open during the summer months). Inside, you’ll find fresh fruit and vegetables as well as quality meat products. Home decor, clothing, and bath accessories are also available. Make time to sample some of the tasty treats.
7. Stop To Smell The Flowers At The Quad City Botanical Center
A little more than two decades old, the Quad City Botanical Center in Rock Island offers a peaceful walk through 12 gardens, each featuring something different. You’ll see perennials, wildflowers, conifers, and a seasonal butterfly garden. Inside the visitor center, you’ll find a tropical garden, which uses a 70-foot skylight to help provide natural lighting. A 14-foot waterfall adds to the garden’s beauty. You’ll also find an accessible garden, with planters at appropriate heights for people needing wheelchairs or assistance.
8. Get To Know Buffalo Bill Cody
Born in LeClaire in 1846, William F. Cody, who would grow up to become the showman cowboy Buffalo Bill, lived on a farmstead a few miles outside of town for part of his childhood. The home is open for self-guided tours and is decorated as it would have been when the Cody family lived there.
In town, be sure to visit the Buffalo Bill Museum, which is located on the Mississippi River shoreline. There are plenty of exhibits dedicated to Buffalo Bill, but the museum also covers Scott County history, even housing the Lone Star sternwheeler, the lone remaining wooden-hull boat in the United States. Jim Ryan, the inventor of the black box used in airplanes, graduated from LeClaire High School, and there’s an exhibit on his work as well.
9. Catch A River Bandits Game
Catching a minor league baseball game is a fun way to get a sense of the character of a new place. The Quad Cities River Bandits is a Class A team -- the lowest level in professional baseball -- in the Houston Astros system. You’ll see rookies and young players working to showcase their talent and improve their skills with their sights set on playing in the majors one day. The state-of-the-art stadium in Davenport offers great views of the Mississippi River, and the baseball treats are to die for. You’ll be singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” long after the last out.
Where To Eat In The Quad Cities
Keller’s American Grill
For great New American food, check out Keller’s American Grill at the Isle Casino Bettendorf. Kick off your dining experience with an order of roasted Brussels sprouts sprinkled with honey mustard and candied walnuts. Next, enjoy the Midwest steak medallions or Iowa pork chop, each with impressive sides such as roasted asparagus and garlic mashed potatoes.
No visit to the Quad Cities would be complete without a visit to Lagomarcino’s in downtown Moline. Known for its fine chocolate since 1908, Lagomarcino’s is also home to an amazing ice cream parlor. The shop serves sandwiches, soups, and salads, but you’ll want to quickly inhale your meal so that you can move on to dessert. You can’t go wrong with anything you order, from the old-fashioned ice cream to the malts, sundaes, banana splits, and even egg creams.
Before you leave, scout out the chocolate and candy section. You’ll surely leave with a bag of goodies!
Front Street Brewery
If you enjoy a good burger, head to Front Street Brewery along the Mississippi River in Davenport, home to outstanding pub food like burgers and fish and chips and a delectable pulled pork sandwich. After dinner, take a walk along the riverfront, where you’ll see pelicans as well as a small theme park with a Ferris wheel that illuminates at night, creating an interesting image against the river.
Where To Stay In The Quad Cities
But if you’re looking for a truly memorable experience, consider staying at a Quad Cities bed and breakfast. The Victorian Inn Bed and Breakfast in Rock Island offers a quaint stay in a quiet neighborhood. With five rooms and suites, the Victorian Inn provides an intimate, peaceful, historic setting.
For more to see and do in Iowa, see this page.