It was the Mississippi River, available land, and resources that brought John Deere to Moline, IL, where he began a steel plow manufacturing business that revolutionized the farming industry. Moline is still John Deere country and you can visit the free John Deere Pavilion
, where there is current and antique agricultural equipment in the trademark green and yellow. Explore the life-size tractors and combines, sit in the cab, and imagine being a farmer tilling the fields. There are also history exhibits, interactive games, and a kid's exploration area.
After learning about John Deere, head down the road to the John Deere Harvester Works
- home of Deere & Company's largest combine factory. Visitors can see how these impressive machines are built. The Visitor Center offers free on-site tours and information on the factory. Tours are held every weekday when the factory is in operation; please call 800-765-8000 to confirm tour availability.
John Deere Harvester Works offers free tours of one of the largest combine factories in the world. (Tour availability depends on factory production schedule; please call ahead.)
Other free John Deere attractions include:
- Visit the Deere & Company World Headquarters to see the display mural with memorabilia from the first 75 years of the company and other Deere equipment.
- Visit the Deere-Wiman House and Butterworth Center, two historic mansions of John Deere descendants for a tour of the houses and gardens. Reservations for a tour must be made in advance; please call 309-743-2700.
If it's a nice day, take the family to Empire Park
in East Moline with a giant, wooden jungle gym that will amuse kids for hours. Or, maybe the Centennial Park skatepark
in downtown Davenport would be of interest. You can also explore Schwiebert Riverfront Park
in downtown Rock Island with an interactive fountain, observation shelter, waterfront promenade, bike trail, and a digital playground, the latest in playground equipment and the first installation in the Midwest.
Schwiebert Riverfront Park features an expansive lawn and bandshell, sprayground, interactive playground, and sweeping views of the Mississippi River.
is one of the last urban wetlands of its size on the upper Mississippi River. Encompassing about 500 acres and offering amazing bird watching opportunities, look at the past when primordial wetlands dotted the river landscape. Take the boardwalk through the marsh at no cost.
After the marsh, head downtown to freely browse the shops at Bucktown Center for the Arts
. Open Wed-Sat from 11 am-6 pm, there are two floors of art galleries and studios offering: jewelry, clothing and accessories, paintings, sculpture, metal, wood, stone, glass, drawings, prints, photography, collage, crafts, and more. Be sure to scope out the other art galleries in the area.
Bucktown Center for the Arts is a collection of independent artists' studios and shops. Watch the artists at work, browse for a unique gift or just wander around and admire the creations.
Head up into the Davenport Skybridge for a great aerial view of the Mississippi River, Lock & Dam 15, and the bridges. It's a great place to watch the sunset, or see bald eagles in the winter!
Then take a drive along the river to LeClaire, Iowa, for a free tour of the Mississippi River Distilling Company
. They offer tours daily on the hour from 12 PM to 4 PM or by appointment. During the tour, you'll be able to see the entire process, from the cleaning, milling and cooking of the grain, to the fermentation, distillation, blending, aging and bottling of spirits. Finish the tour for free samples of our products for those patrons over 21 years of age.
The Mississippi River Distilling Company is an award-winning distillery that produces vodka, gin, and artisan spirits using locally sourced grains and ingredients. Take a free tour and get a sample of the smooth taste.
Arsenal Island, an island in the middle of the Mississippi River, has been owned by the U.S. Government since 1804 and it is still a working military facility. On the island, stop at the Mississippi River Visitor Center
to learn about the river while you watch barges lock through Lock & Dam 15 and see the world's largest Roller Dam hold back the mighty waters of the Mississippi. They offer special guided tours of the Lock & Dam and historic clocktower.
The free Rock Island Arsenal Museum
features the whole history of the island in exhibits and photos, a model of the first fort built on the island, Fort Armstrong, and a premier collection of small firearms. Also on the Island, visitors can see the National and Confederate Cemeteries, tanks, artillery, and the many buildings - built from native limestone - that house military and governmental offices. A current U.S. picture ID is needed in order to be permitted on the Island because it is a working military facility for persons 16 and older.
The Black Hawk State Historic Site
was first occupied by Native Americans as long as 12,000 years ago, and still remains as one of the least-disturbed forests in Illinois. Take a walk through the forest on the 4 miles of hiking trails.
Black Hawk State Historic Site is a gorgeous nature preserve with miles of hiking trails. Pay a visit to the Black Hawk Lodge and John Hauberg Indian Museum, both with free admission (donations appreciated).
You can also visit the John Hauberg Indian Museum
located there. Look at artifacts from the Sauk and Meskwaki tribes who once lived on this land. Many artifacts come directly from Black Hawk's family and tribes connected with this famous warrior.
More Free Ideas
- The Fryxell Geology Museum became one of the largest and finest collections of rocks, minerals and fossils in the Midwest. It even has a complete dinosaur skeleton! The museum is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, and from 1-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday during the academic school year.
- Niabi Zoo is open March-December and they have scheduled free days. Check their website for the schedule.
- The artisans of Isabel Bloom invite you to a free tour of the Harborview Production Studio. During the one-hour-and-fifteen-minute guided tour, you'll have behind-the-scenes access to every step in the making of each Isabel Bloom sculpture. For tour times and reservations for your group, please call 1-800-273-5436, Mon.-Fri. from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
- Each summer the Mississippi River backwaters on the Rock River become a performance area for the Backwater Gamblers. Every Wednesday and Sunday at 6:30 p.m. from Memorial Day through Labor Day, the Backwater Gamblers Water Ski Club presents a free one-hour, fun-filled family show is a themed performance combining skits, music, dance-all on water-skis.
- The Iowa 80 Trucking Museum was a dream of Iowa 80 Truckstop founder Bill Moon. His love for trucks and the trucking industry laid the foundation for this museum. Over 60 vintage trucks dating back to 1910 are on display, as well as antique signs, gas pumps and toy trucks. The museum also features the REO Theatre where visitors can enjoy watching films about trucks and trucking. Open 7 days a week, Memorial Day through Labor Day.
The Backwater Gamblers perform a free family-friendly water ski show choreographed to music every Wednesday and Sunday during the summer on the beautiful Rock River.
No matter your interest, you'll be able to find an inexpensive way to enjoy your weekend getaway in the Quad Cities!