Looking for a fun family daytrip near the Quad Cities? Your kids will love these family day excursions! Get in the car and make your best memories this summer. Prepare yourself for possibly annoying car rides, whining kids, sticky faces, lots of laughter and fun, and memories to last a lifetime! Check out our Tips for Surviving Car Trips with your Kids post and find something to help the road trip part be more fun.
Day trips from the Quad Cities in about an hour
Rock Falls, IL 62 miles
Crystal Lake A totally unexpected gem of an outing. This spot is a bounce house extravaganza on the water. I have a wide range of ages in my family and my teens had just as much fun as my toddlers.
Dillon Home Museum with steam engine in back yard.
Hennepin Canal Trail A lovely trail most of which is shady. Perfect if you’re walking, biking, or even pushing a stroller.
Sinnissippi Mounds Hopewell mound builders were native peoples living in our area. Imagine taking buckets and buckets of dirt by hand in order to make hills, which are then made into a shape which can only be seen from the sky! But as far as we know they didn’t have a way to see the designs they made! Definitely do some research about this fascinating history before you check it out in person; it will make your day trip from the Quad Cities so much more enjoyable.
Mt Vernon IA 65 miles
American Gothic Barn If you’re not familiar with the painting by Cedar Rapids native “American Gothic”, you need to GET familiar with it. Someone duplicated this famous artwork on the entire side of the barn! In the middle of nowhere, it’s a startling beauty!
Palisades-Kepler State Park Gorgeous hiking trails and beautiful woods and views. Both easy and more arduous trails. Last I checked it was still closed from Derecho last summer, but keep it near the top of your list of family day trips near the Quad Cities.
Algers Pizza Palace Delicious pizza with a gigantic fun mural on the walls. The servers are as personable as can be and loved the kids, who were acting very much like kids. We enjoyed every minute of this family day trip from the Quad Cities.
Sing-Along-Bar You’ll definitely want to check this place out! The owner has a mission of creating a safe place for family fun!
St. Donatus IA 68 miles
Pronounced Doh-NAY-tus, St. Donatus is “old world,” Iowa’s version of the tiny European country of Luxembourg. It so closely resembles Europe, you’ll find it hard to believe you’re still in the midwest.
Kalmes. Possibly try big bowls of homemade noodles and sauerkraut and sausage alongside the wiener schnitzel a breaded pork, is always served at Kalmes.
Dubuque IA 72 miles
Fenelon Place Elevator Lots of history in finding out about this crazy trip straight up a hill. We do this almost every time we go to Dubuque and it never gets old.
Union Park Shot tower Lots to learn about this and offers great views of surrounding area.
Crystal Lake Cave Caves are just cool!
Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium There is so much to see here you could probably go every month and learn new things. They have a touching tank, and it surprises me the HUGE variety of animals that live in the Mississippi River ecosystem. Lots of history and hands on activities.
Grand Harbor Resort and Water Park Fun in the summer or the winter! You can go to the water park without staying at the hotel. It’s most expensive on Saturdays, so plan a day trip from the Quad Cities for another day if you’d like to save some money. The park is included with a hotel stay.
Day Trips from the Quad Cities in about an hour and a half
Cedar Rapids IA 80 miles
African American Museum of Iowa I’m white of European descent, along with 75% of the population of the Quad Cities. That majority will never understand what it’s like to have a Black heritage, and raise a Black family in these times, but I can do my best to educate myself and advocate for my brothers and sisters who are richer in melanin than I am. Taking my kids to museums like this one is a way I can do that. Please do it too.
Ushers Ferry Historic Village They have a Civil War re-enactment weekend in the fall, but it’s cool all the time!
Wickiup Hill An environmental learning center featuring hands on exhibits for kids, educational programming, history, and live animal displays. The huge outdoor area includes interpretive trails and Native American mounds, and a playscape.
The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art It’s so important to expose your kids to real art. Seeing it in books or on a video is good, but there is something incredible about seeing it in person. I didn’t realize that until I was already an adult. Inform your kids that they will love it. If they whine, bribe them, and make them do it anyway.
The Play Station A three story indoor playground- perfect for a rainy day road trip!
More great ideas from the Iowa City Moms
Cedar Rapids Moms Collective offers up even more choices for activities in their fine city
Dixon IL 86 miles
One reviewer said: The Next Picture show has a variety of art forms, as well as specific shows of individual artists. It is a great local resource for encouraging the arts in the local community. You will see something that grabs you when you visit the shop. It is a place that changes, so you will need to go back again and again.
Flynnie’s Diner is a delicious Homestyle Cookin’ diner located in Dixon Illinois. We feature classic Diner style stools, tables and booths in a very friendly and personal environment. We are not a truck stop. We are a personal family experience where even the old guys can hang out daily and feel well known.
Railroad Street Arches— Built in 1855, these are just cool stone arches to explore above the street and below the arch.
Galena IL and Elizabeth IL area 86 miles
Fossils from the shallow oceans that once covered Illinois can be found easily in the majestic limestone bluffs of Galena and the nearby Mississippi River. Absolutely the most beautifully scenic area of the Midwest, it is no wonder the Native American chose this place for their home. They called Manatoumi, or Sacred Ground.
We often think of the Galena area as the place to go skiing in Iowa, but it has so much to offer for your summer roadtrip too!
Alpine Slide Fun for grownups; I want to do all of these things with my kids!
Apple River Fort, today known as the Apple River Fort State Historic Site, was one of many frontier forts hastily completed by settlers in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin following the onset of the 1832 Black Hawk War. Live reanactors are there to answer yo ur questions.
The Winston Tunnel is a railroad tunnel located 9 miles west of Elizabeth, Illinois. The tunnel was completed in 1888 for the Minnesota and Northwestern Railroad, a predecessor to the Chicago Great Western Railway
Fergedaboudit Vineyard & Winery– one reviewer said, “This place is amazing! They have several tasting options, a couple versions of which you can try all their wines. The owner and associate that served us were terrific. Very knowledgeable and fun people. The outdoor area is incredible; views that need to be captured, outdoor seating, decorative water landscaping, a deck with live music on Saturdays, altogether breathtaking. And the wine was…WOW! Left with two cases.”
Chicago Great Western Railway Depot Museum Have a train lover in the family? Here’s the spot for you!
Opened in 1852 by federal permit issued from President Millard Fillmore, Breitbach’s is Iowa’s oldest food and drinking establishment. Jacob Breitbach, great-great grandfather of the present owner, purchased the business in 1862, and through six generations, the Breitbach family has been in ownership ever since.
Town of less than 100 scenic overlook is not to be missed.
Dyersville, IA 89 miles
Field of Dreams, a movie from the 1980s, has continuted to capivate audiences for years. You can visit the movie site. First, you need to have a movie night at home so your kids understand why you’re driving all this way to see a baseball field and corn when we have perfectly good baseball fields and corn back home in the Quad Cities.
Peoria IL 90 miles
Playhouse Children’s Museum There is so much to see and do here, this could be your only stop in Peoria. Kids of all ages love it.
Peoria Zoo A great zoo so close to home.
Riverfront Museum Art. Science. Culture. Until September 1, 2019 they are hosting the worlds largest collection of LEGO art! Put this one at the top of your list.
Luthy Botanical Gardens I used to think that botanical gardens were kind of boring frankly- I mean, plants aren’t really that fun and flashy. Then I learned to look at spaces like this with the wonder of a child and I’ve changed my mind!
Forest Park With miles of nature enjoyment, you can also take classes on everything from bats to bugs and even have a guided hike to bolster your learning experience.
Sculpture Walk A unique chance to walk around with your kids and interpret art. You can learn to ask each other good questions, and better use your imaginations. It’s really a lot of fun!
Kartville Go carts, dune buggies, mini golf, batting cages and more
ROC Ice Cream and Golf Ice cream. Golf. 🙂
One World Cafe Peoria has lots of wonderful restaurants. I chose to highlight this one because they strive to offer midwest hospitality and globally inspired flavors. I just love that!
Kickapoo Creek Winery Delicious wines, and with a name like Kickapoo, I kind of feel like you really need your whole wine cellar filled with it. (Does any one actually have a wine cellar? I have a cabinet above the refrigerator.)
Caterpillar Visitors Center It has a lot to offer families, a lot like our own John Deere Visitors Center.
Grandview Drive: An online review said: Several friends joined me for a lovely picnic dinner along beautiful Grandview Drive recently. There are several spots that have a few picnic tables and we each brought a sack meal (fast food or home made) and enjoyed each other’s company and the beautiful views. It’s very high up and you can see up and down the river for miles. It’s not a place you’d expect to find picnic areas but it works and is a special surprise. Very peaceful and serene, you’ll be glad you took this day trip from the Quad Cities..
Utica IL 95 miles
Starved Rock State Park Such a popular attraction it is the only Illinois run park that actually has its own website! Try to go on a weekday because weekends are really crowded.
Matthessien State Park Lots of waterfalls and wooded paths. Completely enjoyable.
Two Girls and a Cupcake Two sisters wanted to make cupcakes. So they did. They make them so well, with real cream, you’ll want to buy one of each kind. (I actually did do that!)
Illinois River Winery http://illinoisriverwinery.com Truly a family run business, you’ll find locally grown grapes and deliciously made wines.
Flutterby Popcorn https://www.flutterbypopcorn.com/ Two words: YUM. MEE. I wish this were closer so I could buy it every day-which technically I could because you can buy it on their website. Nevertheless, put it on your list of day trips from the Quad Cities.
Two hour Day Trips from the Quad Cities
McGregor IA 128 miles (I know, I know, this is more than 100 miles, but everyone I asked said it really needed to be included because there’s just so much awesomeness here)
Effigy Mounds National Monument. More mound builders. Seriously, research this part of our local history and learn with your kids about it! In Outside Online’s article 50 Best Hikes, Effigy Mounds was chosen as the best one in Iowa.
Pikes Peak State Park, with 12 miles of hiking and skiing trails, including the gorgeously scenic Bridal Veil Falls
Wyalusing State Park, across the river in Wisconsin, with 20.
Yellow River State Forest In an Outside magazine list of the Midwest’s Choice Hikes, Yellow River was chosen to be the Choicest in Iowa:). The magazine calls it Iowa’s answer to the Rockies. Definitely worth the day trip from the Quad Cities.
Historical Museum with incredibly intricate sand paintings inside bottles
Dan Slaughter’s yard, is part of a business called Wood Crafts & Junk, but also a folk-art extravaganza.
River Junction Trade Co., a shop that may as well be a museum.
Guided boat tour at Spook Cave, at the base of a bluff along Bloody Run Creek is definitely going to be a capstone of your summer. Your kids will never forget the time you took them boating into a “haunted” cave!
Any one of these day trips within 100 miles of the Quad Cities is going to win you “Mom-of-the-Year” award. Prepare yourself for possibly annoying car rides, whining kids, sticky faces, lots of laughter and fun, and memories to last a lifetime! Potentially you can make the road trip part less irritating by applying some of our tips for Keeping your Sanity on Family Road Trips.