15 Best Things to Do in The Quad Cities

Quad Cities
Eduardo Medrano / shutterstock

Quad Cities is a relatively small yet thriving urban region between Iowa and Illinois.

Despite its name, the region consists of five cities along the Mississippi River.

Within Iowa are the cities of Davenport and Bettendorf, while Rock Island, Moline, and East Moline are situated in Illinois.

According to the 2020 census, the five cities have a combined population of about 242,000.

However, a big chunk of that population resides in Davenport, which has over 101,000 residents.

Prior to the arrival of the Europeans, the region was already home to several Native Americans for centuries, most notably by Sauk and Fox tribes.

Development in the area was driven primarily by the riverboat traffic on the Mississippi River throughout the 19th century.

By the early 20th century, Davenport, Rock Island, and Moline have become known collectively as the “Tri-Cities.”

Following East Moline’s growth in the 1930s, it was later added to the original trio, thus earning the region its modern name.

However, Bettendorf was added soon after, transforming it into a five-city collective.

Nevertheless, there had been a few attempts to change the region’s name to “Quint Cities” to keep up with the change.

However, the original name was already stuck in everyone’s minds, with many also thinking the new name doesn’t have the same ring to it as the Quad Cities does.

As a result, the name change never caught on with the public.

Today, the region is a bustling commercial district in the Midwest.

The highly livable region also boasts numerous recreation areas, parks, and educational centers, among others.

Here are the best things to do in Quad Cities:

Take a Stroll at Vander Veer Botanical Park

Water fountain at Vander Veer Botanical Park
Farragutful, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Vander Veer Botanical Park, situated in Davenport, is considered one of the most beautiful places in the Quad Cities.

Established in 1885, the park covers an area of 33 acres right in the heart of the city.

The park is dotted by century-old trees, many of which were planted back in the late 19th century.

The botanical park has multiple greenhouses housing distinct gardens, like the vibrant Municipal Rose Garden and the stimulating Enabling Garden.

Moreover, one of the park’s most notable features is its conservatory and changing flora, which matches the season.

Trail lined with trees at Vander Veer Botanical Park
David Wilson, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Additionally, the park has a beautiful stone fountain which was built back in 1930.

On the other hand, you can experience catch-and-release fishing right at the park’s lagoon.

For relaxing walks or quick jogging, you can traverse the walkway built around the outer perimeter, which stretches nearly a mile.

Vander Veer Botanical Park’s neat features make it the perfect spot for a quick respite from urban noise.

Rose garden at Vander Veer Botanical Park
Farragutful, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Marvel at the Exhibits at Putnam Museum and Science Center

In Davenport, Putnam Museum and Science Center is a popular educational venue in Quad Cities.

Established in 1867 as the Davenport Academy of Natural Sciences, it is also one of the oldest institutions in the region.

Among the highlights of the museum are its exhibits about North American history, particularly its depictions of the life of Native American tribes and the pioneers.

The museum also has various relics from ancient Egypt, complimented by its state-of-the-art Computed Tomography, which allows you to digitally explore what’s inside a mummy.

Moreover, the museum features fossils, minerals, and crystals, many of which were unearthed in the region.

As its name implies, the museum’s World Culture Gallery gives you a glimpse into various cultures from all parts of the world with its vivid photo collections and other artifacts.

On the other hand, their science gallery contains interactive exhibits and features, along with 3D films about science and nature.

All these interesting exhibits make Putnam Museum and Science Museum a must-visit not only for science and history buffs but for everyone.

Take a Journey with Celebration River Cruises

Quad Cities’ location along the Mississippi River makes it the perfect spot to experience cruising along the iconic waterway.

Moline-based Celebration River Cruises offers the ultimate river journey experience with its plethora of premium features.

Their river cruising service starts in April every year and ends in October.

With its 750-passenger capacity, their flagship vessel, Celebration Belle, is considered the largest non-gaming leisure riverboat in the Upper Mississippi River.

The massive vessel also has a gift shop, five fully-stocked bars, two dance floors, and a full galley.

Along with their music-themed lunch cruises, they also have Captain’s Dinner and Dance Cruises for a fun and jolly cruising experience.

They also have narrated sightseeing cruises along the famous river landmarks and historical sites in Quad Cities.

On the other hand, they also offer all-day cruises, which can go far downstream to St. Louis, Missouri.

A must-experience in Quad Cities, Celebration River Cruises provides top-of-the-line amenities and plenty of cruising options for everybody.

See Beautiful Flowers at Quad City Botanical Garden

Located in Rock Island near the Mississippi River, the Quad City Botanical Garden ranks as one of the most gorgeous places in the region.

Open year-round, this paradise features numerous indoor and outdoor gardens teeming with colorful native and exotic flowers.

Its tropical-themed Sun Garden, with its 14-foot man-made waterfall, serves as the park's highlight.

With its tropical environment, this garden houses numerous towering palm trees, vibrant orchids, and even bananas.

Another notable feature of the botanical park is its Children’s Garden, where you can find a mini-version of the Mississippi River with interactive features.

On the other hand, Quad City Botanical Garden also offers a one-hour Chocolate Tour.

As the tour’s name implies, it takes you along the history of the popular food and allows you to sample flavorful chocolate, coffee, and tea.

With its unprecedented beauty and cool chocolate experience, Quad City Botanical Garden offers a pleasant and unforgettable experience with each visit.

Enjoy Riverside Views at Leach Park

Bettendorf’s Leach Park is a small strip of green space situated along the shores of the Mississippi River.

The park has a built-in boat ramp for fun and relaxing river boating and kayaking.

Moreover, you can cast your reel and enjoy fishing along the river’s clean waters.

With Riverfront Trail traversing across the park, it is also a great spot for walking and biking, with picturesque surroundings.

You can also simply relax on the benches and enjoy the scenic views of the river and the Mississippi River Bridge in the background.

Also, the park’s picnic shelters and several picnic tables with shade make for a great venue for family gatherings.

Leach Park may only offer basic amenities, yet its postcard-worthy views are more than enough for an enthralling breather.

Indulge in Sweet Treats at Whitey’s Ice Cream

Quad Cities’ go-to spot for icy desserts, Whitey’s Ice Cream has branches in Moline, East Moline, and Rock Island.

This local favorite is also considered an institution in the area, having been established back in 1933.

With over 40 flavors to choose from, their ice cream offerings range from classics like strawberry and chocolate chip to seasonal ones like pumpkin and peppermint.

Many also look forward to trying their famous upside-down shakes and malts.

Other frozen treats you can enjoy at Whitey’s Ice Cream also include an assortment of sundaes, soda floats, and smoothies.

Better yet, many of their ice cream flavors are also available in tubs, so you can enjoy them anywhere you want.

With tons of tasty options, there’s no better place to indulge in frozen treats in Quad Cities than at Whitey’s Ice Cream.

Enjoy Indoor Activities at TBK Bank Sports Complex

In the northern part of Bettendorf, TBK Bank Sports Complex is Quad Cities’ premier all-in-one place for indoor recreation.

The sprawling complex houses sports facilities like basketball courts, batting cages, and a bowling alley.

On the other hand, you can also go toe-to-toe with family and peers in laser tag matches, or test your wits and solve the puzzles at the escape rooms.

You can also play in their arcade, which features both classic and new games.

However, if you want a more immersive experience, you can try their Hologate VR and virtual simulators for sports like golf, hockey, and football.

You also don’t have to worry about going hungry at the complex as there’s a restaurant where you can order a delicious meal.

What’s more, there’s even a sports bar where you can chill and relax with friends.

Offering premium features and a plethora of activities to enjoy, TBK Bank Sports Complex is the ultimate destination for family fun and entertainment.

Swim and Play at Riverside Park

Situated on the northern part of Moline, Riverside Park occupies a total area of over 50 acres.

Along with the usual park amenities, it stands out among the countless recreation areas in Quad Cities thanks to the aquatic center located within its premises.

Open from June to July, the aquatic center has a lap pool and a fun water playground.

Other notable features of the park include a fishing area and a garden center.

On the other hand, the park houses sports facilities like courts for pickleball, tennis, and sand volleyball, as well as softball and baseball diamonds.

There’s also a playground and wide open spaces where you can play around and exercise.

Of course, you can also enjoy picnicking at the park in any of its cozy picnic shelters.

Whether you prefer fun water activities or sports, Riverside Park has all the features which allow you to enjoy both.

Take a Glimpse of the Past at Black Hawk State Historic Site

The museum and lodge of Black Hawk State Historic Site
Chris Light, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Black Hawk State Historic Site is located in Rock Island along the shores of Rock River.

It is the site of the former Saukenuk village, which American explorer Jonathan Carver referred to as the “largest and best-built Indian town” upon arriving in the area in 1766.

Moreover, it is also the birthplace of the famous Sauk chieftain Black Hawk, whom it was named after in his honor.

Today, the historic site contains several historic buildings, most notably the Black Hawk Museum and Lodge.

A statue at Black Hawk State Historic Site
Billwhittaker at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Moreover, it houses the John Hauberg Museum of Native American Life, where you can find artifacts and relics from the village’s past.

On the other hand, the site features an extensive network of hiking trails that weave through its sprawling 208-acre area.

Embarking on this trail journey will take you to scenic riverside views, forests, and prairie areas thriving with wildlife.

Its deep historical significance to the region and pristine environment make Black Hawk State Historic Site a must-visit in Quad Cities.

Dine at Steel Plow Burger Company

Steel Plow Burger Company, with two branches located at Moline and Davenport, is a local favorite in Quad Cities.

The homegrown burger joint offers over a dozen mouthwatering specialty hamburgers.

However, you can also select their build-your-own burger option for a customized sumptuous experience.

Moreover, they are also famous for their fries which come in different flavors of cheese and dips.

On the other hand, you can try their pretzels and nachos, as well as fresh salads and mac and cheese.

You can then wash them all down with their delicious overflowing shakes.

Delicious food and a family-friendly atmosphere make Steel Plow Burger Company one of the top places to dine in the Quad Cities.

Rejuvenate at Revive Café

Many restaurants dot Quad Cities, but Revive Café in East Moline stands out from the crowd as an all-in-one place for total physical rejuvenation and cleansing.

For starters, the restaurant serves only meals made exclusively with organic and gluten-free ingredients.

From their chicken dishes to fresh salads and wraps, you can enjoy a healthy dining experience with each order.

Needless to say, they also have vegan options for a meat-free diet.

You can then pair them up with their delicious smoothies, which are made with various fresh fruits and garnished with an assortment of toppings.

For healthy meals on the go, they also offer boxed lunches and bottled cleansing juices so you can enjoy healthy food anywhere.

On the other hand, what makes this restaurant distinct from the others is it also doubles as a wellness center.

As such, they offer relaxing therapies, specifically massage, lymphatic enhancement, and clinical thermography.

They also facilitate classes and workshops on sound healing, various yoga levels, malas, and mantras, among others.

If you want a one-of-a-kind gourmet experience in the Quad Cities, look no further than Revive Café.

Play Golf at Palmer Hills

Located in Bettendorf, Palmer Hills is a premier 18-hole golf course in Quad Cities.

The modest golf course has par 72 measuring 6,500 yards from the back tees.

With towering century-old oak trees towering in the background, the golf course boasts well-maintained greens which allow for smooth rolls with every play.

Thanks to the rolling hills and ponds, the course’s layout offers plenty of challenge to seasoned players yet is still relatively accessible to beginners.

On the other hand, you can also hone your golfing skills by joining their summer golf clinics and lessons.

Moreover, Palmer Hills houses the 18-hole Forge Putting Course, which offers total fun for the whole family.

You can also dine and enjoy a sumptuous meal at Palmer Grill, a full-service restaurant inside the golf course.

Whether you’re a pro or a beginner, you’ll be sure to have plenty of fun and memorable tee time at Palmer Hills.

Try Axe-Throwing at Live Action Games

Located in Davenport, Live Action Games is among the popular recreation centers in Quad Cities thanks to its action-packed features.

The most famous is the Axe Throwing, where you can channel your inner Viking by trying to hit the target board several feet away.

With their throw axes and hatchets available in various sizes, everyone can join in the fun, including children.

Other features that Live Action Games offer include air soft rentals, where you can engage in friendly matches with your friends.

They also have escape rooms where you’ll have to find clues and find the way to the puzzles.

They also have more traditional features like several arcade machines for button-mashing fun, as well as pool tables where you can hang out and play.

With their Axe Throwing alone guaranteed to provide hours of enjoyment for everyone, Live Action Games ranks as one of the most fun places in Quad Cities.

Go Rollerskating at Skate City QCA

Skate City QCA, an indoor skating arena in East Moline, combines a familiar nostalgic aura and modern design to provide fun for adults and children alike.

Adding to the vibrant atmosphere are the lively music and colorful environment for an overall pleasant rollerskating experience.

They also host special themed events, like their Halloween and Luau Skip and Skate themes, which add a nice twist to the traditional pastime.

You also don’t have to worry about not being able to keep up with others, as they also provide trainers and accessories to help you to learn how to skate.

On the other hand, you can also engage in fun laser tag matches with friends right at Skate City QCA.

While you’re at it, take a deeper trip down memory lane with their arcade, which features classic game machines.

Gliding down on rollerskates can be fun but tiring, so the pizza and other snacks which they also serve can come in handy to keep you energized.

Skating arenas may no longer be as popular today as they once were, yet Skate City QCA proves that this classic family pastime is still rolling strong well into modern times.

Go Camping at Camelot Campground Quad Cities

Camelot Campground Quad Cities in Rock Island is a sprawling 150-acre playground for outdoor enthusiasts.

As such, it is the go-to place in the region for camping, whether with RVs or tents.

On the other hand, you can choose to stay in one of their cozy rental cabins for greater convenience.

The campground features a 50-acre lake where you can enjoy fishing, canoeing, and paddle boating.

Moreover, they also have a splash park where you can go for a quick swim.

The campground also hosts several sports facilities, such as volleyball and basketball courts, a mini golf course, and a playground.

On top of being a dog-friendly place, the campground also provides useful amenities like Wi-Fi internet access, laundry facilities, and a snack bar.

With its clean environment, tons of activities, and great facilities, Camelot Campground Quad Cities offers an unforgettable camping experience for the whole family.

Final Thoughts

With its highly livable and refreshing environment, Quad Cities offers a breath of fresh air from the usual mega-cities while still offering neat urban conveniences.

This, combined with countless historical sites, recreation areas, and delectable restaurants, among others, makes it a prime destination for fun and exciting activities.

Schedule a trip now and try these best things to do in Quad Cities and enjoy an unforgettable Midwest experience.

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