When I was first contacted by Visit Quad Cities to come by and check out the outdoor offerings that were available, I’ll admit to being skeptical. Rock Island, Davenport, Moline, and Bettendorf hotbeds for the outdoor set? Hmmm…
Add to that initial skepticism the fact that our group was made up of me, a middle aged man on the chunky side of fit, along with three 16 year olds. The trip could have ended up as a futile exercise in herding cats, but it turned out to be a great way for me to bond with the kids and the kids to bond amongst themselves.
It didn’t take long for me to be disabused of any notion that the Quad Cities were anything but an amazing place to visit and play outdoors (and only about 3 hours from Chicago!).
Exhibit 1: Sunderbruch Park, where 5 miles of mountain biking trails awaited us. These were not just simple paths through the woods, but lung-searing singletrack with features (hills, bridges, curved wooden berms, etc) that raise it well above what’s available nearer the Chicagoland area.
The local mountain biking group, Quad Cities Friends of Off-Road Cycling (QCFORC), have done a masterful job of getting organized. They are, from what I understand, the primary force behind creating the trails, maintaining them, and making sure mountain biking is well-represented in the area. Kudos to them! Other places to go mountain biking in the area include Scott County Park, Illiniwek, Westbrook Park and more – check out the QCFORC website for a full list, descriptions, and locations.
Exhibit 2: Road Cycling on the Great River Trail – a change in plans had us borrowing bikes from Visit Quad Cities (they rent hybrid bikes) and going for a cruise along the Missisippi River, following the Great River Trail. Bike rentals are available April 1st through November 1st, by the hour or for the day through the Quad Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau at their Davenport, Rock Island, and Moline locations.
Exhibit 3: Hiking the Blackhawk State Historic Site with Wade of Intrepid Daily (you really should read his blog, this dude is really living the outdoors life here in the Midwest). The site includes a museum, examples of Civilian Conservation Corps projects, and access to the Rock River via trails that meander up and down and all around the site. According to Wade, there are many other good places to go hiking in the area, including Loud Thunder Forest Preserve, which was on our itinerary for the following day, but unfortunately was bumped.
Exhibit 4: Paddling the Mississippi River was on the agenda for our last day. We met up at the Sylvan Boathouse, now run by the YMCA but with a long history on the site, grabbed stand up paddleboards and kayaks, and headed into the Sylvan Slough for a few hours on the water. While Sylvan Island was closed to access from land via the bridge, we were able to access one of the viewing platforms from the water. Paddling the Slough is a safe and pleasant way to enjoy the Mississippi River without fear of large boat traffic.
As a an outdoors destination, it turns out the Quad Cities have a lot to offer. As an added bonus, many of the activities are family-friendly and can be adjusted to meet your group’s fitness and comfort levels.
It’s not all about the outdoors, of course – other fun places to visit: Michael’s Fun Center, tons of museums, and I highly recommend the John Deere Pavilion for hands-on exhibits focused on their tractors and other heavy machinery (and don’t forget to visit the adjoining shop, where you’ll want to buy pretty much everything, or at least I did). The Channel Cat is an inexpensive and fun way to see more of the river and the riverfront industry and also a way to travel between the 4 stops.
Hotels can be found in every corner of the Quad Cities – we were put up at the Rhythm City Casino Resort, a modern hotel, casino and event center combined. A full review of the resort can be found on 50 States Of Wine.
Restaurants run the gamut across the Quad Cities, as can be expected, from humble strip mall finds to luxe dining, and everything in between. The Quad Cities have their share of new breweries as well, where you can taste local beers and food that’s often created to pair with it. There’s also a growing wine scene in the area – we’ve checked out a few of the wineries in the past and there’s some decent vino being made in the area. Check out my Quad Cities Restaurants post on 50 State Of Wine for a few suggestions on where to go.
More Quad Cities Outdoors posts.
Thanks to the Quad Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau for hosting us and preparing such a great itinerary! We definitely have plans to return for a return visit to hang out with new friends and try even more fun activities.