2020 Update: Discovery Center Museum will open back up to members on July 7 and the public on July 8 with some new measure in places. There will be timed entry tickets for 2 hour visits (9:30 am – 11:30 am, 12:30 pm – 2:30 pm and 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm). You must schedule your visit here. There will also be increased cleaning and sanitation and temperature checks. Masks are required for everyone ages 6 and older.
Location: 711 N. Main Street, Rockford, IL
Hours: Monday – Sunday: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
Open year-round except Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day
Cost: $9/person *as of 6/1/2019
Children one and younger are free
Year-long memberships start at $90 for a family
The Discovery Center children’s museum in Rockford, IL has been a staple in the Stateline since 1981. It is located in the same complex as Burpee National History Museum and the Rockford Art Museum. If you purchase admission to the Discovery Center, you can get $1 off Burpee’s admission with their Same Day Savings program. You can make an entire day out of your visit!
The Discovery Center is a big place! It covers 23,000 square feet and houses around 300 exhibits. In addition, it often hosts traveling exhibits. In the past the museum has hosted exhibits on Japanese culture, Curious George, and Clifford the Big Red Dog. All exhibits in the museum are STEAM related – Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math.
The museum is great for children of all ages. Parents may find themselves enjoying the museum just as much as their kids do!
Things for Babies to Do (Birth – 12 months)
Babies will enjoy all of the sights and sounds of the Discovery Center. There are lots of eye-catching displays and the museum is usually full of kids playing, laughing, and running around.
There’s also a special spot just for babies under 18 months old. The baby area has soft mats to climb on, interesting toys like tubes with bells and feathers inside, a wooden bar to practice standing, and two mirrored surfaces for the baby to look at him or herself.
Things for Little Kids to Do (18 months – 6 years old)
The Tot Spot is geared towards children six years and under. Most of the exhibits in this area are based around imaginative play. Throughout the Tot Spot are red telephones that can be used to call other telephones in the Tot Spot.
- A nature themed camping area with tent, fishing boat, treehouse, and costumes.
- Woodman’s grocery store with carts, cash registers, ATM, food sections and a delivery car.
- A playhouse with a kitchen, laundry, bedroom, and mailbox.
- A doctor’s office that was formerly a veterinarian’s office.
- A nursery with three baby dolls and items to care for them.
- An auto garage where kids can diagnose and fix a car.
- A wooden train where children can pretend to be conductors and add coal to the engine.
- A water play area where children can splash in the water and play with water toys. There are smocks available to keep clothing dry.
Things for Older Kids to Do (6 – 13 years old)
The older kid sections are spread out throughout the first and second floors of the museum.
- Electricity section that has a Jacob’s Ladder, large plasma globe, and a display on how much energy it takes to run household devices.
- Health and the human body section which allows kids to test their hang time, jumping height, and reflexes.
- Math section that includes orgami and measuring activities.
- Air and Flight section where kids can test how things float through the air, use a flight simulator, see how air blasts move different materials, and launch a hot air balloon.
- Farming (Ag-Zibit) section where kids can climb into a real tractor, operate a combine, gather eggs, milk a cow, and make a cornhusk doll to take home.
- News broadcast station where kids can pretend to host, film, or be in the audience during a news broadcast. Kids can sit behind the anchor desk, film with a camcorder, or watch from the audience.
Things for Kids of All Ages to Do
Art Studio – Discovery Center hosts Messy Mondays where kids can create a themed art project. Messy Mondays typically run from 11:00 am – 3:00 pm. In the past, they’ve done golf-ball painting, liquid chalk, and marble painting.
Bubble Play – The Bubble Play exhibit opened in October 2019 and is great for kids of all ages. Kids can try out the bubble and smoke table, mirror and bubble center and the full body bubble. Here’s a video of my 5 and 2 year old enjoying the display.
Special events – The Discovery Center has special events throughout the year. These events are free for members and usually, are included in the price of admission. Past events include Pokemon day, Sports day, and Harry Potter night. You can check out our calendar for upcoming Discovery Center events.
Rock River Discovery Park
Children of all ages can enjoy the massive outdoor playground open during fall, spring and summer.
Park features include:
- Sandpit with dinosaur bones that kids can dig up
- A secret garden with benches and plants
- Game area with ball roll
- A few interesting swings
- Climbing equipment
- A wooden play structure with a maze component
- A huge water play area where you can race boats and spin water wheels
- Chimes and other musical instruments
- Benches throughout
There’s a great shaded picnic area where you can bring a packed lunch to eat outside.
The Discovery Center is clean, well kept, and has numerous staff members throughout the museum should you need assistance.
They also have the following amenities:
- Several accommodating bathrooms including a main level multi-stall bathroom with a baby changing station and drinking fountain
- Quiet room for breastfeeding or calming down an overstimulated child
- Plenty of room to bring in a stroller
- Elevator to the second floor
- Benches throughout the interior
- Vending machines in the lobby
- Gift shop