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A Token of Midwestern Hospitality

Rockford charms attendees with its riverfront views and lively local culture

By Amanda Christensen

Rockford is a northern Illinois haven for memorable events along the Rock River. || Photo by Juan Carlos Tinjacal, courtesy of Adobe

Located just over an hour’s drive away from downtown Chicago, as well as Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Rockford is a northern Illinois haven for memorable events along the Rock River. Full of distinguished museums, diverse shops and boutiques, delectable restaurants, and a variety of memorable hotel and venue options, the city is an easy choice for planners hosting an event in the Prairie State.

Vibe: “The Rockford region is a real, original city with gardens and rivers, a wonderful place to spend a life—or a weekend,” says Kara Davis, senior sales manager at the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau (also known as Go Rockford). “I really enjoy being an ambassador for Rockford, helping tournament and meeting planners navigate the city I was born and raised in.”

Transportation: Rockford is accessible by road via interstates 39 and 90 and U.S. Route 20. Chicago Rockford International Airport is served by Allegiant Air and offers flights to and from Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada, and Tennessee.

Meeting Venues: The primary event venue in Rockford is BMO Center downtown. Host to comedy shows, concerts, and sports games, the venue has flexibility for private events large and small. Another option is the Coronado Performing Arts Center, built in 1927 and home to 2,400 seats spanning the main floor and upper and lower balconies. The NIU Rockford Conference Center (belonging to Northern Illinois University) has several on-site spaces for events, including a 3,500-square-foot auditorium and several meeting rooms. Other choices are the Tebala Event Center and Indoor City Market.

Hotels: The Radisson Hotel & Conference Center Rockford; Embassy Suites by Hilton Rockford Riverfront; Holiday Inn Rockford (I-90 & Route 20/State Street), An IHG Hotel; Hilton Garden Inn Rockford; and Riverview Inn & Suites, Ascend Hotel Collection; are the city’s primary hotels, says Davis. “Each hotel is unique in its offerings and has ample meeting space perfect for any event—it’s no doubt they will provide you with great Midwestern hospitality.” The Radisson Hotel & Conference Center Rockford features 114 guest rooms and 10,000 square feet of function space across six meeting rooms and two ballrooms.

Restaurants: A favored aspect of Rockford for Davis is the many culinary options to explore in the city. “Rockford has expanded to encompass a whole host of unique and local culinary experiences,” she says. “With more than 20 countries’ cuisines represented throughout the region, you can take an international food tour without leaving the city.” Favorites of hers include House of India, Greenfire, and 27 Aluna. The Top Rooftop Bar & Lounge is located atop the Embassy Suites by Hilton Rockford Riverfront hotel and offers shareable plates, craft cocktails, and private suites available for events.

Must-Sees and -Dos: Keep attendees active by arranging group activities at Rockford’s Mercyhealth Sportscore Two complex. It features soccer fields, volleyball courts, indoor golf simulators, a full-service restaurant, an indoor sports center, and an outdoor turf stadium. Nearby Victory Pickleball can accommodate 500 attendees in its private event room with access to 15 pickleball courts. For relaxation, take attendees to the Anderson Japanese Garden for a stroll around 12 acres of stunning landscaping, koi ponds, and a waterfall.

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