Visiting the Quad Cities Along the Mississippi River

This post is sponsored by Visit Quad Cities. 

On the banks of the impressive Mississippi River, just five hours north of Kansas City sits the Quad Cities area. Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa with Moline and Rock Island, Illinois, make up this family friendly region with opportunities for a fun road trip weekend. Our family of six loved spending time in the Quad Cities at the farmer’s market, museums, cruising the Mississippi and enjoying a baseball game.

What to Do in the Quad Cities

River City Bandits at Modern Woodmen Park

Don’t forget to pack your Royals gear because the River City Bandits are the minor league baseball team, high A affiliate for the Royals. They play at a gorgeous baseball park that has frequently been on the top of list for the best minor league stadiums. The outfield experience includes amusement park rides (Ferris wheel, double carousel, mini roller coaster, etc). The price of food and drinks was reasonable and general admission tickets in bleachers along the third baseline offer a great view. My kids’ favorite thing to do at minor league games is get autographs, which are easy before and after the game by standing next to the dugout.

Putnam Museum and Science Center

We enjoyed this manageable museum, and spent about 90 minutes looking through the exhibits which range from space, mummies, mammals and the history of the region. Our favorite space was the featured exhibit (through Oct. 30, 2023) JUNKraft: Global Crisis of Plastic Pollution. It was here we learned about the dangers of plastic pollution for ocean animals and marveled at the amount of plastic we use in our everyday lives. Don’t miss the interactive area on the second floor and our favorite feature – robot instruments.

Quad City Botanical Garden

We enjoyed exploring the tropical gardens at the Quad City Botanical Garden which was a great way to see and smell plants we aren’t used to seeing up close. The kids had scavenger hunts from the front desk to check off features they found. The Children’s Garden has oversized games, play areas and our favorite for a 95 degree day — a water area with small creek, interactive features and sprinklers. Don’t miss the train garden on weekends to the side of the entrance, and ask the train volunteers all your model train questions!

Niabi Zoo

The Niabi Zoo in Coal Valley, Ill., is great for a morning activity on a hot day. This sweet zoo is impressive for its size and offers classic train and carousel rides. We recommend taking the train ride first to get the lay of the land and pick out what animal habitats you want to visit.

Channel Cat Water Taxi

This ferry boat makes for great public transportation or a relaxing tour of the Mississippi River. These boats are only open Memorial Day to Labor Day and include four stops in each of the Quad Cities. This area of the Mississippi has many rapids but the ride was smooth and relaxing. We boarded at RiverBend Commons in Moline and returned to our car in about an hour.

Freight House Farmer’s Market

This was an impressive market with goodies from local farmers, meats, eggs, flowers and more as well as crafts and art. Parking is free. The market runs Saturdays, 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. and Sundays, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Plan to be here for either breakfast or lunch because the local food options are enticing! We enjoyed iced lattes from the Coffee Oasis truck. Stop by the Davenport Skybridge after your time at the Farmer’s Market — a bridge 50 feet above River Drive and offers a fantastic view of the Centennial Bridge and river. At night, the fun kaleidoscope lightning makes for fun pictures.

Where to Eat in the Quad Cities

Happy Joe’s Pizza and Ice Cream

After a five hour road trip, Happy Joe’s is a great stop to start your trip together. It’s is one of those classic pizza diners, and claims to make the first taco pizza in the world. It also has a small arcade with tickets for prizes.

Front Street Pub and Eatery

Close to the Freight House market and skybridge, Front Street Pub had a good kids menu and laidback atmosphere.


This is legit ice cream. Local to the Quad Cities area, it is an old fashioned ice cream joint with quality ingredients. When we went the featured flavors included John Deere (based in the area) and Sgt. Camo. Our family highly recommends the shakes!

Where to Stay in the Quad Cities

We stayed at the Residence Inn in Moline. As a family of six, we love that free breakfast and a kitchen in the room to store our road trip snacks and baby food. Cribs were available and the staff was very accommodating of our kids. They even helped during an unexpected tornado warning at midnight!


Sarah grew up in Manhattan, Kansas (Go Cats!), she moved to Minnesota where she met her husband, Shea. Realizing how much she hated snow in May, she convinced him to move to Kansas City in 2010. Together they have lived in Midtown, Waldo, the Plaza, and now Overland Park. Sarah is mom to 10-year-old, Henry, 7-year-old Clark and 5-year-old Lucy. She has her master’s in urban administration and is passionate about making Kansas City a more equitable and supportive community. In between the crazy, she likes to drink coffee, run, hike, travel as much as possible, and experience all things Kansas City!