Byline: Jacky Runice Daily Herald Correspondent
If it takes a village to make a great town for tourists, the Quad Cities is a classic overachiever offering four villages to make families eager to visit.
An easy two-and-a-half-hour drive from Chicago, the Quad Cities is an affordable getaway as well as astonishingly varied in attractions, the arts and family fun.
Mention this metropolitan area on the Mississippi and most folks think "tractors." It's true that this is John Deere country, but you don't have to have a student majoring in agriculture to respect Deere's principles of doing business. One of Deere's most remembered statements, "I will never put my name on a plow that does not have in it the best that is me," is a wonderful lesson for children. The John Deere Pavilion offers fascinating exhibits at its glass-encased museum, store and restaurant. Kids will be attracted to the hands-on computer displays that include virtual tours of the company's factory and a journey through the generations of a family farm. Other exhibits illustrate the challenges of farming into the new millennium, sustainable agriculture and feeding the world. The Moline Tractor & Plow Co. replicates a 1950s John Deere dealership with vintage tractors in the showroom (www.johndeerepavilion.com).
In the Rock Island quadrant, the Hauburg Indian Museum is an interesting stop in the Black Hawk State Historic Site, a 208-acre wooded tract bordering the Rock River. Look at artifacts from the Sauk and Fox Indian tribes who once lived here as well as artifacts from Chief Black Hawk's family and tribe. Another outdoor excursion is Niabi Zoo, home to more than 900 animals representing 160 different species. The zoo, 15 minutes from the Quad Cities in Coal Valley, Ill., features a miniature train and carousel for little travelers.
Looking for a special family photo for your holiday cards? Start your shooting at the Quad City Botanical Center with a breathtaking tropical paradise as your background. Kids like to spy turtles, lizards, fish and birds that live in the garden (www.qcgardens.com). Find more Kodak moments on the Celebration Belle, the largest excursion vessel on the upper Mississippi. The non-gaming riverboat offers splendid views along the Mighty Miss and some cruises offer meals, perfect when the miniature Mark Twains get squirrelly. Call (800) 297-0034 or visit www.celebrationbelle.com for details.
Because the Quad Cities area is made up of Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa, as well as Rock Island and Moline in Illinois, expect four times the festivities and special events. …