The state's second-largest city, Rockford is located in northern Illinois, 60 mi/97 km west of Chicago en route to Galena. Settlers from New England came to this spot on the Rock River beginning in 1834. They were quickly joined by Swedish woodworkers who saw opportunity in the abundant forests surrounding Rockford and soon opened more than 90 furniture-making companies. Later, Italians, Irish, Germans and Poles moved to Rockford to escape a cholera epidemic in Chicago. Today, Rockford's ethnic makeup includes people from Africa, Asia and the Americas; most find work in Rockford's industrial plants.
Although overshadowed by Chicago's more famous museums and Galena's quaint architecture, Rockford can hold its own in any cultural arena. Ranked among the nation's top 10 science museums, Rockford's riverfront Discovery Center Museum offers more than 200 hands-on science exhibits, a planetarium, TV studio and robotics lab. The neighboring Burpee Museum of Natural History displays Jane, the most complete juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex ever found. On the edge of town, the Midway Village and Museum Center curates charming 19th-century buildings in a 137-acre/55-hectare living museum where visitors walk through a one-room schoolhouse, blacksmith shop and other everyday buildings from the past. Near the Rock River lies the acclaimed Anderson Japanese Gardens, ranked second among 300 public Japanese gardens in North America by the Journal of Japanese Gardening. The gardens include a waterfall and 16th-century-style Japanese buildings.
Rockford plays host to a number of regional conventions each year. Consequently, it offers a wide range of accommodations, from the five-room, antiques-filled Fox Run Bed and Breakfast to the 26-acre/11-hectare Clock Tower Resort & Conference Center with three swimming pools, tennis courts and an indoor waterpark.
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