Quad Cities: four levels for riverfront activity

Eagle watching is the lure in winter. Music – sultry jazz to woeful blues – brings crowds in warmer weather. The Mississippi River, which runs east-west only here, earns attention all year.

Next month, the Quad Cities of Moline and Rock Island, Ill., Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa, will attract hundreds of wanderers and nature lovers for the National Trails Symposium, Oct. 19-22. It is sponsored by a nonprofit that fosters hiking, biking and networks for horseback, water, winter sports and ATV trails. (See www.americantrails.org.)

Why head to the Quad Cities? Its mature riverfront trails cross the river and connect two states, but this is about more than having bridges for cars to cross. The recent Quad Cities Marathon snaked through all four cities. Ride the River is a June bicycling event that hugs the Mississippi. Major nature trails – American Discovery to Grand River – also cross into the area.

What else? Other choices are diverse in this metro area of 400,000 residents, about 200 miles southwest of Milwaukee. For example:

TOURS

Davenport – Free tours can be arranged at the Isabel Bloom production studio. The sculptures, which look like weathered bronze, are concrete and hand-finished. www.ibloom.com, 800-273-5436.

Bettendorf – Interactive exhibits at the Family Museum are an especially good match for elementary school students. www.familymuseum.org, 563-344-4106.

Moline – It’s all about farm equipment – antique tractors under restoration to new models that cost more than your house – at the John Deere Pavilion and Collectors Center. Don’t miss the free film, “Anthem: A Song of the Land,” a global tribute to farming. www.deere.com, 309-765-1000.

Rock Island – Rock Island Arsenal, on a 946-acre island, is the nation’s largest government arsenal and a National Historic Landmark. Show a photo I.D. to visit. Free and accessible sites include an arsenal museum, Confederate and national cemeteries, military equipment and war memorial parks. www.riamwr.com/museum, 309-782-5021.

SHOP

Davenport – The works of more than 100 artists are sold at Bucktown Center for the Arts, a converted warehouse that also shows artists at work. www.bucktownarts.com, 563-324-1005.

Bettendorf – English toffee and chocolates can be sampled before purchased at Country Manor Chocolates, a family business. 563-355-6600. Also in Davenport and Moline.

Moline – Chocolates from Lagomarcino’s also are a sweet souvenir, but that’s not all. The longtime ice cream parlor serves a hot fudge sundae with the sauce in its own pitcher; the signature sandwich is a nice ham salad on homemade rye. Longevity and consistent quality earned this third-generation enterprise a James Beard Foundation award this year. www.lagomarcinos.com, 309-764-1814. Also in East Davenport, 563-324-6137.

Rock Island – Quad City Arts, a regional art hub, sells visual art and offers performing artists a place to perform. www.quadcityarts.com, 309-793-1213.

DINING

Davenport – Coal-fired brick ovens make gourmet pizza a hot choice at Centro, a trendy lunch-dinner spot downtown. www.centrodavenport.com, 563-323-0300.

Bettendorf – Red Crowe Grille is known for its extensive wine list, creative American cuisine and classy setting. www.redcrowgrille.net, 563-332-2370.

Moline – A festive and casual atmosphere dominate Bier Stube Bar & Grill, whose hefty imported beer menu and authentic German foods bring out the ooompah in all ages. www.bier-stube.com, 309-797-3049. Also in East Davenport.

Rock Island – French cuisine at the romantic Le Figaro is presented by a chef from Morocco and his Swiss wife. 309-786-4944.

LODGING

Davenport – Fultons Landing, an 1871 Italianate style inn, is perched on a bluff that overlooks the Mississippi River. www.fultonslanding.com, 800-397-4068.

Bettendorf – The historic and upscale Abbey Hotel is a former monastery. www.theabbeyhotel.com, 800-438-7535.

Moline – The centrally located John Deere Commons Radisson has a display case that is stuffed with customer service awards. www.radisson.com/molineil, 309-764-1000.

Rock Island – Camelot Campground has bike and boat rentals on its 100-plus acres. Camping cabins, RV and tent sites available. www.camelotcampground.com, 800-787-0605.

NIGHTLIFE

Davenport – Blues to zydeco tunes fill stages at the River Music Experience on most nights and some days. Music history exhibits are open during daytime. Stroll the nearby Skybridge, an artsy pedestrian walkway that is especially colorful at night. www.rivermusicexperience.org, 563-326-1333.

Bettendorf – Isle of Capri, one of three riverfront casinos in the area, contains Penguins Comedy Club, which has acts on Thursdays to Saturdays. www.isleofcapricasino.com, 800-724-5825.

Moline – Celebration Belle meal, dancing and sightseeing riverboat rides dwindle after October, then pick up in spring. www.celebrationbelle.com, 800-297-0034.

Rock Island – An area nicknamed The District contains the area’s most extensive dining and club options, including Circa ’21 Dinner Playhouse, Blue Cat Brew Pub ComedySportz and Brew & View (a cinema-bar combo). www.ridistrict.com, 309-788-6311.

Arrangements for this trip to the Quad Cities were provided by the Quad Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau (www.visitquadcities.com, 800-747-7800), in conjunction with the fall conference of the Midwest Travel Writers Association.