A Little Time and a Keyboard: Welcoming the Holidays with Stroll on State in Rockford, Illinois

Welcoming the Holidays with Stroll on State in Rockford, Illinois

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Stroll on State in Rockford, Illinois 2017 Recap

Rockford's Stroll on State heralds in the holidays with traditional family fun, spectacular light displays, festive performances, a jubilant parade complete with inflatables, spirit lifting fire and ice displays and much more. The event packs in pretty much every holiday delight I can think of from ice skating to petting reindeer to making s'mores to holiday light shows to carriage rides and so much more. Plus, it annually falls on Small Business Saturday, the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Not only do Rockford's small businesses open their doors but many also have live entertainment just for the event. Stroll on State truly is an experience that can easily become an annual family tradition.

Stroll on State's holiday lights are spectacular

While large, the festival is easy to navigate. However, a map and schedule help determine what you would like to experience. A sizable section of the downtown is blocked off for the festival making navigation easy. Lines for activities like making s'mores, petting the reindeer and riding in a carriage can get long later in the event. So, we try to do those earlier. Last year, we missed out on s'mores. So, we started with making s'mores this year!

S'mores are fun feature of Stroll on State
S'mores are a fun festival treat!
There are festivities on either side of the Rock River as well as along it. So, you will enjoy spectacular views like this as well:

Bridge over the Rock River.
Bridge over the Rock River.
Before the parade, we familiarized ourselves with where some of our favorite activities were located. We stopped inside the city hall to take a peek at the tree. Inside, children also could write a letter to Santa. The city hall is certainly striking both outside and in. Later in the evening, the outside transforms with holiday lights.

Dazzling tree in Rockford City Hall!
Dazzling tree in City Hall!
Beautiful entree way with welcoming wreath and garland:

Whimsical after dark with dancing snowflakes:

We also passed by the stage where ice sculpting had begun. Since we were early, we were able to get closer than when we returned later in the evening.

Live ice sculpting at Stroll on State
Live ice sculpting
Carriage rides provided another source of holiday fun. This particular carriage passed right by the market where we found food vendors and local artisans. Something not to be missed! There were quite a few teams of horses, so it was fun to see the carriages all about downtown.

Horse drawn carriage carrying visitors past the local market at Stroll on State.
Horse drawn carriage carrying visitors past the local market.
After the market, we ventured over to Santa Land where children could visit Santa and reindeer. We were treated to quite an adorable site -- a sleeping reindeer!

Sleeping reindeer
A tuckered reindeer needed some sleep.

We did get to pet his friend, Gingerbread!

Petting Gingerbread the reindeer
Petting Gingerbread the reindeer
We located a spot for the parade on the bridge. So, we enjoyed more river views waiting for it to start. Celebrating 5 years of Stroll on State fun, this year's parade featured large balloons. While we have been to parades before, seeing parade balloons was a new experience. The crowd was incredibly excited whenever a balloon came into sight. A simple joy!

Stroll on State did have a special guest in addition to Santa -- President Lincoln! My daughter definitely had a laugh when Lincoln appeared.

Abraham Lincoln visits Stroll on State
Abraham Lincoln visits Stroll on State
After the parade, we wandered in and out of small businesses. One of my favorites is Art Deli which prints t-shirts in Rockford. We actually could see their printing set up which was cool! Art Deli also hosted musical entertainment later in the evening.

Art Deli T Shirt Print Shop in Rockford, Illinois
Art Deli prints t-shirts right in Rockford.

Later in the evening Minglewood, a boutique, had live models in their store windows. This was a favorite!

Live models in store window at Minglewood in Rockford for Stroll on State
Live models in store window at Minglewood in Rockford for Stroll on State
As the sunlight started to fade, the twinkle of holiday lights became more apparent.

We checked out the ice sculpting a second time to see the changes.

As the sky got darker, the lights really began to pop all over downtown Rockford. Walking around was quite magical.

The lights along the river are particularly lovely to meander through. On Friday and Saturday nights in December, the lights move to music during a show every 15 minute from 5:30PM-8:30PM. Really a fun sight!

Trees aglow up and down the river in Rockford at Christmastime

Looking at the lights we saw above across the river was peaceful.

I was amazed by how many sparkling trees were all over the city. You could even see many in windows and on roofs!

Christmas tree atop a building in downtown Rockford, IL
Look up!
The main tree lighting was met with much fanfare. Despite all of the ongoing fun around, there was quite a crowd for the lighting.

After, fireworks lit up the sky. We watched the fireworks from the food truck area as they sailed over the river. Beautiful!

Fireworks over the Rock River at Stroll on State
Fireworks over the Rock River
Before leaving, we checked out fire and ice. The display easily elicits a sense of awe. Incredible!

Fire and ice -- an ice block with a fire inside
Fire and Ice captivates!

To continue our evening of lights, we headed to the holiday light display at Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens. All Aglow has both indoor and outdoor components. The outdoor component is open longer into the evening, so we were able to check that out after Stroll. The outdoor section is also free; there is a charge for the indoor portion. Take a peek at the stunning display:

Ice blue lights beckoning at Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens
Ice blue lights beckoning at Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens
 The gardens all aglow provided another magical holiday experience in Rockford.

Following the lighted path at All Aglow at Nicholas Conservatory
Following the lighted path.

I loved seeing some of the statues in a truly different light.

A little girl reads by the holiday lights.
A little girl reads by the holiday lights.
 When we first arrived, I felt a bit chilly. But, the lights lifted my spirits and encouraged me to explore!

The glow of holiday lights at Nicholas Conservatory welcomes meandering.

We really loved the way the brilliant lights framed the conservatory:

Brilliant holiday lights framing the NIcholas Conservatory
Brilliant holiday lights framing the NIcholas Conservatory

After spending the entire afternoon and evening exploring, we were ready to relax. We headed over to the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center to call it a night. The hotel is a wonderful accommodation for your visit to Rockford. It was wonderfully decorated for the holiday season, has a restaurant and a nice pool with a hot tub.

Impressive Christmas decor at Radisson Rockford, Illinois

Of course, we were quite ready for bed. Our room was perfect for our adventure and gave us plenty of space to unwind and rest for the next day.

Our day exploring Stroll on State was the perfect launch into the holidays. Stroll on State will be one of those events my family reminisces about year after year. Truly one to add to the calendar!

  • Come early to get the best parking. We parked about a block away. Shuttles are also available if you have to park further away.
  • Dress for the weather and come prepared for temperature to dip at night. 
  • Take advantage of hot cocoa to help stay warm. 
  • Leave your shopping to later will also help because you will be going into and out of the stores.
  • Check the schedule in order to make sure you see the events you would like to.
  • Bring water. It is easy to get dehydrated during an event where you are outside for many hours. 

Thank you to Go Rockford for hosting our visit to Rockford, Illinois for Stroll on State! Thank you to the Radission Hotel and Conference Center for the wonderful stay. All opinions are 100% my own.

Stroll  on  State Holiday Celebration Rockford,  Illinois

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