On this stretch, the Mississippi flows east to west, and Bettendorf has a lot of ways to enjoy that great river.
There’s a trail along the waterfront delivering you to downtown Davenport, while Bettendorf has a landing for the Channel Cat Water Taxi, which serves both sides of the river in summer.
That dock is right in front of the Isle Casino, which started out as one of the first modern-day riverboat casinos in the 1990s, but moved to dry land with a contemporary redesign in 2016.
1. Family Museum
Designed for children eight and younger, Bettendorf’s Family Museum is a wonderland of experiential exhibits that combine learning and fun.
Here kids can roleplay professions like a vet, firefighter, or mail carrier, or help out on a farm, picking vegetables and feeding animals.
There’s an amazing water-play table that is actually a scale model of a stretch of the Mississippi, and a play area geared towards littler children replicating a domestic environment, including a garden and virtual pond.
Many of the exhibits have subtle Quad Cities theming, and there’s a maker space and art room to spark their creativity.
2. Channel Cat Water Taxi
The dock in front of the Isle Casino is one of four landings in the Quad Cities for the Channel Cat Water Taxi.
This service generally runs from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, and is a unique way to experience the mighty Mississippi and the Quad Cities.
Seven days a week you can travel on these open-air boats to John Deere Commons and Riverbend Commons in Moline, and the Village of East Davenport.
Bicycles are welcome aboard, and you can download an app for schedules and announcements.
3. Riverfront Trail
On the Iowa side of the Mississippi the riverfront is accessible to the public via a 14.2-mile trail that begins on Credit Island in Davenport and ends just east of Bettendorf in Riverdale.
With invigorating views all the way, the Riverfront Trail leads you through cute waterfront parks, historic neighborhoods, to big Davenport attractions like the Freight House Farmers’ Market, the Figge Art Museum, the Adler Theatre and Modern Woodmen Park.
In Bettendorf, the trail interests with the Duck Creek Parkway Trail, which we’ll talk about next, and you can cross the new I-74 Bridge to continue your adventure along the 60-mile Great River Trail on the Illinois.
4. Duck Creek Parkway Trail
Duck Creek weaves eastwards through Davenport and Bettendorf, before joining the Mississippi near Devils Glen Park in Bettendorf.
The creek is lined with numerous parks, and you can pass through this peaceful green corridor along the 12.2-mile Duck Creek Parkway Trail.
This is a paved, multi-use path, mainly used for recreation, also handy for transport. As well as many parks, loaded with amenities, the trail runs close to several commercial areas, attractions like the Family Museum and the Mississippi Riverfront Trail.
5. Isle Casino
Right by Bettendorf’s Channel Cat terminal is a casino that opened in 1995 and was given a facelift in 2016. Formerly a riverboat, Isle Casino switched to land with that renovation, and is accompanied by a 514-room hotel.
With 35,000 square feet of gaming space, there are now 935 slots, table games, from roulette to blackjack to craps, and sports betting on the casino floor courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook.
The Isle Casino also has three restaurants under one roof, and live entertainment at the Isle Center Ballroom and the adjacent Quad Cities Waterfront Convention Center.
6. Middle Park
Bettendorf’s premier park is a little way south of the Family Museum and lies on the north bank of Duck Creek.
Important to the community, this is the setting for Bettendorf’s Fourth of July fireworks, and is more of a place to walk and ride a bike than a sports hub.
The main amenity here is the 18-hole disc golf course, partially in the woods and taking in some interesting changes in elevation.
Close to the Duck Creek Pathway Trail is a little pond that attracts water birds in the summer, while the playground here in Middle Park is possibly the best in the city.
The Splash Landing aquatic park is open in summer, and you’ve got the Frozen Landing ice rink in winter—we’ll talk about both a little later in this article.
7. Crawford Brew Works
The Quad Cities has so many independent craft breweries that there’s an “ale trail” linking all 13.
The only stop located in Bettendorf is the highly praised Crawford Brew Works, a microbrewery and taproom in 3,500 square feet of newly constructed space.
There are ten brews on tap at any time, and these included a Porter, Kölsch, two IPAs, Stout, Lager, Fruit Beer, Sour, Pale Ale and Brown Ale.
The brewery also has an exciting food truck culture, with a rotating schedule posted on the website, and tons of events, with televised QC Storm games, live music, beer launches and more.
8. Splash Landing Family Aquatic Center
The City of Bettendorf owns this great little pool complex in Middle Park. Splash Landing has a competitive pool integrated with a large zero-depth entry area, complete with geysers and artificial palms.
There’s also a diving area, a flume slide, a speed slide, a drop slide and a toddler pool area with its own slide and spray features.
Both of the pools are heated, and all around the center are shaded areas where you can lie back and enjoy the warm weather.
9. Leach Park
Newly landscaped, this park on the Riverfront Trail is somewhere to relax and contemplate one of the world’s great rivers.
Popular with geese, Leach Park has little lawns, recently planted trees, a boat launch, benches, picnic tables and beds with flowers and shrubs. The park is angled to the southwest, and so is a special place to be at sunset.
On the east side is the new, through-arch I-74 Bridge, under construction for four years up to 2022, and providing a pedestrian/bicycle crossing, making it even easier to get to Moline from Bettendorf.
Side-by-side with Bettendorf, on the Iowa bank of the Mississippi, is Davenport, an exciting urban center home to many of the Quad Cities’ top visitor attractions.
One spot that needs to be on your radar is the Figge Art Museum, which has a stupendous collection, counting works by Goya, Dürer, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Reynolds, Warhol, Ansel Adams and Jasper Johns.
One of the oldest museums in the West, the Putnam Museum & Science Center has been around since 1867, and is now a high-tech and hands-on place of discovery for history and science.
The Freight House Farmers’ Market is open year round, housing more than 200 farmers, makers, bakers and specialty food vendors. And finally the Vander Veer Botanical Park (1855) shines as one of the best botanical gardens west of the Mississippi.
Facing off across the Mississippi is Moline, which has an historic downtown area that deserves some exploration.
Moline is the headquarters for the agriculture multinational, John Deere, which was relocated to the city by its founder in 1848 and continues to be Moline’s largest employer.
The company builds planters here, and harvesters next door in East Moline, and you can visit both facilities for a 90-minute guided tour.
The John Deere Pavilion downtown is stacked with new and vintage equipment, and has a lot of interactivity to capture youngsters’ imaginations.
Directly on the waterfront is the TaxSlayer Center, an arena for blockbuster events for the Quad Cities, but also home ice for Quad City Storm, a minor league hockey team with a fierce local following.
On the more refined side of things, the Deere-Wiman House & Butterworth Center preserves two mansions that were home to four generations of the Deere family.
12. Rock Island Arsenal Museum
Downtown Bettendorf is under ten minutes from the famous Rock Island Arsenal, a U.S. Army facility since 1862.
The museum here, founded in 1905, is the second-oldest museum of the United States Army and is renowned for its massive collection of small arms used by the military.
This extends to more than 1,200 pieces, including five that were fired at the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876.
Exhibits go into detail about the wealth of equipment manufactured at the arsenal, while outside are some impressive heavy weapons, including an M65 atomic cannon from the 1950s.
13. Veterans Memorial Park
Also linked by the Duck Creek Parkway Trail, this public park sits across the Creek to the south of Middle Park.
Something that puts Veterans Memorial Park on the map is the Bill Bowe Bandshell, which is the venue for Bettendorf’s summer concert series.
These shows take place on Fridays in June and July and feature ensembles from around the Quad Cities. The beloved local outfit is the Bettendorf Park Band, established in 1967.
14. Frozen Landing
In winter you could spend a lovely hour or two in winter gliding around the outdoor ice rink that appears in Middle Park every year.
Naturally the schedule is subject to weather conditions, but Frozen Landing is usually open seven days a week, late November through February, including Christmas Day and other holidays.
There are extended hours, to 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays, as well as scheduled “Intro to Skating” sessions for beginners. Skating here is an affordable activity, with admission costing just $3 and skate rental $2, at the time of writing.
15. Fourth of July Festival
Bettendorf celebrates the nation’s independence in style, with a lively schedule of activities.
The hallmark event is the parade downtown, involving local services, clubs and other organizations, starting on State Street and snaking along several blocks to 21st Street.
Then the festival kicks off in earnest, with rides, a petting zoo, foods for all tastes and live music. To put a cap on a day of patriotic fun, there are fireworks at dusk in Middle Park.