East Moline is the site of the John Deere Factory Works, which is a cutting-edge facility on an almost unimaginable scale.
You can take a free guided tour, and head for the brand’s museum at the John Deere Pavilion close by in Moline.
In other parts of East Moline, heavy industry has receded, and one riverside site, The Bend, is an events and expo center, served by a new Hyatt hotel and apartment complex.
Close to this is the Rust Belt, an old car factory and now the second-largest live music venue in the Quad Cities, with a cluster of restaurants and bars next door.
1. John Deere Harvester Works Factory Tour
By far the largest employer in East Moline is John Deere’s vast, high-tech combine harvester factory.
Operating since 1913, this is the largest and most modern facility of its kind in the world, covering 90 acres (four million square feet), all under one roof.
Free guided tours take place three times a day, Monday to Friday and last for 90 minutes.
On your way you’ll find out about how gigantic machines have made harvesting easier, and will witness the state-of-the-art, cutting, painting and assembly processes that turn rolls of steel into the world’s most advanced combine harvesters.
2. John Deere Pavilion
You can continue your John Deere experience at this astonishing museum for the brand, ten minutes away in downtown Moline.
The John Deere Pavilion employs company retirees, who are happy to give guided tours of the museum, sharing their unique perspectives on the company.
Exhibits chart the evolution of John Deere’s tractors from the 1918 Waterloo Boy, and you can compare the early antique models with the ultra-modern machines that the company produces today.
There are also broader agriculture exhibits, like the multimedia Cornucopia, showing the progress of crops like cotton or apples, from seed to market. The Future anticipates the technological advances that will transform farming in the coming decades.
3. Great River Trail
East Moline is on the course of an extraordinary bike trail, more than 60 miles long and tracking the Mississippi River in northern Illinois, from Rock Island to Savanna.
Long stretches of the Great River Trail are on an old spur of the Chicago, St. Paul, Milwaukee and Pacific Railroad, and once you leave the Quad Cities you’ll be in sparsely populated countryside, with swathes of sand prairie and little waterfront towns that have long relied on the river for their livelihood.
In Moline and East Moline, the trail runs atop the levee, giving you great views of the bridges on the Mississippi and the Quad Cities’ skyline.
4. Rock Island Arsenal Museum
Another of the Quad Cities’ must-see attractions is an easy ten minutes from East Moline. The Rock Island Arsenal was founded in 1862, and today is the largest government-owned weapons manufacturing arsenal in the United States.
Military equipment and ordnance have been produced here since the 1880s, and the Arsenal is home to the U.S. Army’s only active foundry.
You can acquaint yourself with the history of the Rock Island Arsenal, its processes and output at the museum, established in 1905.
This has an immense display of firearms, large and small, several of which were fired at the Battle of Little Bighorn (1876). Outside, close to the museum building stands one of the last surviving M65 atomic cannons.
5. Campbell’s Island State Memorial
Campbell’s Island, an unincorporated community, is linked to East Moline by a bridge, and has plenty of interesting stories to tell. In the first half of the 20th century it was a lively resort area connected by streetcar to the Quad Cities.
The whole island had been purchased at the turn of the century by a streetcar company to be turned into a giant amusement park that never materialized.
A century before, on July 19, 1814, this was the setting for the day-long Battle of Rock Island Rapids during the War of 1812.
Ending in American defeat, the battle was fought between Illinois Rangers and regulars of the 1st Infantry Regiment, and British-allied Sauk, Fox and Kickapoo under the command of Chief Black Hawk.
Dedicated in 1908, there’s a memorial with a plaque detailing the battle in a small park by the river.
6. The Rust Belt
West of the John Deere Harvester Works, a vast area of former riverside industry has been given a new lease of life. “The Bend” features an apartment complex, expo center and events building, while there’s a new Hyatt hotel right by the water.
A stone’s throw away, a brick-built factory complex dating back to the early 20th century has been turned into a live entertainment venue, with restaurants, a cafe and a craft brewery on hand.
The cavernous main venue here is the Rust Belt, which can hold close to 4,000 people. In the space of a few short years this has become a Quad Cities go-to for concerts, festivals, stand-up comedy, exhibitions, parties and wrestling shows.
7. TPC Deere Run
In July the PGA tour event, the John Deere Classic, takes place at this championship course on the outskirts of East Moline.
Opened in 2000, TPC Deere Run is on an idyllic plot along the Rock River. These 385 acres have an interesting past, having been the site of a horse and cattle ranch, a coal mine and Native American settlements.
The course was designed by Illinois-native D. A. Weibring, who brought the best out of the rambling landscape, with its old hardwood trees and surprising elevation changes.
The course is open to the public, with reduced rates for Quad Cities residents. On the 18th you may recall Jordan Speith’s famous shot from the bunker to win the 2013 John Deere Classic.
8. Adolph’s Mexican Foods
A Quad Cities icon, this family-owned Mexican micro chain was founded by Adolph and Louise Perez in East Moline in 1952. At that time Mexican cuisine was practically unheard of in this area, so the couple was taking a big risk.
But Adolph’s has shown amazing staying power, and has constantly reinvented itself to move with the times.
The menu is bursting with burritos, fajitas, taco salads, tostadas, quesadillas, enchiladas and, of course, tacos, from al pastor to carne asada to chorizo & bean. If you’re doing Taco Tuesday in the Quad Cities, then Adolph’s is the place to go, with some big discounts.
9. Midwest Ale Works
Beside the Rust Belt, in the same converted factory complex is a craft brewery that opened in 2019. The taproom at the Midwest Ale Works has the same stripped-back post-industrial style, with a large patio and a wide range of beers on tap.
The brewery specializes in four core styles: Kolsch (crisp and hoppy), IPA (hop-forward with a range of flavor combinations), Porter (roasted malt beer, with coffee or chocolate notes) and Red Ale (malty, with caramel and biscuit flavors).
If you need an accompaniment, look no further than Jennie’s Boxcar, right next door, making hunger-stomping tacos.
10. Skate City QCA
At 1140 Avenue of the Cities, there’s a classic indoor roller skating rink, complemented by a variety of other attractions.
Skate City QCA has a timetable of public skate sessions throughout the week, with bargain skating on Sundays and extended hours on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Also here is a laser tag arena, an arcade, a pro shop and a three-level jungle gym. Naturally the rink is a popular birthday party venue and offers a wide choice of packages across two-hour slots during public or private hours.
11. Empire Park
A fine place to relax by the Mississippi, one of East Moline’s newest parks faces Campbell’s Island on the Great River Trail.
There’s a boat launch on the river, and lots of spots where you can sit and admire the scenery, or take picnics in the shade. Kids will be pleased with the main playground at Empire Park, which is large and built entirely from wood, with a smaller metal playset close by.
There are picnic shelters that can be rented and have grills and electrical outlets, as well as rolle bolle courts and an 18-hole disc golf course.
12. Rock Island County Fair
The Rock Island County Fairgrounds are in East Moline and stage a variety of festivals, markets and events all year.
The biggest of these is of course the Rock Island County Fair, which has been going for more than 150 years now and takes place over five days in late July.
Like the best county fairs, this is organized with all ages and tastes in mind. So you’ve got livestock shows, a petting farm, carnival rides and games, monster trucks and everybody’s favorite fair snacks, from corn dogs to funnel cakes.
13. Niabi Zoo
A short drive south of East Moline, across the Rock River is a zoo attraction for the Quad Cities, with more than 600 animals in 40 acres of parkland.
Niabi Zoo is run by the Rock Island County Forest Preserve District, and has a history going back to the 1950s.
You can visit April through October, and some of the many species awaiting you include the Burchell’s zebra, Amur leopard, snow leopard, reticulated giraffe, Aldabra tortoise, reticulated python, ostrich, bald eagle and bi-colored poison dart frog.
For families, the Niabi Zoo Express train runs past many of the habitats, while there’s a playground, carousel and a schedule of zookeeper chats and feeding experiences.
14. Factory of Fear
Close to the Bend XPO and the Rust Belt, another former factory has been transformed into one of Illinois’ highest rated haunted houses.
Factory of Fear has been a Halloween mainstay in the Quad Cities since 1994, and continues to grow. Since 2018 more than a dozen new rooms and 14,000-square-feet of scare space has been added.
Considering the whole attraction is inside, this is a long haunt, packed with terrifying sets, ambient sound and dedicated performers in convincing makeup.
15. East Moline Speedway
If you’re into motorsports the good news is that there’s a ¼-mile, steep-banked track at the Rock Island County Fairgrounds, hosting action-packed stock car races all through the summer season.
These tend to take place on Sundays, when you can catch MCA Late Model, IMCA Sport Mod, IMCA Hobby Stock, IMCA Modified, Sport Compact, Street Stock and Mod Lite races.
Watching a race is always an experience at the East Moline Speedway, with a lot of noise, dust and the overpowering smell of gas and rubber.