“Quad” means four, unless you venture around 200 miles southwest, where the definition expands to five. Or six.
The Quad Cities flank the only part of the Mississippi River that flows east to west. In this affordable metro area are the Iowa cities of Davenport and Bettendorf, plus Rock Island, Moline and East Moline in Illinois. Some circles add LeClaire, Iowa, home to the popular History Channel television show “American Pickers.”
The show’s compact Antique Archaeology shop (antiquearchaeology.com, 563-265-3939) seems most suited as a “remember this?” experience for fans and a place to buy show souvenirs, but little LeClaire contains other antique stores and specialty shops to make a visit well worth it.
Also in LeClaire are free tours of Mississippi River Distilling Company, whose flavored products include the vodka-infused Iowa Coffee Company Liqueur.
As an overnight getaway, choose Davenport as your base; it boasts the best assortment of casinos to culture.
Three casinos — Rhythm City, Jumer’s and Isle Casino — do business in the Quad Cities, and the last two contain lodging, but the area’s most interesting place to stay is Davenport’s Hotel Blackhawk. The 1915 brick structure was restored recently and looks much more elegant inside than out. Among the long-ago celebrities who have stayed here: actor Cary Grant, who died in Davenport on the same night he was to perform at age 82 in 1986.
Top tour? New designs are unveiled in February at Isabel Bloom, whose hand-finished concrete sculptures for desktops to gardens have been sold since the 1940s; free tours of the production studio are popular. ibloom.com, 800-273-5436
Best shopping? Roam Bucktown Center for the Arts, where more than a dozen artists work on two floors of a former dance pavilion and speakeasy. bucktownarts.com,
Best entertainment? The nonprofit River Music Experience, which opened in 2004 as a roots music museum, today is a live music venue that both nurtures local talent and attracts nationally known acts. rivermusicexperience.com,
Although Bettendorf is the corporate headquarters for Happy Joe’s, it doesn’t produce the Quad Cities style of pizza, which is cut (with a scissors) into strips, not wedges.
What else makes these pies regionally distinctive? The dough is hand-thrown, thin and malty-nutty in taste. The sauce is spicy, thanks to a sprinkling of cayenne pepper and red chile flakes. The meat of choice is a twice-ground Italian sausage with fennel. The third-generation Harris Pizza, which has several locations, gets credit for this distinctive formula.
Or try a creamy garlic pizza from Antonella’s Pizzeria, Davenport, and then mask your breath with a Raging River Ale from Front Street Brewery. The beer name is a nod to the area’s nasty flood of 1993
. antonellaspizzeria.com, 563-359-4411; frontstreetbrew.com, 563-322-1569
In winter, venture near Lock and Dam 15, along the Davenport and Rock Island riverfronts, to look for bald eagles and other birds of prey. The birds tend to perch in wooded areas and dive into unfrozen patches of the Mississippi for dinner.
When weather warms, board a riverboat for a meal and cruise, or a multi-day float (with lodging on shore).
The gift shop at Moline’s John Deere Pavilion is fitting for anybody with rural roots.
Walk two blocks and add a gloriously goopy hot fudge sundae from Lagomarcino’s, in business since 1908.
If you’re a “Gone with the Wind” fan, look for a tombstone for the fictional Ashley Wilkes in the cemetery at Rock Island Arsenal, the military’s largest weapons manufacturing site. Arsenal museum admission is free.
Explore the area thoroughly, and you’re likely to cross the Arsenal Bridge, one of two in the world that turns 360 degrees in either direction.
For more about the area
: visitquadcities.com, 800-747-7800.
The Quad City Conservation Alliance Expo Center, Rock Island, hosts two major events in March:
Shop at the Antique Spectacular, March 1-3, for dolls to furniture from at least 70 vendors.
The annual Flower and Garden Show, March 22-24, provides ideas for decks to landscapings.
Also March 22 is “Elvis Lives!” at the Adler Theatre, Davenport. Expect a musical retrospective of The King’s life, featuring some of the world’s best impersonators.
At the Circa ’21 Dinner Playhouse, Rock Island, until March 9 is “Hank Williams: Lost Highway,” a musical biography.
At the Figge Art Museum, Davenport, until March 18 is the exhibit “Sculpting with Fiber,” a good match for people who appreciate the artistry of textiles, embroidery to weaving.