Lost in the Garden

Escape to Rockford’s Anderson Japanese Gardens, one of the state’s unexpected oases. 

Reflective water features, winding paths, and tucked-away benches and structures ensure there's always a spot to find solitude in the Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford. 

Anderson Japanese Gardens presents a study in contrasts. It’s a space for losing yourself in yoga or a peaceful garden stroll. It’s also a summer rock ’n’ roll party—complete with food and drink—featuring regional bands and fun for the family. Somehow, the two personalities just work.

As it celebrates its 40th year, the gardens (less than two hours northwest of Chicago) have blossomed into a community space with a full social calendar. In addition to tours of the lush 12-acre formal Japanese landscape just minutes from downtown, the gardens host classes and cultural events nearly every day.

Special events such as tea ceremonies and July’s Japanese Summer Festival offer authentic cultural experiences, no passport required. There’s also a gift shop where you can buy saki cups, rice bowls and Japanese-inspired decor, plus an airy restaurant, Fresco, serving seasonal cuisine made from fresh, local ingredients.

The gardens brim with waterfalls, benches, bridges and verdant backdrops, creating ideal spots to sit and savor or ignite a new interest.

Designed by master landscape architect Hoichi Kurisu, Anderson Japanese Gardens features a classic 12th-century pond, rock gardens, and serene views framed by sculptural gates and bridges handcrafted by Japanese craftsmen. The site provides a peaceful setting for classes in arts.

 

While you're in Rockford

Check out the Riverfront Museum Park downtown, which features the Discovery Center Museum, the Rockford Art Museum and the Burpee Museum of Natural History. The city’s symphony orchestra and dance company also perform on the museum campus. About a mile from Anderson Gardens, find Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens and its 85-year-old rose garden. 

3 more Illinois Gardens to tour
  • Washington Park Botanical Garden, Springfield 
    Open year-round, the free garden features a conservatory with exotic tropicals, plus greenhouses with plants from Africa, Asia and South America. Outside, themed gardens focus on shade perennials, peonies and roses.
  • Quad City Botanical Center, Rock Island
    This center caters to kids (adults welcome), complete with a child-size version of the Mississippi River, a cottage garden with a playhouse and a pollinator garden. Inside, discover a sun garden and tropical atrium with coconut and cocoa trees.
  • Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe
    Stroll through 100-acre woodlands and past lakes around 27 themed gardens, including native endangered species plantings. See planters created by Illinois artists Charlotte and Daniel Ward of Longshadow Gardens in Pomona.
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