Rockford is located on both banks of the Rock River in the far north of Illinois, and is often referred to as "The Forest City" due to the once abundant elm trees that lined its streets. Rockford is still heavily lined with trees. Of note are the parks and boulevard street layouts in certain parts of the city. Neighborhood parks and wide common greenspaces forming boulevards are found in the older parts of the city. With an estimated 152,916 residents, Rockford is the third largest city in the state.
Rockford was a sleepy country village until the late 1850s and become a significant, growing industrial center, noted for production of the John H. Manny reaper and other agricultural machinery. By the 1880s a furniture industry had developed from the talents of Swedish craftsmen and capitalists, and by the first half of the 20th century Rockford was the second largest furniture manufacturing center in the United States.
After years of decline of industry and business, Rockford is now starting to regain some of the economic prosperity it once had. The city's new focus relies on high-technology businesses, tourism generated by outstanding museums and a great park system, and the westward growth of the Chicago metropolitan area. As of 2006, new commercial and residential development is taking place in the downtown area. The city is also considering plans for a convention center, casino and riverwalk.
The Rockford area is known as an outdoor destination, especially in the non-winter months. Numerous forest preserves surround the Kishwaukee River valley, five miles southeast of the downtown area. Rock Cut State Park is located within the county to the northeast. The city is also home to Rockford's Anderson Japanese Gardens, which has been ranked the top Japanese garden in North America. Other attractions and areas of interest include the Burpee Museum of Natural History- home to Jane the Rockford T-Rex, the Discovery Center Museum, The Rockford Art Museum, the Coronado Theatre, Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center, and the Midway Village and Museum Center.