The city of Janesville is located in the south of Wisconsin, just 25 minutes away from the Illinois border. It lays along the Rock River and offers a range of ways to get out and enjoy the outdoors, after all, it is known for the amount of parks and green spaces! Here are a few ideas for things to do in Janesville to enjoy your summer days!
Disclosure AD: Thanks to Janesville CVB for hosting my stay. As always, opinions are 100% my own.
Updated: January 2022
Things to do in Janesville WI
Rotary Botanical Gardens
🗺1455 Palmer Dr, Janesville, WI 53545, United States
A really lovely space to enjoy the outdoors in Janesville, is the Rotary Botanical Gardens. The gardens have lots of quiet corners that are perfect for being able to escape and enjoy the peace. They have hit the nail on the head when it comes to including younger visitors in helping them to appreciate the gardens too in the form of a sensory story walk! During my visit in 2017, the story was ‘Commotion In The Ocean’.
As well as the story walk, a section of the gardens were also decorated with giant fish silhouettes, which was part of a local art project, aimed at getting the community involved with the Botanical Gardens too. In 2022, the StoryWalk book is ‘Except Antartica’.
Every year they have a Holiday Light Show, where the gardens come alive with Christmas lights and displays!
The Ice Age Trail
The 1200 mile Wisconsin Ice Age Trail passes through Janesville. I hiked the short ‘Devil’s Staircase’ segment and even saw an owl! This section of the trail starts in Riverside Park. There’s plenty of room to park, toilet facilities, picnic benches and even a splash park for little kids. The terrain of the trail is quite rough in the sense that there are stairs and steep stone steps that you have to go up and down.
Other than that it’s a very easy quick section to walk (when you reach the main road, just after the golf course, you can turn around and walk the opposite way back to the park. This section is just under 2 miles return and takes around 40 minutes to complete. You can read my full guide here: Hiking The Devil’s Staircase Segment of the Ice Age Trail in Janesville, WI
Call me weird, I have no kids of my own but I was really impressed with the baby swings that are in Riverside Park! They are like double swings, where there’s a regular baby swing and then a regular adult swing JOINED TOGETHER so the adult can sit/watch/swing with the child at the same time! I’d not seen anything like it before and thought it was a really clever invention! (I know my Mum would have been a huge fan of something like this when I was a kid!)
The Ice Age Trail actually passes right through Downtown Janesville, heading along the Rock River and on towards the Rotary Botanical Gardens!
Rock Aqua Jays
🗺Traxler Park, 600 N Main St, Janesville, WI 53545, United States
If you’re looking for some cheap (FREE) evening entertainment in Janesville, I highly recommend checking out the Rock Aqua Jays Water Ski Show team. Shows take place on Wednesdays and Sundays (Memorial Day to Labor Day). This was one of my favourite things to do in Janesville!
Each year the Ski Show has a different theme, in 2017 it was ‘Star Wars’. In 2021 the theme was Toy Story! These guys have got some serious talent, as someone that enjoys (amateur) wake boarding, it’s obvious how hard they practise! They perform at Traxler Park which has plenty of parking and seating. The show starts at 7pm (6.30pm nearer the end of the season) and is weather permitting.
🗺440 N Jackson St, Janesville, WI 53548, United States
☂️Great rainy day option
It’s always good to have a plan B whenever you visit a destination, just in case the weather doesn’t play ball! The Lincoln-Tallman House is an historical house in Janesville, built in 1855. It gets its name from the fact that Abraham Lincoln once spent a couple of nights at the house before he became President. Visitors can take tours of the house, including themed ones such as the ‘Help Wanted’ tour, which looks into the lives that the servants would have experienced while working for the Tallman family.
Hedberg Public Library
🗺316 S Main St, Janesville, WI 53545, United States
Another place to escape the rain (I speak from experience!), is in the Hedberg Public Library. There’s a coffee shop downstairs and upstairs is a large quiet area with armchairs and free Wifi. They even have a 3D printer which is a free to use (reservation is required, as well as designing your file in ADVANCE). Once the rain does stop, there’s a little outdoor ‘square’ alongside the river. Being a world traveller, I really loved the tiles on the walkway. They had the words “Read, Dream, Imagine” translated into loads of different languages, including braille!
Janesville now has 21 murals mostly around Milwaukee Street and E Court Street, either side of the Rock River. When I visited, there were only a handful finished. My favourite one can be found along W Milwaukee St and S High Street and is of some classic cars! It was created in remembrance of the Janesville General Motors assembly plant. I spotted this at the very last minute, just as I was leaving town so quickly pulled over to grab a picture of it!
Where to stay in Janesville
Guardian Angel B & B
I stayed at the Guardian Angel Bed and Breakfast and Carol was a great hostess! Her house is an Italianate style mansion that was built in 1871 out of cream city brick (the same ‘extinct’ brick as the Southport Lighthouse in Kenosha!).
The Guardian Angel has two suites with private bathrooms and are decorated in a very unique way! There’s lots of little trinkets around which I loved looking at, as well as books to read and a giant bathroom basket full of soaps, shampoos, bubble bath etc which I was told to use anything I liked from it!
The room had a little dish of sweets and chocolates and all the regular amenities, high speed wifi, cable TV, coffee making facilities, I was even offered a glass of wine! And GET THIS…I had a 4 poster bed with a canopy and Tempur-pedic adjustable massage mattress, that was like sleeping on a cloud!
I loved the screened porch which guests are allowed to sit in and enjoy, you can enjoy the evening breeze without being attacked by bugs! And my goodness the 4 COURSE home-cooked breakfast that Carol made in the morning was delicious! The ‘main’ breakfast course was waffles served with a huge mound of local Wisconsin ‘Door County’ cherries (cherry flavoured anything is always a winner in my books)!
Visiting Janesville, WI
I downloaded the ‘Clio’ app while in town. It’s great for those that are interested in the historical buildings in the area, as it acts as a self guided ‘tour guide’. You can search for particular places or you can browse for places nearby. It also works in other towns too!
Janesville also has free street parking along Main Street. Although different bays have different ‘time limits’. I parked in the Hedberg Public Library car park and then just walked along Main St, as there were no time restrictions and plenty of space!
I recommend eating at ‘So Chopped’, which is a bit like the salad version of a Subway! It does shut late afternoon though, so is more of a lunch time option. They also have a nice outdoor sitting area alongside the river!
Driving Distances From Surrounding Cities
Rockford, IL – 34 miles (50 mins)
Chicago, IL – 108 miles (2 hours)
Milwaukee, WI – 75miles (1hr 15mins)
Madison, WI – 40 miles (50 mins)
Dubuque, IA – 95 miles (1hr 55 mins)