Freeport, population 26,443, has retained its history while promoting industry and business development. The German river port settlement grew quickly in the late 1830s and '40s when it was linked to Chicago by a stagecoach route. The city, which became known as "Pretzel City" for its 1860s pretzel industry, sits along the Pecatonica River and is surrounded by farmland.
At Lincoln-Douglas Debate Square, site of the second debate between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, a statute commemorates the event. Another statue honoring the debate is in Taylor Park. In the Old River School Historic District, along the Pecatonica River, visitors can see some of the oldest homes in the area. A downtown shopping district featuresclothing, antique, gift and ceramics shops. Many of the nearby communities have antique stores. Freeport Arts Center hosts six permanent exhibits including Native American artifacts and 19th century European paintings, as well as Florentine mosaics. Silver Creek Museum is dedicated to Americana and agricultural equipment.
The city has more than 770 acres of parks and preserves and two 18-hole golf courses. The 13-mile Jane Addams Recreation Trail is open for hiking, biking, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing from Freeport north to Orangeville. Pecatonica Prairie Path travels east of Freeport toward Rockford providing 20 miles for hiking and horseback riding.
A side trip from Freeport northwest to Lena, population 2,887, serves up antique, gift, craft, meat and cheese stores. Here, the Lena Area History Museum displays a log schoolhouse, farming equipment, barn and general store. From Lena visitors can explore the area's landscapes, pioneer sites and Blackhawk War sites along two trails. The Stagecoach Trail, a scenic byway following an 1830s stagecoach route to Galena or Stephenson-Black Hawk Trail, a 13-mile hiking and biking trail. Nearby Lake Le-Aqua-Na State Park provides camping, a 40-acre lake for ice skating, fishing, boating, and swimming and hiking, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, and equestrian trails.
Freeport is 29 miles west of Rockford. It is accessible via U.S. Highway 20 and State Highway 26. Lodging options include hotels and bed and breakfasts.