About Sterling

About Sterling

Downtown Sterling
Downtown Sterling

Officially established in 1857, Sterling has been a city of hard-working people, deeply rooted in local industry since that time. Originally home to a few mills powered by the river, the industrial base grew with the country and the small City of Sterling soon became the Hardware Capital of the World. Today, much of that history is still with us, but the City has matured and diversified. The community is now a strong blend of industry, commercial and retail business and residential areas. In fact, Sterling has become a regional retail hub.


The Rock River
The Rock River

All work and no play is no fun! Sterling has an abundance of recreational opportunities. The Rock River provides plenty of summertime fun for the boater, skier, paddler, or fisherman. There are five golf courses in the immediate area, one of which is operated by the Sterling Park District. The Park District also operates a marina and indoor fitness centers.  If it's not here, the great thing about Sterling is that you can always drive just an hour or two at the most in any direction to find what you need. Whether it be professional sports, downhill skiing, Michigan Avenue shopping, riverboat gambling or cruising, major concert events, state parks, or whatever else you seek, Sterling's a great place to be in the quiet center of it all!


River Industry
River Industry
We invite you to explore more of the City of Sterling website to see what Sterling is today, what it offers and what the future holds for the community.

Location, Location, Location

Situated along the Rock River, Sterling (pop. 15,370) is located in Northwestern Illinois on the eastern edge of Whiteside County, one of the largest counties in the State. The City is approximately 100 miles due west of the Chicago loop, 55 miles southwest of Rockford, Illinois, 55 miles East of the Iowa-Illinois Quad Cities and 70 miles north of Peoria. It is 35 miles East of the Mississippi River, which forms the western boundary of Whiteside County.

Interstate 88 and US Highway 30 both run just south of the City limits, providing quick access to the Illinois-Iowa Quad City area and the Chicago area. Illinois Route 40 and Illinois Route 2 both run through the City of Sterling and provide quick access to Rockford and Peoria.

Our location along major US thoroughfares, and central location in relation to Chicago, the Quad Cities, Rockford, and Peoria, contributes to Sterling's excellent business atmosphere. As well, being able to access these larger cities with ease makes the area popular for residents as well. Imagine all the qualities of living in a smaller town without the headaches of living in large metro areas, yet still being able to make the most of the big city attractions within a short drive.


Local Highlights

Sterling offers up an enjoyable day for the sportsman, recreationalist or shopper. If you're a chocolate lover, an even bigger treat is in store. Sterling is one of the stops on the famous Chocolate Trail.

If you'd rather not spend all day in the chocolate shop, or just need to walk a bit after filling up, why not do some antiquing in the area. Over 140 dealers are represented in the antique mall. The 25,000 square feet of floor space even includes an eatery featuring gourmet coffees, desserts, and sandwiches.

Don't confine yourself to the indoors in Sterling. The Rock River abuts the City and offers all sorts of recreational opportunities ranging from water skiing to paddling to some of the best catfishing one could ever encounter. On dryer ground, there are five 18 hole golf courses in the immediate area.

There are no limits to your opportunities of what you see here. Visit the Blackhawk Waterways Convention and Visitors Bureau web site for further ideas of what to do and experience in Sterling and the surrounding area.


Regional Tourism Highlights

One of the great benefits of living in Sterling is the endless selections of things to do. Not only can you stay home in the Sterling-Rock Falls area and take in what the area has to offer, but making the 1 hour trip to the Quad Cities or Rockford is very easy.

That 1 hour trip can take you to major musical tours ranging from Neil Diamond to Eric Clapton to Britney Spears. Art museums, dance companies and theatrical troupes are also easily found. The John Deere museum is one of the newest and largest museums to be opened. Both areas are also home to local symphonies that regularly perform. Theatrical presentations are a constant presence in the areas. Performance of Man of La Mancha and Letters from the Front were some of the recent performances to grace area stages.

For the more sporting types, there are three minor league baseball teams in the area, Clinton Lumber Kings, Quad City River bandits, and the Beloit Snappers. The 3 time champion Quad City Mallards play hockey at the Mark of the Quad Cities while the rival Ice Hogs skate at the Rockford MetroCentre. The newest professional sport in the area is Arena Football 2.

For the more involved athlete, the area provides for rock climbing along the Mississippi River bluffs, downhill skiing in Galena, the Quad Cities, and Dubuque, and golfing on a PGA tour course. The options are endless.

Rarely will you need to shop or dine outside of the Sterling area as it has a large diversity of shopping outlets, including a mall, and restaurants, but for the occasional odd or end, both areas also offer numerous shopping opportunities, nightlife and entertainment districts.

Chicago is a simple, straight-forward drive along Interstate 88. On a Saturday, it is possible to be in downtown Chicago within 2.5 hours. Of course, the Chicago area offers up everything you could ask of in terms of entertainment, shopping, recreational, cultural, and dining opportunities. Living in Sterling gives one access to all Chicago can offer, but without the daily grind and headaches associated with big city living. Spend a weekend shopping on Michigan avenue, viewing downtown from the top of a skyscraper and dining at one of any number of ethnic restaurants in the area. Or take it easy and relax at a Cubs game, followed by a lakefront stroll. Visit the art, history and science museums lined up along Lake Michigan or head to the planetarium and aquarium located there as well. And when you're done with the crowds, the traffic, and the high prices, head back home to Sterling where life's a bit easier, and a good measure less worrisome.