Why Is Dubuque Worth Visiting?
Before we discuss all the things to do in Dubuque, Iowa, let’s get to know it a bit. The city of Dubuque is a unique and fascinating place to visit. It is one of the oldest cities in IA, having been founded in 1833. The city was named after Julien Dubuque, a Canadian trader who moved to the area in 1785.
Dubuque’s location helped make it an important gateway to Iowa from the east during the 19th century. The city has always had a strong connection with water – it lies on the Mississippi River. It’s also known for its beautiful architecture, which includes many historic buildings from the 19th century.
Dubuque has something for everyone, from outdoor recreation and nature hikes to museums and shopping. You can spend your time learning about history at several museums or enjoying the beautiful scenery along the riverfront. Or you could do both!
Things to Do in Dubuque, Iowa – Downtown
Dubuque’s downtown area is filled with historic buildings and sites, including the Grand Opera House and Dubuque County Courthouse. If you want to see some local paintings, head to the Dubuque Museum of Art. It’s Iowa’s oldest cultural institution, featuring a variety of rotating exhibitions. Admission is $7 for adults and free for youth under 18.
If you’re feeling hungry, downtown Dubuque has plenty of great places to eat. For breakfast, stop by Caroline’s Restaurant, which has been serving up delicious food since 1876. Or try L. May Eatery for a unique dining experience – the menu changes daily based on what’s fresh and in season.
In the mood for some shopping? Browse the local boutiques on Main Street. You’re sure to find something unique! For live entertainment, check out the Five Flags Center, which is a performing arts venue that hosts concerts, shows, and events. There are plenty of things to do in Dubuque, Iowa, so you’re sure to find something that interests you.
Historic Places to Visit in Dubuque
In the early 1800s, Dubuque was known as a bustling river town that attracted merchants from around the world. Today you can still see the historic sites from this era and learn about the city’s unique history.
Mathias Ham House
The Mathias Ham House was built in 1856 and is one of the oldest buildings in Dubuque. Originally a log cabin belonging to the local businessman and lead miner Mathias Ham, it has been remodeled several times over the years. Today, it’s a museum showcasing life during the Antebellum era.
Port of Dubuque
The Port of Dubuque (also known as the Riverfront, Ice Harbor or 4th Street Peninsula) has played an important role in commerce on the Mississippi River since the early 1800s. In this section of downtown, you’ll find:
- Dubuque Shot Tower – the only remaining shot tower west of the Mississippi River;
- The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium – a museum dedicated to the history and culture of the river and an aquarium with over 100 species of animals;
- The Diamond Jo Casino – a casino and entertainment venue.
Dubuque is home to several historic churches, including:
- The Cathedral of St. Raphael – the city’s Catholic cathedral;
- St Luke’s United Methodist Church – one of the oldest Methodist churches in Iowa;
- First Presbyterian Church – the city’s first Presbyterian church;
- St Paul Lutheran Church – a German-style church.
Touring these historic sites is just one of the many things to do in Dubuque, Iowa for history buffs. If you’re more interested in outdoor activities, we’ll cover that below.
Outdoor Things to Do in Dubuque, Iowa
The friendly city of Dubuque offers a wide range of outdoor attractions that are perfect for your next vacation. Here are some of the best things to do in Dubuque, Iowa when the weather is beautiful.
Fenelon Place Elevator
Also known as the Fourth Street Elevator, this narrow-gauge railway is the steepest and shortest in the world. It takes you up 189 feet to a bluff overlooking the city, where you can enjoy stunning views of the Mississippi River and Dubuque’s three bridges.
Eagle Point Park
Eagle Point Park is a great place to take your kids or just hang out and relax on a nice day. There are walking trails, playgrounds, picnic areas, and more at Eagle Point Park. You can also watch boats pass by on the Mississippi River while enjoying the scenery.
Dubuque Arboretum & Botanical Gardens
The Dubuque Arboretum & Botanical Gardens spans over 56 acres and features more than 60 different gardens, including a Japanese garden, a rose garden, and a formal herb garden. The arboretum includes collections of conifers and ornamental trees. There’s also a playground for children, and every summer you can listen to live music in the gardens for free.
Mines of Spain Recreation Area & E.B. Lyons Interpretive Center
The Mines of Spain Recreation Area is a great place to hike, bike, or just enjoy the outdoors. The E.B. Lyons Interpretive Center is located within the recreation area and offers interpretive exhibits about the local history and culture.
Skiing at Sundown Mountain Resort
If you’re visiting Dubuque in the winter, you can go skiing at Sundown Mountain Resort. The resort offers skiing and snowboarding lessons for all levels, as well as a terrain park for more experienced skiers and riders.
Visit Dubuque and Enjoy Yourself!
These are just some things to do in Dubuque, Iowa on your next vacation. With so much to see and do, you’re sure to have a great time in this charming city.
Have you ever been to Dubuque? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below!
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