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23 Best Things to Do in Davenport, Iowa

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Davenport may not immediately come to mind when choosing a vacation destination for yourself, friends, or your family.

This small city on the western shore of the Mississippi River in Iowa is home to over 100,000 people and might not seem like much when you pass through it on I-80.

However, you’d be surprised; there is actually quite a bit to see and do in Davenport, and whether you’re there on business, are there visiting family, or choose it as your actual vacation destination, you’re sure to have a good time – and a far better time than you may expect before you go.

Don’t sleep on Davenport! Davenport is one of the four cities in the Quad Cities metropolitan area, including Bettendorf, Iowa, Rock Island, Moline, and East Moline, Illinois. Together, these cities are home to nearly half a million people.

This Midwestern collection of cities that grew up around the confluence of the Mighty Mississippi and the Rock River is more happening than one might think.

It’s about three hours west of Chicago and about four hours north of St. Louis, but unlike these larger cities, the Quad City area, including Davenport, has more of a relaxed, friendly, welcoming, and laid-back feel; however, the people here also like to get out and do things rather than just staying home, no matter what the season nor time of year.

That’s why you’ll find plenty of museums, parks, historic sites, restaurants, and shopping adventures here to keep you busy during your entire stay.

So, read on if you find yourself in Davenport or will be visiting there soon and are looking for things to do in Davenport, Iowa. In this informative post, you’ll learn all about the many things to do in this Iowa town.

Davenport

Get ready to take on Davenport and enjoy this hidden gem of Hawkeye State!

TL;DR

  • Best Museum: Figge Art Museum
  • Best Outdoor Activity: Vander Veer Botanical Park
  • Best Historical Attraction: German American Heritage Center
  • Best Family-Friendly Activity: Modern Woodmen Park for a ballgame
  • Best Shopping: Freight House Farmers Market
  • Best Entertainment: River Music Experience

Things to Do in Davenport, Iowa

Figge Art Museum

Figge Art Museum, one of the fun things to do in Davenport
Image by Steve Tatum

Address: 225 W 2nd St, Davenport, IA 52801, United States

If you’re in western Illinois or eastern Iowa surrounded by cornfields, you may think you need to travel to Chicago or Des Moines to view world-class art, but thanks to the Figge Art Museum, that’s not the case.

This museum opened in 2005 and was the successor to the Davenport Municipal Art Gallery – later the Davenport Museum of Art – which opened in 1928.

This lively city has been home to patrons of the arts since its early days. As a result, the Figge Art Museum is not only one of the oldest art institutions in the United States, but also the oldest municipal art gallery in our country.

This is a big but not gigantic museum; its collection comprises over 4,000 works of art. The American collection is impressive and includes works by Bierstadt, Whistler, Homer, Wyeth, Warhol, and more. European artists like Rembrandt, Goya, and Renoir are also represented here, as are Asian artists like Hokusai and Kunisada.

However, this museum is best known for its extensive collection of Haitian, Colonial Mexican, and Midwestern art and pieces by Midwestern architect and designer Frank Lloyd Wright.

It’s easy to get lost in the Figge Art Museum for an entire morning or afternoon, even if you don’t fancy yourself much of an art lover. There’s so much to see here. If you want to stay nearby, The Current Iowa is a great hotel option within walking distance.

See Related: Places to Visit in Iowa

Putnam Museum & Science Center

Putnam Museum & Science Center
Image by Putnam Museum

Address: 1717 W 12th St, Davenport, IA 52804, United States

The Putnam Museum and Science Center, formerly the Davenport Academy of Natural Sciences, is an even older institution than the Figge Art Museum. It was founded in 1867 and was one of the first museums west of the Mississippi.

If you aren’t interested in visiting an art museum like the Figge, then chances are that this museum will be a more interesting choice for you.

This family-friendly museum has over 160,000 specimens and historical artifacts in its collection; as you might imagine, only a small portion of these is on display at any time, but you’ll be able to see and learn a great deal quickly.

After your visit, it will likely be no surprise that this museum is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.

Exhibits on the Mississippi River, mammals, ancient Egypt, prairies, world culture, and science and technology are all well-organized, thorough, interactive exhibits that the whole family will enjoy.

Further, a huge-screen movie theater shows science films; it’s one of the biggest movie screens in the entire state. No matter what interests you, don’t miss the Putman Museum and Science Center during your visit to Davenport.

See Related: Things to Do in Dubuque, Iowa

German American Heritage Center

Address: 712 W 2nd St, Davenport, IA 52802, United States

Many thousands of German immigrants chose to settle in the Midwest during the late 1800s and early 1900s, and the German American Heritage Center and Museum in the Germania-Miller Standard Hotel celebrates this fact and the vast contributions these people gave to the United States during their lifetimes.

The building was built in 1862 as a guesthouse for immigrants and was later purchased by John Frederick Miller, a German immigrant, who ran it as a hotel for many years afterward. In 1983, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and the German American Heritage Center moved in in 1995.

Interesting exhibits at this museum and heritage center include an interactive experience about German immigration, German and local art displays, and more.

There’s also a banquet hall, a gift shop, and weekly events to help you immerse yourself in the transplanted German culture of the Midwestern United States.

Bix Beiderbecke Museum & Archive

Bix Beiderbecke Museum & Archive
Image by Bix Beiderbecke

Address: 129 N Main St, Davenport, IA 52801, United States

If you like history museums, give this one a try. Bix Beiderbecke was born in Davenport, IA, in 1903 and died at 28 in 1931.

In his short life, he learned how to play the coronet and piano and became one of the most influential jazz soloists of his time. This museum is dedicated to his life and musical contributions and is interesting for anyone interested in the early age of jazz music or music in general.

Artifacts from his life are on display, as well as instruments he used during his musical career.

See Related: Things to Do in Ames, Iowa

Vander Veer Botanical Park

Vander Veer Botanical Park
Image by David Wilson

Address: 215 W Central Park Ave, Davenport, IA 52803, United States

Vander Veer Botanical Park is in Davenport’s Vander Veer Park Historic District. This 33-acre botanical garden is spectacular and inviting. Established in 1885, it is one of the very first botanical parks in our nation, located west of the Mississippi River.

In this garden, you’ll find flowers, trees, shrubs, hostas, succulents, cacti, and other plants of all kinds, a lagoon, a sensory garden, a children’s sculpture garden, greenhouses, a conservatory, and an impressive circa 1900 fountain. Many people come here to walk for exercise; the path around the perimeter is just under a mile in length.

West Lake Park

Beach at West Lake Park, Davenport
Image by Amanda Mueller

Address: 215 W Central Park Ave, Davenport, IA 52803, United States

If you’re looking for a more traditional-style park, you’ll like West Lake Park. This park is not on the Mississippi River’s banks but on the west side of town.

It is large at 620 acres, and four lakes and two campgrounds are within the park’s boundaries. People come to fish, boat, and swim here during warm weather, but it’s a great place to visit and explore any time of year, thanks to the many trails.

See Related: Best State Parks in Iowa to Visit

Modern Woodmen Park

Modern Woodmen Park view
Image by Kevin Dooley

Address: 209 S Gaines St, Davenport, IA 52802, United States

For a completely different type of park, you might swing by Modern Woodmen Park. This minor-league baseball field was originally built in 1931 but has been renovated many times.

Today, it holds 4,024 spectators and is home to the Quad Cities River Bandits and the St. Ambrose University baseball teams. It also hosts concerts and other events.

Locals love this small stadium because it’s on the banks of the river and offers great views of the Centennial Bridge. There’s also a Ferris wheel, a carousel, and a kid-sized roller coaster to enjoy.

Centennial Park

Centennial Park, Davenport
Image by Chong Qing Wu

Address: 315 S Marquette St, Davenport, IA 52802, United States

Centennial Park is adjacent to Modern Woodsmen Park; unlike West Lake Park, this municipal park is, in fact, on the shores of the Mississippi and just west of the Centennial Bridge.

This community park is a 250-acre green space with riverfront trails, picnic tables, benches, gazebos, a skatepark, and a dog park, and it’s a great place to relax or get up close and personal with the river simply.

See Related: Best Iowa Family Vacations to Take This Year

Village of East Davenport

Village of East Davenport sign
Image by TripAdvisor

Address: Village of East Davenport, Davenport, IA 52803, USA

The Village of East Davenport, also known as Davenport Village or simply The Village, is this city’s historic district. It’s located on the southeast side of town on the bank of the Mississippi River; it was listed as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

The area covers several blocks and includes 145 historic buildings. Most are residential, but you can also view and enjoy the former Kuehl Hotel, the former Pierce School, the Village Market Place, Hose Station No. 4, many old shops, several parks, and more.

Step back in time in this neighborhood and get a feel for what Davenport was like in its early days!

Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Cathedral Complex

Roman Cathedral
Image by Joseph Coelho

Address: 422 E 10th St, Davenport, IA 52803, United States

There are 193 Roman Catholic cathedrals in the United States, and some people try to visit them all. The Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport opened in 1891 and is exceptionally beautiful inside and out.

It’s located high on a bluff overlooking the river to the east of the downtown Davenport area in an area settled by Irish immigrants, and it can be seen from many places in town.

A pipe organ fills the back of the cathedral, and anyone who appreciates stained glass art will be impressed by the cathedral’s windows. Stop by and visit; even if you’re not Catholic, you’ll be amazed by the beauty of this structure.

See Related: Best Weekend Getaways in Iowa: Top Vacations

The Palmer Family Home & Museum

The Palmer Family Home & Museum
Image by Management

Address: 808 N Brady St, Davenport, IA 52803, United States

You may not have heard the name Bartlett Joshua Palmer before, but the people of Davenport are quite familiar with the life and work of this man. If you’ve ever found relief from pain by visiting a chiropractor, you have this man to thank.

It was his father, Daniel David Palmer, who first established the chiropractic practice, but it was B.J. who convinced his father to establish a chiropractic school here, which led to the growth and spread of this type of care.

Today, many students interested in learning to be chiropractors come to Davenport from all over the United States and the world to study at the Palmer College of Chiropractic, established in 1897.

You can visit this school as well as the Palmer Family Residence nearby; tours of the main floor of the family’s mansion are offered daily. Further, you can also visit the nearby Palmer Family and Chiropractic History Museum to learn more about this family, their history, and the art of chiropractic care.

You can stay right nearby at the well-rated Hotel Blackhawk and be near everything in this great Davenport accommodation!

Freight House Farmers Market

Freight House Farmers Market sign
Image by TripAdvisor

Address: 421 W River Dr, Davenport, IA 52801, United States

A farmers’ market is a great way to learn more about any area that you visit, and the Freight House Farmers’ Market is one of the biggest and best markets that you’ll find anywhere in this country.

Over 200 vendors show up for this market weekly year-round, and customers can try and buy all sorts of fruits, vegetables, baked goods, and artisanal food products. There’s no way you’re walking out of this market without a bag of goodies that you just couldn’t resist, so bring your wallet and your appetite when you explore this market one weekend!

See Related: Things to Do in Ankeny, Iowa

Abernathy’s

Abernathy's front store
Image by Abernathy’s

Address: 432 W 3rd St, Davenport, IA 52801, United States

Abernathy’s is a cool little shop in downtown Davenport that sells vintage and handmade goods. It’s a bit unique, and it isn’t for everyone, but if you like supporting small niche businesses, you’ll likely find something strange and beautiful to bring home for yourself or as a gift for someone else.

SIS International Shop

Address: 1326 N Brady St, Davenport, IA 52803, United States

SIS International Shop won’t provide you with many Davenport-specific gifts; rather, this shop is a shop that offers beautiful and varied items from all over the globe with a focus on fair trade.

You can shop here with good conscience and the knowledge that all of the products for sale were sourced ethically and sustainably and that the producers of the goods were compensated fairly. There’s something for everyone in this gift shop.

See Related: Historical Landmarks in Iowa You’ll Want to Know

Chocolate Manor

sweets and chocolate at Chocolate Manor
Image by Chocolate Manor

Address: 110 E 2nd St, Davenport, IA 52801, United States

Do you love chocolate? Most people do. This family-owned chocolate shop has been serving tasty treats for over two decades!

They offer tours of their factory that include samples, but if that’s not enough, you can spend some time filling your shopping cart with toffee, caramels, creams, truffles, and more. The selection is always changing, so if you visit Davenport often, head back to Chocolate Manor for more time and time again.

Analog Arcade Bar

Analog Arcade Bar, Davenport
Image by TripAdvisor

Address: 302 N Brady St, Davenport, IA 52801, United States

Arcade bars are always a good time. Analog Arcade Bar is full of vintage video games and pinball machines that will help you while away the hours, any afternoon or evening. Have a beer or a signature cocktail and relax in the lounge between games.

This bar doesn’t serve food, but you’re welcome to have food delivered. It’s all fun and games, but sadly, you can’t bring your kids – this establishment is 21+ only. There’s another location across the river in Moline if you want to check that out.

See Related: Best Travel Insurance for Children

Have a Local Drink

Have a Local Drink

Visits to Wide River Winery and Bootleg Hill Honey Meads are a wonderful pairing for people who enjoy drinking alcoholic beverages and want to learn how they are made.

These two businesses are unrelated in other ways than providing tasty beverages and production information to interested parties.

Wide River Winery is in the Village of East Davenport and offers wine and small plates. Bootleg Hill Honey Meads is just four minutes away by car and makes mead on-site. Try both, but take it easy – these two beverages don’t mix well for some!

Adler Theatre

Redstone building
Image by Samuel Wagner

Address: 136 E 3rd St, Davenport, IA 52801, United States

The Adler Theatre was built over ninety years ago in 1931, first known as the RKO Orpheum Theater. This historic theatre is on the first floor of the former Hotel Mississippi, which has been converted into apartments today. Both properties are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Today, the Adler Theatre is host to a wide variety of events including comedy, musicals, concerts, TEDx Davenport, and the Miss Iowa pageant.

See Related: Tips for Beating Post-Travel Blues

The Quad Cities Symphony Orchestra

Address: 327 N Brady St, Davenport, IA 52801, United States

The Quad Cities Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1915 and is one of the USA’s longest-established, continuously operating orchestral associations.

The orchestra performs about twenty times each year, but in addition to performances, it also offers educational opportunities to the city’s youth, including a Youth Symphony Orchestra program.

River Music Experience

Address: 129 Main St, Davenport, IA 52801, United States

The River Music Experience is housed on the first two floors of the historic Redstone Building downtown. This organization aims to promote live, local music and connect people to it through performance spaces.

The River Music Experience hosts over 150 performances yearly in its first-floor coffee shop, the RME Cafe, and on its second-floor community stage, The Redstone Room. Stop by and check out some live and local performers doing their thing.

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Rhythm City Casino Resort

Casino resort lobby
Image by Booking.com

Address: 7077 Elmore Avenue, Davenport, IA 52807, United States

The Rhythm City Casino Resort is on the outskirts of town near I-80. You’ll love this small casino and hotel if you like to gamble. It’s open twenty-four hours a day, so if you’re looking for some late-night fun, you can check this place out after everything else has shut down for the night.

You can book a room here if you want to stay overnight; it’s a great choice among Davenport hotels! Also, many events in Davenport are held here – check out their calendar.

Davenport Skybridge

neon light skybridge
Image by TripAdvisor

Address: 141-199 W River Dr, Davenport, IA 52801, USA

This pedestrian bridge crosses Highway 67/River Drive and offers great views of the city, the river, Centennial Bridge, and Rock Island.

It was built in 2005 and is 575 feet long and 50 feet tall. It’s lit up at night with ever-changing colors, so that’s a great time to try it. It’s one of the Davenport things to do that should not be missed!

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Michael’s Fun World

michael fun world sign
Image by Joe Atkinson

Address: 354 W 76th St, Davenport, IA 52806, United States

Michael’s Fun World is near the intersection of Route 61 and I-80, so it’s a bit of a drive from downtown Davenport, but it’s worth the trip if you’re with some youngsters.

This kid-friendly attraction is a year-round amusement park with mini-golf, go-karts, video games, laser tag, batting cages, and more. It’s fun for the whole family.

Places to Stay in Davenport

1. My Place Hotel-Davenport/Quad Cities, IA Top Recommendation

My Place Hotel-Davenport/Quad Cities, IA offers a comfortable accommodation in Davenport. It is located just 6.8 mi from Adler Theater and 9.2 mi from The Keney Park Zoo. The hotel is also near the Mississippi River Museum and River Music Experience. The accommodations will provide guests with air conditioning and a TV.

2. Comfort Inn & Suites Davenport - Quad Cities

The Comfort Inn Davenport Hotel is a great choice for your Quad Cities, Illinois hotel needs. The hotel provides guests with an indoor pool, fitness center and free Wi-Fi in every room. You are 15 minutes from the Quad City downtown area and across the street from a shopping mall.

3. Best Western Plus Steeplegate Inn

Best Western Plus Steeplegate Inn is a traditional-style Wisconsin inn located in the heart of beautiful Davenport. It offers high-speed wireless internet as well as a 24-hour front desk, which provides guests with assistance. The property has an on-site restaurant and bar and is just a 5 minute drive from the World Bird Sanctuary.

Before You Go to Davenport, IA

Remember, it’s always wise to get travel insurance before you head out for any trip! SafetyWing is a great provider, but if you don’t see what you want there, check InsureMyTrip.com for more options.

To visit Davenport by plane, you can fly into Chicago and then rent a car from RentalCars.com and drive from there. Or, you could fly into Quad City International Airport (MLI) in Moline for easier access. Put both cities into Skyscanner and see what deals you can find.

FAQ

What is Davenport known for?

Davenport, Iowa, is known for being one of the four Quad Cities on the Mississippi River. It’s a great place to visit and a great place to raise a family. It’s safe, and the people are friendly and welcoming. You’ll love visiting Davenport.

What food is Davenport, Iowa, known for?

There are several foods you should try when visiting Davenport and the Quad Cities in general. Quad City-style pizza can’t be missed. It features dough made with malt, tomato sauce with red chili flakes and cayenne, sausage, and cheese.

Taco pizza is also popular here. Of course, it wouldn’t be a trip to Iowa without a giant pork tenderloin sandwich. These popular sandwiches have far more breaded and fried pork than the bun. Enjoy!

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