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15 Best Things to Do in Dubuque, Iowa

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Are you planning a trip to Dubuque, Iowa? There are many fun things to do in Dubuque, so you are not wrong about choosing this as your next travel destination.

You’ll find the city of Dubuque on the banks of the mighty Mississippi. It lies within the Tri-State area, which is composed of the states of Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin.

things to do in Dubuque

The city’s distinctive architecture, historic places, and riverside setting make it a popular tourist destination. Some popular attractions in the city are the Fenelon Place Elevator Co., Julien Dubuque Monument, and the Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium.

Our Favorites in Dubuque

Things to Do in Dubuque, Iowa

1. See the beauty of Dubuque from the Fenelon Place Elevator Co.

the Fenelon Place Elevator Co.

Address: 512 Fenelon Pl, Dubuque, IA 52001, United States

One of the many fun things to do in Dubuque that you shouldn’t miss out on is riding this famous funicular. Fenelon Place Elevator Co. is dubbed as the world’s shortest and steepest scenic railroad. It runs 296 feet long and ascends at a 41-degree inclination, with a vertical height of 189 feet.

Its upper station is located at 512 Fenelon Place. Meanwhile, the lower station can be found at the western end of Fourth Street. This Fourth Street Elevator is in a residential area.

The ride from the lower to the upper station gives you a bird’s-eye view of downtown Dubuque. As you reach the end of the ride, the panoramic views of Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois will greet you.

Observation decks are available at the top, so admiring the scenery is convenient. If you’re a fan of sightseeing, this funicular railway is a must-try for you.

See Related: Fun Things to Do in Des Moines, Iowa

2. Enjoy Outdoor Activities at Eagle Point Park

Eagle Point Park

Address: 2601 Shiras Ave, Dubuque, IA 52001, United States

Eagle Point Park is a massive public park in Dubuque, covering an area of 164 acres. The majority of the park sits on top of a hill overlooking the Mississippi River and the Lock and Dam 11. The city of Dubuque owns and operates this park.

If you are traveling with your family, it’s a must that you visit Eagle Point Park. It is one of the best open spaces in Dubuque, where you can do a lot of fun recreational activities.

This park has plenty of facilities. From family rooms, shaded spaces, the Riverfront pavilion, and playgrounds – they have it all here! It’s undoubtedly the best place to bring your family for all its family-oriented amenities.

You can also take a romantic stroll with your partner, appreciating the lovely sight of the park. Or you can enjoy a picnic by the grass field, with an afternoon wine session to complete your special date.

Eagle Point Park is only open from the first weekend of May through the fourth weekend of October. Schedule a visit to Dubuque within this period and drop by this popular tourist attraction!

3. Trek through the Julien Dubuque Monument

Julien Dubuque Monument

Address: 1810 Monument Dr, Dubuque, IA 52003, United States

The Julien Dubuque Monument is a historic structure located on a bluff. The grave of Julien Dubuque, the city’s founder, lies here. This monument is one of the three hiking trails at the Mines of Spain Recreational Area.

Hence, it is common for visitors to trek to the memorial, which is considered a national historic landmark. But, if you do not fancy hiking, you can drive your car to the place as there is a nearby car park.

Visiting the Julien Dubuque Monument is one of the many free things to do in Dubuque. Apart from its historical value, the monument is also a tourist attraction. It offers a panoramic view of the Mississippi River, Illinois, and the stretch of Dubuque.

You can also enjoy the other must-see Dubuque tourist attractions inside the Mines of Spain Recreation Area: The Horseshoe Bluff and the Catfish Creek. Both hiking trails are challenging. But once completed, breathtaking views of Dubuque will greet you.

The Horseshoe Bluff offers spectacular vistas of the Mississippi River and limestone cliffs. Meanwhile, Catfish Creek highlights the stunning wildflowers in Dubuque.

These activities are ideal for adventurous travelers. However, the visit to the Julien Dubuque Monument and its neighboring Dubuque tourist attractions is well worth it, even for chickenhearted visitors. Just think of the picturesque views awaiting you!

4. Go on a Tour of the Lock and Dam

Lock and Damn

Address: Lock & Dam Rd, Dubuque, IA 52001, USA

It’s common for tourists to enjoy some day trips on the Mississippi River. The tiny islands, beaches, and sandbars are there for us to indulge in. But have you ever wondered if you could closely see the locks and dams of the Mississippi River?

The Mississippi River is the second-longest river in North America. It extends to 10 states, including Minnesota, Missouri, Wisconsin, and Iowa.

A system of 29 locks dams in the area of the river between Minnesota and Missouri. These locks are managed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). This equipment aims to aid barges’ movement and elevation changes throughout the river’s course.

And you know what? The process is a beautiful sight to see! The locks are empty and filled with water at around 1 foot per minute. It takes about 8 minutes to empty or fill the Dubuque Lock and Dam 11 chamber. But the largest chamber is 26 feet long and would take much longer to pass through!

During the summer season, there’s a free tour of Lock and Dam 11 in Dubuque every Sunday. This is perfect if you want something different to do in Dubuque. The tour includes access to an observation deck where you can see the massive barges of the Mississippi River.

See Related: 15 Best State Parks in Iowa to Visit

5. Stroll around Dubuque’s Iconic Street Art

Dubuque’s Iconic Street Art

If you want more free things to do in Dubuque, look no further; I have one here for artsy people! Well, I think non-artsy people would enjoy this, too.

Colorful murals cover the walls of Dubuque. It was an initiative of Voice Productions that started back in 2016.

This street art is a treat for art enthusiasts! A few pieces may be seen throughout the streets of Dubuque. But most are clustered in a four-block area between Locust Street and Main Street.

You’ll also bump into some pieces on the 1st to 4th Street. Casually stroll around the area to witness the creativity of our local artists.

6. Jump like a Ninja at Vertical Jump Park

Vertical Jump Park

Address: 555 John F Kennedy Rd #400, Dubuque, IA 52002, United States

Traveling with kids can be a real headache sometimes. You hear complaints about how boring the tour is (even though it’s not; they are just not interested). It’s a good thing Dubuque has this fun trampoline park where your kids can pretend to be Ninja!

Vertical Jump Park is an adventure sports center with a unique obstacle course. Trampolines cover the entire place so kids can bounce and flip as they play.

Apart from trampoline jumping, players can also enjoy trampoline dodgeball and basketball. There’s also a Ninja Warrior-inspired course inside. Your kids will have a blast here!

7. Treat Yourself at Float and Fly Wellness Studio

Float and Fly Wellness Studio

Address: 1344 Locust St, Dubuque, IA 52001, United States

If you are visiting Dubuque, squeeze some self-care treats into your schedule. After all, that’s what traveling promotes – enjoyment and relaxation.

And the best place to get that? None other than in Float and Fly Wellness Studio! You will feel yourself floating on cloud nine when you avail of their services!

Other services offered by Float and Fly include infrared sauna, halotherapy, and massage therapy. They also host a Kids’ Camp every summer, so you can bring your child with you as you go on a self-care day.

8. Take on a Zipline Adventure with Sky Tours

Take on a Zipline Adventure with Sky Tours

Nature lover? Adventure seeker? History geek? Hang on as I present you one of the most thrilling Dubuque, Iowa activities!

Sky Tours offers a two-hour guided adventure in all nine zip-lining courses in the YMCA Union Park Camp. With this package, you get to take part in an adventure while learning about the history of Dubuque. It’s perfect for family trips, gatherings, or team-building with friends and workmates!

Each nine-zip lining course offers a different experience. The first ones are shorter and closer to the ground, warming you up as a newbie zipliner. As you move from one course to another, the lines get longer, faster, and higher.

The popular zip lines are ‘The Hawks Nest,’ ‘The Air Strike,’ and ‘The Dual.’ These courses include a fun game, some racing, and some trekking.

9. Dine Out on Brazen Open Kitchen

Brazen Open Kitchen

Address: 955 Washington St #101, Dubuque, IA 52001, United States

Finding a restaurant that serves hearty meals in Dubuque is not hard. But if you’re going to ask me for a recommendation, I only have one place in mind. And it’s the Brazen Open Kitchen.

From the store’s ambiance to food quality, it is without a doubt one of the best restaurants in the city.

Located in the Millwork District, Brazen Open Kitchen offers artisan beers, drinks, and food specialties that are stylish and innovative. What’s great about Brazen Open Kitchen is that they use fresh local ingredients from their garden in preparing their food.

Their menu is extensive and features a mix of different flavors and cultures. Plus, they also have vegan-friendly food options!

See Related: Things to Do in Davenport, Iowa

10. Spend a Beer and Games Night at Backpocket Taproom

Spend a Beer and Games Night at Backpocket Taproom

Address: 333 E 10th St, Dubuque, IA 52001, United States

For most travelers, the most exciting part of traveling is exploring the city’s nightlife. Dubuque has a long list of bars and clubs. But if you’re like me, who isn’t a huge fan of crowds and loud noise, visit the Backpocket Taproom instead.

Backpocket Taproom is a beer place and an arcade in one. This “beercade” serves various Iowa beers and oven-brick pizzas. Perfect for that retro-themed, chill night out!

The place has a beer garden outside and a large arcade in the basement. It offers a unique experience that you won’t find anywhere else. It also has plenty of relaxing spaces, like the tables in and out of the establishment.

Backpocket Taproom holds a trivia night every Tuesday, where you can win beers and other prizes for every correct answer. What an interactive place, right? Of course, you also have the freedom to enjoy the arcade downstairs (at a very reasonable fee!).

You can even bring your kids because who enjoys arcades better than children? But they are only allowed there until 9 p.m. After that, it’s party time!

See Related: Things to Do in Ankeny, Iowa

11. Enjoy a Grand Family Day at Grand Harbor Resort

Grand Harbor Resort

Address: 350 Bell St, Dubuque, IA 52001, United States

I have the answer if you are looking for the best all-around accommodation in Dubuque. The place offers a winning combination of service, amenities, and entertainment. These are the reasons why it’s popular among families!

is located on the Mississippi Riverfront. It’s close to several Dubuque Iowa attractions, like the National Mississippi River Museum, the Eagle Point Park, and the Museum of Art. Hence, a lot of visitors prefer to stay in this hotel. But its main selling point is free waterpark access. Kids truly love a fantastic resort within its reach!

Its other amenities include an arcade, fitness, and business center. They also have an airport shuttle, a complimentary breakfast, and onsite parking.

12. Go Camping at Swiss Valley Park

Swiss Valley Park

Address: 13069 Swiss Valley Rd, Peosta, IA 52068, United States

The Swiss Valley Park is among the best attractions near Dubuque, IA. It’s a 62-acre field located just southwest of Dubuque, which has the perfect scenery for a landscape painting.

Swiss Valley Park is a popular campsite among travelers, from pavilion rentals, restroom facilities, playgrounds, and picnic areas. The place is packed with amenities for camping or just a simple BBQ lunch day with the family.

If you’re going to Swiss Valley Park, borrow their geocache kits. It’s one of the best outdoor games you can play here! If you’re not familiar with geocaching, it’s like a treasure hunt but with nature.

13. Discover natural and historical items at The National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium

The National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium

Address: 350 E 3rd St, Dubuque, IA 52001, United States

In Dubuque, the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium is one of Iowa’s most popular tourist destinations and kid-friendly. The place features the Mississippi Discovery Center, a touch tank, an observation deck, a boat tour, and a 3D and 4D Digital Theater showing “The Flying Monsters.”

There are many diverse habitats and critters that kids may learn a lot from the exhibits within the aquarium.

You and your family will be captivated and educated by two distinct collections of animal communities on this family-friendly outing along the Mississippi Riverwalk, next to the well-known A.Y. McDonald Park.

14. Wander around the Dubuque Arboretum & Botanical Gardens

Dubuque Arboretum & Botanical Gardens

Address: 3800 Arboretum Dr, Dubuque, IA 52001, United States

The Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Gardens was established in 1980. Its mission is to establish, preserve, and maintain an arboretum and botanical garden as a source of information, education, culture, and beauty for all to know.

The Arboretum consists of 56 acres and includes the following gardens: Herbs, Hostas, Roses, Annuals and Perennials, Cacti, Prairie, Wildflowers, Hydrangeas, Children’s Gardens, Garden of Eat’n, Japanese Garden and Koi Pond, Formal English Garden, Union Park Garden, Ornamental Tree, and Shrub Collections, and Conifer Collections.

The Arboretum is a popular spot in the community for outdoor weddings, concerts, and special events. There are also wooded hiking trails. Admission is free, and the grounds are open year-round from 7 a.m. to dusk, welcoming around 55,000 visitors from all over the world each year.

15. Be amazed at the stained glass windows of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church

St. Luke's United Methodist Church in Dubuque Iowa

Address: 1199 Main St, Dubuque, IA 52001, United States

Visit the Tiffany stained glass windows of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Dubuque, Iowa, when you’re in the area. The Good Shepherd window is the crown jewel of the church’s stained-glass displays.

Tiffany reportedly thought it was his best work in a glass when it was made for the 1893 Columbian Exposition. Jesus is depicted with a subtle glow on his face and various sheep images on a multi-hued green backdrop.

See Related: Things to Do in Iowa & Places to Visit

How to Get Around Dubuque, Iowa

There are several ways of getting around Dubuque. Since the city is highly urbanized, you can rely on its well-developed transportation network to provide a smooth commuting experience.

  • By plane

American Airlines services Dubuque via Chicago O’Hare International Airport. The Dubuque Regional Airport is only a ten-minute drive from downtown. If you are staying at a full-service hotel and have accommodation, you can avail yourself of their complimentary shuttle services to and from the airport.

  • By bus

Greyhound runs long-distance buses around Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois. It passes by Elm St., which is located in Dubuque. Ticketing hours are from 8:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M.

  • By car

The most popular and convenient way of commuting around Dubuque is by car. The city is less than a day’s drive from its neighboring cities. If you don’t own a car, you can rent one from Avis or Hertz, available at Dubuque Regional Airport.

  • By Mississippi River

Yes, you can get around Dubuque via the Mississippi River. You can find boat docks in the Port of Dubuque Marina, Dubuque Marina, and American Marine – Dubuque Yacht Basin.

Places to Stay in Dubuque

1. Hilton Garden Inn Dubuque Downtown Top Recommendation

Whether you're visiting Dubuque for business or pleasure, the hotel has everything you need to make your stay a success. Located within walking distance of the Mystique Casino and within an 8-minute walk of Dubuque Greyhound Park, the Hilton Garden Inn Dubuque Downtown offers comfortable rooms with free Wi-Fi.

2. Hotel Julien Dubuque

Hotel Julien Dubuque is a great place to stay in Dubuque. Located less than one mile from the river, this hotel offers free Wi-Fi and an indoor pool. Guests can enjoy American cuisine at Caroline's Restaurant or relax with drinks at Riverboat Lounge.

3. Best Western Plus Dubuque Hotel and Conference Center

A stay at Best Western Plus Dubuque Hotel and Conference Center places you in the heart of Dubuque, convenient to City Museum of Dubuque and National Mississippi River Museum. This hotel is within close proximity of John Deere Pavilion and U.S. Cellular Coliseum.

FAQs

What are the best tourist attractions in Dubuque, Iowa?

The best tourist attractions in Dubuque are Fenelon Place Elevator Co., scenic Eagle Point Park, and the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium. These two will allow you to see the majestic city and learn about life on the Mississippi River.

What are some of the free activities to do in Dubuque, Iowa?       

There are tons of free activities that you can do in Dubuque. You can hike to historic sites such as the Julien Dubuque Monument, stroll along Dubuque’s iconic street art and botanical gardens, or take a Lock and Dam 11 tour. So, even with a little budget, you can enjoy the beauty of Dubuque.

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