Baseball fields, bowling alleys and the mighty Mississippi River provide a fun backdrop for a family-friendly Midwest weekend getaway to Dubuque.
1) The National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium Set on a 10-acre riverfront campus, this attraction highlights the life, culture and history of America’s most iconic waterway via multimedia displays and 12 large aquariums. If you can pry the kids away from building boats at the water table in the River Works section, take in a show at the 3D/4D theater. (563) 557-9545; rivermuseum.com
2) Dubuque River Rides Make like Huck Finn and take to the river for leisurely sightseeing. With decorative smokestacks and Victorian-style red and gold trim, the Spirit of Dubuque paddle-wheeler calls to mind the steamboats that plied these waters a century ago; Miss Dubuque is a sleek, sassy motor yacht used for smaller charters. Boats cruise May through October, and the schedule includes lunch, dinner, fall foliage and murder mystery dinner theater options. Bonus: You might spot bald eagles. (563) 583-8093; dubuqueriverrides.com
3) Field of Dreams Movie Site A century-old Dyersville farm (30 miles west of Dubuque) made movie history in 1989. Visitors still come to hit balls, play a game of catch and run the bases. On some summer Sundays, the “ghosts” return from the cornfields to play interactive games with kids. Free. (888) 875-8404; fodmoviesite.com
4) Crystal Lake Cave Take a 45-minute guided tour of this underground beauty discovered in 1868 while drilling for lead. Be prepared for some fairly tight passageways, cool temps (the cave is 52 degrees) and wet, muddy spots. (563) 556-6451; crystallakecave.com
5) Betty Jane’s Homemade Candies Since 1938, Betty Jane’s has been satisfying cravings with a mouthwatering array of homemade caramels, candies and hand-dipped chocolates. Seasonal confections include peppermint bark, rum balls and gummi wreaths, but the year-round specialty is a Gremlin, a turtle-ish treat of nuts and caramel drenched in milk or dark chocolate. Ice cream is served in summer. Three locations; bettyjanecandies.com
6) National Farm Toy Museum Tiny John Deeres and Massey Fergusons captivate kids and their parents. The “Farm Toy Capital of the World” displays thousands of toy tractors and other miniature vehicles. A 10-minute movie and exhibits also give information on farm life and harvesting. (563) 875-2727; nationalfarmtoymuseum.com
7) Vinny Vanucchi’s The aroma of marinara provides a fragrant welcome to this old-world Italian eatery. On Sundays, the restaurant serves family-style feasts of favorites such as penne with meatballs, fettuccine Alfredo and baked lasagna. (563) 588-9600; vinnysdubuque.com
8) Fenelon Place Elevator You and the kids get a round-trip ride on wooden cable cars to a panoramic view of three states, the Mississippi River and Dubuque’s historical business district. Billed as the world’s shortest, steepest scenic railway, the elevator rises and descends 189 feet along its 300-foot journey. The railway dates to the 1880s. Open April through November. (563) 582-6496; fenelonplaceelevator.com
9) Pepper Sprout From its Old Main District home across from the Port of Dubuque, this eatery serves Midwestern farm-to-table fare with innovative twists. Take older kids for an upscale treat. (563) 556-2167; peppersprout.com
10) Grand Harbor Resort and Waterpark At the Port of Dubuque, this Mississippi River-theme ginormous indoor water park has water slides, a lazy river and a Huck Finn Treehouse. The Watersquirts Kids Club keeps little ones entertained with arts and crafts, boat races, scavenger hunts and “dive-in” movies. The on-site Tony Roma’s serves hearty dinners of ribs, steaks and seafood. (866) 690-4006; grandharborresort.com
National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium photo and Dubuque River Rides photo courtesy of Dubuque Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. Field of Dreams photo courtesy of Field of Dreams Movie Site.