Iowa's oldest city, Dubuque (population 62,000) has shaken out of its long industrial sleep, remaking its Mississippi River waterfront as a lively destination. The Mississippi Riverwalk moves through the aggressively redeveloped area, part of a 26-mile Heritage Trail stretching to the Field of Dreams movie site in Dyersville.
The route starts at the Smithsonian-affiliated National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium with fresh-water aquariums and cool hands-on exhibits. In summer, live music rocks the riverside amphitheater. River's Edge Plaza, a 5,000-square-foot outdoor pavilion, serves as a landmark for Mississippi riverboats and excursion vessels.
Click ahead to learn about some of our favorite things to do in Dubuque. Want to share your ideas? Leave a comment below or on Midwest Living®'s page on Facebook.
Pictured: Crowds flock to Dubuque each June for America's River Festival on the banks of the Mississippi.
The experience at the riverfront National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium includes a touch tank of Mississippi snails, the chance to tour a 1934 steamer and views into six big aquariums full of river creatures. Watch for special events (ice sculpture, logrolling) throughout the year (800/226-3369; mississippirivermuseum.com).
A numbered lock-and-dam system divides the Mississippi River into ever-deeper pools, allowing the Army Corps of Engineers to control water levels. The 16 gates and 600-foot-long chamber of Dubuque's Lock and Dam No. 11 are powerful to behold, filling or emptying the chamber to deliver tiny fishing boats and giant barges alike along the river's "stairsteps." Free tours are offered at 2 p.m. Sundays Memorial Day through Labor Day (563/582-0881; missriver.org). Eagle Point Park, above Lock and Dam No. 11, provides picnic spots and views of the Mississippi (563/589-4263; cityofdubuque.org).
Lock-and-Dam System 
Eagle Point Park 
Roses, woodland wildflowers, water and shade gardens, and hostas flourish on 52 acres. The Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Gardens is known especially for its hostas, with 13,000 plants and 700 varieties (563/556-2100; dubuquearboretum.com).
Iowa's only authentic paddle wheeler, The Spirit of Dubuque, and the modern yacht Miss Dubuque cruise the Mississippi on sightseeing or dinner cruises, May through October (563/583-8093; dubuqueriverrides.com).
Dubuque River Rides 
The 26-mile cycling and hiking Heritage Trail runs from just north of Dubuque west to Dyersville, passing by limestone bluffs, interpretive sites, railroad artifacts and fossil collecting at the trail midpoint in Graf (563/556-6745; dubuquecounty.org).
Cloistered nuns at Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey churn out creamy confections -- 60,000 pound of caramels and 10,000 pounds of mint and hazelnut meltaways annually -- at this organic farm that's open for tours (866/556-3400; www.trappistine.com). Or visit the Mount Carmel Motherhouse, of the Sisters of Charity, overlooking the river (563/588-2351; www.bvmcong.org).
Sisters of Charity 
A 1,387-acre national historic landmark encompasses soaring limestone canyons, dense old timber and the Mississippi River backwater of Catfish Creek. The Mines of Spain State Recreation Area maintains 12 miles of hiking trails and 4 miles of ski trails. Among the areas to explore: A bird-and-butterfly garden, woodland flower gardens, a historic farm site and the 1897 Julien Dubuque Monument (left) (563/556-0620; minesofspain.org).
In 1882, a wealthy citizen built a railway up the bluffs in Dubuque as a way to quickly return to his house. After three fires and several changes in ownership through the years, the rebuilt Fenelon Place Elevator now bills itself as the world's shortest and steepest railway. It starts in Cable Car Square (home to two-dozen shops, galleries and restaurants) and ends at a bluff top overlooking the city (563/582-6496; dbq.com/fenplco).
Established in 1874, the Dubuque Museum of Art -- Iowa's oldest cultural institution -- shows national and regional art, including pieces from Iowa artist Grant Wood's collection. One gallery focuses on local working artists (563/557-1851; dbqart.com).
Daily narrated tours offered through Dubuque by Carriage depart from Cable Car Square. A variety of horse-drawn carriage and horse-drawn streetcar tours take visitors by 18th-century landmarks, Victorian mansions and other areas (563/580-0558; dubuquebycarriage.com).
Dubuque by Carriage 
A block from the riverfront, an entertainment complex includes a casino, four restaurants, bowling lanes and the Mississippi Moon Bar Theater hosting national touring acts (563/690-4800; diamondjo.com).
Diamond Jo Casino 
Miners discovered Crystal Lake Cave in 1868 after drilling 40 feet into the ground to look for a lead vein. Instead, they found a natural wonder. The cave, 3 miles south of Dubuque, is open May through October (563/556-6451; crystallakecave.com).
Crystal Lake Cave 
The picturesque chateau of Park Farm Winery, with a tasting room and retail shop, soars above the tiny burg of Bankston (17 miles west of Dubuque). Buy a bottle, and head to the back deck for the valley view of farm and forest (563/557-3727; parkfarmwinery.com).
Park Farm Winery 
This century-old family farm added "Is this heaven?" to movie-quote history (25 miles west of Dubuque, in Dyersville). Sit in the bleachers, run the bases or bat a few balls (888/875-8404; fieldofdreamsmoviesite.com).