Top things to do in Dubuque—Iowa's oldest city—include the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium, the Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, Cable Car Square, Fenelon Place Elevator, Eagle Point Park and the Mines of Spain Recreation Area.

By The editors of
April 05, 2013

Due to possible coronavirus-related travel restrictions, please check destinations' websites for the current status of attractions, events, restaurants and lodgings.

What to do

Cable Car Square Victorian buildings house unique shops, galleries and restaurants in a two-block area.

Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Gardens The all-volunteer arboretum features a peony collection, rose garden, Japanese garden, hosta shade garden and more. Weekday tours are available by reservation.

Eagle Point Park Above Lock and Dam No. 11, 164 acres provide picnic spots and Mississippi views.

Fenelon Place Elevator In Cable Car Square, ride 189 feet up the world’s shortest, steepest scenic railway for a tristate view.

Fenelon Place Elevator
| Credit: Ackerman + Gruber

Field of Dreams movie site A century-old farm in Dyersville (27 miles west) made movie history. People still come to sit in the bleachers and run the bases. More history will be made August 13, 2020, when the St. Louis Cardinals play the White Sox at a ballpark constructed just for that game next to the movie location.

Maquoketa Caves State Park Hike amid dramatic limestone formations like Natural Bridge to more than a dozen caves, 32 miles south of Dubuque.

Mines of Spain State Recreation Area A 1,432-acre National Historic Landmark encompasses limestone cliffs and bluffs, stands of old timber, and Catfish Creek along miles of hiking trails. Get great river views from the Julien Dubuque Monument.

National Farm Toy Museum This Dyersville fun house displays thousands of scale-model farm toys.

National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium Three dozen exhibits show the worlds of a bayou, backwater marsh, flooded forest and more. Turtles and alligator gar fill freshwater habitats. You can get up close to the octopus and touch live stingrays in the Gulf of Mexico Aquarium.

National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium. Courtesy of the Dubuque Convention and Visitors Bureau
| Credit: Courtesy of the Dubuque Convention and Visitors Bureau

Voices Mural Project More than 25 murals from artists across the U.S. cover downtown, thanks to a nonprofit project started in 2017. Spot them from the Mississippi riverfront to the burgeoning Millwork District in Iowa’s oldest city.

Where to eat

7 Hills Brewing Company Sample brews, like the Muddy Tugger nut brown ale, and nosh on soups, sandwiches and brisket in a former warehouse in the Historic Millwork District.

Brazen Open Kitchen Taste the work of Kevin Scharpf, who appeared on Bravo’s Top Chef. Try an elderflower gin cocktail frothed with egg white, salmon with vegan risotto, or duck confit tacos, featuring tomato ceviche, cilantro and corn tortillas.

Copper Kettle Craft beer and comfort-food fare, such as house-smoked pork ribs or chicken linguine, have made this a local favorite. Copper Kettle's Facebook page

L.May Eatery Named for the owner’s grandmother, this charming spot elevates comfort food (pizza, tacos, pork shanks, stuffed chicken) to gourmet status with farm-fresh ingredients.

Catfish Charlie's River Club In a casual setting, enjoy Cajun cornmeal catfish along with Mississippi River views.

Mario's Italian Restaurant Try the panzerotti, a doughy pizza turnover, at a long-standing favorite.

Pepper Sprout Reserve your spot for the gourmet, seasonal Midwestern cuisine prepared with upscale flair. Atmosphere and service are top-shelf.

Stone Cliff Winery Room Live music some nights makes a perfect pairing for Iowa wine.

Where to stay

Grand Harbor Resort and Waterpark The multi-story hotel and indoor water park stands on the Mississippi riverfront.

The Hancock House Sink into queen-size feather beds at this bluff-top Queen Anne Victorian bed-and-breakfast.

Hotel Julien Dubuque An elegant lobby preserves 180 years of history in wood-paneled columns and golden elevators, while cozy, updated rooms overlook the Mississippi River. A spa, indoor pool and restaurant round out your stay.

Hotel Julien Dubuque.

Four Mounds Bed and Breakfast The rooms are handsome at this inn overlooking the Mississippi. The Majestic River suite, with a sleeping porch, is a stunner.

For information: Dubuque Convention and Visitors Bureau