Top 12 things to do in Dubuque, Iowa

You’ve likely heard of Galena, Illinois, but have you met its friendly neighbor just over the Mississippi River? Iowa’s oldest town, Dubuque, offers plenty of family-friendly fun. Here are 12 reasons why you’ll want to visit #WhereIowaStarted. 

P.S. I bet your kids will be pros at spelling Mississippi at the end of the trip.

Take Instagram-worthy pics

Take it to the streets to find your favorite street art by strolling through their walkable downtown. (I absolutely adored the floral one at 2nd and Main.) Download the street art map and get walking.

Be the captain of the ship

We took a sunset dinner cruise on American Lady Yacht Cruises which gave us a chance to take in the views as we went up and down the Mississippi River. The most memorable part though, was watching the kids smile as they became captain of the boat and took over steering for a minute or two.

Explore the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium

Tour a dredge boat, touch a sting ray, see what sorts of creatures lurk beneath the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico at this family-friendly museum.  

Splash away at Grand Harbor Resort and Waterpark

Water park fun awaits at the resort’s attached water park. It features a huge tipping bucket, zero depth entry pool with sprinklers and small slide, small lazy river, water basketball area, and, of course, three thrilling water slides.

See three states from atop the Fenelon Place Elevator

Fabulous views await after a short, thrilling elevator ride up the shortest and steepest elevator.

Get one with nature

If you want to get your dose of nature, you’ll want to take on the half mile Julien Dubuque Trail at Mines of Spain State Recreation Area. You’ll get to see the famous Julien Dubuque Monument, the burial place of Dubuque’s namesake and founding father, along with fabulous views of the Mighty Mississippi. Another option for fabulous views is Eagle Point Park. It has playgrounds so kids can release their pent up energy.

Be a cave spelunker and explore Crystal Lake Cave

During your hour-long tour you’ll see many stalactites and stalagmites from this 2-million-year-old mineral cave. Everyone will have fun trying to decipher the different formations. You’ll even get a chance to touch one and make a wish.

Try a Gremlin at Betty Jane Candies

What’s a gremlin? Imagine combining pecans, caramel and chocolate into bite-size pieces. This signature candy from Betty Jane Candies is a definite must try but if you have the chance you must try it in ice cream form. During the summer months, the Asbury St. location offers a chocolate Gremlin or Gremlin-nilla ice cream.  

In the mood for more sweets? Try any of the freshly made cupcakes at the oh-so-adorable cupcake shop, Candle Ready Cakes. Kids will have a blast writing on the tables with dry erase markers.

Find your favorite sculpture at the Art on River exhibit 

The walk down the Mississippi Riverwalk is already beautiful on it own, but when they add sculptures to the mix, it makes for an even better experience. 

Try a peanut butter and jelly burger

Yes, you heard that right. At 1st and Main, they offer this unique burger with peanut butter, jelly and a fried egg that was, according to my husband, “ridiculous.” He claimed “it shouldn’t be this good, but it is.” My kids also tried spaghetti flatbread and gobbled that up as well.

Visit the Field of Dreams movie site

Love baseball? Well, you can’t miss out on visiting the Field of Dreams movie site about 30 minutes west in Dyersville. Play on the same field and run the bases where Shoeless Joe Jackson and his buddies played. Baseball fan or not — it’s a memorable experience for sure!

Want to learn more about this fun, family-friendly city? Read more about our adventures in this Dubuque, Iowa guide.  

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