On our last road trip, we ventured just over the Illinois/Iowa border past Galena, to Iowa’s oldest city, Dubuque, Iowa. My family and I had such a fun time exploring caves, being on the water, checking out art and historic landmarks, scoping out the beautiful views, hiking, eating our way through the town, and, of course, splashing away. What a fun filled weekend! Check out what fun we had exploring #WhereIowaStarted.
Places to PLAY in Dubuque
We love a good view, and riding the Fenelon Place Elevator will give you fantastic views of 3 states on a clear day – Illinois, Wisconsin, and of course Iowa. The “elevator” is more of an incline. It is the world’s shortest and steepest elevator ride taking passengers up 189 feet.
I have to admit the ride up is a little unnerving, but thrilling. But those views are waiting for you at the top are totally worth it! Plus, at just $3 an adult roundtrip and $1.50 a kid roundtrip(5-12), it makes for a great budget-friendly experience.
Read more about our experience riding the Fenelon Place Elevator including a vdeo.
When I was doing research, this was probably the most talked about attraction in Dubuque. You just can’t miss this Smithsonian-affiliated museum! We first started by taking a self-guided tour of the William M. Black steam-powered dredge boat used to deepen the Mississippi River. We saw the engines where the grunts used to work and also saw where crewmembers used to eat and sleep. What a neat experience! We had no idea what a dredge boat was before our visit.
Afterward, we followed the Wetland Nature Trail and came upon these remote-controlled boats. The kids had a blast operating their own boat. They totally loved doing that!
The indoor parts of the museum were just as fun. They showcase creatures that are found in the Mississippi along with those found in the Gulf of Mexico. The kids definitely had a blast touching the stingrays. Plus, no extra cost!
We were limited on time so could only explore a part of the 1437-acre State Park. After polling my fellow bloggers, I knew we needed to visit the 25-foot Julien Dubuque Monument, named for the town’s founder. Plenty of picture perfect opportunities.
Exploring. Hiking. Fighting off bugs. Great views, though. #otheplaceswego . . . . . #thisisiowa #traveliowa #whereiowastarted #iowa #dubuque #instatravel #travelwithkids #travelbloggers #discovertheroad #travel #familytravel # #postcardplaces #instago #instatravel #wonderlust #instapassport #travelwithme #roadtrip #familytravelblogger #bestintravel #trekarooing #roadtrip #travelmom #discovermidwest #igersmidwest # #midwestblogger #midwestfamilytravelers
By the time we arrived at the park, the visitor center was closed. Otherwise, it would have been handy to grab a map beforehand. If you don’t mind a half mile hike with stairs and rocks, I’d suggest taking the Julien Dubuque Trail. (The one with the gravel.) If you have little ones you may want to consider parking in the paved parking lot.
After a short walk, you’ll first find a memorial of the Chief of the Meskwaki, then the towering Julien Dubuque Monument with Julien Dubuque’s gravestone.
Tip: Arm yourself with bug spray. Those bugs are fierce!
American Lady Yacht Cruises
Another unique way to experience the Mississippi River is to experience it on aboard a boat. Our 2-hour Sunset Dinner Cruise on the American Lady Yacht Cruise was fantastic. After a yummy dinner buffet of beef medallions and fried chicken catered from their sister restaurant Catfish Charlie’s, we explored the two-story yacht.
The friendly bartender gave us a little insider tip: If you ask the Captain, he’ll let you drive the boat. What?!? The kids couldn’t wait, and literally ran up to the top deck and asked him if they could give it a whirl. He happily obliged. How fun, right?
Although the sun may have been hiding behind the clouds and hindered our chance at viewing an epic sunset, we still had a memorable time being on the Mighty Mississippi.
Deemed “Iowa’s Largest Show Cave,” Crystal Lake Cave offers a fun kid-friendly cave experience. A friendly tour guide accompanies you as you traverse through the 2 million-year-old cave. We explored through the cave, ducked under mineral formations, trying ever so carefully not to touch the stalactites and stalagmites.
Throughout the cave, they have different formations with signs. Some formations need a little bit of an imagination to see, but it was still fun trying to decipher.
We’ve been on other cave adventures and this may have been the first time that we were able to touch a couple formations. (They’ve already been touched before and are no longer growing.) Pretty neat!
Tip: The temperature is a cool 50 degrees so make sure to bring a sweater or light jacket. At some parts of the tour, the floor is wet so wear appropriate shoes.
I’m such a fan of street art and was ecstatic to walk around town and view them.
Twirling with my baby. This has got to be my favorite mural from @gaiastreetart in #TravelDubuque. . . . . . #otheplaceswego #thisisiowa #traveliowa #whereiowastarted #iowa #dubuque #instatravel #travelwithkids #travelbloggers #discovertheroad #travel #familytravel #postcardplaces #instatravel #wonderlust #instago #instapassport #travelwithme #roadtrip #familytravelblogger #bestintravel #trekarooing #roadtrip #travelmom #takethemeverywhere #discovermidwest #igersmidwest # #midwestblogger #midwestfamilytraveler
Art can also be found along the Mississippi Riverwalk with their Art on the River sculpture exhibit.
A walk along the Mississippi River is beautiful, but made even more special when you can view cool art along the way. #otheplaceswego . . . #thisisiowa #traveliowa #whereiowastarted #iowa #dubuque #mississippiriver #artontheriver #discovermidwest #igersmidwest #midwestblogger #midwestfamilytravelers #instatravel #travelwithkids #travelbloggers #discovertheroad #travel #familytravel #postcardplaces #instago #instatravel #wonderlust #instapassport #travelwithme #roadtrip #familytravelblogger #trekarooing #roadtrip #travelmom #art
Gorgeous, right? Well, read more about the amazing public art that can be found in Dubuque.
We really enjoyed our visit to Dubuque. But the fun didn’t end there. We visited the nearby town of Dyersville, known for the Field of Dreams movie site. It was such a memorable experience -baseball fan or not.
Places to EAT
After all our exploring, you know that we were always hungry. Luckily for us, Dubuque has plenty of family-friendly options for food. Stay tuned to see where and what we ate.
Places to STAY
We couldn’t have thought of a better family-friendly place to stay than at Grand Harbor Resort and Waterpark. Located right by the Port of Dubuque, I enjoyed my morning runs along the Mississippi River. It was close enough to downtown that my family and I walked to all the hot spots (Fenelon Place, murals, and restaurants.) But the real fun, of course, was the attached waterpark and arcade.
Stay tuned for an in-depth review.
Disclosure: A big thanks to Travel Dubuque for providing a complimentary stay and attractions to experience all the city has to offer. I was not required to express a particular point of view. All opinions are my own.