Are you planning a trip to Dubuque, Iowa and looking for some exciting activities to make your trip memorable? Look no further! You’re at the right place, as we’ll be exploring the 28 best and fun things to do in Dubuque, IA, making your trip an interesting one.
Nestled along the mighty Mississippi River, Dubuque, Iowa, is a hidden gem of the Midwest. The city lies within the Tri-State area, which is made up of the states of Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin.
Rich in history, culture, and natural beauty, it offers visitors a plethora of fun activities. Whether you are traveling as a couple or a family with kids, or if you are a foodie or enjoy being in the great outdoors, there is something for you in Dubuque.
In this article, we’ll take you through 28 must-visit places and experiences in Dubuque, Iowa, ensuring you make the most of your trip to this captivating destination. While planning your trip, you also need to understand the best time to visit Dubuque to make the most of your vacation.
28 Best & Fun Things To Do In Dubuque, Iowa in 2023
1. National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium
Begin your Dubuque adventure by diving deep into the intricate ecosystems of the Mississippi at the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium.
This museum is also one of the most popular tourist destinations in Dubuque. The museum has two buildings on its riverfront campus: the Mississippi River Center and the National River Center.
The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium features the Mississippi Discovery Center, a touch tank, an observation deck, a boat tour, and a 3D and 4D Digital Theater showing “The Flying Monsters”. Their outdoor exhibits feature river otters, a marsh, and large artifacts such as boats, a blacksmith shop, a stream, and raptor aviaries, including a bald eagle.
Address:350 E 3rd St, Dubuque, IA 52001
2. Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Gardens
Established in 1980, exploring this beautiful garden is one of the most fun things to do in Dubuque with families. Sitting on 56 acres, the Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Gardens is home to a Japanese garden and pond with koi fish to feed, Formal English, Herb, Rose and Hosta gardens.
The Arboretum, which is admission free, welcomes about 55,000 visitors from all over the world each year. The garden, which is said to be the largest public hosta garden in the US, is home to 13,000 plants representing 200 varieties. It also has a playground and picnic shelters.
Visit the Arboretum with your camera and enjoy beautiful photos and have a picnic with your partner and family.
Address:3800 Arboretum Dr, Dubuque, IA 52001
3. Fenelon Place Elevator
One of the fun things to do in Dubuque today is to take a ride on this famous funicular. Constructed in 1882, this historical cable car offers a breathtaking view of the Mississippi River, spanning three states Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin.
Also known as Fourth Street Elevator, this 3ft narrow gauge funicular railway is dubbed the world’s shortest and steepest scenic railway. It runs 296 feet long and elevates at a 41-degree inclination with a vertical height of 189 feet from Fourth Street up to Fenelon Place.
At the top, there are two observation decks, which offer a commanding view of the downtown Dubuque area. If you’re visiting Dubuque soon, add this funicular railway to the list of things to do in the city.
Address:512 Fenelon Pl, Dubuque, IA 52001
4. Mines of Spain Recreation Area
The Mines of Spain Recreation Area is one of the top attractions in Dubuque. Located on 1437 acres of beautiful wooded and prairie land just south of Dubuque, IA, this park is one of the must-see places in Dubuque.
The park features a picnic area, 15 miles of walking/hiking trails, 4 miles of ski trails, and the Betty Haupti Bird and Butterfly Garden. The area also includes Julien Dubuque’s Monument, which is located on the edge of the bluff above Catfish Creek in the Mines of Spain Recreation Area.
As part of the fun things to do in Dubuque, explore this park and engages in outdoor activities such as hiking, cross-country skiing, and picnicking.
Address: 8991 Bellevue Heights, Dubuque, Iowa 52003
5. Crystal Lake Cave
Located about 15 miles from downtown Dubuque exploring the Crystal Lake Cave is one of the unique things to do in Dubuque, Iowa. Discovered in 1868 by miner James Rice while searching for ore-bearing stones in Iowa, this underground cave is one of the must-visit attractions in Iowa.
The underground cavern is filled with striking cave formations consisting of crystals, including argonite, travertine, satin, stalagmite, stalactite, and calcareous spar. The cave also has a small pool of crystal-clear water.
Take a day trip to this amazing attraction site and appreciate the beauty of nature.
Address:6684 Crystal Lake Cave Rd, Dubuque, IA 52003
6. Art on the River
One of the free things to do in Dubuque is to explore this dynamic outdoor gallery that is displayed along the Mississippi River to celebrate diverse artists.
Every year, local and national artists submit outdoor installation art to an expert three-person jury, after which point ten finalists are chosen. You can stroll this picturesque walkway that stretches along the coastal line.
The ten artworks decorate the Mississippi Riverwalk for an entire year for the enjoyment of walkers, joggers, and families in the hopes of inspiring public interest in fine art.
Address: 450 E. 3rd Street, Dubuque, Iowa 52001
7. Eagle Point Park
One of the best outdoor activities to do in Dubuque today is to spend a day at Eagle Point Park. Situated on 164 acres overlooking the Mississippi River and Lock and Dam No. 11, Eagle Point Park is one of the most outstanding parks in the Midwest.
The park, which also offers a stunning view of Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin, has plenty of facilities, including family rooms, shaded spaces, a Riverfront pavilion, and playgrounds. Other amenities include the Spray Fountain, Rock Garden and Fish Pond, six tennis courts, horseshoe courts, and a band shell.
The park is only open from the first weekend of May through the fourth weekend of October. Add this tourist destination to your itinerary if you’re visiting Dubuque within this period.
Address:2601 Shiras Ave, Dubuque, IA 52001
8. Dubuque Museum of Art
Established in 1874 and located in the heart of downtown Dubuque, the Dubuque Museum of Art is Iowa’s oldest cultural institution. The museum is a treasure trove of over 2,200 works, focusing primarily on American art with an emphasis on regional artists.
The museum is also famous for its collection of works by Grant Wood, a rare and complete compilation of Edward S. Curtis’ photographs of the American Indian, and a number of touring exhibitions.
As part of the unique things to do in Dubuque, visit the Museum of Art to learn more about arts and regional artists.
Address:701 Locust St, Dubuque, IA 52001
9. Sundown Mountain
Looking for fun things to do in Dubuque in winter? Then explore Sundown Mountain. This resort offers a variety of challenging skiing and snowboarding terrain in the midst of Iowa farmland.
Sundown Mountain offers a 475-foot vertical drop with terrain cut out of an old cedar forest that’s spread out over 45 acres. From the peak of the ski hill, you can have a scenic view of three states and the Mississippi River valley.
This resort is a wonderful place to learn how to ski as they offer a variety of terrain and snowy fun for all ages and abilities, allowing families to experience skiing and snowboarding.
Address:16991 Asbury Rd, Dubuque, IA 52002
10. Bunker Hill Golf Course
One of the best things to do in Dubuque for golf enthusiasts is to play golf at the Bunker Hill Golf Course. This scenic a8-hole public golf course is a beautiful place to play golf with your family.
Bunker Hill Golf Course offers terrific views and challenging play for golfers at every skill level. They also offer a full schedule of golf events, a variety of men’s and women’s leagues, programs for junior golfers and private lessons.
The golf course also features a fully-stocked pro shop, a public bar and clubhouse, an on-course beverage cart, an equipment cart, and putting greens for perfecting your short game.
Address:2200 Bunker Hill Rd, Dubuque, IA 52001
11. The Grand Opera House
One of the family fun things to do in Dubuque tonight is to catch a performance at the Grand Opera House. Built in 1890, the Grand Opera House is a fully restored theatre that is used for a variety of events, including musicals, comedies, dramas, ballets, concerts, and touring attractions.
The theatre hosts different shows, including A Year With Frog and Toad, Steely Dane, A Christmas Carol, The Nutcracker, Almost Maine, School of Rock, Cinderella and Sinatra and Friends.
As part of your itinerary, check the schedule and catch your favorite performance.
Address:135 W 8th St, Dubuque, IA 52001
12. Stone Cliff Winery
One of the fun things to do in Dubuque for wine enthusiasts is to explore the Stone Cliff Winery. Located in the historic Star Brewery Building in the heart of the Port of Dubuque, this family-owned and operated winery offers wine tastings with an intimate view of the Mississippi River.
The winery also offers a delightful lunch menu of salads and paninis to go along with its wines. Once a month, they offer a Murder Mystery dinner, a fun and popular form of entertainment where murder is served with excellent food and select wines.
Address:600 Star Brewery Drive, Dubuque, IA 52001
13. Dubuque Farmers Market
One of the best things to do in Dubuque this weekend is to explore the Dubuque Farmers Market. Located in the Upper Main District around City Hall, the farmers market opens every Saturday from May to October.
The Dubuque Farmers Market is also the oldest Farmers Market in the state of Iowa. The market began operation in the 1840s in Flat Iron Park before moving to its current location in 1858.
At this market, you will see over 125 local vendors assembling a plethora of fresh produce, handcrafted goods, and delicious baked items. Engage with local farmers, sample artisanal cheeses, and indulge in homemade pies, all while enjoying the community spirit of Dubuque.
Address:50 W 13th St, Dubuque, IA 52001
14. Washington Park
One of the fun outdoor activities to do in Dubuque today is to explore Washington Park, also known as Washington Square. Located in Downtown Dubuque, this park is known for its beautiful plants and vegetation, gazebo, and a City of Dubuque time capsule.
As Dubuque’s oldest platted park, Washington Park features Benched seating areas, picnic areas, and water fountains. As a visitor, this park is a perfect place to take a break from shopping downtown.
Address:700 Locust St, Dubuque, IA 52001
15. Creative Adventure Lab
One of the best things to do in Dubuque with kids is to explore the Creative Adventure Lab. This adventure lab which is designed to spark creative thinking, offers fun, skill-building activities for the entire family.
Creative Adventure Lab offers a wide range of fun activities, including a play lab where you can design, create, build and explore, a pottery painting where you can use ceramic items to decorate and design, and rock climbing, where you can have fun climbing their 2-story rock climbing wall.
Visit this adventure lab with your family and let your kids try their hands on several fun activities offered by the lab.
Address:210 Jones St Suite 100, Dubuque, IA 52001
16. Clarke University
Looking for free things to do in Dubuque, Iowa? Then head to Clarke University. Established in 1843, Clarke University is a private Roman Catholic university in Dubuque, Iowa. The campus is located on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River and downtown Dubuque.
The university offers some breathtaking architectural and historical landmarks. Places to visit on the campus include R.C. and Celeste Wahlert Atrium, Jansen Music Hall, Keller Computer Center, Terence Donaghoe Hall Theatre and Burrows Field & A.Y. McDonald Athletic & Recreation Field, among others.
Address:1550 Clarke Drive, Dubuque, IA 52001
17. Shot Tower
One of the best places to visit in Dubuque is the Shot Tower. Built in 1856, it’s a reminder of Dubuque’s industrial past, where lead shots were made for the military. It is one of the last remaining shot towers in the United States.
Located near the Mississippi River, the Tower can be seen from the riverwalk. Standing 120 feet 5 inches tall, the tower consists of a tapered square-cut masonry hollow column form.
At the peak of its usage, the Shot Tower was making between six and eight tons of lead shot saily for use by the United States military. The Tower is currently undergoing extensive renovations to repair the damage done to it through fire and general disuse.
Address:E Commercial St, Dubuque, IA 52001
18. The Fun Station Dubuque
One of the family fun things to do in Dubuque with kids today is to explore the Fun Station Dubuque, formerly known as Vertical Jump Park.
Located in Kennedy Mall, this adventure sports center offers a unique obstacle course. The Fun Station offers a variety of indoor fun activities, including the main jump court, warrior course, joust battle beam, foam pit climbing wall, airbag, slam dunk basketball, and arcade.
As part of the exciting things to do in the city, let your kids have fun at this indoor entertainment center by exploring the games on offer.
Address:555 John F Kennedy Rd #400, Dubuque, IA 52002
19. Riverboat Twilight
One of the most romantic things to do in Dubuque for couples is to take a two-day overnight cruise journey between Dubuque and LeClaire, Iowa, on the Riverboat Twilight.
The Riverboat Twilight offers one of the most exceptional cruise experiences in the Midwest. Marvel at the majestic Mississippi River while relaxing in style aboard a stunningly replicated Victorian Riverboat.
The 140-passenger vessel has ample indoor and outdoor seating on all three decks, and wrap-around windows give way to amazing views. The trip includes breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, overnight lodging in both towns and live entertainment onboard.
One of the best places to visit in Dubuque is the Mathias Ham House. Built in 1857 for local businessman and lead miner Mathias Ham, this 19th-century house offers a rare glimpse of affluent domestic life in the Antebellum era.
The Mathias Ham House has been restored and transformed into a museum showcasing life during the era. The house contains American and European furnishings from that period. It also features the Louis Arriandeaux Log House, a double log cabin in the dogtrot style, which is considered the oldest building in Iowa.
Take a guided tour of this property and admire the beautiful interior and furnishing.
Address:2241 Lincoln Ave, Dubuque, IA 52001
21. Swiss Valley Park
One of the unique things to do near Dubuque is to explore the Swiss Valley Park. Located 4.5 miles southwest of Dubuque, this 65-acre park is along the meandering course of spring-fed Catfish Creek.
The park offers many facilities, including shaded picnic areas along the rocky creek banks, playgrounds, sports fields, restrooms, trout fishing and a nine-hole disc golf course. They also have a pavilion and a modern campground.
You can also explore the Swiss Valley Nature Preserve and Center, which is located one mile from the park. The preserve is an ideal destination for fishing, hiking and cross-country skiing.
Address:13069 Swiss Valley Rd, Peosta, IA 52068
22. Bell Tower Theater
One of the best things to do in Dubuque tonight is to catch a performance at Bell Tower Theater. Located in the basement of a restored chapel, this theater was built in 1930 by the Sisters of the House of the Good Shepherd.
This 300-seat theater company presents a variety of shows, including five plays and musicals annually. They also have a youth program that includes theater classes for young people and a free summer youth musical program that produces two full-scale musicals each year.
Address:2728 Asbury Rd # 242, Dubuque, IA 52001
23. Galena Day Trip
Looking for fun things to do near Dubuque, Iowa? Then take a day trip to Galena, Illinois. Just a short drive, Galena is renowned for its historical architecture and boutique shops.
Here you also get to explore popular attractions sites in Galena and earn about the Civil War generals and Ulysses S. Grant, and other landmark structures. To make the most of your trip to this town, explore the best and fun things to do in Galena, Illinois.
24. Storybook Hill Children’s Zoo
One of the fun things to do in Dubuque with kids is to visit the Storybook Hill Children’s Zoo. The zoo is a replica of an American farm from the 1940s and contains a wide variety of animals that a person visiting this time period might see on an actual farm.
Some of the animals that you would find on this farm include horses, goats, pigs, rabbits, cows, chickens and other assorted birds. Allow your kids to admire, touch and learn more about these animals.
The zoo also offers a short tractor-towed wagon ride that children enjoy immensely. There is also a picnic shelter that you can use for your special events.
Address:12201 N Cascade Rd, Dubuque, IA 52003
25. Massey Marina Park
Located five miles south of Dubuque, off Highway 52 South and the Great River Road, the Massey Marina Park offers complete boating access to Mississippi River Pool No. 12.
The marina offers seasonal and daily slip rentals, a marine fuel dock, as well as short-term courtesy docks. The park also has a concession building that offers food and drinks and access to other facilities. During the winter, this area is used as a river access point for ice fishing.
Address: 9526 Massey Station Rd, Dubuque, IA 52003
26. St. Luke’s United Methodist Church
One of the best places to visit in Dubuque is St. Luke’s United Methodist Church. Built in 1896, in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, which was unusual for Dubuque, especially during a time when the town was known just as a trading post and miner’s camp.
The church is famous for its architecture and for its Tiffany glass. The pipe organ, another significant historic element of St.Luke’s, was the largest organ in the area at the time of its installation. It has 36 ranks or pipes- 2,200 in total. St. Luke’s has been included in the National Register of Historic Places.
Address:1199 Main St, Dubuque, IA 52001
27. Sky Tours at YMCA Union Park Camp
Your visit to Dubuque is incomplete without an adventure with Sky Tours at YMCA Union Park Camp. Sky Tours provides a two-hour guided ziplining trip that is perfect for families.
They offer nine ziplines ranging from 300 to 1,000 feet. Each zipline provides a unique experience, and as a beginner zipliner, the first ones are shorter and closer to the ground to help you get comfortable.
You can step off the 45-foot tower and soar over the tree-lined ridges. As you switch between courses, the lines become more extended, quicker, and higher. A few famous zip lines include ‘The Hawks Nest,’ ‘The Air Strike,’ and ‘The Dual.’
Address:11764 John F Kennedy Rd, Dubuque, IA 52001
28. Grand Harbor Resort and Waterpark
The Grand Harbor Resort and Waterpark is a popular resort that is conveniently located by the Mississippi Riverfront and is close to some of Dubuque’s best attractions. The resort offers a winning combination of service, amenities, and entertainment that families love.
Grand Harbor Resort and Waterpark comprises hotel rooms and suites, a restaurant, a gym, an arcade, a business center, and a 25,000-square-foot indoor water park. The Water park is very popular and perfect for people of all ages and has waterslides, tube rides, a lazy river, water spouts, squirt guns, and two whirlpools.
So if you’re looking for a good place to stay in Dubuque, Iowa, then head to the Grand Harbor Resort and Waterpark.
Address:350 Bell St, Dubuque, IA 52001
Thoughts on Things To Do in Dubuque, Iowa
Dubuque, Iowa, is a confluence of the past and the present, where the whispers of history intertwine seamlessly with the vibrant hum of modern life. Each attraction tells its own story, be it of nature’s splendor, human ingenuity, or community spirit.
Whether you’re a history buff, nature enthusiast, or simply seeking a getaway, this city welcomes all with a rich tapestry of experiences waiting to be discovered. So, when you think of a heartland escape, let Dubuque be at the forefront of your journey, promising not just sights to see but stories to be a part of.
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