Fun things to do in Dubuque

  • Cathedral Spires from the Bluff
    Cathedral Spires from the Bluff
    by Stephen-KarenConn
  • Dubuque Star Brewery
    Dubuque Star Brewery
    by Stephen-KarenConn
  • Karen on the Mississippi Riverwalk
    Karen on the Mississippi Riverwalk
    by Stephen-KarenConn

Most Viewed Things to Do in Dubuque

  • Learning to ski at Sundown-Great Ski Instructors

    by travelisfab Written May 29, 2012

    A water skier trying to learn to snowski isn't easy for either the skier or instructor by luckily for me I ended up at Sundown for my inaugural run.I was fortunate to have a group ski lesson with Dennis but even more fortunate to meet his wife and fellow instructor, Valetta, with whom I booked a private lesson later. There is a definite talent to being an instructor and she has it with her patience and little tricks & tweaks. I realize you might be saying all instructors should be like that and they should…but you know how some people just naturally have certain qualities of teaching and making adjustments? It’s this kind of attention that most impressed me about Valetta.

    Actually, as I practiced over the 2 days I observed some of the other Sundown instructors and was very impressed with their repoire with the other students. I attribute this to a great Ski School Director who hires quality ski school instructors. They need to do a quick assessment of each student’s ability and comfort level (many times without the student really knowing it) to determine the best instructor or group for them. Just as a hospital is only as good as the doctors and a university as their professors so Sundown is only as good as it’s instructors. All the instructors, no matter their age, gender, skill level, skill type, expertise or personality, seemed to be genuinely interested in connecting with and getting the students to love the sport as much as they do.

    There is definite frustration that can come from learning a new skill and I saw my share of this on the faces of others (many who didn't take lessons). It just seems like the lessons are an investment in the experience whether they are a beginner or a refresher course. Learning properly the skills and techniques is well worth the time and I highly recommend taking a class at Sundown because the instructors are great. But, I would highly, highly, highly recommend Valetta!! I definitely plan on returning next winter and absolutely booking a session with her. I know she will take the time to refresh my skills and keep me on the focused track.

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    • Skiing and Boarding
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    Dubuque County Courthouse

    by Stephen-KarenConn Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    I've seen literally hundreds of county courthouses during my travels, but can't think of a one that is any more ornate or beautiful than that you will see in Dubuque, Iowa's first county.

    The current courthouse was built in 1891 to replace an earlier courthouse built in 1839. It is the most dominant landmark in the downtown Dubuque area, standing between the Mississippi River and the main downtown business district. It has a gleaming golden dome, topped by a 14-foot statue of Lady Liberty. Although this is a working courthouse and not a tourist attraction, it is still well worth seeing simply for its architectural interest.

    The Dubuque County Courthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places.

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    Eagle Point Park

    by Stephen-KarenConn Updated Oct 12, 2006

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    Dubuque is well know as a good place to see the American Bald Eagle, and we were told that the best place to see them is from Eagle Point Park. We the found park, situated on high bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River on the north side of Dubuque. However, no eagles were to be seen on the day of our visit. Although Eagles might be in the area at any time, they are much more common in winter, and we were there in August.

    Still, Eagle Point Park is well worth a visit. It is the ideal place for a picnic or just enjoying the splendid views across the river into Illinois and Wisconsin. You can also get a very good arial view of Lock and Dam #11 on the Mississippi River.

    The park has gardens, tennis courts, horseshoes, playground equipment, pavilions, barbecue grills, nature trails, a bandshell, and restrooms.

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    • Adventure Travel
    • Birdwatching
    • Family Travel

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    Shot Tower

    by Stephen-KarenConn Updated Oct 12, 2006

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    The Shot Tower in Dubuque is one of the last standing shot towers in the United States. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

    The tower was built in 1856 to provide lead shot for the military. Molten lead was poured from the top of the tower, where it passed through a grate. The droplets that fell from the grate had relatively uniform size, and the fall provided enough time for the liquid-metal droplet to form into a sphere before landing in the water below. The water cooled the lead to its solid state, retaining the spherical shape.

    The development of newer technology for manufacturing amunition made the tower obsolete. It found a new purpose for a while as a fire lookout post to help protect a nearby lumberyard. Fires had severely damaged the city's lumber industry.

    The Shot Tower was abandoned as the lumber industry declined, but in 1976 was designated a historic landmark. Today the Shot Tower is part of the ongoing renovations to the riverfront and it still stands as one of the most recognized symbols of the city.

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel

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    Paddlewheel Plaza

    by Stephen-KarenConn Updated Oct 11, 2006

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    This enormous paddlewheel at the Port of Dubuque stands 25-feet tall and weighs an estimated 32 tons. It was once mounted to the Starboard of the Steamship William M. Black, a National Landmark Steamship.

    The paddlewheel was dismounted from the ship to allow it to pass through the floodwall gates into Dubuque's Ice Harbor. It is now on display in Paddlewheel Plaza, near the entrance to the Mississippi River Museum.

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel

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    Mississippi Riverwalk

    by Stephen-KarenConn Updated Oct 11, 2006

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    If you visit Dubuque you must take a stroll along the beautiful new Mississippi Riverwalk which opened in the summer of 2003. Along the walk you will see both old and new points of interest.

    Old sights include the Dubuque Shot Tower and Dubuque Star Brewery. Newer attractions are the Alliant Energy Citizen’s Amphitheater, a 25,000 square-foot waterpark, and the River’s Edge Plaza. Of course, Old Man River himself, the Mighty Mississippi, is the main attraction.

    The Riverwalk is part of a 44-mile trail connecting America’s River to the nationally renowned Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa.

    Related to:
    • Hiking and Walking

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    Take A Riverboat Cruise on the Spirit of Dubuque

    by Stephen-KarenConn Updated Oct 11, 2006

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    One of the most fun things we did while in Dubuque was to take a cruise up and down the Mississippi River on the Spirit of Dubuque. This paddlewheel boat is a replica of a century-old Mississippi River steamboat. It has decorative smokestacks and a scalloped canopy over its open-air deck. There is also an enclosed dining salon with decor in Victorian red and gold.

    We enjoyed the deli lunch cruise. Afternoon sightseeing cruises and dinner cruises are also available.

    Tickets and boarding for the Spirit of Dubuque are at the Port of Dubuque, near the the Diamond Jo Casino and the Mississippi River Museum. The cruise takes you first downstream, past the Julien Dubuque Monument near the Mines of Spain. Then you head back upstream, past the city skyline, through a "swing span" railroad bridge, and to within viewing distance of Lock and Dam #11. On the narrated trip you will learn much of the human and natural history of this very interesting area, where Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois meet.

    Click the link below for current schedules and pricing.

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    Cathedral of Saint Raphael

    by Stephen-KarenConn Updated Oct 11, 2006

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    If you think of all cathedrals as grand ornate buildings which are always open to the public, you may be dissapointed with the Dubuque's Cathedral of St. Raphael. It was an impressive structure, and just a couple of blocks up the street from our hotel, but when we walked up to see it the Cathedral was locked up tight. A sign beside the door said that prospective visitors could make an appointment, but it wasn't high enough on our priority list for that.

    This is an active parish, mother church of the Archdiocese of Dubuque. Masses are held once daily and three times on Sunday. It is the oldest Christian church of any denomination in Iowa.

    Although we couldn't go inside we did enjoy looking at the cathedral grounds. There is an interesting piece of sculputre in a small garden across the street from and in front of the cathedral.

    Related to:
    • Religious Travel

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    Dubuque Star Brewery

    by Stephen-KarenConn Updated Oct 10, 2006

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    This very interesting old building was for many years the home of Dubuque Star beers, established by Joseph Rhomberg in 1898. The brewery was forced to close twice - first by prohibition and later by floods. About four other beers were later produced here including Pickett's Premium Beer and Rhomberg Beer, but each of them eventually failed.

    The city of Dubuque has now accquired the building through eminent domain proceedings as part of the riverfront renovation efforts. A winery is now said to be in the process of taking over the property, but as of our visit in August, 2006, it was empty. Still the historic old buliding is interesting to see. The hospitality room of the brewery was featured in the movie F.I.S.T., as well as the 1981 comedy "Take This Job and Shove It."

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    Iowa Welcome Center

    by Stephen-KarenConn Updated Oct 5, 2006

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    An excellent place to begin your visit to Dubuque is at the downtown Iowa Welcome Center. Fortunately for us, it was just one block north of where we were staying at the Julien Dubuque Inn. The Center has a friendly staff which is eager to share information about their town and state. They will help you find a plethora of brochures, maps, souvenirs and other items which will make it easy to discover all the attractions and activities available in Dubuque and the surrounding area.

    The Iowa Welcome Center shares a beautiful historic building with the Dubuque Chamber of Commerce.

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    Diamond Jo Casino

    by Stephen-KarenConn Updated Oct 3, 2006

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    We are not the kind of people who get excited about casinos, but we did find our way over to the Diamond Jo for about an hour one evening. As is our custom at such places, Karen and I each invested $10 (a total of $20) in the slot machines. We walked out with $28 - a 40% profit for our investment. Gambling on that level is fun. I feel sorry for the poor fools who gamble and loose thousands of dollars. Virtually everyone ultimately loses at a casino. The way we play, the maximum we could ever lose would be $20, which isn't a bad price for an evening's entertainment.

    The Diamond Jo is open for suckers and other tourists 7 days a week, and 24 hours on the weekends.

    The casino also has two restaurants, a deli, and a souvenir shop.

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    National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium

    by Stephen-KarenConn Updated Aug 17, 2006

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    The National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium is the top attraction in the entire state of Iowa and is the one place you MUST see if you visit Dubuque. Karen and I spent a very enjoyable afternoon here, and wished we had had even more time to explore all there is to see.

    The Museum is excellent with all the features and displays you might expect and a few that may surprise you. We particularly enjoyed viewing many of the short films shown in various parts of the museum which graphically illustrate the natural and human history of America's greatest river. The aquarium makes no effort to bring you sharks, jellyfish and other creatures of the ocean, but you will find lots of fish and other creatures that inhabit the Mississppi river and its tributaries.

    There is also a large outside viewing area where you can see old boats, machines etc, including a boardwalk around a wetlands area were we spied several birds, turtles, and a muskrat.

    Summer Hours
    10:00 am - 6:00 pm Daily
    Memorial Weekend through Labor Day

    Winter Hours
    10:00 am - 5:00 pm Daily
    Labor Day through Memorial Weekend

    Christmas Eve 10:00 am - 3:00 pm
    Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

    Admission
    Adults $9.95
    Seniors (65+) $8.95
    Youth (7-17) $7.50
    Children (3-6) $4.00

    Related to:
    • Eco-Tourism
    • Historical Travel
    • Museum Visits

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    Old Jail Museum

    by Stephen-KarenConn Updated Aug 16, 2006

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    The Old Dubuque County Jail, built in 1857, is considered the rarest building in Iowa. Fewer than 50 Egyptian Revival structures were ever built in the United States, and the Dubuque County Jail is one of only three remaining.

    The old jail, which sits beside the Dubuque County Courthouse, has been replaced by a more modern correctional facility. The Old Jail is now a museum, operated by the Dubuque Historical Society.

    In the museum you will find interesting historical artifacts and interpretative displays. The museum also contains Jan's Grate Shop, which offers refreshments and souvenirs.

    The Old Jail Museum is open Monday - Saturday, 11:00 am to 5:00 pm.

    Admission::
    Adults $5.00
    Children $3.50
    6 and under Free

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    • Museum Visits
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    Dubuque Town Clock

    by Stephen-KarenConn Updated Aug 11, 2006

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    This very tall and imposing clock sits in the center of downtown Dubuque. The clock, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has stood over the city for over 130 years. The present clock is actually the second Town Clock for Dubuque, replacing an earlier one which collapsed in the 1870s.

    The Town Clock blends well with the other old architecture of the city, giving it a distinctive charm which we found delightful.

    A small traffic circle takes vehicles around the clock and the encircling Town Clock Plaza. The Plaza is a popular venue for concerts and other special community events.

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  • William Black

    by Eaglesnest Written Feb 8, 2004

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    The William Black is an old barge located in the Ice Habor in Dubuque. It is a museum where you can view what life
    is like living on a barge. I think school children can even go and stay overnight to get the full experience.

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