Our excursions lately have involved car rides- long or short. It’s made for some amusing conversations and interesting landscapes. Overall it’s been a ton of fun, especially when you subtract out the frequent potty stops, snack messes, sibling squabbles, and fights over temperature control. Why am I always in the direct sun- driver or passenger, east or west, north or south? Doesn’t matter. I am always in the sun!
The latest driving adventure was to Dubuque, Iowa. What can I say? I’m drawn to all water which probably stems from growing up surrounded by a lake, a river, swamps, and the gulf. Our main draw to explore Dubuque was the Mississippi River Museum, but the neighborhood along the river is full of 1920s red brick industrial buildings, most of which have been converted from factories to trendy hotels, art galleries, shops, and restaurants. It was fun to soak up the old architecture. It’s impressive how much seems to have been preserved.
National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium
350 East 3rd Street Port of Dubuque, IA
$19.95 for adults and $14.95 for ages 3-17 for general admission
The museum has a mix of wildlife exhibits with historical relics and information. There’s a stingray touch tank, waterworks play area for kids, birds that live along the river, and two steamboats that are anchored and open to walk through. It’s situated along the river and has a lookout tower for views of the harbor. There are also 3D movies.
Art Along The River
Mississippi River Walk
Large sculptures created by local artists have been temporarily placed along the ½ mile river walk for the fall season. They are idyllic and inspiring!
Eagle Point Park
2601 Shiras Ave, Dubuque, IA
$15 for a season pass
Eagle Point Park is a 164-acre public park located in the northeast corner of Dubuque and overlooks the Mississippi River, offering views of Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois all from one spot. There is a nod to Frank Llyod Wright architecture in the park shelters most of which were built in the 1920-40s.
The 1 hr and 20 min drive wasn’t boring. Rolling hills, rock formations, and of course, the river! Dubuque is just a few miles past the Wisconsin border. We went straight to the museum and checked out every corner of it. It can definitely be done within a few hours especially if your children like to run from exhibit to exhibit. I was impressed by the focus on river conservation and restoration. There was current information about ongoing projects and updates on completed projects. It was a refreshing mix of new and old. The collection of live aquatic creatures was notable as well. Saltwater critters (tropical fish, starfish, eels), brackish water friends (frogs, turtles, snakes, alligators), and even freshwater animals (catfish, bluegill, bass, pike). There was even a noodling display. I still don’t understand that sport.
We wandered outside to tour the 1920-40s steamboats and walk along the river walk to see the sculptures. Very appropriately placed was a sculpture of Mark Twain on a bench holding Huckleberry Finn. We then hopped in the car and drove a few minutes to Eagle Point Park for the views and to eat our BYO snacks. It was somehow a relaxing day and we’ll definitely head back again with a few new stops like the Fourth Street Elevator, which is a historical cable car offering an even better view of the river!
Other Places In or Around Dubuque
- Field of Dreams (25 miles west of Dubuque)
- Fenelon Place Elevator Co is described as the world’s shortest, steepest scenic railway, 296 feet in length, elevating passengers 189 feet.
- Grand Harbor Resort and Waterpark
- Dubuque River Rides offers sightseeing and dinner cruises on the Spirit, a replica of a Mississippi River paddle-wheel steamboat.
- Creative Adventure Lab
- Maquoketa Caves State Park (about 30 minutes away) is one of the biggest attractions in Jackson County and is a great place for spelunkers and hiking enthusiasts.