Dubuque: 48 Hours of Fun in Iowa’s First City


Unravel the Charm of Dubuque’s Treasures and Local Delights

Dubuque, Iowa, offers a captivating weekend escape, 2 hours from Rock Island, blending history with modern flair. Dating back to 1833, it predates Iowa’s statehood by 13 years, giving it a rich heritage. Picture-perfect scenes of riverboats cruising the Mississippi River against the backdrop of limestone bluffs create an unforgettable setting. In the heart of downtown, you’ll find a delightful mix of old-world charm and contemporary vibes, where traditional establishments coexist with quirky gems. Sports fans can pay homage to the Field of Dreams, while Schmitt Island honors a fallen hero, Chaplain Aloysius Schmitt. For nature enthusiasts, Eagle Point provides a serene retreat. In Dubuque, there’s something to delight every visitor, making it a must-visit destination.

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Why You Should Visit Dubuque

Dubuque offers a delightful array of attractions, including excellent seafood, captivating Art on the River exhibitions, scenic riverboat cruises, bustling Farmers Markets, intriguing turn-of-the-century inventions, and a selection of fine beer and wine, all against the majestic backdrop of the mighty Mississippi River.

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Catfish Charlies

When you step into Catfish Charlie’s in Dubuque, Iowa, you’re greeted with the inviting aroma of Southern-inspired seafood and the soothing sight of the nearby Mississippi River. As someone who appreciates good food and scenic views, this restaurant is a haven for indulging in delicious catfish and other seafood delicacies. Whether I’m savoring the crispy fried catfish or enjoying a plate of shrimp and grits, every bite is a flavorful journey that perfectly complements the relaxed ambiance and warm hospitality of the staff. Catfish Charlie’s has truly become my go-to spot, where I can enjoy a memorable dining experience while taking in the beauty of the Mississippi River.

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Riverboat Cruise

If you’re up for a riverboat cruise in Dubuque, you’re in luck! You’ve got choices. Whether you fancy a leisurely 2-hour sightseeing cruise or prefer to lounge on a signature 2-day adventure along the coast, you’re in for an enriching and captivating experience. Amidst the scenic river views of the majestic Mississippi, each journey promises a perfect blend of cultural discovery and relaxation. With various tour operators offering these cruises, you can fully immerse yourself in the vibrant art scene of the region while soaking in the tranquil beauty of the river. Every moment aboard these cruises provides an opportunity to appreciate the creative spirit and natural splendor that defines Dubuque’s riverfront.

The season runs from May through October, so check one of the above schedules before you go.

Art on the River

Art on the River is a cool show along the Mississippi Riverwalk in Dubuque. I look for these free art exhibits when I travel because its an easy way to understand the local vibe. It’s also easy for everyone to enjoy because you can walk from the Star Brewery to the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium. Get those steps in! You’ll see different sculptures displayed every year, usually in July. These sculptures are made by artists all over, showing off their talent.

You can check them out any time between sunrise and sunset, whether you’re walking or using a wheelchair or walker. And guess what? It’s totally free! Plus, if you want more info, there are brochures at kiosks along the Riverwalk. All sculptures are available for purchase, with the Port of Dubuque serving as an open-air, year-round sales gallery.

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Fenelon Place Elevator

I got to admit, this funicular is what initially attracted me to visiting Dubuque. The Fenelon Place Elevator, also known as the 4th Street Elevator, stands as the world’s shortest, steepest, and most scenic railway, erected in 1882 by J.K. Graves in Dubuque, Iowa. Dude built the funicular because he wanted a shortcut to his mansion, lol. Stretching 296 feet long and ascending 189 feet from 4th Street to Fenelon Place for a spectacular view of the city, including neighboring Wisconsin and Illinois. Initially built by Graves for his daily commute, the railway quickly became a renowned tourist attraction due to its remarkable engineering and panoramic vistas.

I almost went last week until I realized it wasn’t operating. Open seasonally from April 1 to November 30, between 8 am and 10 pm daily, the Fenelon Place Elevator continues to captivate visitors with its historical significance and breathtaking scenery. Its enduring appeal as both a mode of transportation and a unique Dubuque tourist destination underscores its importance to the local community and tourists alike. For those planning a visit, the official website www.fenelonplaceelevator.com provides essential information on ticketing, operating hours, and special events, ensuring an unforgettable experience for all who ascend its historic tracks.

Adults can enjoy a one-way trip for $2 or a round trip for $4. Children aged 5 to 12 can take a one-way journey for $1 or a round trip for $2, while children under five travel for free. Cyclists pay $3 for a one-way trip. Pay at the top; please note that they do not accept debit or credit cards. I think the best time to visit is late September, early October.

Farmer’s Markets

Dubuque proudly boasts Iowa’s first and longest running Farmers Market, established back in 1845. Spread out along Iowa street between 11th and 13th Street. That’s a significant milestone, especially considering Iowa’s agricultural roots. They added artisans to the mix, and today, the market’s more than 120 vendors sell produce, meats, eggs, baked goods, honey, sweets, homemade pasta and sauces, herbs, flowers, and arts and crafts. There’s also live music and plenty of food trucks. Dubuque’s Farmers Market is open from May through October. I enjoyed a delicious, warm crepe from the Crepe Iron food truck.

Check out Millwork Night Market in the historic district of the same name. Fun under the stars– local food, art, and drinks with a rotating line-up of live music and vendors takes place on the second Thursday of the month, May through October.

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Convivium Urban Farmstead

Convivium Urban Farmstead cultivates community and fosters connections through food. Delight in a meal crafted from scratch, contributing to the community while savoring gourmet coffee. The cuisine is exceptional, complemented by the picturesque former greenhouse ambiance, enriched by surrounding art. Additionally, Convivium also gives classes, demonstrations, and immersive experiences, further nurturing a sense of community.

Beer in Dubuque

In yet another historic first, beer made its debut to Iowans in Dubuque in 1845, marking a pivotal moment in the state’s brewing history. Since then, Dubuque’s beer scene has flourished, with many brewpubs and cozy tasting rooms dotting the cityscape.

Dubuque Star Brewery and Stone Cliff Winery

The Dubuque Star Brewery, a visually striking five-story brick brew house in the Port of Dubuque, reflects Romanesque architectural style typical of its era. Founded by the Rhomberg family in 1898, it stands as Iowa’s oldest brewery. Closed during Prohibition, it resumed operations in 1933 following its repeal. Acquired by the City of Dubuque through eminent domain proceedings in the early 2000s as part of the America’s River Project, the brewery complex now hosts a historical display of its past on the ground floor. Additionally, Stone Cliff Winery operates an expanded winery and tasting center within the premises. Afterwards, take a relaxing stroll along the Mississippi Riverwalk.

7 Hills Brewery

Galena Brewery

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Yardarm Riverfront Bar & Grill

Whether you’re here for delicious food, cocktails from multiple bars, scenic river views, or live entertainment, we ensure an unforgettable experience. Enjoy the best live music on Fridays and Saturdays (plus some Thursdays and Sundays) with no cover charge. With energetic staff, great entertainment, and tasty offerings, Yardarm is THE premier spot for waterfront dining and drinks along the Mississippi. Don’t miss our 24-seat Tiki Bar for sunset views and delicious drinks, or catch your favorite sports on our 13 big-screen

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