If you are looking for the best things to do in Dubuque IA, then you have come to the right place.
Dubuque, one of the oldest cities in Iowa, is a popular tourist attraction in Midwest. It is also the best place to learn about the majestic Mississippi River.
Earlier, the city was a small mining town but it has grown to become a popular modern city with an amazing art scene and several outdoor activities.
From marveling at 19th-century architecture to scenic riverfront walks, there are a lot of things to do in Dubuque Iowa.
Whether you are looking to spend a day or a weekend here, check out our list of the 15 best things to do in Dubuque Iowa.
15 best things to do in Dubuque IA You Shouldn’t Miss
Veterans Memorial Plaza
One of the top things to do in Dubuque IA is to visit the Veterans Memorial Plaza.
This idea was given by US Marine Louis Kartman who had served in the Korean War along with the Frozen Chosin Reservoir Battle.
At the time of construction, the memorial featured a curved wall dedicated to the members that served in all these services and wars.
Recently, in 2021, the memorial plaza was improved with funding by Dubuque Racing Association. A concrete path was added that turns into a boardwalk projection over a pond.
There is a moving sculpture named ‘Skyward’ placed at the end of the boardwalk which has a hidden poem etched within it.
A visit to this place will fill you with both awe and pride for the brave countrymen that served our country.
Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Gardens
Another amazing attraction in Dubuque to visit is the Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Gardens on the outskirts.
It is a collection of beautiful gardens where over 13,000 plants can be found of 700 unique varieties.
The 50-acre garden is managed by a set of volunteers and is one of the largest volunteer-run botanical gardens in the United States of America.
One of the top Dubuque activities to enjoy in the city is visiting the beautiful gardens here.
This includes the Japanese Garden, English Knot Garden, Rose Garden, Children’s Flower and Vegetable Garden, and more.
If you plan a trip during summer or spring, you can even catch one of the happening events in Dubuque gardens. There are concerts held every Sunday evening here during those months.
Eagle Point Park
The city of Dubuque IA is home to many amazing parks and Eagle Point Park is one of them.
This Dubuque attraction was opened in 1930s and is located on a bluff over the Mississippi and the Lock and Dam No. 11.
From this 160-acres big public park, visitors can enjoy beautiful vistas of the towns in Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin.
The park features a range of facilities including Terrace Room, Shiras Memorial Pavilion, Veranda Rooms, and so on.
There is also a rock garden, a fish pond, 6 tennis courts, and more to keep the visitors entertained.
If you are looking for a fun thing to do in Dubuque IA, then plan a visit to Eagle Point Park. From hiking trails to biking trails, you will find lots of fun outdoor activities to enjoy here.
Another interesting outdoor activity you might want to consider is visiting one of the caves in Iowa in Dubuque.
Dubuque Museum of Art
Founded in 1874, the Dubuque Museum of Art is one of the top Dubuque attractions to visit in the city.
This brilliant museum is home to a rich collection of art that includes over 2,200 works.
In this collection, you will find a big collection of works by Grant Wood, an Iowa artist.
In fact, some even claim it to be one of his largest work collections in the world.
Throughout the year, the museum also puts temporary exhibits in its four galleries.
These exhibits feature not only regional artists but national and international artists too.
If you are looking for cultural activities in Dubuque, then take a class or a tour at this museum.
National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium
For history lovers, National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium is a top Dubuque attraction to explore.
It is one of the best attractions in Dubuque where you can learn about the history of the Mississippi River.
This waterfront attraction features a science center, a history museum, and a state-of-the-art aquarium.
There are a lot of things to do at the museum and aquarium here.
Visitors can learn about the natural diversity of the Gulf of Mexico, riverboats, witness a historic train depot, board a steamboat, and more.
That’s not all. There are several other cool activities to enjoy here as well.
Such as looking at the Mississippi from space, interacting with river otters, learning about the importance of the river in the Native American culture, and more.
Trust me, if you are curious to learn more about the life and history of the Mississippi, then this is the best place to visit in the city.
Walk Through Downtown Dubuque
If you are a history buff, then you should plan a visit to downtown Dubuque Iowa. Here, you will find over 70 listings from the National Register of Historic Places.
What’s more, most of these buildings are stunning and will definitely stop you in your tracks.
A few historic attractions that are a must-see here are the last remaining shot towers of the country, the Grand Opera House, and the Cathedral of St. Raphael.
One of the best things about downtown Dubuque Iowa is that it has a vibrant cultural scene.
Apart from these historic listings, visitors can enjoy the trendy bars, locally-operated restaurants, wall murals, etc. here.
So, if you want to experience the historical and cultural aspects of this city, then one of the best things to do in Dubuque IA is strolling through downtown Dubuque.
Julien Dubuque Bridge At Night Is One Of The Best Things To Do In Dubuque
Are you looking to do an interesting activity in Dubuque? Well, why not admire the gorgeous Julien Dubuque Bridge at night!
One of the top Dubuque activities to indulge in is visiting the Julien Dubuque Bridge and learning more about it.
This historic bridge is a part of U.S. Route 20 and crosses the Mississippi River to join Dubuque Iowa and East Dubuque, Illinois.
Built in 1943, during the time of World War II, the bridge helped in military transportation.
This is one of the two automobile bridges in the area and is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
At night, the bridge is beautifully lit and is a sight to behold. So, whether you are a history enthusiast or a photographer, a visit to Julien Dubuque Bridge is a must.
Julien Dubuque Monument
Located in the Mines of Spain Recreation Area, Julien Dubuque Monument is the burial of the city’s namesake founder, Julien Dubuque.
This attraction in Dubuque marks the spot where he was buried in 1810 by the Mesquakie Indians.
The present cylindrical monument was built in 1897 and features Gothic Revival architecture. It offers a gorgeous view of the Mississippi which makes it one of the must-visit Dubuque attractions.
With gorgeous views of the Mississippi and modern Dubuque and an interesting story of Julien Dubuque, a trip to Julien Dubuque Monument is the top thing to do in Dubuque IA.
This is one of the most interesting things to do in Iowa.
Stroll Alongside the Mississippi River Is One Of The Best Things To Do In Dubuque IA
Of course, when you are looking for a fun Dubuque activity to enjoy, you cannot miss out on walking along the majestic Mississippi River.
The Mississippi River is one of the biggest attractions in Dubuque and attracts visitors from all over the country.
So, one of the best things to do in Dubuque IA is to enjoy the multi-use trail beside the river that connects several key landmarks and attractions.
The trail is under a mile and is popularly known as the Mississippi Riverwalk. It begins from the historic Dubuque railroad bridge and ends at the William M. Black dredge.
On the trail, you will encounter lots of public artwork and it is marked with red-patterned concrete.
Honestly, if you are looking for a quiet place to walk and admire the amazing Mississippi River, this is it.
Dubuque has some of the best camping in Iowa.
Playing At A Casino
If you want fun, then the best thing to do in Dubuque is to visit a casino here.
The city of Dubuque Iowa is home to several major casino complexes such as Diamond Jo Casino, Q Casino, and so on.
Diamond Jo Casino was opened in 2008 and features around 23 table games, 800 slots, multiple restaurants, and more.
The Q Casino was built in 1985 and combines a racetrack with a modern gaming arena. With over 1,000 slots, 20 table games, a poker room, and multiple eateries, this casino is also a perfect entertainment attraction in the city.
This is one of the reasons Iowa is one of the best places to visit in the Midwest.
Bell Tower Theater
Another great attraction to visit in the city of Dubuque Iowa is the Bell Tower Theater.
It was built in 1930 by the Sisters of the House of the Good Shepherd in the basement of a restored chapel.
The theater features three hundred seats and is perfect for watching plays and musicals.
As a result, the theater was in need of repair and was finally renovated in 2001. Since 2003, several theatrical productions have been performed here.
This theater company showcases 5 plays and musicals every year to keep the community entertained.
That’s not all, the theater company also has a youth program that offers theater classes for youngsters.
There is also a summer youth musical program that produced two musicals every year.
So, if you are looking for fun things to do in Dubuque IA, then catch a play or a musical at this historic theater.
Mines of Spain Recreation Area
Are you interested in learning about the history of Iowa and how it began? If yes, then plan a visit to the Mines of Spain Recreation Area in the city of Dubuque Iowa.
One of the best things to do in Dubuque Iowa is to visit this 1,400-acre state park, located in the south of the city.
It was owned by New Spain at a time and Julien Dubuque was allowed to mine for lead in the 1780s.
Presently, this site is home to several former trading posts, villages, and rock shelters. Visitors can also enjoy the 15 miles of trails in this state park that lead to amazing viewpoints.
This is one of the best places to go hiking in Iowa.
From the top of the limestone bluffs, you can enjoy panoramic views of the nearby cities here.
If you love hiking or want to learn more about Julien, then one of the best things to do in Dubuque is to visit the Mines of Spain Recreation Area.
Grand Harbor Resort and Waterpark
Located at the edge of the Mississippi River, Grand Harbor Resort and Waterpark is a popular Dubuque Iowa waterpark to visit.
This resort and water park features lots of hotel rooms, a restaurant, a business center, a gym, and an indoor water park.
The 25,000-square-foot water park is fun for both visitors and locals. It features many fun attractions such as a lazy river, waterslides, tube rides, whirlpools, and more.
At this Dubuque Iowa waterpark, you will also find a concession stand that serves food and snacks. From hot dogs to pizzas, to nachos, you can get all kinds of delicacies here.
So, if you are looking for fun things to do in Dubuque Iowa with your family, then spend a day at the Grand Harbor Resort and Waterpark.
Fenelon Place Elevator Company
For train lovers, the best thing to do in Dubuque Iowa is to visit the funicular railway. This 19th-century narrow-gauge funicular railway has been operational since 1893.
The second funicular on site helped the visitors and locals climb the slope at the end of the 4th street. It measures 296 feet in length and has a vertical difference of 189 feet.
The unique thing about this railway is that it runs on a counterbalance and involves both cars running simultaneously from the opposite end of the track.
If you want to do something fun in the city of Dubuque IA, then enjoy a ride on this railway.
Admire the gorgeous views of downtown Dubuque City and the Mississippi River from the top of this railway line.
Brazen Open Kitchen + Bar
After indulging in a fun activity in Dubuque, you need to restore your energy. This is why eating at a restaurant in Dubuque is a must.
From classy bistros to rustic eateries, there are a lot of restaurant and café options available in the city.
One such place that you should check out in the city is Brazen Open Kitchen + Bar. This place serves delicious New American dishes with crafted cocktails.
This eatery features exposed-brick interiors and has a lovely open kitchen concept that gives it a comfortable and chill vibe.
It is a great place to hang out with your friends and served the best Fried Chicken in the city.
Crab Cakes, Ribeye Steak, Fondue, etc. are a few dishes that are a must-try here.
So, if you are looking for amazing things to do in Dubuque Iowa, do visit this amazing eatery.
Packing List When Visiting Dubuque
A concealed travel pouch may be one of the most important items you bring along when searching for things to do in Dubuque Iowa.
It is always important to protect your personal information. Identity thieves are everywhere.
This unisex RFID blocking concealed travel pouch is lightweight and comes in several colors. It has lots of organization to give you peace of mind.
If you have a pouch already that does not come with the RFID protection, as I do, these RFID sleeves are the perfect solution.
This configuration comes with enough credit card sleeves that the entire family would be protected. They are slim too, so they will easily fit into your pouch or wallet.
If you are planning on taking a lot of pictures with your phone you will definitely want to consider an external charging battery. This Anker high-speed phone charging battery is the exact one I carry with me on all of my trips.
It can be used on a variety of phones, not just an iPhone like I have. And wow is it fast!
I like that it holds its charging capabilities for several uses so I do not have to worry about it while out and about, and if I forget to recharge it at night, it will still be good to go the next day.
My daughter gifted me with this FugeTek selfie stick and tripod setup for my birthday. I absolutely love it! It is made of lightweight aluminum and is so easy to use.
It has Bluetooth connectivity and is a breeze to use for taking selfies when visiting Iowa attractions.
Hydration is so important when traveling. You want to remain hydrated throughout your travels to support your immune system which in turn will be stronger to fight off any germs you will encounter during your travels.
You will want to bring your own refillable water bottle with you.
I never leave home on a trip without my Bobble filtration bottle. The 18.5-ounce size is perfect for hiking and it fits nicely in the pocket of a backpack.
When filled with water, it is not too heavy to carry. And the charcoal filter ensures fresh clean water whenever you fill the Bobble.
Perhaps you are traveling a long distance and packing space is a premium in your suitcase, or in your car.
Then this set of collapsible silicone foldable water bottles would work well for you. Would not take up much space at all.
You will want a backpack or daypack with you to store snacks, your water bottle, phone, extra clothes, etc.. then this foldable water-resistant backpack would be great.