The Best Spots to Visit in Dubuque, Iowa

Best Spots to Visit in Dubuque, Iowa

Updated 2/6/2024

Dubuque is the oldest city in Iowa, giving it the motto “where Iowa started.” It’s full of history, happenings, and art. There’s more to see, do, and enjoy in Dubuque than I anticipated! I had originally planned to visit the area with the intent to visit the Field of Dream movie site in Dyersville, Iowa. But after researching (aka stalking the Travel Dubuque Instagram page), I knew I had to add Dubuque to my list! And I’m glad I did.

Disclaimer: Blog posts may contain affiliate links and/or ads. When you click on these links, I may earn a small commission that helps keep this blog running and support my family. This is at no cost to you. If you have any questions, please read my disclaimer and privacy policy. Thank you, Travel Dubuque, for hosting a portion of my trip. As always on Cornfields & High Heels, all opinions are my own.

In this guide, you’ll find iconic Dubuque spots and the best hidden and local spots. As a travel writer, I’m interested in what the locals have to share about their city. After all, they are the experts and always have the best recommendations! Chatting with residents, business owners, and frequent visitors is what I love most about traveling. I could spend all day talking and losing track of time with them – this has happened a time or two! Especially when I take the mister along (if you’ve met him, then you know).

Historic Millwork District in Dubuque
National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium

The River Museum is an aquarium, science center, and museum all in one! Several unique exhibits are here; you can climb aboard the William M. Black or pet the stingrays in the Diamond Jo River Center (East Entrance). These were just two of my favorite areas in the museum. The exhibits are spread out between two buildings: a plaza, a boatyard, a boat shop, wetlands, and a train depot. The museum and aquarium are great for all ages, from little ones to seniors.

William M. Black at the River Museum

Tips for visiting the River Museum:

  • Plan to spend at least half a day here! There is so much to do, and you don’t want to be rushed, so arrive early and plan for a few hours. There is a restaurant on-site for lunch and snacks.
  • You can save a few dollars by purchasing your tickets online.
  • Check the museum’s online event tab prior to visiting for a daily schedule of activities.
National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium
Fenelon Place Elevator Company

Also known as the Fourth Street Elevator, the Fenelon Place Elevator is the world’s shortest and steepest scenic railway, and you can ride it! At first, I hesitated to ride the elevator (because I’m scared of heights), but I’m here to tell you – it’s not scary! I successfully rode the elevator up and down round-trip without a problem.

Fenelon Place Elevator

The elevator offers a view of Dubuque, as well as the Mississippi River and all three states (Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin). You can ride the elevator from the top to the bottom or vice versa. We found it easiest to park on the bottom and ride to the top. Once you are at the top, you can pay and take pictures at their scenic overlook before riding the elevator to the bottom again.

Tips for visiting the Fenelon Place Elevator:

  • Hours are 8 AM to 10 PM daily from April 1 through November 30. Closed Thanksgiving.
  • You’ll need to take cash; they do not accept debit or credit cards. Adults: $2 One Way, $4 Round Trip; Children (5-12): $1 One Way, $2 Round Trip; Children (under 5): FREE
Mines of Spain State Park

One of the most scenic spots in Dubuque is the Julien Dubuque Monument, overlooking the Mississippi River in the Mines of Spine State Park. In 1788, Julien Dubuque came to the area as a miner and founded the first Euro-American settlement in what is now Iowa. Dubuque, the city, was named after him. The monument was built in 1897, and Julien Dubuque’s remains are buried at the site, overlooking the city that bears his name.

The Mines of Spain State Park has 15 trails, a chapel, bluffs, and canoe access. It is open year-round from 4 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Julien Dubuque Monument
The Mississippi Riverwalk

Dubuque offers a beautiful riverwalk along the Mississippi. Along the Riverwalk, you can see sculptures, the historic Shot Tower, the Port of Dubuque Marina, cruises, historic buildings, and the Stone Cliff Winery. We strolled this at dusk, and it made for a lovely summer evening walk after the sunset had set.

Shot Tower, located along the Mississippi Riverwalk
Where to Stay

Hotel Julien is the oldest and most luxurious hotel in Dubuque. It is located downtown and within walking distance of restaurants, museums, murals, a casino, and breweries. You can also take a self-guided history tour of the hotel and the downtown area. Learn more about our stay and Hotel Julien here.

Where to eat in Dubuque

Foodie Garage Eatery – When I saw the word “foodie” in the name, I knew it was a place I had to try. Their burger list is huge, and so is the size of their burgers! You’ll want to go with an appetite. They are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Foodie Garage Eatery

7 Hill Brewing Co. – Located in the Millwork District, the 7 Hill Brewing Co. offers a unique menu with hand-crafted sauces and barbeques, brisket burgers, and pizzas.

Nachos from 7 Hill Brewing Co.

Wayfarer Coffee – Social media inspired me to check out the cool cafe, which is also located inside the historic Millwork District. We sipped on espresso and coffee and enjoyed a late-morning breakfast. They have vegan and vegetarian options available.

Breakfast Burrito from the cafe

Devour Cafe – Tucked from downtown Dubuque, this is the perfect local coffee shop. Why is it perfect? It’s locally owned and operated by Ryan – in a historic building he restored himself. He’s the barista, chef, and coffee roaster. I witnessed him prepare orders for three customers who walked in without asking for their orders. It was like sitting in the midst of a Cheers episode but in a coffee shop. It’s small business and entrepreneurship at its finest, and you can’t find that just anywhere. Follow the smell of coffee and delicious chef-prepared food. Oh, and order the coffee flight.

Coffee flight at Devour Cafe
What’s Nearby
  • Take a sunset dinner river cruise on the American Lady. This 2-hour cruise on the Mississippi River offers views of Dubuque at dusk and a catered dinner by Catfish Charlies (a popular Dubuque spot).

  • Go mural hunting. There are murals all over downtown, including several just outside the hotel’s door.
Dubuque murals
Mural at the If You Built It Exhibit in Dyersville, Iowa
  • Drive south to the Maquoketa Caves State Park – it’s got more caves than any park in the US! It’s free to visit and offers breathtaking scenic views.
Maquoketa Caves State Park
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1 Comment

  • Cindy Ladage
    Posted 08/17/2021 4:59 pm 0Likes

    I love Dubuque, I haven’t tried some of the fun restaurants, thanks for the tips!

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