Apr 27 2011
As I begin making plans for the coming summer, I like to look back at things we’ve enjoyed in the past. Last summer, our “big” family vacation was a week spent in Iowa. While Iowa may not be the first destination you think of when you think “vacation,” we found lots to do there and could have spent several more weeks exploring this beautiful state.
One of our favorite days was the one spent in Dubuque. This beautiful old city on the Mississippi River has attractions for every interest, from the Mines of Spain recreation area to a large casino. These were our Dubuque highlights.
- National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium. I’d heard good things about this museum, and it did not fail to impress. Set in two buildings with outdoor exhibits in between, this museum encompasses many aspects of the river. Kids will love the hands-on area upstairs in the main building, or “steering” a steamboat. Wildlife and aquatic exhibits tell of creatures that live along the river. Mark Twain, who so loved the river, has a section of his own that includes Tom Sawyer’s cave and a riverboat model. Museum staff were very friendly and helpful throughout the museum. My highlight of the day was the kids “reading” a book with Mark Twain himself. The Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium tells the story of the river in an interesting way.
- Spirit of Dubuque. After you learn about the river at the museum, step aboard the Spirit of Dubuque steamboat replica for a leisurely narrated ride on the river. Whether you sit on the open-air deck or down below in the air conditioning, you can learn about the river from a new vantage point. If you’re lucky, you can visit the captain in the pilothouse before the boat returns to the dock.
- Fenelon Place Elevator. This small cable car that runs up the river bluff dates back to the 1800′s. At the bottom, you’ll find unique stores and shops, and at the top there are beautiful views of Dubuque and the surrounding area. It’s an old-fashioned ride that’s functional and fun, and only costs a dollar or two per person.
- Dubuque Museum of Art. Located downtown near the clock tower, the Dubuque Art Museum isn’t large. It is, however, free, and shows off some works by Grant Wood as well as other artists. It’s worth a stop.
If you have more time in the Dubuque area, check out Dyersville, where you can see the Field of Dreams Movie Site and National Farm Toy Museum, or Galena, Illinois, former home of President Ulysses S Grant that is now filled with resorts and unique shops.