Road Trip to Dubuque, Iowa


Did you know that Dubuque, Iowa, is the oldest city in Iowa?

Dubuque is also home to the world’s shortest and steepest elevator.

Did you know the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium is a great place to learn about the importance of the river on our east border?

We recently made the easy three-hour drive from Des Moines to Dubuque for a weekend getaway. We spent two days there but you could easily drive to Dubuque and back in the same (long) day.

Things to do in DubuqueMississippi River Museum Des Moines Moms Blog Dubuque Road Trip


  • National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium was a big hit with my kids (ages 14 and 10). We enjoyed all of the indoor exhibits about Iowa history, barges, and marine life. We added on two activities that were totally worth the price: 1) A 4D movie called The Galapagos (Yes, 4D movies!) and 2) feeding sting rays their lunch. We enjoyed watching the fish in the big aquariums. We can’t wait to return when it’s nicer to visit the outdoor activities too. 
  • Fenelon Place Elevator: While this was closed due to ice when we visited Dubuque, I’ve been on this historic elevator before and it’s a neat look into the history of this town with big bluffs. This would be a short (and cheap) activity that kids won’t forget! 
  • Eagle Point Park has the most amazing views! This park offers lots of space to run and relax. It would be a great spot to have an afternoon snack or picnic lunch. Be sure to check the days it’s open before heading there. 
  • Sundown Mountain Resort is a fun place to visit in the winter. We would suggest planning at least one full day there. Sundown has a lot of activities for families including ski lessons, a kids park for ages 3-11, and food/coffee. 
  • Crystal Lake Cave is open by appointment and worth the visit! It’s amazing to tour this underground cave and partake in some spelunking and mining. It’s easy to forget we’re in Iowa at the cave! Mississippi River Museum Des Moines Moms Blog Dubuque Road Trip


  • Happy Joes Pizza is the local favorite in Dubuque. This old-fashioned pizzeria is delicious and their ice cream is a great dessert after a long day of sight-seeing! 
  • We ate at the museum for lunch and were impressed with their menu of burgers, hot dogs, etc. The service was outstanding. 
  • We also found a build your burrito place that is locally owned downtown Dubuque. It was a very quick drive from the museum. It has great reviews and we highly recommend Adobos Mexican Grill
  • We stayed overnight at Townplace Suites by Marriott. Right across the parking lot was a great brewery called 7 Hills Brewing Company. We ordered pizzas, ribs, and a salad. All of our food was very good! 

We hope our trip provides you with some ideas if you’re looking to get away while staying in Iowa this year. Our biggest tip is to read everything and call ahead to the places you’re visiting so you know what to expect, especially with COVID guidelines, closings, and limited experiences at the venues. Happy travels!

Have you been to Dubuque? 


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