As you drive into town, your eyes will almost certainly be drawn to the majestic building in downtown Dubuque. That’s the county courthouse. You’ll learn about that later. Dubuque has a nice collection of historic architecture, including some truly amazing churches, and a once moribund downtown that is now alive late into the night.
The Dubuque Welcome Center is in the Lower Main historic district (300 Main St.; 800.798.8844/563.556.4372); it is a good place to grab a few brochures, buy a t-shirt, and ask for directions.
Dubuque came to life because of lead. In the early 1700s, Pierre-Charles Le Sueur noted the locations of lead mines in the area. By the mid-1700s, Sauk and Mesquakie had arrived and had learned of the potential value of the lead deposits. In 1780, Joseph-Baptiste Parent set up a trading post on the Little Maquoketa River with about 16 men and made an effort to mine lead. His trading post came to a premature end, however, when he was taken prisoner in April 1780 by a British agent because, unknown to Parent, Great Britain and France were at war. Oops.
Lead mining became big business when Julien Dubuque rode into town. In September 1788 Dubuque met with Mesquakie leaders and negotiated exclusive mining rights on Indian lands west of the river—an area once estimated to be twenty-one miles long and nine miles wide. Dubuque joined a small but thriving community of mixed-race residents (mostly French fur traders who married Indian women).
After Dubuque’s died in 1810, about 250 Mesquakie lived in a village along Catfish Creek. Concerned about losing their lead mines to the Americans (their territory was still off-limits to Americans) they continued to mine and smelt the lead themselves. At the same time, lead mining on east side of the river was growing rapidly and thousands of white settlers were crossing the river, illegally. They were forced out by federal troops, but, by 1832, the Mesquakie were forced to abandon the mines because of continuing hostilities with nearby Sioux. A short time later, the Mesquakie lost ownership of the mines permanently as part of the settlement of the Black Hawk War.
Within a short time, mining camps sprung up along the west side of the Mississippi River. The area that became known as Dubuque’s Mines evolved into the town of Dubuque in 1834. While lead mining was good business, it was never as prosperous as in neighboring areas. Good agricultural prospects lured many miners into farming; some miners left in the California Gold Rush; some mines were plagued by high water levels that prevented extracting the ore. Lead mining’s mercurial history was essentially finished in Dubuque by the 1850s.
Early settlers moved into a territory with no official government and settled on land for which title was uncertain. One document described Dubuque as a lawless territory of “dram shops where armed men congregated to drink and fight.” Maybe that’s why Joseph Smith, in 1834, sent a Mormon elder from Nauvoo to the Dubuque mines to preach to the unwashed masses.
George Harrison (of Galena, not Liverpool, UK) tried to get a head start on the town creation process by laying out a few lots in 1833, but the first official plat did not happen until 1837. By the 1840s, Dubuque was transforming from a rough-and-tumble mining camp into a civilized town, more or less. Log cabins were replaced by stone and brick buildings; streets were created; and local industry expanded beyond mining.
In the 1840s locals adopted the nickname of “Key City” because of Dubuque’s role in expanding settlement across Iowa and points west. In the 1850s Dubuque’s population, fueled by the arrival of immigrants from Ireland and Germany, grew from 3,108 to 14,319. Wealthier residents built houses on the bluff; downtown was populated with hotels that were often full of single men and a few families looking for temporary housing on their way elsewhere. Steamboats propelled further growth, and Dubuque remained Iowa’s largest city until 1875.
During the Civil War, a substantial number of Dubuquers had pro-Southern leanings, even though only a very small percentage of its population had ties to the South. Its Democratic politics were largely anti-Catholic and anti-foreigner, influenced by the Know Nothing movement. In the 1860 presidential election, Dubuque city went for Stephen A. Douglas, the Illinois senator who was certainly no abolitionist. Nevertheless, Dubuque contributed a substantial number of volunteers to the Union Army.
Although railroad construction was booming on the east side of the Mississippi River (the railroads reached Dunleith, now known as East Dubuque, in 1855), a few unsuccessful attempts were made to build railroads from Dubuque to the west. It wasn’t until after the Civil War that railroad construction took off in earnest. An important link was completed in 1869 when Dubuque’s first railroad bridge across the Mississippi River opened.
Even though railroads were replacing steamboats, river traffic did not fade away. In 1874, Diamond Jo Reynolds moved his headquarters to Dubuque and built a shipyard at Eagle Point; it operated successfully until the early 1900s. Another boatyard opened at Ice Harbor that became the Dubuque Boat and Boiler Works; they built iron-hulled boats until closing in 1972.
Dubuque’s expansion through the late nineteenth and early twentieth century—between 1870 and 1900 Dubuque’s population doubled—was due mostly to manufacturing, particularly lumber and woodworking, brewing, and meat packing. One of the best-known manufacturers was the Cooper Wagon Works, which began in the 1860s and was nationally renowned for its exceptionally solid wagons. Even as Dubuque’s population grew, the city didn’t see the waves of immigrants in the early 1900s that other American cities saw. By 1915, only one of eight Dubuquers was foreign born.
The city’s culture was heavily influenced by Germans and therefore stung deeply by the rise in anti-German sentiment with World War I. In May 1918, Iowa Governor Harding issued the infamous “Babel Proclamation” that prohibited the speaking of foreign languages in public—including on the telephone, at church, and at school. Even after World War I, anti-foreigner sentiment continued to increase in Dubuque and the Ku Klux Klan gained a foothold. Dubuquers may have been crankier than the rest of the nation in the 1920s, because the economic boom that the United States experienced largely bypassed them. They also suffered greater hardship during the Great Depression than the country as a whole. The local economy received a boost from Roosevelt’s public works projects; two in particular had a lasting impact: the building of Lock and Dam #11 and the reshaping of Eagle Point Park.
With the end of World War II, Dubuque finally got some good economic news: the Dubuque Packing Company had a new owner and began a robust expansion, and the John Deere Company built a massive factory at Peru Bottoms. The record flood of 1965 gave the impetus to build a flood wall. Completed in 1973, the new wall was built for a 30-foot crest and opened the flood plains to new development.
Dubuque fell victim to the misguided urban renewal philosophies of the 1970s and 1980s and leveled large sections of old neighborhoods as new development (and housing) pushed west; as in many other places, the anticipated new development never really materialized. Gradually, historic preservation took root in the 1980s and beyond. Like many old industrial towns, the 1980s were tough in Dubuque. The recession resulted in big-time job losses, strikes, and a steep decline in union jobs; the city never regained those manufacturing jobs. Dubuque today remains something of an enigma. What can you say about a town that has elected as mayors an avid Harley rider known as “Poor Boy” and a nun?
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Attractions: North Dubuque
Mathias Ham was an early lead miner in the region—too early, in fact. His first attempt to make money involved organizing a group of 50 miners and taking them, illegally, across the Mississippi into Indian lands. They were eventually forced out by federal troops. After the Black Hawk War, mining opened up and Mathias Ham moved in, legally, and got rich. Over the years, however, he lost most of his money on unsuccessful business ventures, such as the failed town of Eagle Point. When he died, his mansion was his last remaining asset. That house is now the Mathias Ham House Historic Site (2241 Lincoln Ave.; 800.226.3369/563.557.9545; daily 10–5; $5). Constructed of native limestone, the house looks solid and imposing from the outside but the interior has an understated elegance. Docents in period costume will guide you around the house after a ten-minute video narrated by local celebrity Kate Mulgrew of Star Trek: Voyager fame. The house is stocked with period furnishings (but few are original to the house), and the guides do a fine job of explaining their functions.
Just around the corner from the Ham House is Eagle Point Park (2601 Shiras Ave.; 563.589.4238). The park was created in 1909 and underwent considerable renovation during the Depression thanks to a grant from the Works Progress Administration. If the buildings remind you of Frank Lloyd Wright, it is because the superintendent who designed them, Alfred Caldwell, was a big fan of Wright’s Prairie School. Besides the impressive buildings, the park has great views of the river and Lock and Dam #11 and no shortage of places to picnic. The park is open to auto traffic from May through October. The rest of the year, take Shiras Avenue up the hill to Eagle Point Drive and follow it around the top of the bluff to a parking lot, then walk into the park.
Lock and Dam #11 (11 Lime St.; 563.582.1204) has a viewing platform where you can watch boats locking through. At the opposite end of the levee, A.Y. McDonald Park (Hawthorn St.; 563.589.4238), home of the Catfish Festival, has a paved walking path next to the river and picnic tables; it is also an excellent viewing spot for bald eagles in the winter.
Miller-Riverview Park (2 Admiral Sheehy Dr.; 563.589.4238) is situated next to the Mississippi River and the greyhound race track on Hamm Island. It has a Vietnam War Memorial, good views of the river, and a few spots for a picnic, but it is primarily a campground. Mystique (1855 Greyhound Park Dr.; 800.373.3647/563.582.3647) is part casino and part greyhound racetrack. The casino has over 1,000 slot machines and 16 gaming tables in 30,000 square feet.
Attractions: Port of Dubuque
The Port of Dubuque, also known as Ice Harbor, has undergone a substantial makeover in recent years. It has several places you might wish to pass the time. Parking is free and plentiful.
The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium (350 E. 3rd St.; 800.226.3369/563.557.9545), an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institute, is one of the best museums along the Mississippi River. Indoor exhibits include displays of aquatic life native to Mississippi River environments (check out the unreal fish in the Main Channel display—sturgeon, blue catfish, paddlefish, and don’t even get me started on the alligator gar), a cool flyover perspective of the Mississippi River from the headwaters to the delta, the history of river navigation, two theaters, and a collection of river-related art. Upstairs, you can virtually pilot a tow (using a computer simulation) and visit the National Rivers Hall of Fame. If that’s not enough, step outside and tour the William Black, an old dredge that also doubles as a bed-and-breakfast, and a wetland ecosystem.
The newly land-based Diamond Jo Casino (400 E. Third St.; 800.582.5956/563.690.2113) has 36,000 square feet of gaming space with 1000 slot machines and 20 gaming tables. The complex also has a concert venue, the Mississippi Moon Bar (563.690.2100), a 30-lane bowling alley, and several places to eat. The Grand Harbor Resort has an indoor waterpark (350 Bell; 866.690.4006/563.690.4000), plus restaurants and hotel rooms. At the Stone Cliff Winery (600 Star Brewery Dr.; 563.552.1200), housed in the historic Dubuque Star Brewery building, $4 gets you a souvenir wine glass and samples of up to five of its wines; ask about tours of their facility. Across the railroad trestle from the winery is the Old Shot Tower (Riverfront between E. 4th and E. 6th Streets), built in 1856, it is one of the few remaining structures that was used to manufacture lead shot. Molten lead was hauled to the top and poured through a series of screens that shaped the lead into pellets; a water bath at the bottom cooled and hardened them.
Lower Main Street is the heart of the original (1833) commercial district. Reborn in recent years, Lower Main has several sites to explore, plus good shopping and eating. You can park at street meters or the garage on Iowa Street; either way it will cost 50¢/hour.
The Town Clock was originally atop the John Bell and Company store in 1864 and hailed as the most accurate town clock in America; that building collapsed in 1872, killing three people. A new building with a new clock was constructed in 1873; the 13-ton clock was stuck on a pedestal and surrounded by a plaza in 1971. Many summer events are held here, including the Friday night jazz series.
The standout Dubuque County Courthouse (720 Central Ave.) is a masterful, if over-the-top, Beaux Arts building designed by Fridolin Heer. Completed in 1891, the building was constructed with gray Indiana limestone, red brick, and terra cotta; the exterior is marked by intricate brick work, steeples, Grecian pediments, statues, and a 190 foot tall tower with a 14-foot bronze statue of Justice atop it. The gilt dome is a recent addition, completed in the 1980s.
The Main Post Office (350 West 6th St., 563.582.3674) has two Depression-era murals by Bertrand Adams and William Bunn, both of whom were influenced by Iowa native son Grant Wood.
The Old Jail Museum (721 Central Ave.; 563.582.1002) is housed, as you would expect, in the original jailhouse that operated from 1856 to—incredibly—1971. During peak times, up to four prisoners were packed into each of the six-foot by nine-foot cells. If you are pressed for time, skip the 20-minute multimedia show and browse through the exhibits in the rest of the museum; they present a general history of Dubuque and have some very cool photos, trinkets, and old signs.
The downtown area has several historic churches worth a visit. Visiting them on weekends will take some advance planning, though. If you only have time to visit one church, head to St. Luke’s United Methodist Church (1199 Main St.; 563.582.4543); founded in 1833, it is home to the oldest congregation in Iowa. The current Romanesque church was completed in 1897 and is an exquisite, beautiful, sublime, stunning temple to God that is home to dozens of Tiffany art glass windows, including five very large and resplendent ones. You can borrow a guidebook from the office.
On the other side of downtown, the Gothic Revival Cathedral of St. Raphael (231 Bluff St.; 563.582.7646) was built between 1852 and 1859. The interior has frescoes created by Luigi Gregori and art glass windows imported from London in 1889. The basement has a solemn Italian marble-lined mortuary chapel, built in 1903, that was off-limits to the public until 1997. The church is usually locked but you can ring the bell at the cathedral office during normal business hours to tour the interior.
St. Mary Catholic Church (1584 White St.; 563.582.5469) was completed in 1867 for a predominantly German parish. Designed by John Mullany, an architect with a specialty in gothic revival design who also designed the Cathedral of St. Raphael, the large—and tall—structure is distinguished by a 252-foot steeple that was modeled after Salisbury Cathedral in England. Many of the art glass windows are the creation of Bavarian artist F.X. Zetteler; they were shipped from Munich in 1912, just ahead of the violence that triggered World War I. The windows depict key events in the life of Mary, beginning with her birth (west side window at the front) and ending with her death (east side window at the front). The mural of the Assumption behind the altar was painted by Matilda Brielmaier in 1912. The mural, 35 feet tall, was painted on three pieces of canvas in the artist’s studio, installed in the church, and finished. The Altar of St. Mary (west side aisle) was installed in 1928; it is made of Italian Carrara marble and is decorated with a mosaic of Mary and houses the relics of four saints, including St. Anthony and St. Francis. While the church closed in 2010, a community group has organized in order to preserve the church and redevelop the campus.
Saint John’s Episcopal Church (1410 Main St.; 563.556.0252) was founded in 1836; the current English Gothic building was finished in 1882. The limestone exterior is set off by doors painted a deep red—symbols of the blood of early Christian martyrs and Christ. The striking interior is rich in detail: a vaulted ceiling built to resemble the hull of a ship, five Tiffany windows, and a Baptismal font from 1851.
Another old congregation, the First Congregational United Church of Christ (255 W. 10th St.; 563.582.3648) dates to 1839 but the current building was dedicated in 1860, making it one of the oldest existing churches in Dubuque. When news of Lee’s surrender reached Dubuque in 1865, the church bell was rung so vigorously that it cracked. The bell was not replaced until 1886. The sanctuary is spacious and adorned with elaborate but warm woodwork, a Tiffany window, and an impressive organ behind the altar. The organ was installed in 1869, its trip from the manufacturer in Massachusetts completed with a tricky journey across the iced-over Mississippi River. The organ is still being used.
- See pictures from Dubuque’s historic churches here.
The Dubuque Museum of Art (701 Locust St.; 563.557.1851) has a few Grant Wood paintings on permanent display but otherwise uses its space to host rotating exhibits.
The Fenelon Place Elevator (4th St. at the bluff; 563.582.6496) was originally built for the personal use of J.K. Graves in 1882, who wanted an easier way to get to his home on top of the hill. It was rebuilt after a fire in 1883 and then opened to the public as the Fourth Street Elevator. In the past 120 years, the only major overhaul was in 1977 when the cars were replaced. It’s a very fun and unique ride with expansive views of Dubuque from the top.
Attractions: South Dubuque
The Mines of Spain Recreation Area (563.556.0620) is another outstanding park along the Mississippi River. The park includes the Julien Dubuque Monument, the dramatic bluff-top location where the city’s namesake was buried in 1810. The park has several miles of hiking trails; the ¾-mile hike around Horseshoe Bluff is a fairly easy and quick hike. Also within the park boundaries is the E.B. Lyons Interpretive Center (563.556.0620), which houses exhibits on wildlife native to the area.
Crystal Lake Cave (6684 Crystal Lake Cave Rd.; 563.556.6451) is a good starter cave, if you’ve never been in one before. The cave has a good variety of formations for its modest size.
Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey (8400 Abbey Hill Lane; 563.582.2595) is home for a group of Cistercian nuns living a contemplative life. They host prayer services at noon and vespers at 5pm; the public is welcome to attend. The nuns have a small organic farm and pay their expenses by producing and selling Trappistine Creamy Caramels, which they sell through their gift shop and website. The Abbey is about six miles south of Dubuque. If you are interested in a quiet retreat, they offer a few different options for singles or small groups; what you pay is up to you.
Attractions: West of Downtown
The Dubuque Arboretum (3800 Arboretum Dr.; 563.556.2100), located in Marshall Park on the city’s northwest side, may be a bit out of the way, but you should go, anyway. The Arboretum is divided into several theme beds such as Japanese, English, sun-loving perennials, and the 900-species hosta bed.
The Swiss Valley Nature Preserve (Swiss Valley Rd.; 563.556.6745) has a number of places to hike in its 500 acres of wilderness, plus trout fishing, and an interpretive center. Virtually next door is Swiss Valley Park (563.556.6745), with more hiking trails, picnicking, and a campground. To get there, go 8 miles west of downtown on US 20 to Swiss Valley Road; head south to reach the preserve and park.
Sundown Mountain Resort (16991 Asbury Rd.; 888.747.3872/563.556.6676) will help you pass the time on a cold winter’s day, with skiing from late November until mid-March; it has six lifts and 20 trails down a 475-foot slope.
Getting Out on the River
American Lady Yacht Cruises (1630 E. 16th St.; 563.557.9700) sails the Mississippi on a modern yacht, offering happy hour cruises and dinner cruises. Dubuque River Rides (Port of Dubuque; 563.583.8093) offers river experiences in two very different boats. The paddlewheel replica Spirit of Dubuque offers daily cruises that range from simple sightseeing ventures to full dinner experiences, while the modern yacht Miss Dubuque specializes in mystery lunch/dinner cruises.
If you are itching to pilot your own boat, contact Hawkeye Boat Sales (2385 Kerper Blvd.; 800.203.8463/563.557.0313) where you can rent pontoon boats by the day.
Entertainment and Events
The main Farmers Market is next to City Hall (11th to 13th Streets between Central and Main Streets; Sa 7a-noon). In winter, the market moves indoors to the Colts Center (11th and Central Streets; Sa 9-noon). In summer, there is also a Farmers Market on the west side of town at the county fairgrounds (Tu,Th 3p-6p).
Ice Fest (January; 800.226.3369) at the National Mississippi River Museum is all things ice, including ice carving, ice harvesting demonstrations, snow sculpture, and assorted winter games.
Dubuque Bald Eagle Watch (January; 563.556.4372) celebrates the annual southerly migration of the previously-endangered species. Outdoor viewing events are centered around Lock and Dam #11 and A.Y. McDonald Park. The Grand River Center-Port of Dubuque hosts indoor exhibits.
The Catfish Festival (June; 563.583.8535; McDonald Park) is part carnival and part craft fair, with lots of catfish thrown into the mix for good measure.
Dubuque throws a big party in June called America’s River Festival (800.798.8844), with music, food, and games next to the Mississippi River.
Dubuque hosts a traditional County Fair (563.588.1999; County Fairgrounds) in July, complete with rides on the midway, funnel cakes, beauty contests for cows, and cotton candy. Outdoor jazz concerts are the featured event for Dubuque and All That Jazz (June–September; 563.588.4400; Clocktower Plaza), held one Friday a month during the summer.
The Lift (180 Main St.; 563.584.9712) is a spacious basement pub with an Irish theme in a historic downtown location. The wide selection of good beer and other beverages and friendly people make it my favorite place to hang out in Dubuque. Chatting is a bit tough on weekend nights when they host live music (with a cover charge).
The Lounge (481 Locust St.; 563.557.7768) is a laid-back place for a drink where the crowd skews toward the under–30 set.
Paul’s Tavern (176 Locust St.; 563.556.9944) is a neighborhood bar with cheap beer and a lively crowd, where you can stare at animal heads behind glass while you drink.
A new entry on the Dubuque scene, Jubeck New World Brewing (115 W. 11th St.; 775.375.5692), serves up tasty pints in a cozy setting.
Monk’s Kaffee Pub (373 Bluff St.; 563.585.0919) is about as laid-back as a coffee shop can be. The coffee is good, as one would hope, and adult beverages and live music are good reasons to go when you don’t need that caffeine fix.
Jitterz Coffee and Café (1073 Main St.; 563.557.3838; WiFi) serves panini, soup, and pita pockets, plus coffee, of course.
Dottie’s Café (504 Central Ave.; 563.556.9617) has a devoted group of locals who love the burgers, but they also do a very good breakfast of diner standards.
Salsa’s Mexican Restaurant (1091 Main St.; 563.588.2880) serves generous portions of well-prepared Mexican standards like chicken mole, chile verde, burritos, and enchiladas.
Asian Gourmet (113 W. 11th St.; 563.582.7343) has a decent lunch buffet of standard Chinese offerings, plus a good selection of Vietnamese pho and Thai curries. Bring cash; they do not take credit cards.
In a town with a strong German lineage, one would hope that it is still possible to get traditional German food. It is, thanks to Europa Haus & Bier Stube (1301 Rhomberg Ave.; 563.588.0361; kitchen open W-Sa). Step into the friendly Bavarian-style pub and dine on German staples like sauerbrauten, Wiener schnitzel, and rouladen, and, if you’re lucky, Matt is bartending, and he’ll put on some German tunage for you, too; a word of caution: he’ll probably sing, too.
Dubuque also has a number of excellent choices for fine dining. Mario’s Italian Restaurant (1298 Main St.; 563.556.9424) serves traditional Italian-American fare: panzerotti (which are basically huge dumplings made of pizza dough), calzones, and pizza, sandwiches, and pastas like lasagna, plus meat entrées like veal marsala, steaks, and seafood.
Catfish Charlie’s River Club (1630 E. 16th St.; 563.582.8600) serves well-prepared steaks and seafood in a casual atmosphere next to the marina. If the weather is nice, try to snag a table on the deck.
Pepper Sprout (378 Main St.; 563.556.2167; ) is a popular choice for its fine dining and seasonal menu. During my visit, I was served a lot of attitude with food that I thought was only average. Maybe you’ll have a different experience.
L May Eatery (1072 Main St.; 563.556.0505) has quickly attracted a devoted following for fresh, handcrafted food: gourmet pizza like chicken pesto and spinach and entrées that include steaks, pasta, osso bucco, and macaroni and cheese. Large pizzas are half-price on Sunday evenings—a very good deal.
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There are few decent budget options in Dubuque, especially in the summer; if you are looking for “as cheap as possible without camping,” consider staying at a budget motel in East Dubuque or the Wisconsin towns of Sandy Hook and Dickeyville; none of these places are more than a 15-minute drive from downtown Dubuque. Most of the chain motels are located along US 20 (Dodge Street).
Miller-Riverview RV Park (2 Admiral Sheehy Dr.; 563.589.4238) is on Hamm Island between the Mississippi River and the Greyhound Park; it is a popular site to camp and can feel very cramped when full, which is most summer weekends.
Just south of town, Husemann’s RV Park & Campground (5447 Olde Massey Rd.; 563.582.8656; generally open April to October) is a cozy, no-frills campground (about 33 sites) far enough off the highway to avoid traffic noise; the reasonably priced sites run the gamut from basic to full hookups.
Just a half-mile further down Massey Station Road, Massey Marina Park (9500 Massey Station Rd.; 563.556.6745) is in a shady, secluded area south of Dubuque next to the Mississippi River backwaters. Most of the 60 sites have electricity.
Swiss Valley Park (Swiss Valley Rd.; 563.556.6745), west of Dubuque, has a compact campground with 97 sites, 87 with electricity and 26 with water and electric.
Glenview Motel (1050 Rockdale Rd.; 563.556.2661) has 30 basic rooms which are clean most of the time, but the walls are thin and the rooms often reek with the fresh scent of faded cigarette smoke. But, it is cheap and just a few minutes from downtown.
The Canfield Hotel (36 W. 4th St.; 563.556.4331) has 54 rooms equipped with microwave and refrigerator in an art deco building that is a bit dated but clean, cozy, and affordable.
Bed and Breakfasts
Dubuque has a good selection of bed-and-breakfasts; all of these places provide a full, hot breakfast unless otherwise noted. Richards House B & B (1492 Locust St.; 888.557.1492/563.557.1492; WiFi) has six guest rooms, four with a private bath, in an elegant 7,000-square-foot Queen Anne mansion. Victorian furnishings abound and the house itself has stunning woodwork and a number of unique features, such as leaded glass in the pocket doors and fireplaces that are lined with fairy-tale-themed tiles. Don’t be turned off by the scaffolding in front of the house; the exterior renovation is no reflection of the quality of the interior.
The Redstone Inn (504 Bluff St.; 563.582.1894; WiFi) is a massive Richardsonian Romanesque mansion built by Augustin Cooper (the wagon manufacturer) in 1894 as a wedding present for his daughter (ten years after the fact; better late than never). Each of the 14 guest rooms has a private bath; the inn is within walking distance of all downtown attractions.
Clarke Manor (216 Clarke Dr.; 563.588.1182; WiFi) has four rooms in an 1854-era Italianate mansion, all with private bath. Two of the rooms are quite large. The house has a formal but comfortable feel. The views from the tower are very cool.
Hancock House (1105 Grove Terr.; 563.557.8989; WiFi) is a rehabbed 1891 bluff-top Queen Anne home with great views of Dubuque and the river and within walking distance of downtown. The nine rooms are in pristine condition and most have a Jacuzzi tub; all have private baths. The engaging owners will ensure that you have a pleasant stay.
The Mandolin Inn (199 Loras Blvd.; 800.524.7996/563.556.0069; WiFi) is a 10,000-square-foot Edwardian mansion with two rooms that share a bath and six rooms with private baths, including one room that is fully wheelchair accessible. The home is decorated with period furnishings.
The Tredway House (565 Fenelon Pl.; 563.582.5026; WiFi) is located in a nicely rehabbed Queen Anne-style home atop the bluffs near the Fenelon Place Elevator, making for easy access to downtown. The two suites are a good value.
If you want quiet and great views, you can’t beat Four Mounds Inn (4900 Peru Rd.; 563.556.1908; WiFi), a Craftsman-style house located on 60 bluff-top acres. The six guest rooms have period furnishings; only the suite has a private bath. Four Mounds also has a two-room cottage with kitchenette.
Solon Langworthy House (264 Alpine St.; 866.539.0036; WiFi) has three suites in an 1848 Greek Revival home; breakfast is an expanded continental buffet. The house is a work in progress, especially the exterior.
For something completely different, consider a night at the William M. Black Boat and Breakfast (350 E. Third St.; 800.226.3369/563.557.9545). It caters mostly to groups like scout troops, but is open to the public. If you really want a chance to sleep on an old steam-powered dredge, call at least two weeks in advance and you might be able to secure a state room.
The Grand Harbor Resort (350 Bell St.; 866.690.4006/563.690.4000; WiFi) is next to the river in the Port of Dubuque. The 193 rooms are tasteful and comfy and come in a variety of configurations; all come equipped with coffee pot, microwave, and refrigerator; odd numbered rooms face the river.
★ Author’s Pick
In June 2009, the Hotel Julien Dubuque (200 Main St.; 800.798.7098/563.556.4200; WiFi) reopened after a $32 million makeover. The results are spectacular, down to the Italian marble floor in the lobby that was hidden underneath carpet. Several types of rooms are available including spacious suites; all have luxury amenities like walk-in showers, granite countertops, and sinfully soothing bedding. The hotel also has a swimming pool, restaurant, lounge, and spa and a location convenient to many downtown attractions.
The local newspaper is the daily Dubuque Telegraph Herald; 563.588.5611.
Main Post Office: 350 West 6th St., Suite 109; 563.582.3674.
Carnegie-Stout Public Library: 360 W. 11th St.; 563.589.4225.
Getting To and Out of Dodge
Dubuque Regional Airport (11000 Airport Rd.; 563.589.4127) is served by Northwest Airlines and American Eagle. The airport is about nine miles southwest of downtown on US Highway 61. A taxi to downtown should cost less than $20. Dubuque has bus connections via Burlington Trailways (400 Rhomberg Ave.; 800.992.4618/319.583.3397), with direct service to Des Moines leaving at 11:15a and to Chicago departing at 3:40p; the office accepts cash only.
KeyLine busses are operated by the City of Dubuque Regular adult fare is $1; bring exact change. Busses don’t run as often as you might be used to—you could end up waiting up to an hour on some routes—so pick up a schedule (the Welcome Center has them) or call the office (563.589.4196) to save yourself some hassle. From Memorial Day through October, the City Trolley loops around the Port of Dubuque and several downtown locations every 20 minutes.
Heading upriver? Check out Sageville.
Heading downriver? Check out St. Catherine.
© Dean Klinkenberg, 2009