Where Illinois and Wisconsin meet eastern Iowa you’ll find Dubuque, perched on the western bank of the Mississippi River. Through the decades, the river brought commerce and success. Eventually, however, the city turned away from its river, until the 1990s, when a multi-phase effort called the America’s River project began to redevelop the riverfront. Public art, museums, a winery, historic landmarks, entertainment venues, recreation, shopping, and restaurants all connect people to the river area in Dubuque. There’s plenty to entertain pilots and their families, and Dubuque makes a convenient side trip on your way to or from EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, Wisconsin, in July.
Dubuque Regional Airport has rental cars, although several area hotels offer free shuttles. Once downtown, attractions (most are open April through October) are walkable or accessed via the city’s Jule mini-bus service. Pick up a downtown map from one of the kiosks around town or hop on a horse-drawn carriage for a 20- to 60-minute narrated history tour. You can grab a quick ride up the Fenelon Place elevator, the world’s shortest, steepest scenic railway, built in the late 19th century. From the top of the bluffs you can get a better perspective on the Mighty Mississippi and see into several states. Cable Car Square, one of eight downtown districts, sits right below the railway. Browse an art gallery, unique market, or check out the Dubuque Museum of Art, with a permanent collection of 2,000-plus works, including major paintings by Iowa’s most famous artist, Grant Wood, known for “American Gothic” and the complete collection of Edward S. Curtis’ “The North American Indian” photogravure prints. Learn about the river and its giant fish at the Smithsonian-affiliated National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium. From here, if you follow the Mississippi Riverwalk for a half-mile you can see Art on the River, a set of 11 public art installations.
Field of Dreams Movie Site. Bring your own equipment and play ball on the very diamond created here in 1989 by Universal Studios. And, every other summer Sunday you can see ghost players in vintage uniforms emerge from the corn rows beyond the outfield to play—a dream come true. From upscale hotels to family friendly properties and B&Bs, Dubuque has plenty of accommodations right downtown.Did you love the classic film, Field of Dreams, starring Kevin Costner and Ray Liotta, as much as I did? Then hop in the car to make the 26-mile drive west along Highway 20 to the
The Grand Harbor Resort and Waterpark is a 193-room full-service hotel with a fitness center, arcade, and onsite restaurant, but kids love the waterpark, especially on hot summer days. The Hotel Julien Dubuque offers a luxury boutique experience in a building that dates to 1839. Amenities include an indoor swimming pool, fitness center, full-service spa, bar, and Caroline’s, one of Dubuque’s most popular fine-dining restaurants. Pilots will appreciate the free shuttle between the airport and Port of Dubuque area. For a B&B, choose the Victorian Redstone Inn, adorned with stained glass and a Romanesque tower, which offers 15 guest rooms and suites, all with private baths and a full breakfast.
Dining options run the gamut from the aforementioned Caroline’s fine dining to L. May Eatery’s gourmet comfort food to the 1st & Main sports bar. Fans of pizza and pasta hurry to Crust Italian Kitchen + Bar, while thirsty pilots make their way to the aviation-themed taproom (note the propeller-shaped tap handles) at Jubeck New World Brewing in the upper Main Street district. It’s a good place to talk about all the sights you’ve seen in Dubuque, the new-again city on the Mighty Mississippi River.