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Distinctly Dubuque: 30+ Locally Loved Dubuque Destinations

It’s a whole lot of fun to do some myth busting …

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Mississippi River View – Dubuque

Ask someone at a party to play a little word association game and describe the state of Iowa in one or two words …

What comes to mind?




Chances are, you’ll hear the words “flat” and “cornfields” and “prairie” …

Then, grab that person by the arm, take them to Dubuque, and watch those descriptions disappear in a flash …

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Fenelon Place Elevator – Dubuque

Dubuque is where Iowa began. It’s the very definition of “river city”, founded by namesake Julien Dubuque in the late 1700’s. “Flat” and “prairie” are two things Dubuque is not … much of the city is built on towering bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River. The hilly terrain is unlike any other in the state, and is more akin to San Francisco than Iowa …

Located at the confluence of Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois, Dubuque’s historic charms and unique terrain have transformed it into a popular traveler’s destination. This city of approximately 60,000 is just minutes west of Galena on Route 20 and accessible from anywhere in the Midwest …

Dubuque is a river city that becomes more appealing the more you explore and go beyond the obvious. The downtown area has undergone a renaissance of sorts, with creative new independent businesses repurposing sturdy historic buildings and giving them new life. The blossoming Millwork District, just north of the main riverfront area, is one of several neighborhoods featuring new options for nightlife, creative industry, and urban lifestyle …

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Dubuque Arboretum & Botanical Gardens

Here’s a list of 30+ (and growing) locally loved Dubuque destinations. Be sure to tell us what you love about Dubuque in the comment section below. Who knows, your Dubuque favorite just might make the list!

We’ve divided the travelogue into categories for your convenience … the numbers attached to each listing are for organizational purposes – they’re not meant to imply a ranking of any sort.

This travelogue will be expanded over time … there’s always more to see and do in Dubuque!




Spend a few days in Dubuque and open your mind to the possibilities – we bet you’ll soon come up with your very own list of favorites …

Doing Dubuque’s Attractions: Artistic, Green, and Wet

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A View From Atop Eagle Point Park

#1 – Eagle Point Park: You’ve heard of a room with a view, well this is a park with a view …

The crown jewel of Dubuque’s park system, Eagle Point Park is perched atop a bluff along the Mississippi River in the city’s north end.

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As Far As The Eye Can See: Eagle Point Park

Boasting a three state view, the park’s main road leads to an overlook pavillion with the Mississippi River and Lock and Dam #11 hundreds of feet below …

There’s ample green space and paved trails to stroll, jog, and bike. Located less than ten minutes from downtown, the park is the site of special events and community gatherings. A great place for a summer picnic, it’s also a prime bald eagle watching location. In the colder months, the eagles congregate and hover over the open water around the Lock and Dam. You’ll often see them perched in nests high above the water on the bluffs …

MidwestRiverCities.com/dubuque#2 – National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium: The focal point of the revitalized Port of Dubuque riverfront area, this nationally acclaimed museum and aquarium is as fun as it is educational …

The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium showcases Dubuque, the river, and explores the relationship between man and the natural environment. A stunning complex, the Museum combines multi media presentations with historical displays and hands on interactive activities to create a one of a kind Dubuque experience …

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Some of the Aquarium’s Residents

The Museum & Aquarium place an emphasis on educating the visitor, exemplified by displays which spotlight the Mississippi River’s importance in our lives. Check out the brief film highlighting how barges operate on the river as they transport goods and materials, and learn about ongoing conservation efforts afoot in river communities like Dubuque …

Daily activities accessible to visitors include fish feedings and a twice daily “Creature Feature”, which allows guests to get up close and personal with one of the Museum and Aquarium’s animals. Don’t miss the stingray touch tank, where you can actually “pet” a stingray (don’t worry, their stingers have been removed!) …




The facility hosts a revolving series of special exhibits, so every visit offers something new and different. School group, outreach, and family programs are offered at regular intervals, and overnight adventures are offered for families and groups …

Memberships to the National Mississippi Museum & Aquarium are available, as are sponsorships. Click on the “Support” tab at their website, linked above, for more information …

The Museum & Aquarium is conveniently located adjacent to downtown in the rejuvenated Port of Dubuque area. Before or after your visit, stroll along the paved riverwalk for an unparalleled view of the Mississippi River and surrounding attractions …

It’s safe to say if you only have a few hours to experience Dubuque, this should be at the top of your list …

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Dubuque Arboretum & Botanical Gardens


#3 – Dubuque Arboretum & Botanical Gardens: A favorite with Dubuquers in the know, this peaceful site is located on the northwest side of the city just off 32nd Street …

The Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Gardens is a beautiful spot that changes, grows, and gets better every year. Volunteer created and volunteer maintained, the Arboretum and Garden features over 60 unique gardens on the expansive grounds …

Among the gardens are rose, perennial, annual, peony, English, herb, Japanese, and a hosta shade garden. It’s a great place for a walk too – multiple paths wander through the grounds and there’s seating along the way if you need a breather …

As hard as it is to believe in this day and age, the Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical garden charges no admission … who said nothing in life is free??

Visit their attractive gift shop for an impressive selection of garden related merchandise and a cold or warm beverage station. The Arboretum and Botanical Gardens hosts numerous special events during the year, including a popular concert series in the summer months …

Learn more and help support the garden’s activities directly at their website …

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Dubuque Museum of Art

#4 – Dubuque Museum of Art: It’s always a good idea to take time for art, and when in Dubuque, the venue of choice is the Dubuque Museum of Art, conveniently located downtown at 7th and Locust just across from historic Washington Park …

Originally established in 1874 and based in this location since 1999, the museum features a rich permanent art collection of over 2,000 works, displayed on a rotating schedule. Several world renowned artists works are housed here, including collections of Edward S. Curtis, illustrator Arthur Geisert, and famous Iowa native Grant Wood …

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“Shrine Quartet”, by Grant Wood

The Dubuque Museum of Art boasts one of the world’s largest collection of Grant Wood’s works, including the well known “Shrine Quartet” shown to your left …

A community focused organization, the Museum is known for its responsiveness to local artists and frequently hosts temporary exhibitions and community outreach programs. An emphasis is placed on fostering art education for children, and school groups are offered tours, classes, and outreach programs to enhance their learning experience …




Thematic special exhibits are also offered, like the fascinating pop art feature titled “Shiny, Sticky, Smooth: Pop Art and the Senses”. Check the Museum’s calendar of events for current exhibits …

Insider Tip: Thursdays in 2017 are free admission days, thanks to the generous support of Prudential Retirement …

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Up Close At Lock & Dam #11

#5 – Lock and Dam #11: Far down below the bluffs of Eagle Point Park lies Lock and Dam #11, one of many such systems on the Upper Mississippi River. Built and administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, it is one of over two dozen lock and dam systems along the river stretching from the Twin Cities to St. Louis …

Many of these lock and dams were designed and built in the late 1930’s. Over the several hundred miles of the Upper Mississippi, the grade height falls over 400 feet. The lock and dam system is designed to create a series of “steps” to ease navigation on the river in both directions …

The Dubuque Lock and Dam 11 is 400 feet wide and 600 feet long. Watching a barge go through the locks allows the visitor to get within feet of these large craft. There’s an observation platform at the Dubuque facility and tours of the system are given Sunday afternoons in the summer months.

To learn more about Lock and Dam #11 in Dubuque, click here

#6 – Dubuque Farmers Market: If you like farmers markets (and who doesn’t?) this one is a dandy …

The Dubuque Farmers Market is Iowa’s oldest, dating back over 170 years. Held from May to October on Saturday mornings, the market is held on and along streets around 11th and Main and encompasses several blocks …

The selection and sheer size of the market is remarkable … farmers, local vendors, and producers from a 100 mile radius participate, so it’s not uncommon to find produce and products from businesses in three states (Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin). The Summer Market featues frequent live entertainment, food vendors and refreshments, and a real sense of community …

Dubuque also offers a winter farmers market, held indoors in the same area … check for updated details at the Dubuque Winter Farmers Market website

If you’re in town on a Saturday morning, the Dubuque Farmers Market is where you want to be!

Dubuque: Grab A Bite, Local & Independent

#7 – Lot One: Just a block south of the Hotel Julien downtown on Main Street, this establishment is beer lover’s heaven. A revolving selection of draught beers are featured here, over two dozen in all. Included are a number of Iowa craft beers, so if you like to drink local, this is a good choice …

The menu here is sprinkled with standards and creative salads and sandwiches, and there’s a fun side patio offering views of the Port of Dubuque. Go for the daily special and don’t miss their excellent wings as an appetizer. Another good choice is the “Dubuque Dip”, a beef sandwich served in a soft roll with a side of au jus …

The restaurant was named after its downtown location … when Dubuque was founded, this spot was the first lot marked by the city surveyor. It’s a popular downtown choice to watch sports and enjoy a few drinks along with a meal. Lot One is open for lunch, dinner, and drinks daily …

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Dubuque’s Iconic Paul’s Tavern

#8 – Paul’s Tavern: Want to fit in like a local? Make the pilgrimage to Paul’s Tavern, on Locust Street just two blocks north of Route 20 …

In business here since 1948, Paul’s is one of the oldest taverns in town. A small, inviting place, the menu is very limited, but not to worry. You’ll want to order a hamburger or cheeseburger because, well, that’s what Paul’s is famous for.

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The Bar at Paul’s Tavern

The burgers are cooked to order behind the bar and served with the basics … ketchup, mustard, pickles, and onions. There’s chili at lunch time during the cold weather months, Old Style on tap, and quite the collection of taxidermy mounted on the walls …

A Dubuque original, Paul’s Tavern is a right of passage for anyone visiting Dubuque …




Insider Tip: Time your visit for early evening hours – Paul’s is very popular at lunch time and it’s not a large place …

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A North Side Dubuque Gem

#9 – Copper Kettle: Located just south of 30th and Jackson in Dubuque’s north side, the Copper Kettle is a perfect example of a gem that’s off the beaten path. Directly across from a long closed imposing brewery complex, the original Copper Kettle was a long time local north end restaurant catering primarily to the neighborhood.

The restaurant was named after the original copper brew kettle which was visible in the brewery across the street. It was revived under new owners several years ago, who have remodeled the space into one of the best looking and inviting restaurants in the area …

The menu features creative house fare like Wild Mushroom Ravioli, Walnut Crusted Salmon, Bacon Bleu Cheeseburgers, and Pulled Pork Sandwiches. The front bar is a lively spot, and you’ll feel equally comfortable nibbling on appetizers or enjoying a full meal …

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Drinks At The Copper Kettle

Speaking of appetizers, the pulled pork nachos are fantastic – they feature house smoked pork shoulder and white Oaxaca cheese, a welcome switch from nachos smothered in cheddar cheese sauce. Also on the menu is a traditional Scotch Egg, a hard boiled egg blanketed in pork sausage and breading …

Last time in, the Copper Kettle had Duber beer on tap, a beer only found locally that’s brewed by nearby Potosi Brewing as a nod to Dubuque’s long standing brewing tradition …

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Mulgrew’s in East Dubuque

#10 – Mulgrew’s: A long time favorite for late night food and fresh, hearty breakfasts, Mulgrew’s Tavern is actually located across the river in East Dubuque, Illinois …

This family owned and operated establishment has a long history, dating back to 1921. It’s located on East Dubuque’s primary thoroughfare, Sinsinawa Avenue, which years ago was well known for late night entertainment and (practically) early morning closing times …

Today, Mulgrew’s is best known for their chili dogs, which you can get morning, mid day, or night. It’s a hefty 1/4 pound hot dog liberally ladled with Mulgrew’s excellent house made chili. A sprinkle of onions comes by request and it’s an excellent choice for chili dog fans – people come from miles around just to get their hands on one (or two) …




Mulgrew’s is also a perfect, quiet spot for breakfast. Eggs, bacon, pancakes, and the like are available for your breakfast pleasure. Take a seat in one of the booths along the wall on the left, or grab a seat at the long bar on your right … package liquor is available at Mulgrew’s adjoining liquor store in the next room.

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At The Yardarm Bar

#11 – Yardarm Riverfront Bar & Grill: Locally known as the Yardarm, this seasonal bar and grill is located at the Dubuque Marina near 16th Street just off of Kerper Boulevard … any closer to the river and you’d be in it …

A popular place in the warm weather months, the Yardarm features live music, casual fare, and plenty of cold drinks. Most of the seating is outdoors, and boats can dock right alongside …

The menu is typical pub style offerings, with burgers, wraps, sandwiches, and cheese curds. A variety of drink specials are offered and the setting is relaxing and fun …

A great spot to go on those warm summer evenings …

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The Bar at Denny’s Lux Club

#12 – Denny’s Lux Club: This unassuming little gem on Asbury Road is directly across the street from Dubuque’s famous Betty Jane candies. But with Dubuquers, Denny’s Lux Club is famous in its own right – the food here is that good!

Serving only lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., this beloved west Dubuque establishment has roots back to the 1950’s. It’s family owned and operated, and typically a family member will be taking your food order and serving your drinks. With a comfortable tavern like atmosphere, Denny’s Lux Club is well known for their daily specials and soups, always made fresh.

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Denny’s Lux Club, Dubuque

If you happen to stop in on a Thursday, the open face roast beef special is fantastic … it’s sliced from slow roasted bottom round roasts and served with from scratch mashed potatoes and corn. A steady stream of locals will keep you company, many of which are such good customers that menu items are named after them.

Insider Tip: Be sure to ask about and buy a bottle of their all purpose seasoning, typically available behind the bar. A mix of spices, it adds flavor to any dish, from breakfast to dinner. Use it on scrambled eggs and sprinkle it atop burgers and chicken breast before grilling. Great as a pork and rib seasoning too! Makes a great Made in Dubuque gift for anyone who likes to cook (or eat for that matter) …

During the evening hours, Denny’s morphs into a friendly local tavern where you can catch up on local events or watch the game. It’s less than ten minutes west of downtown, just past Carter Road on Asbury …

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Bring Your Appetite For The “Magic Muffin”

#13 – West Dubuque Tap: For a generation (and then some) of Dubuquers, the West Dubuque Tap is the breakfast spot of choice. Located on Asbury Road right across from Donut Boy (see below), West Dubuque Tap has been around since the late 50’s in this location.

It’s another of Dubuque’s family owned and operated great little places, and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Daily specials are offered and the pork tenderloin sandwiches are top notch. It’s a cozy place – the bar seats about 10 and there’s a smattering of tables in the main room. The Tap is unassuming from the outside, but once you step in you feel the warmth and pride of a place that’s been making people happy for almost 60 years …

Insider Tip: The West Dubuque Tap is famous for one of their breakfast items, the Magic Muffin. Intended for the hearty appetite, the Magic Muffin consists of two sausage patties, hash browns, an egg and cheese piled atop an English Muffin. A Dubuque tradition, the Magic Muffin deserves an entry on your Dubuque bucket list …

Who Doesn’t Love A Good Bakery?

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A Dozen From Donut Boy – Yum!

#14 – Donut Boy: Located on Asbury Road right across the street from the West Dubuque Tap, Donut Boy is a local favorite that does donuts and does them well …

Open until noon, donuts are made fresh daily and none are held over to the next day (no day old donuts). Pretty much whatever variety floats your boat, they have … from glazed donuts to cake donuts to longjohns and more …

A west side gathering spot, you’ll see residents coming in to Donut Boy to pick up a dozen donuts or enjoy their morning coffee …

Insider Tip: The maple cake donuts are donut heaven!

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East Mill Bakeshop, Dubuque

#15 – East Mill Bakeshop: This welcoming bakery and catering establishment is well known around the city … they supply many of the rolls and breads for local restaurants and do a thriving lunch catering business. Located in an historic old home on a bend of Grandview Boulevard, East Mill Bakeshop offers artisan baked goods and a cafe menu. There’s a few tables inside if you want to linger and enjoy your coffee, and plenty of choices for breakfast and lunch (try the yogurt muffins!).

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Fresh Baked Dog Cookies!

Grandview Boulevard is one of Dubuque’s best drives for historic home architecture … it winds both north and south of Route 20 (Dodge Street) and some of the homes south of East Mill Bakeshop are especially impressive …

Insider Tip If you’ve got a dog pal at home waiting for a treat, East Mill Bakeshop makes dog cookies! They’re freshly baked and usually pre packaged at the front counter and very reasonably priced …

A Bit Of Dubuque History

#16 – Hotel Julien: As you approach Dubuque on Route 20 from Illinois to the east, one of the first sights to come into view is the historic Hotel Julien, located in the hear of downtown Dubuque at 200 Main Street …

This 133 room focal point of the city is the ultimate in approachable luxury. Dating back to the mid 1800’s, the exterior and interior alike have been the beneficiary of several multi million dollar renovations …

For the traveler, the Hotel Julien is unquestionably the accommodation of choice in Dubuque. Executive, Deluxe, and a variety of suites are available to suit any visitor, and the hotel offers the epitome of modern conveniences …

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Stay at the Hotel Julien, Dubuque

Each room features luxury linens, complimentary wireless internet, large working desk and ergonomic chair, fully stocked honor bar, refrigerator, and walk in shower. On site amenities include free parking, lively Riverboat Lounge featuring frequent live entertainment, and Caroline’s Restaurant, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner in elegant surroundings …

Staying here affords you access to all downtown Dubuque has to offer. You’re a short walk away from many of the establishments featured in this travelogue, with easy access to the Port of Dubuque attractions. There’s an on site indoor pool and whirlpool, and you can pamper yourself with services from the lower level Potosa Spa …




Special packages are available year around to enhance your stay – see details at the Hotel Julien website. There’s also a listing of current events and a virtual tour photo gallery at the site. A popular site for wedding, meeting, and events, the Hotel Julien offers an unbeatable combination of convenience, luxury, and service

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Dubuque From Above

#17 – Fenelon Place Elevator: Another Dubuque landmark, the Fenelon Place Elevator is located at the end of 4th Steet, a half block west of Bluff in the heart of the Cable Car shopping area …

A unique invention, the Fenelon Place Elevator was established in 1882 as a means for workers living atop the tall bluff to reduce their commute time to offices downtown. The operation consists of two enclosed cable cars which are elevated to the top of the bluff via a motorized gear system …

Today, the Fenelon Place Elevator is still used by those living atop the bluffs, but it’s more commonly used to provide visitors a three state view from the top. Passengers are elevated almost 200 feet from 4th Street at the bottom to Fenelon Place on top …

Open seasonally, it’s the shortest and steepest such elevator in the world and is synonymous with Dubuque …

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Julien Dubuque Monument

#18 – Julien Dubuque Monument: Julien Dubuque was the first settler of the area which would come to bear his name, and this monument honoring him has become one of the symbols of present day Dubuque …

The monument was erected in 1897 and marks the site of Julien Dubuque’s final resting place. When he died in 1810 he was buried in a log mausoleum at this site, which was later replaced by the current monument.

The Julien Dubuque Monument stands high on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River, the Mines of Spain recreation area, and the city of Dubuque to the north. The monument can be reached off of South Grandview Boulevard, less than five minutes south of downtown. There’s an access road and a small parking area at the head of short trail which leads directly to the monument site …




After visiting here, you’re just a few minutes south on Grandview Boulevard from the East Mill Bakeshop, which we feature in our “Who Doesn’t Love A Good Bakery” section …

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Dubuque’s Shot Tower

#19 – Shot Tower: This Dubuque historical landmark stands in the Port of Dubuque area, right next to the Dubuque Star Brewery building, now the Stone Cliff Winery (see below) …

Dating from 1856, the Shot Tower is a familiar sight along the Mississippi River. It was built to produce shot, or ammunition, via a process whereby lead was dropped from the top of the tower to water vats below …

In its early years, lead was melted at the tower’s base and raised to the top. It was then poured down through screens of various gauges and cooled in the waiting water vats below. Operational during the Civil War years, the Shot Tower was later repurposed into a fire lookout tower for a neighboring lumber yard.

The Shot Tower stands about 120 feet tall and has been rehabilitated on the outside. It is one of only a handful of shot towers left in the United States and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. When visiting the Stone Cliff Winery, walk over a few yards to view it up close from the outside …

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Dubuque Packing Company Workers Memorial

#20 – Dubuque Packing Company Monument: For many years, the Dubuque Packing Company was the city’s largest employer – their sprawling plant was located on 16th Street just west of the highway overpass …

The company was purchased by national interests a few decades ago and the name, and the Dubuque facility, are no more. But the company and their products are not forgotten by generations of Dubuquers whose families were entwined with the company, either as employees or consumers …




Today, the former site of the packing company is a vacant lot, but directly across the street is this memorial monument to the company’s workers. It stands as a testament to the company, its employees, and the community …

Insider Tip: If you’re interested in a visual history of the Dubuque Packing Company, visit the nearby Dupaco Credit Union branch a block from the memorial site. An impressive visual display is available there, including pictures of the plant and some of the product packaging …

Shop Dubuque On A Budget

Outside The Lines Art Gallery

#21 – Outside The Lines Art Gallery: A favorite for local art, this gallery shop is located in the Cable Car shopping area downtown at 4th and Bluff. In this area, you’ll find a cluster of independent shops and a couple of establishments to refuel with food and drink, all within steps of the historic Fenelon Place Elevator …

With locations here in Dubuque and nearby Galena, Outside The Lines features an revolving selection of locally made jewelry, pottery, sculpture, gift items, home decor, paintings, and prints. Every time you visit, there’s always something exciting and new to see at this creative, vibrant shop …

Spend an hour or two browsing the selection at Outside The Lines and all the shops in this charming shopping area …

#22 – American Cancer Society Resale Shop: Technically called the Discovery Shop, this resale shop stocks a wide variety of community donated goods like housewares clothing (men’s, women’s, children) at dime on the dollar prices …

Located on University Avenue just around the corner from Donut Boy and the West Dubuque Tap, the Dubuqe Discovery Shop is a great place to find gently used items for a bargain price. And who doesn’t like a great deal??

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River Lights Bookstore, 11th & Main

#23 – River Lights Bookstore: It’s so refreshing to find a thriving, local bookstore and in Dubuque, that’s River Lights Bookstore, located at 11th and Main downtown …

Emphasizing community and culture, River Lights Bookstore hosts book clubs, literary events, and local author signings. If you’re looking for books by Dubuque area authors or interesting titles about the city and its history, this is the place to be …

A warm, inviting space, the selection is diverse and eclectic. You’ll find everything from best sellers to special interest topics for your reading pleasure. At the River Lights Bookstore website, you can browse and shop for the latest releases as well as inquire about specific titles … if it’s not in stock, River Lights can undoubtedly find it for you …




The 11th and Main area is bursting with local businesses … in addition to River Lights Bookstore, Freddie’s Popcorn is right next door and there are a handful of restaurants and a local brewery just steps away …

MidwestRiverCities.com/dubuque#24 – Cremer’s Meats: A Dubuque staple since 1948, Cremer’s is a rare find … they’re a locally owned grocery store and meat market with an emphasis on personal service and quality.

Cremer’s Meats is located on Rhomberg Avenue on the city’s east side, not far from Eagle Point Park. They offer grocery products, produce, ready to eat sandwiches, party and catering services, and a full service meat counter. The latter is Cremer’s specialty – come in for fresh meat, sausages, turkey, ribs, roasts, and more. They also sell smoked fish and fresh herring, a real treat!

Insider Tip: Cremer’s is famous all around Dubuque for their turkey & dressing sandwiches. They’re exactly as they sound – turkey and dressing on a bun with a little bit of gravy. So simple, and yet so good! They’re available as single sandwiches or in party trays for larger gatherings …

The Oldest Bar In Dubuque

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Dubuque’s Oldest Bar

#25 – Walnut Tap: If you’ve been reading Midwest River Cities for any length of time, you know we always tip you off to the oldest bar in town. In Dubuque, that’s the Walnut Tap, located just two minutes west of downtown at the corner of Walnut and University …

The Walnut Tap dates back to 1935 … the current owner’s grandfather opened it and it has been in the same family ever since. A prototypical local bar with a great deal of history and character, the Walnut Tap still draws its share of college students from nearby Loras, Clarke, and University of Dubuque. Open at 3 p.m., it’s a chill place for happy hour and there’s plenty of parking in the lot or on the streets …

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Inside Dubuque’s Oldest Bar: Walnut Tap

Insider Tip: The bar’s signature drink is the Walnut Crush, or Crush for short. The owner keeps a large bottle of mix for the drink and tells us when college Homecomings come around, he sells upwards of 300 of these drinks per day. They’re really good! Of course we don’t know exactly what’s in them (we didn’t ask) but we’re guessing it’s a mix of vodka, possibly a bit of white rum, and fruit juice.

Have one, have two, but don’t have many more than that … they sneak up on you!

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Inside Dubuque’s Northside Bar

#26 – Northside Bar: What a great place this is! It’s on Dubuque’s north side (hence the name) located at 28th and Jackson, just two blocks south of the Copper Kettle …

Northside Bar’s location has been a bar of varying names for decades, with the current local owners taking over about seven years ago. They’ve completely remodeled the inside using salvaged local materials and the space retains its “local Dubuque old tavern” charm. When you walk in you’ll see the large handsome bar to your left and an overflow room to your right …

MidwestRiverCities.com/dubuqueThe perfect place for a happy hour drink before dinner up the way at Copper Kettle, the crowd is locals in the know who appreciate a friendly gathering spot. There’s a nice mix of beer on tap and plenty of room to enjoy yourself … on Sunday afternoons there’s frequently live music, and we hear the owner has quite a singing voice! Do check out the Northside Bar

Insider Tip: Ask for a gummy bear shot, a house specialty. It’s served in a small plastic cup and it’s just like it sounds – gummy bears which have been soaked overnight in Cruzan Strawberry Rum … fantastic!

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Sportsters Pub & Grub, Dubuque

#27 – Sportsters Pub & Grub: A relative newcomer to the Dubuque scene, this under the radar bar and grill is located at 26th and Central on the city’s north side. Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the food here is really good and served in ample portions.

Sportsters is named after the Harley Davidson motorcycle model of the same name, and while the bar is biker friendly, this isn’t a biker bar … it’s a friendly locals place that does a brisk a takeout food business. While we enjoyed a couple of pork tenderloin sandwiches, the phone rang every few minutes with another to go order. Locals in the area know about Sportsters and they like it, and when you come here you’ll see why …

Sportsters is housed in a corner building that housed a few longstanding bars dating back to the late 1930’s. Insider Tip: Check the Dubuque Advertiser, a local free weekly paper, for Sportster’s daily specials. You can visit the Dubuque Advertiser online too, which is a good idea when you’re in town as there are always discount coupons for various establishments …

Grand Tap at 8th & Central, Dubuque

#28 – Grand Tap: Located on the corner of 8th and Central across from the Dubuque Police Station, the Grand Tap is a small friendly local downtown Dubuque bar. It dates back to 1965 and attracts a crowd of long time locals and regulars who all seem to know one another, but happily include you in their conversations …

A cozy place with a circular bar and a few tables near the door, the Grand Tap has two beers and tap and a full bar serving anything you want, with the possible exception of blender drinks (it’s not that style of bar). Parking is available in front of the place or anywhere on the adjacent streets …




The Grand Tap is a perfect happy hour stop or really anytime you’re exploring downtown. Stop in, do a little mingling, have a beer or two, and enjoy yourself …

MidwestRiverCities.com/dubuque

Murph’s Tap, Locust Street

#29 – Murph’s Tap: Pretty much the first establishment you’ll see when entering downtown Dubuque off Route 20 is Murph’s Tap. As befits the name, you’ll find plenty of Guinness poured here, along with 4-5 other selections, usually including something local …

Murph’s is an Irish bar without all the faux Irish trappings – they’ve been around since 1971 and happy hour is busy with a mix of locals who enjoy the camaraderie and elbow room. Murph’s is on Locust about a block north of Route 20. It’s a block and half from Paul’s Tavern and about 3 blocks from the Hotel Julien …

Grab a seat at the bar or settle in at one of the high tops off to the side and watch the Locust Street traffic roll by …

Made In Dubuque

MidwestRiverCities.com/dubuque

Betty Jane Candies, Since 1938, Dubuque

#30 – Betty Jane Candies: A beloved Dubuque tradition since 1938, when Dubuquers think of candy, they think of Betty Jane Candies. They’ve got a couple locations around town which you’ll see at their website, but we like the Asbury Road location because it’s easy to get to and has ample parking right out in front. As an added bonus, right across the street is one of our favorite Dubuque restaurants, Denny’s Lux Club (see our feature above) …

Chocolates are the specialty at Betty Jane Candies, particularly their signature item, “Gremlins”. They’re a mix of caramel and nuts smothered in chocolate and wow are they good. You’ll find them at select retailers around town if you can’t get to their main outlets – we found them at the Hy Vee store just south of downtown …

Insider Tip: If you want to enjoy the taste of Gremlins for less money, opt for the Gremlin Candy Bars, available at their outlet stores. It’s the same great flavor and ingredients and a bar costs about $2 …

MidwestRiverCities.com/dubuque#31 – Paradise Distilling Company: The small distillery movement is sweeping across America and Dubuque is no exception …

We are so pleased to see these unique small distilleries creating spirits that serve as a local alternative to big corporate brands. Located just south of downtown on Railroad Avenue near the Hy Vee store, Paradise Distilling Company specializes in rum. Currently, they’re producing three rums, all with a tropical feel befitting the company’s name …

MidwestRiverCities.com/dubuque

Paradise Distillery Rum

From lighter to darker, the rums are Island Bay Rum, Caribbean Mist Rum, and White Sand Rum. You can sample them during a distillery tour (details at their website) or buy a bottle or two (they’re excellent!). They’re available at a few retail locations around Dubuque, including the Hy Vee store just a block away …

More local breweries and distilleries are on tap for Dubuque – stay tuned!

MidwestRiverCities.com/dubuque

Over 30 Varieties of Popcorn Inside!

#32 – Freddie’s Popcorn: This local Dubuque popcorn company has been around for 20+ years. They’re located on Main Street downtown just a few doors south of 11th Street, right next to River Lights Bookstore …

Freddie’s offers over 30 different flavors (try the caramel corn) and at their store you’ll find many of the flavors in a variety of sizes. Gift tins and gift baskets are available, as are fund raising opportunities for your local organization. See the Freddie’s Popcorn website for complete details …

Insider Tip Freddie’s sells snack size bags of popcorn at their Main Street store, so if you’re in the snacking mood, stop in! You’ll also see Freddie’s Popcorn at the summer Dubuque Farmers Market … they’ve been a consistent presence for years …

MidwestRiverCities.com/dubuque

Stone Cliff Winery – Dubuque

#33 – Stone Cliff Winery: With vineyards outside of town, this local winery boasts an impressive tasting room right on the river … at the completely renovated Dubuque Star Brewery building right next to the Shot Tower …

Stone Cliff Winery offers their entire wine selection along with lunch specials in their tasting room, which at one time held the tasting room for the old Dubuque Star Brewery. The wines are approachable, affordable, and easy to drink …

The facility is fast becoming very popular for special event luncheons, like wedding showers. There’s outdoor patio seating in the nicer weather and the view and proximity to the Mississippi River makes this a wonderful spot to relax with a glass or two of house wine …

Insider Tip: If anyone ever asks you what wines are the “best” wines, the answer is always “a wine that I like.” At Stone Cliff Winery, you can buy bottles of their Zinfandel and Riesling for under $10 each. Local wines are always an appreciated gift for those who weren’t along with you on the trip, or of course for yourself …

Dubuque Trivia

– Euchre, a popular card game, is big in Dubuque. In fact, there’s a local saying underscoring the game’s popularity: “You’re not a Dubuquer if you don’t play euchre” …

– Several scenes from the iconic movie “Field of Dreams” were filmed in Dubuque …

– Dubuque is well known for institutions of higher learning. Loras College, Clarke University, and the University of Dubuque are the most prominent …

– Dubuque is the 10th largest city in Iowa …

– Two appealing river towns are just north of Dubuque. Guttenberg, Iowa is a short scenic 35 miles away on Rt. 52, and 20 miles beyond Guttenberg is Prairie du Chien, WI …

– Dubuque is famous for two distinct food specialties, the Carmichael Burger and the Turkey & Dressing Sandwich. The Carmichael Burger is a pre seasoned beef patty and served with grilled onions, typically on a hoagie shaped bun. The seasoning has an onion soup mix quality, perhaps with a little garlic powder and other spices. Get one at Denny’s Lux Club (see above) …

Turkey and Dressing Sandwiches are something you’ll rarely see outside of Dubuque. They started as a Thanksgiving tradition and were so popular they’re made year around. The sandwich is just like it sounds … turkey, dressing, and a bit of gravy served on a bun. You’ll find them year around at Cremer’s on Rhomberg Avenue (see above) …

– For decades through most of the 1990’s, locally brewed Dubuque Star was a popular beer in the area. Their brewery complex is still standing along the river in the Port of Dubuque area, right next to the Shot Tower. It has been given new life by the Stone Cliff Winery, who now occupies much of the building’s first level. There’s an area brewing history display in the building’s lobby …

For More Information & Thank You

MidwestRiverCities.com/dubuque

Current Home of Stone Cliff Winery, Dubuque

There’s a whole lot more to see and do in Dubuque beyond these 30+ establishments we’ve spotlighted. We’ll be making a few return visits to the city and will be adding to this travelogue, so stay tuned – we may get this list up to one hundred or more!

Dubuque is an approachable, friendly city that’s just now beginning to reach its potential as a visitor destination. We hope this travelogue helps you dig a little deeper into the charms of this river city, and we’d love to hear your comments below …




If you’d like more information about Dubuque, the Travel Dubuque website has our highest recommendation. Attractive and easy to navigate, it showcases Dubuque beautifully and contains up to date information on current events, festivals, things to do, and much more …

MidwestRiverCities.com/duguque

Go Ahead, Enjoy A Duber Beer!

We’d like to thank Taylor Cummings, Director of Marketing at the Dubuque Convention & Visitors Bureau (TravelDubuque.com), for her pre planning assistance with our Dubuque visit, and Becky Carkeek, Director of Guest Services for her spot on recommendations and suggestions at the Welcome Center. Thank you both!

We’d also like to give a shout out to Rich Belmont for his very useful and fun column “Argosy’s Food For Thought”. The column offers detailed restaurant overviews which can be read at this site

Thanks for reading and watch for further updates!

    1 Comment

  1. We loved visiting Dubuque again! The goal is to get this list to 50+ or even 100+ …

    What are some of your favorite local stops in Dubuque?

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