One of our favorite parts about roadtripping is the quaint small towns we stumble upon. Towns that take us by surprise, towns that have character and charm, towns that easily fall under the radar... We get almost giddy when we discover a new “hidden gem” of a spot - because we get to share it with you! That’s what we love about this big, beautiful country that we live in… there is still so much to discover.
Most recently we happened upon one of those places, Dubuque, Iowa.
Don’t let the fact that it’s Iowa’s oldest city sway you into thinking Dubuque is outdated - it’s an epic fusion of old and new, with plenty of activities, award-winning restaurants, breathtaking sites, and a revitalizing downtown. If you’re planning a roadtrip this summer (or any time of the year), make sure you spend at least a few days in Dubuque. Here’s why:
IT’S WHERE IOWA STARTED
Like we said, Dubuque is Iowa’s oldest city, and dates back to 1833 - 13 years before the state of Iowa even existed! French-Canadian fur trader Julien Dubuque first settled in the area and befriended the Mesquakie Tribe, and the rest is (literally) history!
Known as the “Gateway to the West”, Dubuque sits along the Mississippi River, and borders Illinois and Wisconsin. We think it’s pretty rad that when you’re standing in Dubuque, you can actually see all three states!
IT’S AN OUTDOOR LOVERS DREAM
From picking apples in the fall, to hitting the slopes in the winter, to hiking to the Mines of Spain in the springtime, Dubuque is an outdoor lovers dream, no matter the time of year.
Summertime however, is an exceptional time to pass through, as you’ll find locals and visitors alike soaking in the sunshine - whether they’re on a pontoon in the Mississippi River or enjoying a glass of wine by the waterfront! If you’re a hiker, Dubuque has numerous picturesque trails to explore, and if you’re an adventure-seeker, their zipline is a must! There’s also kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, road biking, camping, and so much more.
IT’S A FOODIE CITY
It may sound weird, but we’d roadtrip back to Dubuque just for the restaurants! This bustling city is home to some of the best restaurants in the Midwest, each one with a unique and distinctly ‘Dubuque’ style.
Brazen Open Kitchen serves farm fresh food that is literally from local farms, and their ever-changing menu is always fresh and always a crowd-pleaser.
For an elevated and authentic Thai food experience, Pete’s Thai Kitchen dishes up family recipes that were passed down from generation to generation, in a playful and contemporary setting. Don’t miss the Pad Thai!
Located in the Historic Millworks District, 7 Hills Brewing is a modern brewpub that specializes in craft beer, craft cocktails, and mouth-watering comfort food. Their happy hour is one of the best in town!
Stone Cliff Winery sits along the Mississippi River, and is the perfect spot to enjoy a leisurely lunch on a warm, summer day. This family owned and operated winery is not only known for their award-winning wine, but for their extensive (and delicious) lunch menu, too!
Catch the sunset at Smokestack Dubuque, a rooftop venue with unparalleled views of the Dubuque skyline! Pull up a chair, make some friends, and you’re bound to fall more in love with this lively and captivating city.
One of Dubuque’s most well-known attractions is the famous Fenelon Place Elevator. Not only are the views extraordinary, but the historic elevator is the shortest and steepest scenic railway in the world! You’ll see panoramic views of the Historic Downtown, the Mississippi River, and three states! (Do you remember which three?) Plus, the elevator is dog friendly!! Which leads us to our last point...
IT’S DOG FRIENDLY
Our Bernedoodle Sally loved exploring Dubuque, and the city really is set up well for pets. We stayed at the brand new ? that was walking distance to just about everything, even the Fenelon Place Elevator! We took Sally to the adorable River Lights Bookstore, where they not only welcome dogs inside - but they give them treats, too!
Our last night in Dubuque we went for an early evening hike with Sally around The Mines of Spain, which ended up being one of the highlights of our trip. (If Sally could talk, she would agree!) And pizza at Magoo’s is a must - and their outdoor patio allows pets!
While we’re only beginning to scratch the surface on all that Dubuque has to offer, we hope this sparks the desire to add it to your summer roadtrip! Not only is it breathtakingly beautiful, but it’s packed with adventure - and tasty treats. ;) If you do head to Dubuque, make sure you let us know where you went and what you did! See you on the road!