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Introduction

Downtown Dubuque, Iowa

Downtown Dubuque, Iowa

© KeithB

Dubuque is the oldest city in Iowa, USA. A port on the upper Mississippi River, it is situated along scenic bluffs facing the river, and has its roots in a mining and trading settlement established in the area by Quebec-born entrepreneur Julien Dubuque in 1788. The city's population is 57,686 (2000 Census), and the estimated population of the Dubuque metropolitan area is 93,072.

Dubuque grew rapidly during the 19th century, due to its lead-mining, lumber-milling, brewing, metal-working, and river-trade-related industries. It was Iowa's largest city for most of the 1800s, and as a result contains many historically significant structures, many of which have been carefully maintained or restored.

Much of the city's character was established by heavy German and Irish immigration from the 1840s to the 1890s, with the Germans tending to settle in the "North End" and the Irish in the "South End." Large Catholic parishes associated with each group were established, and large, impressive 19th-century church buildings remain to this day. The large Catholic presence caused Dubuque to be elevated to the status of a Catholic archdiocese in 1893, and it is still the smallest US city to hold this distinction.

Noteworthy church buildings include St. Raphael Cathedral, St. Mary (with its jewel-like Bavarian stained-glass windows), Sacred Heart, Holy Trinity, Holy Ghost, St. Columbkille, and the Basilica of St. Francis in nearby Dyersville. St. Luke's Methodist Church contains a significant collection of Tiffany-designed stained-glass windows in a striking Romanesque Revival structure.

Dubuque, as a small industrial center, saw its economy falter in the 1980s as industries downsized or relocated. The city has made a concerted effort to attract tourists, with the establishment of historic districts, museums, a greyhound racing park, a casino, a riverside hotel and conference center, and a Smithsonian-affiliated museum devoted to the history and biology of the Mississippi River. In 2009, IBM named Dubuque one of its "Smarter Cities", and planned to move 1,500 jobs into the restored Roshek building downtown.

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Sights and Activities

  • Cable Car Square. At the base of the 4th Street Elevator. Contains many historic Victorian-era buildings housing coffee shops, restaurants, and specialty shops. Centered on 4th and Bluff Streets.
  • Crystal Lake Cave. Limestone cavern discovered by early lead miners.
  • Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. 52-acre (21 ha) garden with emphasis on irises, dahlias, lilies, dwarf and unusual conifers; rose and herb gardens.
  • Dubuque Museum of Art, 701 Locust St. Four separate galleries featuring regional and national art.
  • Fenelon Place (4th Street) Elevator. Historic cable-car ride from Dubuque's river level to top of bluff.
  • Field of Dreams. Movie site 19 mi (31 km) west, just northeast of Dyersville.
  • Five Flags Center. Hosts the Dubuque Symphony Orchestra, the Dubuque Fighting Saints professional hockey, and various touring theater productions.
  • Grand Opera House, 135 W. 8th St, ☎ +1 563 588-1305. Dubuque's oldest theater, built in 1890 and restored, hosts community theater productions including plays, musicals, and ballets. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, with a Richardson Romanesque architectural style. Coordinates with several downtown restaurants for dinner/theater specials.
  • Grand River Center. Port of Dubuque. Convention center along the Mississippi containing 115,000 square feet of room for meetings, conventions, and other social functions. Connected by skywalk to the Grand Harbor Resort & Waterpark.
  • Mathias Ham House Museum. Preserved Italianate mansion of early river baron, with period furnishings.
  • Mines of Spain State Recreation Area. Nature trails and an interpretive center.
  • National Farm Toy Museum. 30,000 toy tractors and other farm toys, in Dyersville.
  • National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium. Affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution and owned by the Dubuque County Historical Society, the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium features six aquariums and the history of the Mississippi River. It is the only museum along the entire length of the river solely devoted to its history.
  • Park Farm Winery, ☎ +1 563 557-3727. Bankston, IA; Built in 2001, the Park Farm Winery is 17 miles west of Dubuque in the rolling hills of northeast Iowa. It features a chateau and several award-winning wines.
  • Shot Tower. Port of Dubuque. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Shot Tower is one of the last standing such towers in the country. It stands 120 ft 5 in from base to peak, and is a recognized symbol of the city. It is undergoing renovations and is part of the city's master plan to revitalize the harbor area.

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Events and Festivals

Holidays

  • New Year’s Eve - The US celebrates the outgoing of the old year and incoming of the New Year quite dramatically. Every state boasts its own parties to ring in the New Year, but none is more extravagant than New York’s Time Square, which sees people overflowing into the neighboring restaurants, bars, parks, beaches, and neighborhoods.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day (officially Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. and sometimes referred to as MLK Day) is an American federal holiday marking the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around King's birthday, January 15. The holiday is similar to holidays set under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. The earliest Monday for this holiday is January 15 and the latest is January 21. King was the chief spokesperson for nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law.
  • St Patrick’s Day - March 17 celebrates the US’s large Irish population. Many cities around the country boast boisterous parades and Irish-themed parties, especially New York and Chicago, where the river is dyed green. Be wary of the drunkenness that dominates as this is definitely a party-day.
  • Memorial Day - Memorial Day is an important holiday throughout the United States, but not for crazy festivities. Parades commemorating wartime heroes are often held and the day is also the ‘unofficial’ start of summer. Most visitors follow the crowds to parks and beaches, which are capped off with informal BBQs.
  • Independence Day - Also known as the Fourth of July, Independence Day celebrates the US’s break from the British during the 18th century. Barbecues, street parties, beach trips, and weekend getaways are commonplace to appreciate freedom.
  • Labor Day is a public holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws, and well-being of the country. It is the Monday of the long weekend known as Labor Day Weekend. It is recognized as a federal holiday. Beginning in the late 19th century, as the trade union and labor movements grew, trade unionists proposed that a day be set aside to celebrate labor.
  • Halloween - Halloween is a fun holiday on October 31 for all generations to dress up in costumes and relive their youth. Children walk around the neighborhood trick-or-treating for candy, while adults attend parties. Other seasonal events include haunted houses, pumpkin farms and carving, and corn mazes.
  • Thanksgiving - On the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving is held in almost every home in the US. Tourists will have a hard time finding anything to do as the country essentially shuts down in observation. A typical Thanksgiving meal consists of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie commemorating the original Pilgrim’s feast at Plymouth Rock.
  • Christmas - On December 25, Christians celebrate Christmas as the pinnacle of their calendar by attending church and opening gifts from Santa Claus. Almost everything shuts down to promote family togetherness. The northern regions hope to experience a “white Christmas,” with trees and festive lights blanketed by snow.

Sport

  • Super Bowl Sunday - the world’s most watched sporting event and one of the highest grossing TV days of the year, Superbowl Sunday is a spectacular extravaganza. Held the first Sunday in February, the Superbowl is the final playoff game between the NFL’s top two teams. The venue rotates every year around America, yet the local parties seem to remain. Pubs, bars and restaurants are great places to enjoy the Superbowl or locals throw their own parties with different variations of betting.
  • The World Series is the annual championship series of Major League Baseball (MLB) in North America, contested since 1903 between the American League (AL) champion team and the National League (NL) champion team. The winner of the World Series championship is determined through a best-of-seven playoff, and the winning team is awarded the Commissioner's Trophy. As the series is played during the fall season in North America, it is sometimes referred to as the Fall Classic.

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Weather

Dubuque has a humid continental climate (Köppen Dfa), which gives it four distinct seasons. The weather is not as extreme as that in other parts of the Midwest, such as Minnesota or Wisconsin. Spring is usually wet and rainy, summers are sunny and warm, autumn is mild, and winters are typically cloudy and snowy.

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Getting There

By Plane

Dubuque Regional Airport (DBQ IATA) (located 7 mi (11 km) south of downtown). Air service is provided by American Eagle, connecting to and from Chicago O'Hare. American Eagle has 3 flights per day to and from the city. To get downtown, stay on U.S. Hwy 61 all the way in (a 15-min trip). There are 2 car rental agencies (Avis and National) with offices in the airport terminal.

By Train

There is no passenger rail service to Dubuque. The proposed Chicago-Rockford-Dubuque passenger line has been put on hold by the Illinois state government.

By Car

Dubuque is connected to most of the surrounding cities by 4-lane highways.

  • From the north (Twin Cities): Take US Hwy 52 (2-lane)
  • From the northeast(Madison/Milwaukee): Take US Hwy 151 (4-lane)
  • East(Rockford/Chicago): Take US Hwy 20 (mostly 4-lane, some 2-lane)
  • South (Quad Cities): Take U.S. Highway 61 (4-lane)
  • Southwest (Cedar Rapids): Take US Hwy 151 (4-lane)
  • West (Waterloo): Take US Hwy 20 (4-lane)

By Bus

Dubuque is 183 mi (295 km) west of Chicago via I-90 and US 20, 90 mi (145 km) southwest of Madison, Wisconsin, via US 151, 70 mi (113 km) north of the Quad Cities via US 61, and 189 mi (304 km) northeast of Des Moines via US 65, US 30, and US 151.

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Getting Around

By Car

Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.

For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.

By Public Transport

The City of Dubuque also operates a public bus system called The Jule (formally known as KeyLine Transit). The Jule operates 16 bus routes and a trolley route (in the summer) downtown. The buses generally operate in a east-west orientation, with major transfer stations downtown (W 9th and Main Sts.), midtown (N Grandview and University Aves.), and on the west side (Kennedy Cir./John F. Kennedy Rd.). Most buses operate on 45 min-1-hour long loops.

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Eat

  • Breitbach's Country Dining. A few miles northwest of Dubuque in Balltown. Iowa's oldest food and drinking establishment (opened in 1852), and has seen the likes of the outlaw Jesse James, Brooke Shields, and George Wendt walk through its doors.
  • Breitbach's Farmer's Market Food Store has been serving the Dubuque community for 30 years. Michael and Pearl Breitbach (and their five children) have been the Tri-State area's only consistent source of natural and organic foods, including local produce, meat, dairy, and poultry for the last 3 decades. "The Food Store" (as it is commonly referred to) also stocks the freshest herbs and spices, supplements, vitamins and minerals, and informative literature on health food and healthy living. The longest running stall on the Dubuque Farmer's Market, Breitbach's also provides live musical entertainment on Saturday mornings May-October.
  • Pepper Sprout, 378 Main St, ☎ +1 563 556-2167. In the historic Old Main district, and specializing in beef, lamb, veal, and poultry. Large wine selection and fantastic desserts.

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Sleep

  • Country Inn & Suites, 1315 Associates Dr, ☎ +1 563 583-2500.
  • Days Inn Dubuque, 1111 Dodge St, ☎ +1 563 583-3297.
  • Grand Harbor Resort and Waterpark, 350 Bell St, ☎ +1 563 690-4000.
  • Hilton Garden Inn Dubuque Downtown, 1801 Greyhound Park Dr, ☎ +1 563 585-5200.
  • Holiday Inn Dubuque/Galena, 450 Main St, ☎ +1 563 556-2000.
  • Holiday Inn Express Dubuque, 2080 Holliday Dr, ☎ +1 563 585-3321.
  • Hotel Julien Dubuque, 200 Main St, ☎ +1 563 556-4200.
  • MainStay Suites, 1275 Associates Dr, ☎ +1 563 557-7829. An extended stay hotel with fully equipped kitchens in every suite.
  • Timmerman's Hotel and Resort, 7787 Timmerman Dr, East Dubuque.

View our map of accommodation in Dubuque

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Learn

There are thousands of students who attend colleges in Dubuque. The largest are the city's 3 liberal arts colleges: Clarke College, Loras College, and the University of Dubuque. Collectively, the schools are known as the "Tri Colleges" and enjoy a friendly rivalry with one another. Other students attend the various religious institutions in the city, or Northeast Iowa Community College, which has a satellite location downtown.

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Keep Connected

Internet

There is a very small internet bar/cafe culture in the USA. Even then most of the internet bars/cafes tend be located in major urban centers. Accessible WiFi networks, however, are common. The most generally useful WiFi spots are in coffee shops, fast-food chains, and bookshops, but also restaurants and hotels more and more have a network to connect on. Some of them might require you to buy something and you might need a password too, especially in hotels.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The general emergency phone number is 911. The USA has a great landline phone system that is easy to use. The country code for the U.S. is +1. The rest of the telephone number consists of 10 digits: a 3-digit area code, and a 7-digit number. Any small grocery store or pharmacy has pre paid domestic or international phone cards. These phone cards are very cheap and offer good rates. The once ubiquitous pay phone is now much harder to find. Likely locations include in or near stores and restaurants, and near bus stops. The cellphone network in the states is slowly getting better but is still not as good when compared to other western countries. Cell phones tend to operate using different frequencies (850 MHz and 1900 MHz) from those used elsewhere in the world (2100 MHz). This used to prevent most foreign phones from working in America. Phones must be tri- or quad-band to work in the U.S. Fortunately, technology has meant that most phones should now be able to pick up one of the U.S. networks. Prepaid phones and top-up cards can be purchased at mobile phone boutiques and at many discount, electronics, office supply and convenience stores. A very basic handset with some credit can be had for under $40.

Post

The US Postal Service is a very good and well priced mail system. There are post offices in every small and large town for sending packages internationally or domestically. Although some might keep longer hours, most are open at least between 9:00am and 5:00pm. If wanting to send a letter or postcard it is best just to leave it in a blue mail box with the proper postage. First-class international airmail postcards and letters (up 28.5 grams) cost $1.10. There are also private postal services like FedEx, UPS, TNT and DHL, which might be better value sometimes and are generally very quick and reliable too.

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Accommodation in Dubuque

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Dubuque searchable right here on Travellerspoint.

Contributors

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This is version 7. Last edited at 10:14 on Jun 14, 19 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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