Dubuque County, along with Des Moines County, is the oldest in Iowa. Both were established in 1834.
With around 93,000 residents, it ranks seventh in the state. Other major communities in the county include Dyersville, Cascade, Farley, Epworth and Asbury, which this past year was named the state’s best place to live by online site HomeSnacks. It also has moved ahead of Dyersville (4,058) as the county’s second-most populated community with 4,357.
From urban revitalization in the county’s namesake to the Field of Dreams in Dyersville to outdoors opportunities near Cascade, the county provides a variety of things to see and do.
This is the center of the tri-state universe both geographically and size-wise. Visitors make the drive from all directions, fly in from around the country and even make stops while cruising up and down the Mississippi River.
As Iowa’s oldest city — chartered in 1837 — it has a long history going back to 1785 when French fur trader and founder Julien Dubuque arrived. He eventually worked with the Mesquakie (Fox) Indians in mining lead.
Early settlers were mostly miners and fur-traders, but the city later boasted industries such as button making, boat building, logging, mill working, meat packing and other heavy industries. Today, it is Iowa’s 10th largest city with about 58,000 residents.
Check this out: Historic Millwork District. This revitalized section of downtown, primarily along Jackson and Washington streets between Seventh and 12th streets, contunues to expand and evolve. A new hotel TownePlace Suites by Marriott Dubuque Downtown has added a new dimension to the area. Check out a growing array of restaurants, nightspots, brew pubs, coffee shops and unique retail outlets intertwined among vintage brick environments. And check out the monthly Millwork Night Market on Thursdays . For more information, go to tinyurl.com/ycpdut6x
A sample of places to stay: Hotel Julien Dubuque, 200 Main St., 563-556-4200, with Caroline’s restaurant and the Riverboat Lounge worth a stop; Grand Harbor Resort and Waterpark, near the river museum at 350 Bell St., 563-690-4000. The city also has the usual array of hotel chains and many B&Bs to choose from.
Don’t miss these:
The Mines of Spain State Recreation Area. You’ll find 1,380 acres of woods and prairie land just south of Dubuque. There are 10 trails of varying lengths, with a couple converting to cross country skiing when the snow flies. The Julien Dubuque Monument
- offers great views of the Mississippi River.
Swiss Valley Nature Preserve and Nature Center
- is located 4½ miles west of Dubuque. It boasts more than 10 miles of trails radiating outward from the center through the forest, prairie, wetland areas and Catfish Creek. As with the Mines, many of the trails become groomed cross-country ski trails in the winter.
Fenelon Place Elevator
- , the world’s shortest, steepest scenic railway is the eye-catching anchor to an area dotted with specialty shops around the corner of Fourth and Bluff streets.
Diamond Jo Casino, 301 Bell St., 563-690-4800. Eat at the Woodfire Grille,
- one of Dubuque’s higher-end restaurants. 563-690-4755.
Q Casino, 1855 Greyhound Park Road, 563-582-3647. Offers greyhound racing through Oct. 20 and featuring the The Farmhouse Kitchen,
Dubuque Escape Room,
- 563-207-8889. Visitors can try to escape from three rooms: Escape the Island, Motel Mystery and Race to Treasure.
When you’re hungry, practical ideas: Pete’s Thai Kitchen, 609 E. 22nd St., 563-582-2816; Barrell House, 299 Main St., 563-845-7928; Copper Kettle, 2987 Jackson St., 563-845-0567; Dubuque Mining Company, 555 Kennedy Road, 563-557-1729;; Town Clock Inn, 799 Main St., 563-556-1022.
When you’re hungry, fancier: Hops & Rye, 1108 Locust St., 563-556-4677; Brazen Open Kitchen | Bar, 955 Washington St., 563-587-8899; Ichiban Hibachi Steakhouse & Sushi, 3187 University Ave., 563-663-6289; L.May, 1072 Main St., 563-556-0505; Pepper Sprout, 378 Main St., 563-556-2167.
A night on the town: The Venue, 285 Main St., 563-845-2492; Iron Bar, 333 E. 10th St., 708-945-7414; Jumpers Sports Bar & Grill, 2600 Dodge St. C8, 563-556-6100; The Lift, 180 Main St., 563-584-9712; The Smokestack, 62 E. Seventh St., email@example.com
Brewpubs: Jubeck New World Brewing, 115 W. 11th St., 775-375-5692; 7 Hills Brewing Co., 1085 Washington St., 563-587-8306; Dimensional Brewing Co., 67 Main St., 800-BEER-ME; Backpocket Taproom, 333 E. 10th St., 563-582-1611.
More on Dubuque: traveldubuque.com
The county’s second-large community with about 4,200 people, it was founded in the late 1840s and named after Englishman James Dyer.
In 1888, many farmers and merchants built the Basilica of St. Francis Xavier, which was large enough to hold 1,000 people. Today, visitors can stop in daily from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. through the side doors, at 104 Third St. SW.
Dyersville is now known as the “Farm Toy Capital of the World” with its National Farm Toy Museum. And, in 1989, the community became the main site for the Kevin Costner film, “Field of Dreams.”
Check this out: Field of Dreams, 28995 Lansing Road. People from around the country and even foreign countries come to the place where it was built. The site is open daily 9 a.m.-6 p.m. through Oct 31. Free admission to the ball field; 30-minute, guided tours. Gift shop. For more, go to fieldofdreamsmoviesite.com
A sample of places to stay: Colonial Inn, 1110 Ninth St. SE, 563-875-7194; Century Haus, 327 1st Ave. West, 563-875-8611.
Don’t miss these
National Farm Toy Museum,
- 1110 16th St., 563-875-2727. There are collections of farm toys, pedal tractors and dioramas, plus exhibits on agriculture’s long history. The annual summer Toy Show will take place June 7-8.
Dyer-Botsford Doll Museum,
- 331 First Ave. E., 563-875-2414. Houses more than 2,000 dolls, plus other local historic items.
When you’re hungry: Country Junction Restaurant, 913 15th Ave. SE, 563-875-7055; Brew & Brew, 213 First Ave E., 563-875-6251.
More on Dyersville: dyersville.org
This community of about 2,100, is split by the North Fork of the Maquoketa River, with part of it in Jones County.
Check this out: Whitewater Canyon. A 562-acre wildlife management area that features forest, upland and wetland habitats, along with its picturesque namesake canyon. You’ll find it about five miles east of Cascade.
A sample of places to stay: Riverview Ridge Campgrounds, 24224 Riverview Road, Cascade, 563-543-1258; Fillmore Recreation Area, 21655 U.S. 151, 563-852-3377.
Dont’s miss these:
Rockin’ on the River,
- music events scheduled at 6 p.m. on the second Saturday of the month at Riverview Park.
Tri County Historical Society Red Faber Museum
- , 608 Second Ave. SW, Cascade, 563-852-3371. Honoring the town’s professional baseball player.
When you’re hungry: Cascade Family Restaurant, 799 Nixon St. SE, Cascade, 563-852-3557; Kalmes’ Club 528, 275 Jackson St. NE, 563-852-3531.
More on Cascade and Monticello: cascadechamber.org
Asbury was settled in the 1830s and incorporated about 100 years later. The town is named after British-born Bishop Francis Asbury, one of the first two bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
Epworth and Farley, which make up the Western Dubuque school district, were founded in the 1850s. Epworth was named after the town of Epworth, Lincolnshire, England, while Farley got its name from the superintendent of the Sioux City Railroad, after it was built through the area.
Don’t miss these:
- Asbury Music in the Park, July 13.
- Epworth Town & Country Days, Aug. 2-3.