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Top Things to Do on a Budget in Dubuque

Ride a cable car to tri-state views, visit the country's largest all-volunteer arboretum, hike among limestone bluffs and more for free or low cost in Dubuque.

Fenelon Place Elevator For just $3, you'll get a round-trip ride on wooden cable cars to a panoramic view of three states, the Mississippi River and Dubuque’s historical business district. Billed as the world’s shortest, steepest scenic railway, the elevator rises and descends 189 feet along its 300-foot journey. The railway dates to the 1880s. Open April through November. 

Fenelon Place Elevator

Dubuque Museum of Art Founded in 1874, this museum is Iowa’s oldest cultural institution. The 2,200-plus-item permanent collection focuses on American regional artists, with pieces by Grant Wood and a complete grouping of The North American Indian photogravures by Edward Curtis. Adult admission: $6. 

Dubuque Museum of Art

Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Gardens The largest all-volunteer arboretum in the country deserves a visit, not just because it's free, but because its displays include roses, herbs, veggies and one of the largest public hosta gardens in the United States. The English Garden wows with formal plantings, and the Japanese Garden is a Zen-like spot to commune with nature. More than 300 volunteers keep this flora lush and healthy with lots of TLC. Bring a lawn chair on summer Sunday nights for free concerts. 

Stone Cliff Winery One of Iowa’s first wineries, Stone Cliff repurposes part of the Star Brewery Complex as a tasting room-wine bar with fabulous river views. Riesling and Moscato are the sips of choice. Domestic and craft beers on tap cater to customers who prefer suds to grapes. 

Eagle Point Park Above Lock and Dam #11, 164 acres provide picnic spots and Mississippi views. 

Eagle Point Park

Art on the River Each summer, the City of Dubuque selects 10 new pieces of public art to temporarily display along the Riverwalk that winds along the Port of Dubuque. The river makes for a beautiful backdrop. 

Art on the River

St. Luke’s Tiffany Windows Established in 1833, the oldest church in Iowa contains a breathtaking collection of Tiffany stained-glass windows; the Good Shepherd and the Good Samaritan pieces are especially eye-catching, with exquisite detail and vibrant shades of blue and purple. The Farand and Votey pipe organ is worth a look, too; it dates to 1897 and is composed of 1,000 pipes. Check the website for tour times. 

Mines of Spain Recreation Area A 1,387-acre National Historic Landmark encompases limestone bluffs, stands of old timber and Catfish Creek along 21 miles of hiking trails. Free. 

The Hancock House This turreted Victorian bed-and-breakfast makes a charming and reasonably priced spot to spend the night. Each of the nine bedrooms—like the Dollroom, the Library and the Train Room—has themed decor and a private bathroom (some with claw-foot tubs and old-fashioned pull-chain toilets).

Photos courtesy of Dubuque Area Convention and Visitors Bureau; 

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