I’ve lived in Iowa my entire life and have never done anything, but drive through Dubuque, IA. Can you believe that?! Well, thankfully we solved that problem back in July and ended up having a fantastic family day trip!
In mid-June T and I determined that we were taking July 3rd off (it was a Monday) and spending the day with the boys! Since selling our camper last summer (no time to camp), we promised them that we would do more weekend and daytrips and this seemed like the perfect opportunity! So, after much research and debating, we settled on Dubuque area for the day. We are so glad that we did!
National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium
The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium was our first stop of the day! The boys love aquariums and so that was the immediate draw for us. We also love learning about the Mississippi, it’s history, etc. so it made complete sense. The first highlight was the stingray exhibit where the boys could touch them! Who doesn’t love hands-on activities?! We found the history portion of the museum very intriguing as we learned about the natives that had inhabited the area. And of course the boys (all three) were drawn to the Riverworks Splash Zone, which is an area with different experiments and interactive activities using water!
Next, we headed outside to enjoy the outside exhibits. We liked walking through the old river ships and barges that explained the history of their purposes and the river! We especially liked the Steamboat William M. Black. Exploring this old steamboat that was used to dredge the river was quite fascinating! Of course, we also liked the Mississippi River Discovery Center & Aquariums because of all the tanks of fish and river otters! Before we left, the boys had to try their hand at the remote control boats too!
Fenelon Place Elevator
Our next stop of the day was the Fenelon Place Elevator! This was probably the thing I was looking forward to the most! This historic cable car elevator began in 1882 as a way for people to move up and down the bluff with ease! It has survived 3+ fires and still operates today! It is a $3 fee per person for a round-trip, which is completely affordable for the experience as well as the views! It’s not air conditioned as it is maintained to it’s original design, so be prepared on a warm day! 8 people can ride in the elevator at once, so plan accordingly for your visit if you’re going with a group! Finally, there is not big parking areas close to the elevator, so be prepared to walk a few blocks!
Chestnut Mountain Resort- Galena, IL
For our final activity of the day we headed to Galena, IL (just a short drive across the Mississippi River from Dubuque) to Chestnut Mountain Resort. Once we were there, we signed up for Segway Tours! This was something that both boys had talked about for quite awhile and we thought this was the perfect opportunity! While we were waiting for our tour to take place, we observed the other activities that you can participate in like Alpine Slides, River Cruises, and the Soaring Eagle Zipline! There were also bags games sitting around that anyone could play free of charge!
The segway tours are so much fun! When you begin, they teach you how to use your segway and stay safe! Then, you head out onto a trail in the woods on the hills! Not only do you get to do trail riding (their segways are equipped with bigger/heavy duty tires for the trails), but you also get to catch some awesome views of the Mississippi River!
Chestnut Mountain is an complete resort with lodging, restaurants, activities, a pool, and more! During the winter months they have skiing and snowboarding as well! While we didn’t stay at the lodge or eat in the restaurants, it is easy to see how this would be a great weekend destinations for families! Like I said, we didn’t eat in the restaurants, but we did enjoy snacks from their equipment and gift shop, which was a great option for our family!
Sometimes as parents it’s easy for us to get caught up in planning big trips to glitzy resorts, but what this day trip taught T and I was that kids enjoy the day trips, just as much if not more! We heard frequently that day, “this is awesome” or similar sentiments from the boys! It was also extra fun because we didn’t tell the boys where we were going or what we were doing prior to arriving at each location! It was fun to surprise them and keep them on their toes! I highly recommend that all parents do this at least once while their kids are growing up! I also highly recommend that you check out the Dubuque area for your weekend or day trip!