Dec 8th, 2011 | By | Category: Senior Travel

Dubuque, a Delight for Seniors

Dubuque is located along the Mississippi River in NE Iowa. In 2010 its population was 57,637, making it the ninth-largest city in the state. The city lies at the junction of three states: Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin, a region locally known as the Tri-State Area. It serves as the main commercial, industrial, educational, and cultural center for the area.

There is plenty going on in Dubuque as the economy has recently witnessed rapid growth and diversification in other areas. In 2005, it led the state and the midwest in job growth, ranking as the 22nd fastest-growing economy nationally. Dubuque also made national news when a tremendous hailstorm engulfed the city in April 2011.

It is one of the few large cities in Iowa with hills and high bluffs and is home to a large senior tourist industry, driven by the city’s unique architecture and river location. Also, it is home to five institutions of higher education, making it a center for culture and learning.

I remember, as a youth, our family crossing the Mississippi River on the Julien Dubuque Bridge to East Dubuque where my uncle had a dance hall, Moonlight Gardens. This was where my brothers and I got to meet the Everly Brothers and Marty Robbins. What a thrill!

Dubuque was founded as the first white settlement in Iowa by French-Canadian lead miners. In the nineteenth century it became a boisterous river port and logging center. Buildings from this era still stand, but the companies that use them are in meatpacking and other food industries. The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium at Third Street in the old Ice Harbor area, tells the story of Mississippi navigation from the days of Robert Fulton’s first commercial steamboat.

The city of Dubuque is among the oldest European settlements west of the Mississippi River. The first Europeans to explore the area were Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet, who traveled along the river in 1673. The current city of Dubuque, named after Julien Dubuque, was settled at the southern end of a large, flat plain adjacent to the Mississippi River.

Beautiful Hills, High Bluffs and Mansions Attract Senior Tourists

The Shot Tower located in Dubuque is one of the last remaining shot towers in the country. Another landmark not to be missed, and there are few of these left in the whole US, is the Fenelon Place Elevator. On the side of a wooded bluff, two little rail cars run up and down, the legacy of a banker who, in 1882, decided he needed a faster way to get home for his noontime meal and nap. Today, the little cars pull senior tourists up a 65-percent grade toward a magnificent view of Wisconsin, Illinois, the river valley and the steepled downtown, surrounded by hills thick with Victorian manses. “They call this little Rome, because it’s built on seven hills, like Rome, Italy,’’ says cable-car operator Bruce Oeschger, who used the cars himself to deliver newspapers when he was a boy.  This funicular railway and the Shot Tower are both listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Four Mounds, a Dubuque Landmark Site, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area affiliate site. Four Mounds holds a special place in our hearts…my wife’s sister, her husband and children lived in two of their houses for a season.

The Dubuque County Courthouse is unique as is the Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. The Diamond Jo Casino floats on the river and Eagle Point Park overlooks the city and the Mines of Spain area. This travel guide will fill you in on specifics like where to stay, good restaurants and nearby cultural activities. TripAdvisor suggests 19 things not to be missed in Dubuque.  Enjoy an historical Mississippi River town.  jeb

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  1. […] “Missouri’s Most Historic Town,” senior visitors will find that this Mississippi River town looks very much like a French village. It was the first European settlement west of the […]

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