A Guide to Eastern Iowa

Photo Courtesy of Khalid El Khatib
When a Tweet about visiting my family over the holidays went viral, my hometown of Dubuque, Iowa was thrust into the spotlight – along with my mom, whose meticulous holiday itineraries had some dubbing her “The Christmas Mom.” While Dubuque is fun and festive over the holidays, it’s also an incredible summertime destination. I often travel from New York back to Iowa for the Fourth of July or Labor Day Weekend, yes, because my mom entices me with long itineraries listing out tons of homemade food but also because there’s a lot to do! 

Here are some of me and my family’s favorite summertime spots in Dubuque and Eastern Iowa. 
Driftless Area Map of Iowa
Photo Courtesy of Khalid El Khatib
The family-owned Breitbach’s boasts the title of being the oldest bar and restaurant in Iowa, but what has my family making the drive to Balltown, Iowa is the massive pork tenderloin (literally the size of my head). Like any good country dining spot, they also offer a buffet and homemade pies for dessert. And as a bonus for making the trip, there’s an incredible overlook of the Mississippi River Valley just a few steps from the restaurant; one of my favorite spots to take selfies!
Photo Courtesy of Khalid El Khatib
What’s better than a cold beer on a hot day? A cold IPA, lager or even smoothie beer. Dimensional Brewery has quite the variety and it always makes it onto my mom’s itinerary. They have an open and airy indoor space for the colder months and a nice outdoor space for the summer. Beyond serving beer, my mom - who is a big nachos enthusiast - highly recommends the brisket nachos. 
We live a short distance from the Arboretum and we grew up packing a picnic and listening to concerts against its picturesque rose gardens, Japanese garden and other installations. Decades later, and the Arboretum still makes it onto my mom’s itinerary. There’s no better backdrop for a basket full of cheese, crackers, a million sweet treats baked by my mom, and plenty of wine. 
Every Saturday (from May through October) we try to stop by the Dubuque Farmers Market for breakfast. We often end up leaving with more than breakfast (candles, flowers, cookies, etc.), but our favorite market meal is the breakfast burrito from Adobos. When texting my sister Sarah about it recently she called them “11 out of 10” — just beware, sometimes the line to pick them up reflects how good they are.  
Iowa has a reputation for being, well, flat. But Dubuque, thanks to its location on the Mississippi, is carved out of beautiful bluffs and home to some wonderful hiking and nature trials. One of my family’s favorite spots to get in touch with nature is the Mines of Spain. The 1437 acres of wooded and prairie land are home to the Julien Dubuque Monument and plenty of local wildlife from white-tailed deer and flying squirrels to hawks and bobcats. Be sure to check out the nature center before or after your hike. 
Yet another destination on the list that showcases the beauty of the Eastern Iowa landscape. Located just west of Dubuque near Bankston, Park Farm Winery is family-owned and operated and offers fun for the whole family: stunning sunset views, occasional live music, a wood-fire pizza oven and, of course, wine. Fair warning to those more accustomed to Napa Valley wines: these may be a bit more fruit-forward than you’re used to. 

Iowa native Khalid El Khatib is an experienced writer with 15 years of contributing articles to digital, print, and branded publications including PAPER, VICE, Hello Mr., OUT, and them. In addition, Khatib holds the position of Chief Marketing Officer at Stack Overflow, the world’s largest community for developers and technologists.

Explore more about Dubuque

For more fun, check out National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium and the Dubuque Museum of Art. Ride the Fenelon Elevator, the world's shortest, steepest railway and catch a show at the beautifully renovated Grand Opera House.

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