I have to admit, when I think weekend trip, Iowa is never the first thing that comes to mind. Yet here we are, in beautiful Dubuque after driving three and half hours from Chicago. My boyfriend and I had come to the industrial city for a friend’s wedding. Our first choice of hotel was The Hotel Julien, which had been recommended by my parents who absolutely love Dubuque. They were unfortunately overbooked, so we ended up having to scramble to find something else last minute. We wound up at The Country Inn and Suites which was tragically far away from the downtown area. Now let me preface my limited review on this hotel by saying, I am not a hotel snob. I don’t mind staying at budget hotels and I enjoy staying at hostels, but my first instinct when I walked into our hotel room was to run directly back to Chicago. There were stains on the carpet, scuffs on the walls, the bathroom was questionable, the GD curtains were torn! Come on Country Inn, have a little pride! The room did have a few good points, which included a coffee maker in the room, great water pressure in the shower and an individually wrapped make-up remover towlette, which was a very thoughtful touch.
We beautified ourselves for the wedding and inquired about a taxi service in the area. The front desk agent handed us a business card and told us it would be about $10 for the ride into downtown. Wrong. It was actually double that. BUT it was worth every penny because the cab driver turned out to be our personal concierge. He gave us tons of advice on where to go out after the wedding, where to go for breakfast the next morning, and the maximum level of intoxication that they would allow at the casino across from the wedding venue. It was great! The wedding was at The Grand River Center, which as its name suggests, is right on the Mississippi River. It had a beautiful glass wall on the river side, and a stone patio that led out onto the river walk. We spent the cocktail hour out on that patio just taking in the scenery.
The Mississippi isn’t the prettiest river, but it is really a sight to behold. The wedding reception was beautiful, as they usually are and we danced and abused the photo booth for a good portion of the evening. Earlier on, we had noticed that there was a brewery next door to the venue that looked like it was having some sort of festival with a live band. When there was a lull, we decided to walk over and check it out. And that is how I accidentally crashed a wedding for the first time ever. (Congratulations Travis and Christy! Sorry we barged in on your festivities!) We toasted the happy couple and tested out their photo booth too before we hightailed it back to our own celebrations. We danced some more, I didn’t catch the bouquet, and there was late night pizza to be had.
After the reception ended, we walked over to the Diamond Joe Casino. Surprisingly, they let us in and we hit the slots. I tried my hand at blackjack and won a couple of hands, which I’m sure would have made my grandma very proud. We ended up losing $30 but I guess that’s what we get for gambling while under the influence. We decided to take the 9 minute walk to the main drag, which was on the other side of the highway, over a bridge. The city looked beautiful. We walked past the hotel we should have stayed at and I instantly vowed to come back solely to stay there; it was gorgeous and grand. We walked to a bar called The Broken Lift, which our concierge cab driver had recommended. It was a music venue/bar in the basement of a restaurant called Vinnie Vanucchi’s. The Broken Lift occupies a cave-like space with two large rooms and limestone covered walls. I had a John’s Generations White Ale, which was crisp after drinking so much light beer at the wedding. They had an enthralling game in the backroom that involved swinging a metal hoop at a hook on the wall that completely captured our attention until last call. We cabbed home which took us quite some time because our limited knowledge of the city and drunken rambling led our cab driver to believe our hotel was in the opposite direction than where it actually was. When we finally made it back to the Country Inn, we tried unsuccessfully to order a late night pizza and then passed out from the effort. The next morning, we checked out early to explore Dubuque a little more before heading home. We took another cue from our awesome cabbie took his recommendation for brunch. All we had written down was Quality Inn, so we plugged it into the GPS and off we went. I was interested to see if it was the same small motel that I thought it was, and as we climbed the hill to our destination, I realized that it was. For one moment, I was very mad at our cab driver for leading us astray. That was until my boyfriend, who is a much better listener than I am, pointed out our actual destination, which shared a parking lot with the motel.
Timmerman’s Supper Club was perched on a bluff which overlooked the river. The décor and architecture were straight out of the seventies with gold chandeliers and wooden bamboo chairs. I loved the atmosphere and look of the supper club, but the food on the brunch was just ok. The buffet with many choices, carving stations, omelet stations, and a slew of baked goods. The clientele seemed like they had been coming there for years, there was a familiarity to the crowd that was very comfortable. I would like to revisit Timmerman’s, but maybe for dinner or a fancy supper club drink. Our next stop was the 4th Street Elevator (or the Fenelon Place Elevator), one of the more historic sites in Dubuque.
It used to transport folks to and from their houses on top of the hill and their jobs at the bottom, downtown. We were excited to ride this contraption up and down, however they only took cash and had no ATM so we settled for watching it instead. It was only $3.00 round-trip, and I am kind of bummed we didn’t get a chance to experience it. Another reason to come back, I suppose. I needed another coffee before we drove back to Chicago, so we stopped at Monk’s Kaffee Pub on Bluff Street. It is a coffee bar by day and a bar bar by night.
It was such a cozy space, with a dark wooden bar that spanned the length of the front room and mismatched arm chairs and tables throughout. The coffee was good too! It was such a nice departure from the coffee shops that I am used to. I would gladly return to enjoy a latte in one of those comfy arm chairs. Our last stop before heading home was a flea market/farmer’s market we spotted by the train tracks. It was interesting to say the least. We parked in the grass and browsed through the card tables and tents. I saw a lot of clip on earrings and dishes and beer signs.
We didn’t buy anything but we did get a kick out of looking around. Dubuque was a quaint little industrial city that I would definitely venture to again. I feel like there are a few other hidden gems to be discovered and I need to stay at The Hotel Julien at some point in the near future. Dubuque Weekenders Part Two?? Probably.
We took our time driving home, stopping at random scenic overlooks and roadside attractions. There really is beauty everywhere, if you take the time to look for it. As Roald Dahl said: “And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely of places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”