Dubuque is a vibrant city along the Mississippi River and has always had a lively history. So much so that the city has been named an All-America City in 2007, 2012, 2013, 2017 & 2019 because of the city’s unique, and masterfully executed, use of its location near the river. What makes this community special is it really leans into what sets Duqubue apart. It’s a tri-state area, which means it attracts travelers from elsewhere in Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin, which can make Dubuque a busy hub throughout the year.
Dubuque offers a variety of activities for adults, families, and kids from exciting community markets, lively music fairs to an impressive international film festival, and everything in between. There is no shortage of events throughout the year to keep you occupied and entertained! Our Dubuque agents took the time to highlight their favorite events and activities to do in the area, and the list does not disappoint!
Coming in at the top spot is Millwork Night Market– what’s Millwork Night Market you ask? Essentially an evening farmers market in the best way! The Millwork district comes alive with festive music, high-quality food vendors, artists, and local shopping opportunities. The market is open from 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm every second Thursday from May to October.
Millwork Night Market is followed closely by the Farmer’s Market, which is described as one of the best farmer’s markets around and has been ‘around’ since the 1800s! The Dubuque Farmer’s Market has been located in the Upper Main district of Dubuque since the 19th century, that’s one successful operation. It’s the oldest Farmer’s Market in the state and has been in the same location since 1858. Today, the market features more than 125 vendors spread out across 11th, 12th, and 13 street. The Dubuque Farmer’s Market is open every Saturday from May to October.
Dubuque County Fair – Established in 1953, the Dubuque Country Fair has been part of the community events for almost seven decades and it has everything you know and love about county fairs. The fair is typically held at the end of July and features all the favorite fair attractions from deep-fried foods, fun rides, and unique attractions. And if going sans children, it’s recommended you “…Spend at least one evening in the beer garden checking out local bands and buy a corn dog!”
BestFest is an event that honors all of Dubuque’s “bests.” Over 50 businesses are recognized each year in March as “the best” in categories ranging from florists, salons, pawnshops, grocery stores, golf courses, and even ‘Best Place for a Bloody Mary.’ The event honors dozens of local businesses and the celebration includes music, prizes and raffles. All proceeds benefit Hospice of Dubuque and tickets go fast!
What do you get when you combine a block party and traditional German activities? Blocktoberfest. Described as a fusion between a metropolitan block party and Octoberfest, Bloktoberfest focuses on connecting past traditions with present-day fun. With activities like axe throwing, beer stein races, beer yoga, and BMX, we think they nailed it.
Not all events in Dubuque are held in the summer, take for instance Dubuque on Ice Brewfest. Held in February, this event will keep your drink of choice chilled as you explore the endless options of craft beer, wine, liquor, and coffee. Pair local cheese, chocolates, sausages, and more with your beverage and chat with brewmasters at this adult-only event.
Art & Culture
DBQFest, is an event hosted by the Dubuque Country Fine Arts Society and is Iowa’s oldest Arts Fair. It started in 1977 and it’s a three-day, two-night celebration that is free to the public. Stop by to view and appreciate local art, music, and food in downtown Dubuque.
Attention movie lovers, especially those with an affinity for independent films, the Julien Dubuque Internation Film Festival is a must-attend event. JDIFF receives a large attendance as one of the “25 coolest film festivals in the world,” and runs for five days. Even if not drawn to independent films, check out JDIFF to support the community as many downtown establishments open their doors for unique opportunities only found during the festival weekend.
Dragon Boat Races, hosted by The Dubuque Dragon Boat Association, this event features teams of paddle enthusiasts who race the Mississippi in, you guessed it, boats with dragon mastheads. It’s an event that draws teams from Minnesota and even Canada because of its uniqueness and historic ties. The DDBA’s vision for this event is to bring awareness to the sport but also to promote healthy lifestyles and safe river practices. The festival is held each year at Miller Riverview Park.
Rock out at RiverFest, the music event located nearby in Quincy IL. The three-day event features big-name rock bands and has grown to be a favorite Midwest festival.
Music in the Gardens is an event that is free to the public every Sunday night at the Dubuque Arboretum. The music selection ranges from CCR tribute, and orchestra to soul, funk and jazz. Definitely, an event that offers variety, and has something for everyone.
Torque Fest is totted as “not your typical car show” The Vintage Torque Fest is a fundraiser for children with congenital heart defects and their families. This event is jam-packed with activities, so much so that it was quoted as having “too much going on” but that’s by design, it’s not your everyday car show and the founders of The Torque Fest like it that way.
To learn more about the Dubuque area and what it has to offer like Dubuque shops and restaurants check out our Dubuque community page. View homes for sale, find an agent, and learn more about the town nestled along the Mississippi.