As fall is here and winter is just around the corner, we are sharing our honeymoon adventure to inspire you to create your own getaway. We visited Dubuque, Iowa on our honeymoon in February 2017, and we honestly had a blast!
Since Hannah invited her huge family to the wedding, we couldn’t afford a vacation to the beach, so we opted for a river town. We also couldn’t leave the country, because Jude didn’t have a Green Card to where he could enter back into the US. We felt our engagement was offbeat due to immigration, so we thought why not journey to an off-the-beaten-path location?
Dubuque is an old, unique, small town on Iowa’s eastern border. The Mississippi River runs through it, and it’s an easy drive to Wisconsin or Galena, Illinois. So, if you’re an engaged couple who can’t afford a luxurious honeymoon, or if you’re just looking for a more affordable nostalgic getaway in winter, we recommend looking outside the box. If Dubuque is too far from where you reside, then we hope our honeymoon will inspire you to visit a nearby river town in your state.
Day 1-Snow Ski
Snow skiing is what literally drove us to Iowa. Neither one of us had ever snow skied before, and we thought it would be cool to take advantage of a winter sport. We rented skis at Sundown Mountain Resort. We each had our own private instructor, and they were both very patient with us. The resort uses both real and fake snow. They accommodate beginners very well, and when we told them we were on our honeymoon, they looked at us with confusion and asked, “you’re honeymooning in Iowa?” It gave us a good laugh. They also gave us newlyweds a discount. Prices are included in the link above. I added a video of our experience below.
We were very sore the next day, so we didn’t ski again. We do suggest you save if you plan to ski a second day. Prices are $$.
We highly recommend the Mississippi River Aquarium and Museum. It’s located in Downtown. We made a mistake and waited to see the museum and aquarium on our last day and at the last-minute. Your ticket is good for two days, and the reasoning behind that is it takes two days to see everything. We made a huge mistake of not giving ourselves enough time. We recommend doing the aquarium first and then the museum last. The aquarium includes an alligator, rattlesnakes and turtles, otters, and plenty of exotic river fish. You can also pet stingrays inside the museum. The museum explores the history of life along the Mississippi River.
Day 4-Visit Stone Cliff Winery
Stone Cliff Winery sits inside Dubuque’s oldest brewery, located in the Port of Dubuque. The building itself sits right along the River, and was also featured in F.I.S.T., a major-motion picture that starred Sylvester Stallone. When you enter the building, you can read about the history of Dubuque and other movies the town was filmed in, such as Field of Dreams.
Stone Cliff is a wonderful winery! You can sample the wines before you buy. They also have a lunch menu consisting of salads, soups, and sandwiches. The atmosphere is very relaxing, and we enjoyed ourselves, the wine, and my soup and his sandwich. Don’t forget to take a walk along the river afterwards.
Note: You must make reservations in advance to attend their mystery dinner theater. The dates can be found on their website.
Day 5-Mines of Spain, Dubuque
We suggest a walk through the Mines of Spain, even in the snow and cold weather. We walked at dusk and then walked back at night, which was not a good idea. We couldn’t even see where we were walking. So, you need to plan to do this early in the day, especially during winter. We’d undermined the beauty of the state park, and wish we’d spent more time there.
Mines of Spain is free of charge, and you can hike the trails. Parts of it are wooded, while other parts are prairie. You can view the Mississippi River from the mines. It’s also filled with history of the town.
NIGHT-Play at the Indoor Water Park
Jude and I made our way into the Grand Resort Hotel’s indoor water park. The waterpark has two hot tubs and several slides to play on. Most adults bring their kids to the waterpark, but we enjoyed it for ourselves! Rates for adults are $12.00 plus tax and $10.00 for kids.
You can eat at Tony Roma’s which is also inside the hotel. We liked the restaurant, and the staff was very friendly. Jude ordered steak, so we would recommend a steak place if you’re a steak lover than eating steak at Tony Roma’s.
Jude and I didn’t sleep at Grand Resort Hotel. We opted for Super 8, but rates run around $119.00 a night plus tax. It’s located in Downtown, which is near to the River Museum and Stone Cliff Winery.
Day 6-Tour Galena
The population of Galena is only about 3,600. It was a bustling town before the Civil War. It is known for architecture, and 85% of the buildings are on the National Historic Register. You step back into Pre-Civil War era when you visit Galena.
The DeSoto House is one of the famous hotels in the area. Both Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas spoke from the balcony of the hotel. The hotel is still open to the public today, and you can ask for a free walking tour.
FYI: Don’t venture to any of the floors with rooms. They will expect you to know this, even without telling you beforehand.
Ulysses Grant’s house is also open to the public for a tour. Mainstreet Galena, which is referred to as the ‘best mainstreet in the Midwest’ by Midwest Living, is filled with boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants. Jude bought me our very first gift on their honeymoon at one of the boutiques.
We only spent a day here, but we should have spent more time. We should have researched everything we wanted to see. I would definitely plan for a whole day in Galena. Click here for more information.
Dusk-Drive into Galena, Illinois
There isn’t much to do in Galena’s countryside during the winter, but it’s worth a drive if the night is still young. Plus, take a break at the Ramada Galena pool, which is open to the public, in case you decide to stay somewhere else. They have a life-size chess game there too. 🙂
Our honeymoon only lasted five days, instead of six. Since there is so much to do in Dubuque, it’s worth at least six days. It would be great if you took a walk around the town as well just to explore the architecture and history of Dubuque. You may find more to do there by walking the streets than surfing the web.
We suggest you visit Travel Dubuque to give you more ideas on planning your offbeat adventure!
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