Maximizing its picturesque Mississippi River location is the name of the game when it comes to drawing meetings groups to Dubuque, Iowa.
“The Mississippi River is right outside our front door, and Dubuque has done a great job of embracing that, and spent a lot of money [to revitalize riverfront infrastructure],” says Keith Rahe, president of the Dubuque CVB. “That’s where we’re really blessed, because right within a couple blocks is the majority of meeting space, along with the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium, which is great for off-site parties and entertainment, and is affiliated with the Smithsonian. Also, right across the street is a Diamond Jo Casino, with its Mississippi Moon Bar. Groups can book that and have off-site evening events there.
“And that’s not even mentioning getting aboard one of our paddlewheel boats on the Mississippi for a dinner on the river,” Rahe adds.
While its location on the most iconic of American rivers certainly provides built-in marketing punch, the city of Dubuque has invested some $400 million in riverfront improvement projects since 2003 to make sure its product is up to snuff.
Along with the municipal money, tourism-related businesses have also provided riverfront revitalization funds, including the Grand Harbor Resort hotel, which is connected by skywalk to the Grand River Center—one of the top facilities in the Midwest, located right on the Mississippi and offering 86,000 square feet of meeting space—and a $90 million Diamond Jo Casino project that provides myriad entertainment options. Mystique Casino also ponied up some $36 million for a renovation.
Rahe says that because Dubuque is the oldest community in Iowa, it also offers a historic main street district only a couple of blocks from the Port of Dubuque.
“There’s a lot of activities within easy walking distance of each other,” Rahe says, noting the Fenelon Place elevator, boasting the shortest cable cars and steepest incline in the U.S., and its Cable Car Square retail area as a popular visitor attraction.
“They call us the San Francisco of the Midwest,” he adds.
Away from the river, many groups travel to scenic Galena, Ill., about 15 minutes from Dubuque, for excursions to experience its dining and shopping. And located a little more than 20 miles away is the Field of Dreams baseball facility, where the ghosts of baseball legends just might come out of the cornfields, if you believe the legend portrayed in the Kevin Costner movie.
Rahe says Dubuque frequently attracts national and regional associations, and can comfortably accommodate up to 2,000 in its walkable convention district and four primary hotels.