Return to Eastern Iowa

January/February 2013

Eastern Iowa

by Tony Bartlett

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Eastern Iowa is about rolling hills and steep valleys, scenic byways and heartland agricultural traditions—and most of all, rivers. “See the beauty…. sample the fun,” invites the Eastern Iowa Tourism Association, one of the Hawkeye State’s three regional tourism groups.

According to Carrie Koelker, executive director of the association, the Mississippi River is a natural magnet, providing significant recreational opportunities.

“It is an enormous engine that draws in delegates. We have small-town hospitality and also big-city excitement,” she says. “And no matter where you are going there is the wonderful hospitality of Iowa.”

Rivers are also providing the backdrop to a slew of new opportunities for meeting planners.

Iowa’s oldest city, Dubuque, is in the area where Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin meet.

It markets itself as “Rivertown reinvented.” America’s River Project, the revitalization that began more than 12 years ago, has included the 193-room Grand Harbor Resort & Waterpark and the adjacent Grand River Center, with 86,000 square feet of meeting space. On nearby Main Street, the historic 133-room Hotel Julien Dubuque, which reopened in fall 2009 after a $36 million renovation, has 14,000 square feet of meeting space.

The river area includes a winery, the 5-year-old Diamond Jo Casino and the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium, which opened a $40 million expansion in 2010. In 2012 the museum completed a walkway that connects the facilities. According to Julie Kronlage, sales director at the Dubuque CVB, the river area is a great outdoor location for after-hours events.

“We had a great 2012 and look forward to another great year,” Kronlage says.

Groups can sail the 770-passenger Celebration Belle, which operates from both Dubuque and Moline, Ill., in the Quad Cities. Other cruise options include American Lady Yacht Cruises, the 377-passenger Spirit of Dubuque paddle-wheeler and the 110-passenger Miss Dubuque yacht.

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