Summer’s last hurrah: Creating memories before heading back to school


Alpacas at Irish Meadows Alpaca Farm in La Motte, Iowa. PHOTO CREDIT: JESSICA REILLY


Gen. Zebulon Pike Lock and Dam No. 11. PHOTO CREDIT: JESSICA REILLY


National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium. PHOTO CREDIT: BENJAMIN MUNSON


Coconut Cove Beach Club & Resort. PHOTO CREDIT: EILEEN MESLAR


Swiss Valley Nature Center. PHOTO CREDIT: Veronica McAvoy


Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. PHOTO CREDIT: Katie Goodale


Sky Tours at Dubuque Community YMCA/YWCA Union Park. PHOTO CREDIT: NICKI KOHL


Mystique Ice Center. PHOTO CREDIT: Jessica Reilly


Fenelon Place Elevator. PHOTO CREDIT: NICKI KOHL


Storybook Hill Children’s Zoo. PHOTO CREDIT: JESSICA REILLY


Cloie Creek Park Splash Pad. PHOTO CREDIT: NICKI KOHL


Vertical Jump Park. PHOTO CREDIT: DAVE KETTERING

Summer is coming to an end. You’re ready for the kids to go back to school and, if you’re very lucky, they’re ready to go back, too. But there are a few weeks left before backpacks and buses become part of your daily routine and before the first chilly breaths of autumn make you want to hibernate until next spring. August is the perfect time to plan a few day trips and create some family memories. Whether you’re into getting physical, enjoying

hands-on activities and crafts or just observing and learning something new, there are adventures to be had not far from your front door. Be sure to call your destination ahead of time to confirm hours of operation, admission fees, COVID-19 protocols, reservations and other details that could affect your visit.

Talk to the animals

Irish Meadows Alpaca Farm is a working alpaca farm. You won’t find any extremely social animals here, and Irish Meadows is not a petting farm, but it’s worth the trip to see these unique creatures. Be sure to check out the gift shop, which carries an array of items made with alpaca wool, including some from the farm’s herd. Owned and operated by Mike and Julie Delaney and their family, Irish Meadows is open to visitors every day except Sunday. At Storybook Hill Children’s Zoo, you’ll travel through time and experience an American farm from the 1940s. You won’t see anything terribly exotic, but rabbits, peacocks, chickens, ducks, goats and other farm animals can be exciting for youngsters who haven’t seen these kinds of animals up close. There also are picnic tables and playgrounds, making Storybook Hill a pleasant outing close to home.

Stay cool

During the dog days of August, there are plenty of options to beat the heat. Make a day of it at Coconut Cove Beach Club & Resort or Grand Harbor Resort and Waterpark, where locals can purchase a day pass and enjoy amenities like pools, beaches, lakes, aqua parks, rides and more. Or, spend a few hours at Cloie Creek Park Splash Pad. If you’re not a fan of the water, strap on some skates and stay cool at Mystique Community Ice Center or spend some time indoors jumping on trampolines or climbing rock walls at Vertical Jump Park. You might work up a sweat, but you’ll do it in air conditioned comfort.

Roll on the river

Living near one of the world’s most famous rivers, we might sometimes forget how awesome it is to live here. Why should tourists have all the fun? A sightseeing cruise with American Lady Cruises can open our eyes to what we’ve been missing. Choose from a simple sightseeing excursion to lunch or dinner cruises. If you’re more into do-it-yourself river adventures, you can kayak or canoe the river or its tributaries along the city’s Dubuque Water Trail. Boat launches include A.Y. McDonald Park, Schmitt Island, American Trust River’s Edge Plaza, Massey Marina Park and Mines of Spain State Recreation Area. Gen. Zebulon Pike Lock and Dam No. 11 is a cool place to hang out and watch boats and barges travel through the locks. An observation overlook with a sight scope might give you glimpses of pelicans, ducks, eagles and other water-loving birds and animals. Walking tours of the lock and dam take place at 2 p.m. every Sunday between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Bring a picnic, and enjoy lunch at one of the available picnic tables. Restrooms and vending machines make this a very kid-friendly destination.

Above the city

There are plenty of places to find scenic views in the Driftless region, but if you want to add a little excitement to your ascent, Fenelon Place Elevator might be just the ticket. Operating since 1882 (although fire forced a replacement to be built in 1893), the world’s shortest and steepest railroad will take you in a cable car that travels on a narrow gauge railway up a steep slope to two observation decks. There, visitors will have a commanding view of downtown Dubuque, and can see Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin all in one fell swoop. You can travel one-way or round-trip, and pay the old-fashioned way: Cash only. Sky Tours combines nature, history and zipline rides for those 10 and older. A two-hour tour includes a hike through wooded hillsides with a guide; exploring the ruins of Union Park, an early 20th century entertainment destination for Dubuquers; and zipline rides ranging from 300 to 1,000 feet long and up to 75 feet above the ground. Back on earth It never hurts to learn a little while having fun, and there are plenty of places and spaces to do just that. Creative Adventure Lab, National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium, Dubuque Museum of Art and Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Gardens offer activities and exhibits that can keep families busy for a few hours or an entire day. Get hands-on at Creative Adventure Lab, dive deep into the science and nature of the Mississippi at the aquarium, explore botany and entomology at the arboretum or discover the lives of local and world-renowned artists at the art museum. At Swiss Valley Nature Preserve and Nature Center, enjoy 10 miles of self-guided hikes through forest, wetland and prairies. Bring your fishing poles and fish on Catfish Creek, or explore the nature center and its interpretive displays about the ecology and wildlife of the area.

Do a little meandering

Sometimes, just getting in the car and exploring the world that’s 10, 20 or 30 miles from your home can yield some unexpected surprises. The Great River Road National Scenic Byway is a 3,000 mile network of roads across the country that highlights shorelines and coastllines. More than 300 of those miles are in Iowa, including Dubuque, Bellevue, Balltown, Sherrill, Guttenberg and McGregor. You’ll find historic markers, family-owned restaurants, charming small town shops and breathtaking scenic vistas — just be sure electronic devices are off so you don’t miss it all. Michelle London writes for the Telegraph Herald.

Summer is coming to an end. You’re ready for the kids to go back to school and, if you’re very lucky, they’re ready to go back, too.

But there are a few weeks left before backpacks and buses become part of your daily routine and before the first chilly breaths of autumn make you want to hibernate until next spring.

August is the perfect time to plan a few day trips and create some family memories. Whether you’re into getting physical, enjoying

hands-on activities and crafts or just observing and learning something new, there are adventures to be had not far from your front door.

Be sure to call your destination ahead of time to confirm hours of operation, admission fees, COVID-19 protocols, reservations and other details that could affect your visit.

Talk to the animals

Irish Meadows Alpaca Farm is a working alpaca farm. You won’t find any extremely social animals here, and Irish Meadows is not a petting farm, but it’s worth the trip to see these unique creatures. Be sure to check out the gift shop, which carries an array of items made with alpaca wool, including some from the farm’s herd. Owned and operated by Mike and Julie Delaney and their family, Irish Meadows is open to visitors every day except Sunday.

At Storybook Hill Children’s Zoo, you’ll travel through time and experience an American farm from the 1940s. You won’t see anything terribly exotic, but rabbits, peacocks, chickens, ducks, goats and other farm animals can be exciting for youngsters who haven’t seen these kinds of animals up close. There also are picnic tables and playgrounds, making Storybook Hill a pleasant outing close to home.

Stay cool

During the dog days of August, there are plenty of options to beat the heat. Make a day of it at Coconut Cove Beach Club & Resort or Grand Harbor Resort and Waterpark, where locals can purchase a day pass and enjoy amenities like pools, beaches, lakes, aqua parks, rides and more. Or, spend a few hours at Cloie Creek Park Splash Pad.

If you’re not a fan of the water, strap on some skates and stay cool at Mystique Community Ice Center or spend some time indoors jumping on trampolines or climbing rock walls at Vertical Jump Park. You might work up a sweat, but you’ll do it in air conditioned comfort.

Roll on the river

Living near one of the world’s most famous rivers, we might sometimes forget how awesome it is to live here. Why should tourists have all the fun? A sightseeing cruise with American Lady Cruises can open our eyes to what we’ve been missing. Choose from a simple sightseeing excursion to lunch or dinner cruises.

If you’re more into do-it-yourself river adventures, you can kayak or canoe the river or its tributaries along the city’s Dubuque Water Trail. Boat launches include A.Y. McDonald Park, Schmitt Island, American Trust River’s Edge Plaza, Massey Marina Park and Mines of Spain State Recreation Area.

Gen. Zebulon Pike Lock and Dam No. 11 is a cool place to hang out and watch boats and barges travel through the locks. An observation overlook with a sight scope might give you glimpses of pelicans, ducks, eagles and other water-loving birds and animals. Walking tours of the lock and dam take place at 2 p.m. every Sunday between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Bring a picnic, and enjoy lunch at one of the available picnic tables. Restrooms and vending machines make this a very kid-friendly destination.

Above the city

There are plenty of places to find scenic views in the Driftless region, but if you want to add a little excitement to your ascent, Fenelon Place Elevator might be just the ticket. Operating since 1882 (although fire forced a replacement to be built in 1893), the world’s shortest and steepest railroad will take you in a cable car that travels on a narrow gauge railway up a steep slope to two observation decks. There, visitors will have a commanding view of downtown Dubuque, and can see Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin all in one fell swoop. You can travel one-way or round-trip, and pay the old-fashioned way: Cash only.

Sky Tours combines nature, history and zipline rides for those 10 and older. A two-hour tour includes a hike through wooded hillsides with a guide; exploring the ruins of Union Park, an early 20th century entertainment destination for Dubuquers; and zipline rides ranging from 300 to 1,000 feet long and up to 75 feet above the ground.

Back on earth It never hurts to learn a little while having fun, and there are plenty of places and spaces to do just that.

Creative Adventure Lab, National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium, Dubuque Museum of Art and Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Gardens offer activities and exhibits that can keep families busy for a few hours or an entire day.

Get hands-on at Creative Adventure Lab, dive deep into the science and nature of the Mississippi at the aquarium, explore botany and entomology at the arboretum or discover the lives of local and world-renowned artists at the art museum.

At Swiss Valley Nature Preserve and Nature Center, enjoy 10 miles of self-guided hikes through forest, wetland and prairies. Bring your fishing poles and fish on Catfish Creek, or explore the nature center and its interpretive displays about the ecology and wildlife of the area.

Do a little meandering

Sometimes, just getting in the car and exploring the world that’s 10, 20 or 30 miles from your home can yield some unexpected surprises.

The Great River Road National Scenic Byway is a 3,000 mile network of roads across the country that highlights shorelines and coastllines. More than 300 of those miles are in Iowa, including Dubuque, Bellevue, Balltown, Sherrill, Guttenberg and McGregor. You’ll find historic markers, family-owned restaurants, charming small town shops and breathtaking scenic vistas — just be sure electronic devices are off so you don’t miss it all.

Michelle London writes for the Telegraph Herald.

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