Davenport, Iowa, is the largest of the Quad Cities, with a wealth of attractions and activities to keep both residents and visitors happy. With intriguing museums, a lively arts and cultural scene, dozens of parks, and a plethora of restaurants, galleries, bars, and shops, there's something here for everyone. If you're planning to visit, these are the 20 best things to do in Davenport.
20. Take a flying lesson at Carver Aero
If you're in the mood for something a little adventurous, take the advice of bydeze.com and take to the skies with a private flying lesson at Carver Aero. You'll be given a short lesson by an instructor before co-piloting a plane over the Mississippi River and the Davenport Area. You can even bring along someone for the ride if they're feeling brave!
19. Take a stroll along Sunderbruch Park Trail
Recommended as one of the best things to do in Davenport by thingstodopost.org, the Sunderbruch Park Trail is the ideal place to stretch your legs and enjoy some nature. Nestled away amongst hills and trees, the wide paved trail is suitable for hiking, running, and biking.
18. Join in the fun at the Bix Fest
If you're in town during the first weekend of August, don't miss the annual Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival (or Bix Fest) in the downtown. Spread over four days, the musical extravaganza consists of a series of events designed to celebrate the life and works of one of Davenport's most famous sons, Bix Beiderbecke, who was born in the town in 1903. Expect jam sessions, parties, free concerts, and more besides.
17. Discover the wetlands of Nahant Marsh
If you feel like soaking up some nature during your time in Davenport, you'll find few better places to do it than Nahant Marsh. Located on the outer reaches of the city, the 513-acre nature preserve ranks as one of the largest urban wetlands on the Mississippi River. With a diverse ecosystem of permanent and seasonal wetlands, saturated sedge meadows, prairies, forests, and meadows, together with a huge population of native wildlife, it's a wonderful place to explore via the trails, dock, and boardwalks that run throughout.
16. Explore the historic riverfront
No trip to Davenport is complete without a stroll along the riverfront. Start your hike at the lovely Lindsay Park in the Village of East Davenport before making your leisurely way along the well-maintained trail. Along the way, you'll enjoy some of the best sights in Davenport... not to mention breathtaking views over the mighty Mississippi.
15. Enjoy an event at the River Music Experience
If you're in the mood to shake your hips and support a good cause in the process, head for the River Music Experience, a non-profit music venue where musicians of all varieties and genres can come and share their craft with Davenport's music lovers. With over 150 scheduled events each year, along with a huge array of educational programs, jazz jams, open mic nights, and workshops, it's a must-visit destination for anyone who appreciates a deep-seated groove and the chance to jiggle a foot to some of Iowa's best-untapped talent.
14. Go bowling at the Hotel Blackhawk
If you want to experience one of the very best hotel experiences Davenport has to offer, forget the budget and splurge on an overnight stay at the stately Hotel Blackhawk. Constructed in 1915, the historic hotel has welcomed numerous famous names over the years, from Tony Bennet to Babe Ruth. Hollywood legend Cary Grant also stayed at the hotel while he was performing at the nearby Adler Theatre. After falling into disrepair at the end of the 20th century, the hotel underwent extensive renovations in 2010. Now back in business as one of the city's most elegant properties, it's a wonderful place to spend the night.... not least for the chance to blow off some steam at the basement bowling alley.
13. Step back in time at the German American Heritage Center
If you want to learn a little more about the German immigrants who settled in Davenport, take the advice of travelawaits.com and factor in a visit to the German American Heritage Center during your time in Davenport. Established in 1994 with the aim of educating visitors on the German immigrant experience, the museum is set in the same historic hotel that housed many German immigrants when they first began arriving in Davenport in the 1800s. With several hands-on exhibits, an orientation theater, numerous education stations, and two faithfully restored hotel rooms, it's the perfect place to learn more about a vital but often overlooked period in Davenport's history.
12. Take a class at Beréskin Gallery & Art Academy
The Beréskin Gallery & Art Academy is a little bit of everything, boasting a classroom where you can take an art class, an artist's studio where you can chat to local artists, and a gallery where you can check out a fascinating collection of multi-media artworks. Whether you want to take a painting lesson, pick up some tips from a sculpture, or simply enjoy a couple of hours browsing the exhibits, it's a great place to spend an afternoon.
11. Visit Lagomarcino's Confectionary
If you like a hefty dollop of nostalgia to go with your sugar fix, don't miss a visit to Lagomarcino's Confectionary, an old-fashioned ice cream parlor and candy store designed after the original 1908 Lagomarcino’s in Moline. With stained glass lamps, a glossy black walnut bar, and a pervading aroma of sweet, sugary goodness wafting throughout, it's the perfect place to indulge your sweet tooth in a hot fudge sundae, chocolate-covered cherries, and a root beer float. You might pick up a cavity or two while you're in there, but it's worth the trip to the dentist.
10. Stock up on booze at Camp McClellan Cellars
Unless you're a strict teetotaler, Camp McClellan Cellars is a must-visit during any visit to Davenport. The downtown wine store stocks an incredible selection of wines from local wineries, together with a tempting collection of rare and intriguing finds from across the world. Together with the wines (which you can sample before you buy at one of the regular wine tasting events), there's also a fabulous assortment of foods and gift baskets... not to mention all the equipment, chemicals, and ingredients you'll need if you like the idea of making your own bottle of wine.
9. Restock the fridge at Freight House Farmers Market
The Freight House Farmers Market by the historic Freight House Building in downtown Davenport is a great place to pick up some produce and soak up the local atmosphere while you do it. Open every Saturday, Sunday, and Tuesday, the market plays host to legions of local farmers and artisans, offering a huge selection of fresh fruits and veggies, meat, cheeses, baked goods, bread, jams, honey, candies, handmade soap, crafts, fresh flowers, and anything else you can grow, make and design. If "fresh," "seasonal," "local," and "artisanal" are buzz words you can get on board with, be sure to check it out.
8. Walk across the Davenport Skybridge
If you want to enjoy some unbeatable views over the Mississippi River, head for the Davenport Skybridge. The bridge, which was constructed in 2005, was built with the express purpose of letting people cross the River Drive to get to Riverboat or LeClaire Park in safety... which it does. What it also does is provide a magical feast for the eyes when the sun goes down and the 8000 LED lights that span the length of its 575 meters turn it into a kaleidoscope of ever-changing colors. To get the most out of this impressive landmark, head for the observation deck to enjoy a birds-eye view over the river, Centennial Bridge, and the Davenport Levee.
7. Catch a performance at the Adler Theatre
The Adler Theatre opened its doors for the first time in 1931. Since then, the 2,400-seat theatre and performing arts center has formed a crucial part of Davenport's cultural scene. As well as being home to the Ballet Quad Cities and Quad City Symphony Orchestra, it also hosts regular live music events from big-name artists, along with productions and Broadway shows performed by touring companies. The gorgeous art deco interior, which was designed by Henry Dreyfuss, is as much of a reason to visit as anything else.
6. Discover Putnam Museum
History buffs won't want to miss a visit to Putnam Museum, a highlight of Davenport's cultural scene and the proud home of over 160,000 major artifacts and specimens. Discover the flawless recreation of Egyptian King Tut, find out more about Arctic polar bears, African zebras, and other exotic mammals at the Hall of Mammals' multi-sensory exhibit, and delve into the lives and times of some of the Quad Cities earliest inhabitants. If you're looking to be educated and have a ton of fun in the process, it's an unbeatable destination.
5. Take a breath at the Vander Veer Botanical Park
If you want to escape the crowded streets and enjoy some blissful time in nature, take the advice of Vacation Idea and head for the Vander Veer Botanical Park, a wonderful oasis of tranquillity where you can stroll the wide walkway of the Grand Allee, discover the bubbling Stone Fountain, work up a sweat on the one-mile jogging path, and breath in the fragrant delights of the Municipal Rose Garden. While you're there, be sure to check out the dazzling display of blooms at the Conservatory, which also plays host to the fall Chrysanthemum Festival and the winter Poinsettia Lights Display.
4. Explore the Village of East Davenport
As thecrazytourist.com explains, the Village of East Davenport (or just "The Village," if you're a local) is a historic district that was once its own independent community. Since its incorporation into the wider city, it's become one of Davenport's premier shopping and entertainment areas, stuffed to the rafters with local independent businesses, bars, and restaurants. With its lively atmosphere and unique style, it's a great place to check out some local events, spend a few hours browsing the shops, or grab a coffee and soak up the local flavor.
3. Indulge your sweet tooth at Chocolate Manor
If you have a sweet tooth, the Chocolate Manor is the Davenport destination for you. This chic downtown store stocks over 100 varieties of every sweet indulgence you can lace with cocoa, from gourmet chocolates to toffees, cookies to chocolate-covered potato chips. There's also a wonderful selection of ice creams that will go down a treat on a hot day. All of the products are made using only the highest quality Belgian and French chocolate. For full-time chocoholics, there's even the chance to order your own custom-made chocolate creation.
2. Visit B.J and Mabel Palmer Mansion
Whether you call it the B.J and Mabel Palmer Mansion or the Palmer Family Residence, this historic property is the perfect place to while a few hours immersing yourself in history. Built in 1874 for a local lumber mill owner called Louis C. Dessaint and later purchased by legendary chiropractor B.J. Palmer, the house is home to a collection of exhibits picked up by the Palmer family during their travels. Expect to see a kangaroo from Australia, an elephant foot's humidor, an Aeolian pipe organ, and, for some reason known only to the Palmer family themselves, the trunk and branches of four oak trees. It's wacky but wonderful, and a great place to learn a little more about some of Davenport's most famous (and eccentric) former inhabitants.
1. Admire the exhibits at the Figge Art Museum
In 1925, a former mayor of Davenport called Charles A. Ficke gifted the city 330 artworks. The collection was displayed at the Davenport Municipal Art Gallery, which has since gone through two name changes, amassed several major new donations from the V.O. and the Elizabeth Kahl Figge Foundation, moved to a swanky new premises designed by David Chipperfield, and established itself as one of Iowa's premier cultural sights. If you like art, don't miss it - with a vast collection of Haitian art, a stunning selection of pieces from American Regionalist artists, and a jaw-dropping display of American, European, and Spanish Viceregal art, it's one of Devenport's chief attractions for a reason.
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn