10 reasons to go to Burlington, Iowa

I traveled to Burlington today on business, and after my work was finished I was pleasantly surprised at all there was to do in this southeast Iowa river town. So here’s a list of why you should go there, too.

  1. Snake Alley. Snake Alley is one of Burlington’s landmark attractions. Located between Washington and Columbia on Sixth, this street was built in 1894 as a shortcut from Heritage Hill to the business area. Bricks were laid at an angle to assist horses as they went down the hill. It drops 58 feet, contains five half-turns and two quarter-curves, and runs for only 275 feet. Ripley’s Believe It or Not calls it the crookedest street in the world.
  2. Big Muddy’s. No, not the Mississippi River – that comes later. Big Muddy’s is a restaurant located near the river and near downtown Burlington. The menu features, among other things, frog legs. Personally, I had a salad. Whatever you order, the view of the river is great through the floor-to-ceiling windows. And there’s a nice patio for outdoor dining.
  3. Burlington Bees. This minor-league baseball team (a Class A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals) plays on their home field from April to September.
  4. The view from Mosquito Park. Views of the Mississippi abound, but none is more spectacular than from Mosquito Park, overlooking the mighty river. Located at Franklin and North Third.
  5. Historic homes. While you’re trying to find Mosquito Park, be sure to ooh and aah at the spectacular historic homes in this neighborhood.
  6. The Great River Bridge. I’m a sucker for a cool bridge, and this is one of the coolest to cross the Mississippi River.
  7. Historic river-city architecture. In addition to being a sucker for bridges, I also sort of have a thing for river-city architecture, and Burlington’s is awesome. Old mills, hospitals, and churches built more than 100 years ago from brick and local stone line the bluffs along the riverfront. Ten are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  8. Potato chips. Yep, potato chips. Sterzing’s chips are made in Burlington. I’m told that you either love ‘em or you hate ‘em, but one bite of the light, crispy chip put me in the “love ‘em” group for sure. According to the company’s website, their main product, The Economy Pak, is sold in retail stores that proudly carry their chips. Sterzing’s chips are made fresh every day. Yum.
  9. FunCity. OK, I admit that I can’t vouch for these last two items first-hand because I didn’t go to either one. FunCity is a family entertainment facility featuring an indoor-outdoor water park, bowling, go-karts, laser tag…need I go on? This is definitely not my cup o tea, but I’m sure it would be fun for someone.
  10. Starr’s Cave. This nature center, park, and preserve does appeal to me, but I didn’t have time to visit it. The 2011 Iowa Travel Guide says that “great scenic views abound in this 200-acre area of forest communities and massive limestone bluffs rising above the creek.” Sounds pretty, and I hear there are bats in the caves. What more could you want?

Bonus activity: Tassel Ridge Winery

On the way home I stopped at Tassel Ridge Winery, located in Leighton, Iowa, between Oskaloosa and Pella. Tassel Ridge has surprisingly good wine and a large showroom/tasting area in which you can purchase Iowa products in addition to about 30 different kinds of wine.

I tasted four dry wines: two whites and two reds. The American Dry Riesling was a light, fruity wine that would be especially good to drink on a hot day. The Candleglow White was a good basic Chardonnay. I was not a big fan of the American Syrah and gave it a not-smiley face on my tasting form. The other red, called “Pizzeria & Pasta Too!” tasted a whole lot better than its name.

I bought a bottle of the Candleglow and helped myself to a copy of the new Iowa Wine and Beer Guide. This should be a handy reference when I follow one of the Iowa wine trails, something I hope to have time to do this fall.

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1 comment so far

  1. Julia on

    I grew up in Burlington, 5 min walk from Starrs Cave. I personally havent experienced FunCity since I moved 10 years ago, buteverything else on your list is spot on!


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