Blake Walsh

25 Best Things to Do in Davenport, IA

  • Published 2023/03/15

A diverse city in the heart of Iowa, Davenport is the county seat of Scott County.

The city has a standard population of around approximately 99,000, making it Iowa’s second most populated city.

It is situated between the cities of Chicago and Des Moines.

One of Iowa and Illinois’ Quad Cities, Davenport is also bordered by the famous Mississippi River, providing the city with some of the most scenic spots.

The city was formed officially in 1836, so there is quite some history and regalia to unravel and discover.

A prime location for travelers, Davenport boasts more than 50 parks and some of the highest areas of biking and walking trails, so you won’t run out of sites to roam.

The Sky Bridge is a treat to the eyes, as are the city’s numerous heritage centers and the historic Village of East Davenport.

The city is known for some nationally acclaimed museums that showcase works from as early as the 11th century.

Davenport is also extremely famous for the yearlong festivities it organizes, like the Mississippi Valley Fair or their Jazz Festivals.

As the Quad Cities were named among the most affordable metropolitan areas, traveling through Davenport won’t burn a hole in your pocket.

Ready to start exploring this city?

Here are the best things to do in Davenport, Iowa:

Walk into the Magical Vander Veer Botanical Park

Fountain in Vander Veer Botanical Park

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Located on West Central Park Avenue, the Vander Veer Botanical Park can be easily called a piece of heaven on earth.

It comprises an indoor garden, which is like a cornucopia of beautifully decorated plants, shrubs, and flowers.

As you step inside the place, you’ll notice that the very entrance has a beautiful brick-style, a cottage-like aesthetic that will make you feel like you are in the world of Narnia or Snow White.

The entire botanical park is like a maze of tulips, carnations, and breathtaking shrubs.

Walkway lined with trees at Vander Veer Botanical Park

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Every step you take will increasingly make you feel like you’ve stepped into a little dream world.

The outdoor has a huge garden and a massive walking area with a canopy of tall trees.

You will definitely need to take your cameras with you, as the Vander Veer Botanical Park’s every corner is picture-perfect.

Moreover, waterfalls, fountains, little brooks, and ponds add much to its beauty.

Needless to say, the varieties of plants, shrubs, and flowering species you’ll find here are quite thrilling and pleasing.

Flowers and shrubs at Vander Veer Botanical Park

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Spend an Amazing Day at the Figge Art Museum

Exterior of Figge Art Museum

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The most prestigious museum in Davenport and perhaps even the entire state of Iowa, the Figge Art Museum is located on 2nd Street.

This vast museum has some of Iowa’s most precious art and memorabilia.

There are free admissions for seniors on some days, too.

There is also a view of the Mississippi River from this place, which is an added bonus.

Side facade of Figge Art Museum

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The museum displays paintings by the brightest artists, including Rose Frandsen’s Portraits of Maquoketa.

Other displays include equipment from the World Wars, royal furniture, significant pictures from American history, and certain memorabilia dating as far back as the 11th century.

The collections are regularly changed, so there will be something new for you to check out every time you visit.

Stroll around the Freight House Farmers’ Market

This is the heart of Davenport, so a true traveler should not miss out on mingling with locals at the beautiful marketplaces and getting energized while shopping.

The Freight House Farmers’ Market is a community area with all types of goods and services you can possibly ask for.

There are lavish and cozy restaurants and cool cafes and bars.

In addition, there is also the traditional marketplace where you can shop for the freshest veggies and fruits of Davenport.

The fresh produce ranges from raspberries, peaches, and blueberries to melons and fresh garden-picked tomatoes.

The farmers’ market also includes a little flower corner.

At night, several food trucks are parked here, and the place is set aglow with beautifully lit-up canopies.

Visit the Putnam Museum and Science Center

Children, youngsters, adults, or senior citizens—take anyone to this place and show them around, and they are bound to have an unforgettable day.

At this museum, you connect to history not only by being presented with objects but also by engaging through many activities like events and special classes.

The Putnam Museum holds fascinating exhibitions, one of which actually features drums played by none other than the Beatles.

There are numerous lifelike statues of animals, like bears and foxes.

There is a forensic exhibit, and believe it or not, there is a tomb with a mummy from Egypt.

Among the museum’s many other fascinating displays are structures of dinosaurs, a ship anchorage, and a mini space station.

Have a Whirlwind of Fun at the Rhythm City Casino Resort

Entrance doors of Rhythm City Resort and Casino

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This is for the ones curious about Davenport’s nightlife and party scene or are simply looking to have a night of fun and excitement.

Rhythm City Casino Resort presents loads of things to do and enjoy to your heart’s content.

For example, there is a casino with around 1,000 gaming options.

Aerial view of Rhythm City Casino Resort

Bgoman1, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Also, since it’s a resort, there is a huge stage where live music shows and events are held.

There are bars, lounges, buffets, pools, spas and much more for guests to relish.

The entire area is decorated with the coolest lighting to lift up your spirits and gives the place a youthful night vibe.

Take a Trip to the Historic Village of East Davenport

Shops and restaurants at Village of Eastern Davenport

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Be thoroughly moved and touched by the old-time charm of the Village of Eastern Davenport.

The village t is about 150 years old.

It is calm and well-decorated, and the architecture gives off a softcore 1960s aura.

The village is situated beside the river, and it has cool cottages and houses that look like dollhouses from old times.

Market building at Village of East Davenport

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What else could one ask for?

The Village of East Davenport is home to unique, stopped-in-time bars and restaurants, cruises ships, and riverside hiking areas and gardens.

There are also miniature lighthouses and monuments, wine tasting rooms and vineyards, lots of countryside festivals, and beautifully systemized scenic spots.

Cars along Village of East Davenport

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Watch a Live Sports Game at Modern Woodmen Park

Daytime view of Modern Woodmen Park

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Who doesn’t love sports—especially when it involves a live game in a sports complex or stadium?

If you visit Davenport, the famous Modern Woodmen Park is one of the most lively places to be, as it’s always filled with the roaring cheers of the crowds.

Signage of Modern Woodmen Park

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Games like baseball and others are played thoroughly, but there are different things to do, like gaming and eating your favorite snacks.

The view of the Mississippi River from here is lovely.

There is an amusement park beside the stadium, featuring several rides that include a Ferris wheel.

The field of Modern Woodmen Park

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Visit the Mystical Davenport Skybridge

Interior of Davenport Skybridge

Brad Isbell, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Davenport Skybridge is one of the most scintillating destinations in Davenport and Iowa in general.

It is a bridge built on top of the Mississippi River and is surely considered an architectural paradise in Iowa.

Exterior of Davenport Skybridge

davidwilson1949, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The bridge is made with glass walls, giving you a breathtaking view of the entire city of Davenport.

The entrance has many restaurants and food hubs.

Make sure you visit the bridge at night because this is when the entire stretch of the glass structure is decorated with thousands of beautifully colored LED lights.

Tour the German American Heritage Center

Exterior of German American Heritage Center

Ctjf83, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Located on W 2nd Street, the German American Heritage Center is an extremely interesting place to spend the day.

It covers the earliest history of Iowa and Davenport, stretching all the way to the World Wars.

There are multiple exhibitions held here, like the Freedom Struggle in Eastern Europe.

Artifacts of the German heritage relating to American history are also found here.

Heritage movies are regularly put on here, which visitors are free to watch.

The German immigration to America is exceptionally well-covered here, and tourists with intercultural interests can truly learn a lot from a visit to this museum.

Spend Some Quality Time with Family at West Lake Park

On a free evening, you can take your family to West Lake Park to spend some quality time.

There are loads of things to be done here, like picnicking with your loved ones, sitting by the green playgrounds, going for a jog, or hiking through the woods.

Another fabulous activity you can enjoy is camping, as there are dedicated campgrounds where visitors may spend the night.

Besides this, the lake creates the perfect atmosphere for you to enjoy with your nearest and dearest.

Engage in a Fine Show at the Adler Theatre

Marquee of Adler theater

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A must for your Davenport itinerary, the Adler Theatre is one of the city’s go-to places to see an entertaining live performance.

It’s also an excellent place to get a feel of Davenport’s entertainment scene.

The exteriors are gorgeous, giving the perfect Broadway vibe.

Meanwhile, the interior has cozy warm interiors with a gallery system equipped to take in hundreds of audiences.

The lobby of Adler Theatre

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The shows performed here range from a huge variety of Greek classics to post-modernist shows.

Apart from this, there are musicals performed as well as live shows by artists from local and national areas.

Take your family here and enjoy the warmth of live performances and dramas.

Enjoy the Scenic Views of Centennial Park

A gazebo at Centennial Park

Farragutful, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The gorgeous Centennial Park is located on Marquette Street.

It is located just beside the river, beside the Centennial Bridge.

This round-designed bridge has oval formations and makes for an amazing view.

Scenic night scene at Centennial Park

Ryan Brohm /

There are gazebos and picnicking areas and benches by the shore of Mississippi, where you can sit and bask in nature’s beauty and peace.

Centennial Park is famous for biking; in fact, regional biking shows are held here.

On any particular day at this park, you’ll see energetic cyclists biking their way through the wide and beautifully cemented paths.

Visit the Peaceful Credit Island

Bridge in Credit Island

c and w photograpghy /

After all that biking and hiking, one should make it a point to visit someplace quiet, pretty, and utterly unique.

Credit Island, located in Davenport’s southwest area, is technically a natural park but is truly much more than that.

It is actually situated on a little island that dates back to the 1800s.

Picnic shed at Credit Island

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Presently, a number of efforts go into maintaining the beauty of this unique island.

There is a very long bridge over the river, an 1812 War Memorial, and loads of structures and statues built around the serene shores.

You can go fishing, swimming, or picnicking here.

Enjoy a Soulful Visit to the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Cathedral Complex

Exterior of the Sacred Heart Cathedral

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To get touched by the true soulfulness of Davenport, pay a visit to the fine Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Cathedral Complex.

It is located on 10th Street, and a walk around the structure will give you an idea of how ancient the cathedral truly is.

Interior of the Sacred Heart Cathedral

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The interiors are adorned with some of the most precious paintings of the Virgin Mary and Christ.

You can sit in the vast hall area and peacefully soak in the hymns, paintings, statues, and stained glass windows.

Stained glass windows of the Sacred Heart Cathedral

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Dine at Cafe D’Marie

Tucked away in the historic district of Gold Coast, Cafe D’Marie brings the charm of tradition and history into your food.

The restaurant itself is in a home that was built in the 1800s, and you can see signs of its age and history wherever you look.

When you try out their food, it’s like you’re taking a journey back in history.

Feel as if you’re traversing all the years and stories of Davenport and get to know the area better just with the act of eating.

Visit the Machine Shed Restaurant

Exterior of Machine Shed Restaurant

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The Machine Shed is the perfect place to visit if you want a meal that’ll fill you right up and leave you wanting more.

All their dishes are delicious and impossible to resist, so give their menu a shot and see what you like.

You can start off your meal with a Roasted Cauliflower or Sauteed Savory Shrimp, for example.

Signage of Machine Shed Restaurant

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Then, you can move on to some choice cut steaks, prime ribs, or midwest pork.

There’s also a pretty extensive dessert menu you can check out if you’re craving something sweet.

And make sure to try out their specialty drinks while you’re there!

Taste Fine Wines at The J Bar

Are you a foodie with an interest in New American Cuisine and experiencing unique and flavorful dishes?

If that’s the case, then the J Bar is definitely a place you should consider visiting.

Take a sip of their fine wines and well-mixed cocktails, or maybe try out their craft beers if that’s more to your preferences.

You can also try out their burgers and tacos if you’re looking for a filling meal while you’re there.

Grab Some Beers at Front Street Brewery

Exterior of Front Street Brewery

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Front Street Brewery is the oldest brewery and the second oldest pub in the entire state of Iowa.

Their beginnings were pretty humble, starting off with only seven barrels in the basement of what’s now their pub and eatery.

The business has come a long way since then, and there’s a lot more to taste and try out now than when they were just beginning.

They have a wide selection of craft beers you can sample, so they’ll surely be something that caters to your tastes specifically.

And, in the pub, you can also order different dishes while you’re mingling with your traveling companions or the locals.

Pay a Visit to Me & Billy Kitchen and Bar

Me & Billy started with a simple idea: just make a bar with amazing food; it’s been the restaurant’s guiding principle since the beginning and is the key to its success.

Every detail, from the back bar to the staff, was hand-picked to give patrons the best experience possible while they’re dining at the fine establishment.

Their menu features fresh and local ingredients, usually in homemade and seasonal offerings, and you can taste the love that went into making them in every bite.

There’s a different drink for every day of the week, so you’ll always have a fun and interesting time while you’re there.

View the Exhibitions on Display at the Palmer Family and Chiropractic History Museum

Davenport’s array of museums is all special in its own way.

And this is the case for the Palmer Family and Chiropractic History Museum.

This museum features sculptures representing human body parts for educational purposes.

It also serves as a living legacy of D.D. Palmer, the man who founded chiropractic.

In the museum’s osteological collection, you can find extensive displays of skeleton and bone replicas.

Browse through the Palmers’ collected Roycroft furniture, too, and get to know the family behind the scientific success.

The Palmer Family and Chiropractic History Museum is on West 7th Street.

Challenge Yourself to a Game of Golf at Emeis Golf Course

Sunny day at Emeis Golf Course

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Opened in 1961, Emeis Golf Course is a Davenport golf facility within the western boundary.

This site was once farmland that takes pride in its rolling terrain.

It spans 155 acres and offers an arduous 18-hole layout that you can play up to a par of 72.

Join tournaments and leagues within the facility.

Or choose to play for fun with the whole family!

Head over to West Central Park Avenue to get to Emeis Golf Course.

Immerse Yourself in Nature at Nahant Marsh

A flower at Nahant Marsh

Richard Nagle /

When talking about nature excursions, Nahant Marsh gives Davenport a reputation boost.

It is fairly famous for being the largest urban wetland within the area of the Upper Mississippi River.

But before offering its vast habitats—including sand prairies and bottomland forests, this site was once an oxbow lake and a transportation hub for the early settlers.

This 328-acre preserve has a center within the property of the same name.

The preserve also has multiple trails circling its perimeter that you can traverse for a true nature expedition.

It also hosts a multitude of programs for children, teens, and adults.

Come by and view wildlife, along with the preserve’s collection of plants and vegetation.

Located in southwest Davenport, Nahant Marsh is on Wapello Avenue.

Discover More About Jazz Heritage at Bix Beiderbecke Museum and Archives

Bix Beiderbecke Museum and Archives offers a unique museum experience within Davenport.

This historical site pays tribute to the jazz musician it got its name after.

Opened in 2017, it shows stages of Bix’s life shown with preserved artifacts and photographs.

From the musician’s usual clothing and instruments to his only personal piano, you have many memorabilia to explore and take pictures of.

But remember not to use flash photography, as this is not allowed.

Admission to this museum is free, so you have no reason not to visit!

Bix Beiderbecke Museum and Archives is on North Main Street.

Join a Tour around Chocolate Manor

Calling all those with a sweet tooth!

Don’t forget to add Chocolate Manor to your Davenport itinerary.

This family-owned chocolate shop has a wide assortment of chocolate treats and desserts you won’t get to see elsewhere.

For over 20 years, this artisan shop has served the community with delectable truffles, caramels, and creams.

And that’s not all!

This shop also offers immersive tours around the kitchen, taking you along the chocolate-making process.

Sample chocolate while you’re at it!

Chocolate Manor is on East 2nd Street within Davenport’s downtown district.

Final Thoughts

Davenport, bordered by the Mississippi River, is a city with a long and colorful history.

It’s hard to pin down what specific thing makes it so special, mostly because it’s comprised of so many things that make it fun and interesting that it’s impossible to pin down.

From gorgeous parks to delectable dishes made in lovely restaurants, everything you find in this city is something that’s so easy to fall in love with.

So strap yourself in and prepare to have the time of your life when visiting Davenport.

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