Situated among sandstone bluffs, steep hills, and rolling farmlands is the city of Dodgeville, which is the largest community in Iowa County.
The city was founded by Henry Dodge along with his family and about 40 miners.
After making a pact with the local Winnebago Indian leaders, Dodge was able to put up a small cabin and smelter.
The community was later divided into three settlements and was recognized as a mining capital.
However, Dodgeville’s mining business later fell behind neighboring states like Chicago and Milwaukee.
After some time, Dodgeville was able to establish itself as an agricultural and business district bustling with local farm goods.
Today, remnants of Dodgeville’s mining and farming roots still linger in several areas, but with a combination of urbanized districts that the locals and tourists have come to appreciate.
So, if you’re trying to figure out what Dodgeville has in store for tourists like you, check out 15 of the best things you can do while in the city.
Visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin
If you’re a fan of Frank Lloyd Wright and his creations, you might want to swing by his Taliesin.
Taliesin is Wright’s 800-acre estate located in the Driftless Region of Southwest Wisconsin.
Enjoy a dedicated house tour around his mansion, passing through courtyards and gardens overlooking the valley.
You’ll also see Wright’s furnishings and collected objects inside the mansion, as well as his famed living room and studio.
You can also embark on a four-hour-long estate tour where you’ll see the Exploring Hillside, a school designed by Wright for his aunts, the Romeo and Juliet Windmill Tower, Midway Barn, and Tan-y-Deri, a house Wright built for his sister Jane Porter.
Enjoy the Great Outdoors at Governor Dodge State Park
Tourists who enjoy venturing the great outdoors will definitely find Governor Dodge State Park worth their while.
Explore over 5,000 acres of scenic hills, deep valleys, man-made lakes, and waterfalls.
Named after Henry Dodge, Wisconsin’s first governor, the park is home to a plethora of outdoor recreational activities.
Challenge yourself with over eight miles of off-road bicycle trails and try a hand at catching panfish, walleyes, basses, and muskies from the park’s lakes.
You can also relax by the open fields and keep an eye out for deers, wild turkeys, foxes, and over 150 species of birds.
If you’re planning to visit the park sometime in winter, you can also engage in family activities like sledding and tobogganing and feel the rush of cold air breeze past your skin.
At night, set up camp and listen to hooting owls and howling coyotes echoing from a distance.
Ride a Horse from Doby Stables
Get the ultimate farm life experience by riding a horse from Doby Stables.
You can go on a 45-minute horseback ride around the ranch property, passing along creeks, cornfields, valleys, and ridges.
Or, you can embark on an hour-long journey on one of the ranch’s gentle giants, passing through Governor State Park and wandering its scenic trails.
For the hour-long ride, make sure to secure a trail pass first.
Also note that the ranch won’t be providing helmets, but you’re welcome to bring your own.
Visit The House on the Rock
Built in 1945 by Architect Alex Jordan, The House on the Rock remains a popular tourist destination that is famed for its creative exhibits.
The house is perched on a chimney of rock on State Road.
As you step inside, you’ll see 20 unique attractions divided into three sections.
Wander around the house’s 13 rooms designed according to various moods and elements.
Swing by the Infinity Room, which spans about 218 feet overlooking the valley, and marvel at 3,000 glass pieces adorning its walls.
The house is also home to the largest indoor carousel, featuring 269 animals, 20,000 lights, and 183 chandeliers.
Swing by the Streets of Yesterday exhibit if you want to get a feel of a 19th century-inspired walkway decorated with antiques, or take a stroll around the Japanese and Asian gardens.
Take a Photo of the Dodgeville Slag Furnace
Built in 1876 by Thomas Carkeek and Samuel Cornelius, the furnace was used to salvage more lead mineral from the slag.
The furnace was usually used during the summer and was lit up between noon and midnight.
As the surrounding structures faded over the years, the slag furnace was preserved due to its historical significance.
The slag furnace was later purchased by the Dodgeville Woman’s Club from the Wisconsin Zinc Flotation Company for a dollar but later deeded it back to the city in 2011.
Today, you’ll still see the furnace perched on Bequette Street with a plaque and signage explaining its significance to the city of Dodgeville.
Learn about Iowa’s Humble Beginnings at the Iowa County Historical Society
Dive into Iowa County’s rich history at the Iowa County Historical Society down in Bequette Street.
Incorporated in 1976, the historical society continues to preserve some of the county’s oldest archives.
Understand Iowa’s early geography and learn about the county’s initial settlers by browsing the Iowa County Plat Books and Family Maps of Iowa County, Wisconsin.
As you step outside the museum, you can check out the Dodge Mining Camp Cabin, which is Iowa’s oldest building that dates back to 1827.
From the cabin, dive into the story of Henry Dodge, as well as other historical events like the Black Hawk War, the beginning of lead mining in Iowa, building practices, and more.
You can also drop by the Floyd School, a one-room schoolhouse that shaped young minds until 1961.
Wander around the Bloomfield Prairie
Dodgeville is home to numerous nature preserves, and the Bloomfield Prairie goes to show how incredibly beautiful these Wisconsin wonders are.
Bloomfield Prairie is owned by Iowa County and co-managed by Driftless Area Land Conservancy, Iowa County Prairie Recreation and Prairie Restoration, and Iowa County Land and Water Conservation.
Located on Iowa Street, Bloomfield Prairie spans over 400 acres catering to a plethora of wild animals and flowers.
Smell the fresh grass and let the cool breeze run through your hair as you wander the area.
The prairie is open to visitors all year round, so you can explore this picturesque area anytime.
Traverse the Stephen’s Falls Trail
The Stephen’s Falls Trail is a half a mile hike leading to a 20-foot cascade of a waterfall named after the Stephens family, who operated a farmstead in the area from the late 1800s until World War II.
Follow the paved trail and find yourself entering a new world as you go further along with lush green forests and sandstone cliffs decorating the area.
As you make your way towards the valley, marvel at the craggy cliffs and listen to the water crashing down a small pool.
As you arrive at the bottom of the trail, enjoy the scenic view and wade in the water to relax after your hike.
The Stephen’s Falls Trail is also a great destination to check out during the winter when the water freezes, allowing you to walk behind the falls.
Catch Live Performances at the American Players Theater
Enjoy a night of music and laughter, shed a few tears, and simply marvel at the talents at the American Players Theater.
The theater sits atop 110 acres of woods and meadows and has two theaters, making it the country’s second-largest outdoor theater.
The outdoor amphitheater seats 1089 guests in total, while the indoor Touchstone Theater has a 201 seating capacity.
Catch live performances from the American Players Theater from June to November with local and international talents gracing the stage.
Throughout its calendar, the theater showcases nine plays in a rotating repertory.
Go Fishing at Cox Hollow Lake
Cox Hollow Lake is one of the two man-made lakes in Governor Dodge State Park.
This lake offers a panoramic view of a picturesque shoreline across its 81 acres.
Brimming with abundant wildlife, Cox Hollow Lake makes a great fishing spot for those looking to catch Panfish, Largemouth Bass, and Walleyes.
Like its sibling lake, Twin Valley, Cox Hollow Lake prohibits motorboat traffic, creating a perfectly calm environment for those who simply want to lounge around the waters.
Visitors also have access to a public boat landing for those who want to engage in kayaking activities.
Explore the Pine Cliff Trail
Wisconsin is decorated with scenic trails that are perfect for the adventurous tourist, and the Pine Cliff Trail is a must-see destination for those who love the outdoors.
Situated within Wisconsin’s Driftless Area, Pine Cliff Trail is a moderately challenging route that takes about an hour to complete.
The 3.54 km loop trail is riddled with sandstone cliffs and mesic, north-facing slopes, making your hike even more enchanting.
You’ll also get to see all three of the state’s native pine species一red, white, and jack.
Upon arriving at the top of the cliff, catch the breathtaking view of red and white oak, white birch, oakwood, and black cherry scattered across the forest.
Find Out How Wisconsin Became America’s Dairyland at the Stonefield State Historic Site
The Stonefield State Historical Site gives tourists a glimpse of Wisconsin’s agricultural history and how it progressed over the years.
This historic site is built on the 2,000-acre estate of former Wisconsin Governor Nelson Dewey and his family.
The recreated village features the state’s early farm life with its display of old tractors and farmsteads, as well as an agricultural museum that tells the story of how Wisconsin turned out to be the state that it is today.
Check out the old rubber-tired Allis Chalmers tractor, McCormick Auto Mower, horse-powered treadmill, and more.
You can also cross the covered bridge over Dewey Creek and wander the 1900s Farming Village Green.
Tour the area’s 1900s farming village and get a glimpse of saloons, cheese factories, and other shops during the rural days of Wisconsin.
You can also explore the 1901 progressive farmstead and how farming technologies were revolutionized after some time.
Enjoy the Festivities at Folklore Village
Get a feel of everything fun at the Folklore Village down in Co Road.
Tourists and locals flock to this artistic, cultural, and recreational center for a night of music, dancing, and potlucks.
Overlooking the grassy fields and farms, the Folklore Village is already an artwork in itself.
Enjoy over 100 events involving folklife education programs, environmental restoration projects, outreach programs, and more.
You can also spend a weekend retreat at this cultural site, or you can wander the grounds exploring historical infrastructures like the Wakefield School, Plum Grove Church, and Farwell Hall.
Have a Glass of Wine at Spurgeon Vineyards
Wine connoisseurs will definitely enjoy their time at Spurgeon Vineyards.
Situated in the hills of Southwest Wisconsin, the vineyard was originally an 80-acre homestead where corn was planted near the hilltops during the 1950s.
It wasn’t until 1977 when the first five acres for grapes were developed, followed by a winery in 1980.
Today, visitors can revel in the vineyard’s wide selection of sweet, semi-sweet, and dry wines.
Taste the tangy flavor Spurgeon Vineyard’s Grand Raspberry wine or the fruity spice of White Sangria.
You can also take a swig of their Blueberry wine or dry Apple wine.
Attend the Grilled Cheese Championship at Iowa Street
Cheese lovers are in for a real treat at Iowa Street.
The Grilled Cheese Championship is an annual contest held in Dodgeville that puts the competitors’ grilling skills to the test.
Created by the Iowa County Area Economic Development Corporation, the event is meant to promote Wisconsin’s dairy industry.
It was only in 2014 when the competition venue moved from Mineral Point to Dodgeville.
The competition features an open sandwich category for young cooks and professionals, as well as a classic dessert segment.
Dodgeville is indeed a culturally rich city riddled with adventures for locals and tourists alike.
The city serves as the perfect destination for those looking to have some outdoor fun, as well as for tourists looking to get a glimpse or feel of the old rural lifestyle.
So, if you’re still undecided about your next trip, you might want to consider heading down to Dodgeville and explore everything the city has to offer.
Book your trip to Dodgeville today!