15 Best Things to Do in Fort Madison, IA

Fort Madison, IA
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The historic city of Fort Madison in Iowa was established when the first US military fort was built in the area on the Upper Mississippi.

It was built to control the trade with Native Americans and was the site of the first battle between the Sauk tribe and the US troops.

In 1832, General John Holly Knapp bought a piece of land in the fort where he built an Indian Supply Store.

Fort Madison was platted in 1835 and was named after the US’ fourth president, James Madison.

This historic city is home to many monuments, playgrounds, and parks that boast its rich culture and history.

Find yourself lounging at the beautiful Riverview Park, or take a scenic walk at Wilson Lake Park.

These are just among the best things to do in Fort Madison, Iowa.

Discover more of the city’s fantastic tourist attractions to prepare for your next trip!

Drive through the Historic Fort Madison Bridge

Daytime view of the Historic Fort Madison Bridge
Chris Light, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Driving through this historic double-decked swinging truss bridge means that you’re crossing the Mississippi River.

The Fort Madison Bridge is tolled and was constructed in 1927, connecting Iowa to Illinois, particularly in the unincorporated community of Niota.

In 1999, the historic bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Freight railroad company BNSF Railway owns and maintains the Fort Madison Bridge.

The bridge’s upper deck is open to automobile traffic, but semi-trailer trucks are not allowed.

Watch the sunset over the bridge and feel the river’s natural fresh, cool air while watching the water reflections passing through.

The Fort Madison Bridge is on Highway 61.

Stay at Cobblestone Inn & Suites

After a day of getting around the city, it’s always nice to retreat to a comfortable and refreshing place to stay.

At Cobblestone Inn & Suites, you’ll be able to find comfort after a long day with its clean beds and relaxing lounge.

The hotel is located on Avenue O and is just a few minutes from the city’s tourist attractions.

Its modern rooms will give you the best time to relax and unwind.

You can also have your delicious complimentary breakfast at the hotel’s lovely patio, which is more scenic during good weather.

Cobblestone Inn & Suites also features a fitness center, free parking, a coffee and tea maker in each room, and more.

Go Back in Time at Old Fort Madison

Fort Madison was a trading post and the first US military garrison on the Upper Mississippi.

Today, you will find Old Fort Madison showcasing life in the past through the help of a guide leading you to the reconstructed site.

You’ll also learn about the life of the soldiers stationed at the fort 200 years ago.

Its daily activities include musket demonstrations and several artifacts showcasing the life of soldiers who fought the war in 1812.

During the summer, there are reenactments and special events at Old Fort Madison.

You can find this attraction on Riverview Drive.

Indulge in Japanese Cuisine at Simple Table by Hitomi

After a day of exploring, it’s always nice to indulge in comfort food.

Simple Table by Hitomi on 7th Street offers fresh handmade food with a Japanese twist.

The restaurant creates multi-cultural cuisine and fuses them with Japanese.

From Pan-Asian fare to Asian fusion to American cuisine, the restaurant is definitely a must-try.

Its deli and sandwiches, continental, seafood, tapas, and many more are to die for!

Simple Table by Hitomi’s Bohemian-inspired atmosphere will also make you stay longer to enjoy your comfort food.

Buy Souvenirs at Under the Sun Next Door

Isn’t it happiness when you get to buy some souvenirs from a place that you just visited?

When it comes to souvenir items, Under the Sun Next Door on G Avenue doesn’t disappoint.

This eclectic shop features gift items that are sourced locally and abroad.

You can find everything under the sun at Under the Sun Next Door.

So, stop by and browse the shop’s beautiful and unique souvenir and gift ideas, and don’t forget to buy some for your loved ones, too!

Under The Sun was founded in 1994 by the late Connie Barnes.

Her family now manages the shop.

Learn about the Early Life of Native Americans at the Santa Fe Depot Museum Complex

Fort Madison is a city with a rich history involving Native Americans during the 1800s.

At the Santa Fe Depot Museum Complex, you’ll learn about their early lives and involvement in the 1812 war against the US troops.

You’ll also learn more about Lee County, where Fort Madison belongs, and railroad displays such as the Amtrak station.

Don’t forget to take some photos of the train or enjoy a ride to see the sweeping views of Fort Madison.

The old Santa Fe station was built in 1910 and is now one of Fort Madison’s best tourist attractions.

The Santa Fe Depot Museum Complex is located on 10th Street.

Let Your Kids Play at Shug’s Tiny Town & Educational Toys

Shug’s Tiny Town & Educational Toys offers the best interactive platform where the children get to engage with one another and play together.

The place lets your kids use their creative minds by playing along and building friendships with other children.

It sells a wide selection of toys they can play with other kids, and its play area is wide enough for the children to enjoy.

It also features a bear factory, where the kids can make their own stuffie that they want to buy and take home.

Best of all, it has an ice cream parlor and some snacks for the entire family.

If you’re wondering how the place got its name, owner Brenda Derr was called “Shug” by her dad, short for “sugar.”

Shug’s Tiny Town & Educational Toys is located on Avenue G.

Go Camping at the Fort Madison City Campgrounds

Fort Madison is home to many campgrounds where you can spend camping, hiking, biking, or taking scenic walks.

At the Fort Madison City Campgrounds, you get to see the city's beauty, and you can even take your pets with you if you’re bringing them on your trip.

Its paved trails are great for hiking, biking, and nature walks if you want to spend a quiet day in the city.

The campgrounds also feature large open areas with a disc golf course and shelters for small and large gatherings.

If you’re camping, you won’t have a hard time cleaning up since the restrooms are built with shower houses.

The Fort Madison City Campgrounds are located on 302nd Avenue, south of Tri-State Rodeo Arena.

Witness the Action-Packed Equestrian at the Annual Tri-State Rodeo

Rodeo is one of America’s popular sports, and Fort Madison takes pride in hosting one of the biggest action-packed equestrian events in the country.

It was in 1948 when C.E. Richards took the rodeo to the Tri-State area, which included the city of Fort Madison hosting an annual rodeo event.

At the Tri-State Rodeo, you can witness this exciting equestrian sport with live music from known artists in the country.

The annual rodeo event takes place on 303rd avenue every September, with a week of fun and exciting entertainment.

So if you’re in the city around this time, don’t miss the Tri-State Rodeo!

Take Scenic Walks at Riverview Park

There’s nothing more refreshing and comforting than lounging in a waterfront park where you get to see the sweeping views of the reflecting pond.

At Riverview Park, you can enjoy a day watching the river's calm waters while having a picnic with your loved ones.

The park features picnic areas, a skating rink, a playground, a flower garden, a water fountain, an open shelter, and a Veterans Memorial.

So if you’re traveling with kids, they can enjoy the park’s scenic views from the playground.

Riverview Park is located on Riverview Drive.

Grab a Beer or Two at Lost Duck Brewing Company

The nightlife in Fort Madison is also as alive as in other big cities, and one of its highlights is Lost Duck Brewing Company.

You can enjoy a few hours tasting their award-winning craft beer that puts the city on the map.

The pub was a brainchild of Tim Benson, a chiropractor who made his home-brewing hobby a business in the 1990s.

It also offers comfort food ranging from salads, wraps, burgers, and delicious appetizers you can have while enjoying your craft beer.

You can find Lost Duck Brewing Company on Avenue H via Highway 61.

Shoot a Hole at the Sheaffer Memorial Golf Course

If you love golf, there’s no place to enjoy it than at the Sheaffer Memorial Golf Course, which features 18 holes.

A modern clubhouse on-site offers magical and panoramic views of the golf course.

It also features a pro shop and a driving range.

W.D. Wagstaff designed the golf course, which was established in 1962.

It hosts annual golf tournaments and offers golf lessons for beginners of all ages.

The Sheaffer Memorial Golf Course is located on 308th Avenue.

Explore the Scenic Views of the Iowa Great River Road National Scenic Byway

The Iowa Great River Road National Scenic Byway has immense magical views of different tourist spots in the Fort Madison area.

It’s part of the 10-state Great River Road, America’s designated byways.

If you follow through Iowa’s northern and southern borders, you’ll be face to face with the majestic views of the Mississippi River along with first-class river towns.

Impressive limestone bluffs, magnificent vistas, and Fort Madison’s natural beauty are among the things you can find when you explore the byway.

When you explore the Iowa Great River Road National Scenic Byway, you’ll find local restaurants, bed and breakfast inns, shops, and many more.

So don’t miss this fun activity while in Fort Madison—it’s worth the time!

Other Things to Do Nearby

A few minutes’ drive from Fort Madison, you’ll find exciting and beautiful tourist attractions you won’t find elsewhere.

So when you’re done exploring the historic city, check these top tourist spots to maximize your trip!

Raise a Glass of Wine at Lindon Wines

For the love of wine, it will only take 28 minutes to get to Lindon Wines in Burlington.

Explore its beautiful vineyard, started in 2000 by owners Don & Linda McCabe, planting different world-class varieties of grapes.

In 2006, the winery and vineyard produced their first wines made available for purchase.

Lindon Wines also hosts a complimentary wine tasting at its 12-sided tasting room called The Green Dragon.

One of the best wines that the winery produces is Celtic Red, an award-winning creation made with Norton grape.

Don’t miss tasting it when you’re there!

Go Boating at Wilson Lake Park

About 18 minutes from Fort Madison, you’ll find Wilson Lake Park, a 116-acre site in Donnellson.

There are two cabins that you can rent out if you choose to stay there for the night.

Alternatively, you can go straight to boating using motorized boats.

Explore the lake and enjoy its mesmerizing views while connecting with nature.

The park also features camping sites, including primitive and youth camp areas, hiking trails, a horseshoe, and five shelters.

Wilson Lake Park is yet another beautiful tourist spot to visit when you’re around Fort Madison.

Final Thoughts

Fort Madison is where history meets the arts, tourism, and modernity.

If you’re planning on taking a trip to a historical place but also offers rich outdoor adventures, this city is for you.

Pack your things, book a plane ticket, and enjoy all the best things to do in Fort Madison, Iowa!