Things To Do in Muscatine, Iowa
Muscatine, Iowa is located in a beautiful area on the banks of the great Mississippi River. This area is rich in history, natural landscapes, and modern attractions, and is well worth exploring. From your base in the Clarion Hotel Muscatine, you can branch out in all directions to satisfy a craving for culture, as well as a need for nature’s appeal. Step out and experience some of the unique features of this area.
It took a brave man in 1868 to stand up to racial attitudes of 19th century America. Alexander Clark, a black Muscatine businessman sued the school district for not allowing his daughter to be able to attend school in his neighborhood. He won the case, and in 1881 he was a delegate to a Methodist conference in London, then in 1890 President Benjamin Harrison appointed Clark to be the American Consul-General to the new country of Liberia. The Alexander Clark house, now on the Register of Historic Places, is a two-story brick house in Italianate style.
Located at 203 West 3rd St.
Looking out over the broad Mississippi River, downtown Muscatine evokes American river history with one foot firmly planted in the future. The first settlement in the 1830s was named Bloomington, but because mail was going to other towns with the same name, the town was officially named Muscatine in 1850—the only town in America with this name. Muscatine acquired its jeweled nickname, “Pearl Button Capital of the World” due to a nearby factory that produced pearl buttons made from fresh-water mussel shells. One of the premier sights of downtown Muscatine is the county courthouse. Downtown is also the site of St. Mathias Catholic Church and the Sinnett Octagon House. During your stay at the Clarion Hotel, make a point to get to downtown Muscatine in time to see the sunset. The writer Mark Twain described sunsets in Muscatine as the best he had seen in the world.
With a wonderfully desirable balance between big-city culture and small-town charm, Muscatine may surprise some visitors with its sophistication. Built in 1908, the Muscatine Art Center, located in the Musser Mansion, features both decorative arts and rotating exhibits. During your visit, don’t forget to check out the recent addition of the Stanley Gallery. When you’re in a decorative-arts kind of mood, tour the mansion, including the dining room, library, and music room. Or maybe it will be your day to look at the work of well-known American artists like Georgia O’Keefe and Grant Wood. In 1992 the Muscatine Art Center expanded their collection with paintings by members of the ever-popular Impressionist group: Matisse, Degas, Boudin, Chagall, and Renoir. In addition to traditional galleries with paintings, the museum incorporates other approaches to the display of historical artifacts such as recreating a Civil War encampment, complete with a 3-D laser-projected image of an actor portraying a contemporary soldier.
Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Thursday: 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday: 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Closed Mondays and Holidays
Group Tours available for adults and children
Phone: (563) 263-8282
Located at 1314 Mulberry Avenue, Muscatine
You’ve heard of the Iowa State Fair? Iowa is famous for agricultural fairs, and it was at the county fairs that Iowans learned how it’s done. If you’re fortunate enough to be in Muscatine in mid-July, get ready for some demolition derby and goat judging. The Muscatine County Fair has been held since 1852, so they know their fairs. Even if you come to Muscatine at another time of year, the Muscatine County Fairgrounds, on the south edge of West Libery, may still be holding events so you experience some of the Muscatine mystique. The fairgrounds are open year round for car races and dances, and bingo is held on Mondays. On Saturday nights there are car races that begin in April and end in October. Even without the corndogs, it is still a fun-filled evening.
Phone: (319) 627-2414
Have you ever worn a pearl button? While staying at the Clarion Hotel in Muscatine, you are in the heart of the pearl button world. By the year 1905, the pearl button factory had produced nearly 1.5 billion pearl buttons! With good reason Muscatine is called “The Pearl Button Capital of the World,” and with equally good reason the Muscatine History and Industry Center draws vistors to the Pearl Button Museum. Here you can learn how John Frederick Boepple came from Germany to Muscatine, looking for the ideal fresh-water shells to open a pearl button factory. The exhibit takes you through the process of making buttons to the history of young women hoping to be elected Pearl Button Queen. To round out your visit, the Muscatine History and Industry Center has exhibits on other local industries, including the Bandag recycled tire company. While visiting the Pearl Button Capital, get a taste of working America in the real heartland, and come learn how an immigrant could create an industry that has become the symbol of this town that sits like a pearl on the Mississippi River.
Tuesday through Saturday
10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Suggested donation $4.00 for adults and $2.00 for students
Located at 117 West Second Street, Muscatine
Phone: (563) 263-1052
During your stay in Muscatine, if you feel like doing some shopping, the Muscatine Mall may be your shopping destination. The mall has recently undergone a renovation and several stores have been added including the addition of a new anchor store, Slumberland Furniture. Take an afternoon to browse through stores like Shop 2 Drop 4 Kids or Berlin’s Pro Shop. When you get hungry, stop by Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches for a bite to eat. The Muscatine Mall, at 360,000 square feet, may have just what you’re looking for.
Mon – Fri 10:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Saturday: 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Sunday: 12:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
The mall is located at 1903 Park Avenue, Muscatine
Phone: (563) 264-2323
Under the great blue sky of the midwest, what could be more relaxing than golf on the greens? Only one mile north of Muscatine, the Muscatine Municipal Golf Course features 18 regulation holes for the pleasure of fans of the old Scottish sport. The municipal golf course is rated at 72 par, with a total of 6,471 yards. The course was designed by Gordon Cunningham and opened in 1967, with a rating of 69.7 and a slope rating of 116 on bluegrass.
To help you make the best of a day on the links, the course also offers a complete pro shop, concession area, cart rental, and driving range. For those who always aim at perfection, private and group golf lessons are available. There is also a 40-tees driving range.
Located at 1820 Highway 38, Muscatine
Phone: (563) 263-4735
It isn’t just Huck Finn and steamboats on the mighty Mississippi River. It could be you out on the water, taking a cruise from the Muscatine Riverfront. The Clarion Hotel is only three miles from the waterfront, where you can simply enjoy the sight of this historic river, or partake in one of the many attractions in the area. When the weather permits, take a stroll on the extensive trail system, visit the Mississippi Harvest Sculpture and Riverside Park. For true afficionados of Americana, take the Pearl Button paddlewheel river cruise on a 61-foot sidewheeler. Splash back to the past with these special Muscatine Sunday afternoon cruises.
The boat is docked at Pearl City Station, Pool 16 Mississippi River, on Mississippi Drive between Iowa Ave. and Chestnut St.
A one-hour cruise, leaving at 1:00 p.m. is only $10.00.
The varied history of the Muscatine area is still very visible in well-preserved attractions like the Weed Mansion. The mansion was built in the mid 19th century by Dr. Benjamin Weed, who practiced medicine in the city. His son donated the land that became the popular Weed Park which features an aquatic center and rose garden. The Weed Mansion, on the National Register of Historic Places, is located in the West Hill district.
During your exploration of the Muscatine area, make sure to visit the West Hill Historic District. The district features buildings from most of the 19th and 20th centuries. Within the district you can find examples of Greek Revival and Gothic Revival architecture. This residential area is on the National Register of Historic Places. Homes in the district are so appealing to lovers of beautiful buildings that occasionally they take part in home tours.
The West Hill Historic District is bounded by West 2nd St. from Pine to Ash, West 3rd St., and West 4th St. from Chestnut to near Ash, in downtown Muscatine.
In 1848 Benjamin Nye, one of the first settlers of Muscatine, built a grist mill on Pine Creek. Now located in Wildcat Den State Park, the old mill still remains, and has joined the National Registery of Historic Places. Near the grist mill is the Melpine Schoolhouse, where vistors get an education in Iowa history. The park also features sites for picnicing and 28 campsites. Most sites are first-come, first-serve, but some can be reserved with an advance reservation system. A trail system in the park runs through various types of terrain, where the hiker can see such features as “Steamboat Rock,” “Devil’s Punch Bowl,” and the “Fat Man’s Squeeze.”
Wildcat Den State Park is a popular year-round attraction and each season brings its own pleasures. Here you can find hunting, fishing, boating, canoeing, kayaking, bike riding, and snowmobiling.
The park is located at 1884 Wildcat Den Road, just 9 miles from the Clarion Hotel Muscatine.
Phone: (563) 263-4337