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Located along the Mississippi River in Iowa, Muscatine County, is an ideal stop on your Midwest road trip. Just over the Illinois border, this area boasts outdoor activities and several free things to do.
Dubbed the pearl button capital of the world, Muscatine County, Iowa is located along the Mississippi River. Muscatine is the county seat and Iowa’s largest city. It’s about 35 miles from Iowa City, 30 miles from Davenport and 32 miles from Bettendorf. In addition to its pearl button history, Muscatine has kid-friendly art galleries, wildlife areas, golf courses and national historic sites. Families will find several free things to do in Muscatine, Iowa.
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Nine Free Things to Do in Muscatine County, Iowa
Learn About the National Pearl Button Museum
In 1905, more than 1.5 billion pearl buttons were made in Muscatine. In fact, its factories employed half of the Muscatine workforce during the turn of the century. That’s how it earned the name Pearl Button Capital of the World. Learn about the history of pearl buttons at the museum located in the History and Industry Center.
Wildcat Den State Park
Wildcat Den State Park is a state park of Iowa, US, in Muscatine County. Pack a picnic and explore the park’s features: 75-foot cliffs, rock formations and several historic structures. The 1848 Pine Creek Gristmill and Pine Mill Bridge are both on the National Register of Historic Places.
Pine Creek Grist Mill
The Pine Creek Grist Mill was built in 1848 by Muscatine County’s first official settler. It is nestled along Pine Creek in a picturesque area that is one of the most photographed sites in all of Muscatine County. The Mill is open for free tours May through October. It features hands-on milling activities for the kids, trails with unique rock formations like Steam Boat Rock and The Devil’s Punch Bowl, a picnic area and campground. The Mill also hosts two events each year — Heritage Day and the Ghosts of Pine Creek Hallow.
Located in the city of Muscatine off of Highway 61, this 100-acre park is a great spot to unwind with the kids. It features fishing ponds, a reclaimed farmstead, reconstructed prairie, wooded hillsides and small streams. There’s also on arboretum on site.
The Environmental Learning Center at Discovery Park
The Environmental Learning Center at Discovery Park is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturdays from noon until 4 p.m. Kids will love the two large fish aquariums. The Environmental Learning Center also features natural history exhibits related to the Muscatine County Iowa region. You can also see live snakes and turtles.
Free Things to Do in Deep Lakes Park
A former quarry, the 435-acre park features over 120 acres of water in numerous lakes and ponds. Things to do include hiking, fishing and kayaking. There are also two boat ramps.
Visit the Muscatine Art Center
With 20 changing exhibitions and displays offered each year, there is always something new to discover at the Muscatine Art Center. The kid-friendly two-story Stanley Gallery features interactive displays. Smaller displays are presented on the second floor of the historic house and in showcases near the reception desk.
Swamp White Oak Preserve
Home to a variety of amphibians and reptiles, the preserve contains a floodplain oak savanna. Visitors will see a variety of plants, wetlands and wildlife. Family-friendly things to do include hiking, paddling and wildlife watching.
Drive Part of the Great River Road
This scenic byway traces the course of the Mississippi River for 3,000 miles through 10 states and hundreds of river towns. A part of the River Road is located on Highway 22 east of Muscatine.
Affordable Things to Do in Muscatine County
Splash down at the Muscatine Aquatic Center. Located inside picturesque Weed Park, the family-friendly center has five slides, a zero-depth entry area and interactive play structure with kid slide and spray features. The center also has family restrooms, self-service lockers, a multi-purpose room and full concessions. Admission $3 youth (ages 17 and younger), $4 adults.