We love our quaint, historic city of Council Bluffs, Iowa. Even though we have grown to a town of over 60,000 residents, we haven’t lost our small-town vibe. And, because there are so many things to see in the area, you can get a taste of the city without having to go very far.
Whether you’ve lived here for years or are brand new to the area, Council Bluffs is the perfect place to spend the day. Not only do we have plenty of historic sites for you to see, but we’re also home to delicious restaurants, hip boutiques and stunning parks—the only challenge is deciding what to see first!
Our guide includes the best ways to spend your day, starting with a visit to Legends Café for breakfast and ending with a stunning view of the city from the Lewis & Clark Monument. Enjoy!
8:30 a.m. — Have Breakfast at Legends Café
Before you truly start your Council Bluffs adventure, you’ll need to fuel up. You can’t go wrong with kicking the day off with breakfast at Legends Café. This local staple, formally known as Duncan’s Café, has been a favorite mom and pop restaurant since 1974. While their hashbrowns alone are worth a trip, you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, including the variety of omelets, pancakes, skillets and ooey-gooey cinnamon rolls.
Photo courtesy of the Historic General Dodge House
One of Council Bluffs’ most famous residents, and one of NP Dodge Real Estate’s founders, was General Grenville M. Dodge, who resided in this historic landmark. His primary achievement is being considered “the greatest railroad builder of all time”, but General Dodge has a diverse list of accolades as a Civil War veteran who was involved in the political, financial and military affairs of the United States. You can visit his gorgeous Victorian home, which he built in 1869 with a mere $35,000, Tuesday through Saturday between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. or Sundays from 1–5 p.m.
After all of this excitement, you’ll definitely need to recharge in the middle of the day. While you can’t go wrong with any of the eateries in Downtown Council Bluffs, we think the Buck Snort Restaurant and Sports Bar is the perfect spot to relax and grab some grub (and a cold pint). The Buck Snort is a newer addition to the Council Bluffs sports bar scene, having opened their doors in 2016. Since then, they’ve been offering delicious and unique burgers, sandwiches, wraps and more in their casual bar space.
Photo courtesy of the Union Pacific Railroad Museum
Just a short walk from the General Dodge House, you’ll find one of Council Bluffs’ crowning jewels: the Union Pacific Railroad Museum! It is located in the unique Beaux Arts-style building that formerly housed the Carnegie Library, the city’s first free public library. The gorgeous museum is a must-visit destination for railroad fans around the country, offering fascinating exhibits on the Union Pacific Railroad (you’ll even be able to spot a few artifacts from NP Dodge’s founding fathers!). Admission is free, but donations are always welcome.
4:30 p.m. — Stop by the Farmers Market
If you’re hitting the town during one of the warmer months, make sure to stop by one of our local farmers markets. You may not want to stock up on groceries for the entire week while you’re there, but perusing the booths of local produce, warm pastries, colorful flowers and handcrafted trinkets is one of our favorite afternoon activities. There are markets going on all around town this season, but we recommend The Farmers Market Council Bluffs held in Bayliss Park which pops up every Thursday in May through September offering fresh, local goods and live music.
After you’ve gotten your fill at the farmers’ market, take an hour to wander through one of our favorite parks in the city. Bayliss Park is a sculpture paradise, featuring a fountain, performance space, veterans memorials, a plaza, an interactive water feature and other touchable art. The park was recently remodeled and crafted with its viewers in mind. It even features several pieces of art specifically designed for children including the six squirrel statues that are located alongside the east side of the plaza.
6:00 p.m. — Sit Down for Dinner at Pizza King
Photo courtesy of Pizza King
Don’t be fooled by their name! In addition to serving delicious pizzas and calzones, Pizza King has one of the most comprehensive, upscale menus we’ve ever seen. They have some of the best classic steaks in town—including a New York Strip Sirloin, Filet Mignon, Ribeye and more—alongside more creative choices like Veal Parmesan and a Fried Catfish Filet. Just don’t forget to save some room for dessert at our next stop!
7:30 p.m. — Scream For Ice Cream and Then Get Some at Christy Creme
We couldn’t make this itinerary without including at least one of the incredible ice cream shops in the Council Bluffs area! Original owners, Art and Jeanne opened Christy Creme in their front yard in 1954. Throughout its history, the shop has changed hands, but stayed in the family—one of the owners even became mayor of Council Bluffs! While they do serve food, the stars of the show are their desserts. They have everything you could possibly want from an old school ice cream shop—including our favorite, the banana split.
Photo courtesy of the Council Bluffs Convention & Visitor’s Bureau
Grab your scoop, cone or split and head up to the Lewis & Clark Monument Scenic Overlook to end your day. This is one of our favorite spots in the city, offering a fantastic view of both Council Bluffs and Omaha. Take a moment to explore the monument, which honors the 1804 expedition of Lewis and Clark and their historic meeting with Otoe and Missouria tribesman, and then watch the sunset while you eat your ice cream to complete this perfect Council Bluffs day.
Do you have a suggestion on what we should add to our itinerary? Let us know in the comments!