The Council Bluffs area is a community packed with activity, opportunity and adventure, from the outdoor exploration opportunities to our iconic attractions. And if you know where to go, many of these activities don’t cost much at all!
To prove it, we found 15 completely free things to do in the area that won’t cost you a penny. Whether it’s celebrating our local art, visiting one of our many parks, or exploring our favorite neighborhoods, we found something for everyone—and it’s all completely free!
Iconic Attractions | Communities | Local Parks | Outdoor Pursuits
Experience the Iconic Attractions
One of our favorite free activities in Council Bluffs also happens to be one of the most iconic: 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.
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Located on the bank of the Missouri River, the Western Historic Trails Center is a museum that explores what life in Iowa was like before it became a state. The inside of the museum features over 80,000 objects along with daily programs and workshops for you and your family to explore. Outside, you’ll find a web of trails complete with interpretive sculptures that will lead you on a natural history tour of the entire area.
Located in the Council Bluffs Municipal Airport, the Great Plains Wing Museum is home to over 1,200 WWII artifacts for you to explore! Pictures, battle flags, items from the home front, Allied and Axis weapons and gear, and Air Corps uniforms are just some of the things you’ll get to see. And the best part? Admission is completely free!
Jean and Inez Bregrant, one of Council Bluffs’ most iconic couples, stood 45 and 42 inches tall respectively when they lived in CB during the 1900s. The construction of their home on 4th Street was finished in 1912 and was custom built to fulfill their needs. The light switches, doorknobs and medicine cabinet are a bit lower than most homes and unique features like the tiny clawfoot tub (which measures less than 3 feet in length) and shorter fireplace were all custom made for the couple. Preserve Council Bluffs hopes to have the home open for tours very soon, but in the meantime, you can stop by the exterior and take a few pictures!
Photo courtesy of the Pottawattamie Conservation
The Hitchcock Nature Center is a wonderland of free things to do! Not only do they offer fun hands-on activities for kids, but they also offer a 45-foot-tall observation tower that gives visitors a unique birds-eye view of the rolling hills. They have a packed schedule of concert series, classes, workshops and club meetings this season, so check out their calendar before you visit to see what they’ve got going on!
Explore Our Cultural Communities
Haymarket Square District
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Haymarket Square District is home to several historic buildings, restaurants, shops and public art displays. You could spend an entire day exploring the area without having to spend a dime—from stopping by to see the historic horse trough fountain (which just so happened to be dedicated by our very own Grenville Dodge in 1907) to visiting the iconic bunny statues in the center of the square.
Historic 100 Block of West Broadway
Photo courtesy of Council Bluffs Convention & Visitors Bureau
Historic 100 Block offers a thriving social experience in a historic part of town. While Friday and Saturday nights are especially lively, the area can be enjoyed any day of the week. While there are plenty of opportunities to spend money on Historic 100 Block, it’s also a great place to enjoy an evening stroll at no cost at all!
Sightsee at our Local Parks
This stunning, architectural wonder is a 3,000-foot-long park along the Missouri River. Not only does it offer a stunning view of the river and the Omaha skyline, but it also plays host to a number of free community events throughout the year.
This historic park features several walking trails, a playground, a plaza, a brand new splash pad and a scenic overlook of the westside of Council Bluffs and the Omaha skyline! Handicap accessible and not too far from the heart of the city, this is the perfect spot to enjoy a picnic, cool off during the summer, or to take in the sights.
This 191-acre park is best known for its lakes, which are restocked twice a year with rainbow trout for fishing. But that’s not all! This public space also features two playgrounds, a baseball and soccer field, a tennis court, a picnic shelter and serves as a trailhead for the Iowa Riverfront Trail.
Bayliss Park is a sculpture paradise, featuring a fountain, performance space, veterans memorials, a plaza, an interactive water feature and other touchable art. 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!
Visit the Monuments
Council Bluffs is a town steeped in rich history. So it’s no surprise that we’re home to our fair share of monuments! On the southwest part of the city, you’ll find the Golden Spike Monument, a 56-foot golden concrete spike erected in 1930 to pay tribute to the nation’s first transcontinental railroad. There’s also the Kinsman Monument, a Civil War memorial in Fairview Cemetery and the Lincoln Monument, which was built in 1911 to commemorate Abraham Lincoln’s visit to the site in 1859. And, for a stunning end to the day—head to the Lewis & Clark Monument Scenic Overlook to soak up the incredible sunset views of the Missouri River, Council Bluffs and Omaha.
Walk Across Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge
The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge (more fondly known as “Bob the Bridge”) is one of Omaha and Council Bluffs’ most famous and cherished landmarks. The 3,000-foot steel structure spans the Missouri River and connects Omaha to Council Bluffs via a pedestrian walkway. And because the bridge crosses the state line that separates Nebraska from Iowa, you can claim to be standing in two places at once!
Try to See All of the Public Art
Council Bluffs is home to some truly spectacular public art sites, which you can experience on a self-guided tour! Just download the Otocast app to easily locate the Iowa West Public Art Sites and follow the map to Bayliss Park, Big Mo, Circus, the Haymarket Rabbits, Interstate and plenty more inspired art installations around the city.
Play a Round of Disc Golf
Disc golf is another great way to spend the afternoon with friends and family—and Council Bluffs has the perfect spot to play. The Treasured Cove Disc Golf Course on the Iowa Western Community College campus offers 18 holes and is accessible near The Arts Center. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, grab your frisbees and get to your nearest course!
What did we miss?
Share some of your favorite free and inexpensive places to spend time and have fun in the Council Bluffs area!