Things To Do in Muscatine
Whether you're looking for a bite to eat, a refreshing beverage, or an experience in nature, it's within walking distance from The Merrill Hotel. Head a half-mile toward the Mississippi River, where you can stroll through Riverside Park. Or, enjoy a jog or bike ride on the Running River Bike & Pedestrian Rail System. If it's food and drink you're after, stop in the Contrary Brewing Company where you can enjoy more than 20 local brews on tap. Get a taste of history at the National Pearl Button Museum. View renowned artworks from Chagall, Picasso, Renoir, and O'Keefe at the Muscatine Art Center or grab your favorite book from Musser Public Library. It's all within 6 miles of the hotel.
- Historic Downtown
- Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this area is a must see if you are seeking unique specialty shops, antique shops, restaurants, bars, museums, art galleries, and historic buildings. These along with the wonderful riverfront, makes it the heart of the community.
- Beltway Area
- As a part of US Highway 61 and known as "the bypass," you'll find stores, a new movie theater complex, restaurants, hardware stores and much more in this area.
- Mall District
- The Muscatine Mall anchors the district that runs along Park Avenue, one of the city’s main routes. Here you’ll find many locally owned businesses as well as national chains, and unique dining options.
- Discovery Park & Environmental Learning Center
- The Center offers numerous natural history exhibits, two 1,200-gallon aquariums with native fish, live reptiles and amphibians, and more than 100 mounted animals. Walk or bike the 1.5 miles of paved trails, fish stocked ponds, or stop by the outdoor raptor enclosure, all in an 85 acre park in an urban environment.
- Lock and Dam No. 16
- A great place to enjoy the Mississippi River and watch barges pass through the channel, Lock and Dam No. 16 is located on the Illinois side of the river.
- Monsanto Butterfly Garden
- Explore 155 acres of prairie grasses and wildflowers that attract pollinators with brightly colored flowers and shrubs from early spring to fall.
- Muscatine Arboretum
- Adjacent to Discovery Park, take a walk on paved trails that wind throughout these 13 acres of over 1,000 native and ornamental trees, shrubs, and plants.
- Muscatine Art Center
- Located in the Musser Mansion, rooms are of the period displaying paintings of river life, with collections of work by world famous artists such as Renoir, Degas, Chagall and Pissarro. A Japanese Garden is also found here.
- National Pearl Button Museum
- The “Pearl Button Capital of the World” tells the story of Muscatine’s history when it produced 1.5 billion pearl buttons annually 100 years ago and sold them to the garment industry and the world. The second floor reveals the history of Muscatine’s industrial giants who led the way for the manufacturing of products like office furniture, retread tires and corn product processing, all of which are still thriving today.
- Sweetland Farmstead
- Open seasonally, this road-side farm off US Hwy 61 offers food and goods like antiques, hand-made items, artwork, baked goods, fresh produce, and wine.
- Musser Public Library
- Books are not the only thing housed in this public library. Musser Public Library is home to a collection of over 4,000 photos taken by Muscatine native, Oscar Grossheim.
- Pine Creek Grist Mill and Melpine Schoolhouse
- Discover the 170-year-old working mill and one-room schoolhouse that is now used as a museum of rural school memorabilia.
- Rose Bowl
- Let loose at this bowling facility featuring 48 lanes, Glow-N-Bowl on weekend nights, an arcade, nightlife, and concessions.
- Muscatine Symphony Orchestra
- Feel enriched by the cultural life of the city with the presentation of symphonic music of the highest quality in concerts running from October through April yearly.
- Chinese Orchestra Concert
- Enjoy a free concert every February featuring The Shaanzi Province Song and Dance Theater National Orchestra. The Chinese Orchestra visit is coordinated by the Muscatine-China Initiatives Committee and China Window Group.
- China – U.S. Friendship House
- Touched by the friendliness of Iowa’s people, President Xi Jinping, stayed in this house for 30 years when he was on an agricultural research trip. The home now serves as the first memorial hall to hold the theme of friendship between Chinese leaders and the people of the US.
The History of Muscatine
Credited with the settlement of Muscatine in 1834, Benjamin Nye came to the county and founded a store and three mills. His Pine Creek Grist Mill still stands today in Wildcat Den State Park. As settlers started populating the area, one by the name of Colonel George Davenport brought stock and established a trading post. Growth continued with settlers establishing towns around Muscatine which was then known as Bloomington. Because of the confusion of receiving mail, much of it going to Bloomington, IL or Bloomington, IN, the settlers needed to choose a name for the town. Historians claim the name was taken from the Mascoutin Indians who had lived in the area, or the Indian name for Muscatine Island. In 1850, the new name of Muscatine was adopted for both the town and county.
In the early days of Muscatine, businessmen created industries like lumbering, saw and planing mills, sash and door factories, and other forms of woodworking. But as the industry grew, the nearby forests shrank forcing them to make use of the established railways and forests up the Mississippi. Industries grew as John Fred Boepple and Nicholas Barry settled in Muscatine. Boepple’s trade was button making from animal horns, but he soon discovered that freshwater mussel shells made for better buttons. With the help of Barry’s invention of the button machine, Muscatine became the world’s largest pearl button manufacturer, and is often referred to as "The Pearl of the Mississippi."
Muscatine grew in industry with companies like Heinz, HON Corporation and Bandag, giving it the need for an established government. A mayor-council government was formed to run the day-to-day operations of the city. We remain proud of our heritage and the strong industrial base present today. Mark Twain who lived in Muscatine in 1854, once wrote “I remember Muscatine for its summer sunsets. I have never seen any on either side of the ocean that equaled them.” Today, Muscatine is the thriving city you see just outside our hotel. And, The Merrill Hotel & Conference Center is poised to anticipate and support community growth for years to come.
For more about the Muscatine area and things to do, check out Visit Muscatine.
For more information about the surrounding Quad Cities, check out Visit Quad Cities.