Muscatine Iowa: Gardens, Melons, & More

Muscatine Arboretum Iowa

Welcome to another fun “Visiting Midwest Gardens” feature as Flower Chick explores gardens, history, and much more in Muscatine, Iowa …

This friendly, historic river city sits on the banks of the Mississippi River, 25 miles west of the Quad Cities metro area. Home to just under 25,000 residents, Muscatine is rich in history and boasts ideal Midwest growing conditions as you’ll discover exploring the area …

Bridge To Muscatine IA

Bridge Leading To Muscatine – A Beautiful Day To Explore!

Zone 5 & 6 gardeners will enjoy being in Muscatine – there are four beautiful public garden spaces to experience. We’ll showcase each of them, beginning with the Muscatine Arboretum, and on to the Bayer Butterfly Garden. Then we’ll head to the Muscatine Art Center’s Japanese garden near downtown. Also, join us and pay a visit to historic Weed Park, Muscatine’s beautiful floral showcase featuring a spectacular rose garden …

Did You Know? Muscatine’s nickname is “Pearl of the Mississippi”, a reference to the pearl button industry once centered here …

Come along for a two day visit to eastern Iowa! There’s a lot to experience here in Muscatine, so let’s get started in the heart of downtown (and a Muscatine original) …

Muscatine Melons – They’re One Of A Kind

Flower Chick planned her visit for the last full weekend of summer … the gardens are still in full bloom, thriving in the warm days and slightly cooler nights. But there’s another important reason to visit Muscatine in late summer – it’s melon season!

So, what exactly is a Muscatine melon??

The term applies to melons like watermelon, cantaloupe, and muskmelon grown in the sandy, well draining soil in the Muscatine area. More specifically, melons grown in an area just south of downtown known as Muscatine Island …

Muscatine Melon by

Muscatine Island really isn’t an island in the traditional sense. It’s an area of mostly farmland that’s very fertile, with ideal soil for growing melons. So robust, sweet, and juicy are these melons that they’ve gained an almost rabid following in the Midwest. And of course, their own name … a Muscatine melon!

The prime season for Muscatine melons is about six to eight weeks, from roughly late July through mid September. You won’t have to look very hard to buy one – several area produce stands and the weekly Muscatine Farmers Market fit the bill. Flower Chick arrived in town early on Saturday to visit the farmers market, held downtown just two blocks west of the river …

Muscatine Farmers Market: This friendly, bustling farmers market showcases some of Muscatine’s finest growers and producers from spring through fall. The variety of vendors is impressive!

Muscatine Farmers Market

Flower Chick scored freshly baked bread, a variety of peppers, local honey, and more. There’s ample parking and lots of room to wander and browse … the perfect stop to begin your visit to Muscatine. One of the vendors recommended we stop at Mairet’s Produce (see below) to pick up a freshly farm picked Muscatine melon …

From the market, head west about five minutes on Cedar Street and you’ll reach expansive Discovery Park, home to the Muscatine Arboretum and the Environmental Learning Center …

Did You Know? Sandy, well draining soil is not only ideal for growing melons, it’s perfect for growing grapes, too. One of eastern Iowa’s most prolific wineries, Ardon Creek, is located just a few miles from downtown. Their fantastic wines can be found in area retailers and offered at several area restaurants …

Muscatine Arboretum – Discovery Park – Don’t miss the Muscatine Arboretum which can best be described as a “living tree museum”. This 13-acre feature in Discovery Park showcases a variety of native and ornamental trees and shrubs. The arboretum also offers demonstration gardens with hostas and ornamental grasses.

The Muscatine Arborteum

We met local naturalist Michelle Berns at the Muscatine County Conservation Board and she graciously gave us a tour of the arboretum grounds. Our first stop was the Environmental Learning Center. This well-planned and executed attraction offers numerous natural history exhibits featuring live reptiles, amphibians, raptors and fish of eastern Iowa plus over 100 mounted animals.

Besides the above highlights, Flower Chick enjoyed the display of various local wild animal pelts.  Where else can you touch a skunk, fox, or coyote fur?  Fun and educational for all ages!

Muscatine Arboretum and Learning Center Muscatine Iowa

The Monarch Waystation By The Learning Center Has Lots Of Milkweed For The Butterflies

We walked the hard surface trail that followed the perimeter around the arboretum through wetland, prairie lands, the labyrinth garden and more beautiful scenery.  Unplug and enjoy natural vistas to de-stress and get some exercise!

Muscatine Arboretum

Walk The Trails At The Muscatine Arboretum … Nature At Its Finest

The prairie land was abuzz with many different pollinators … we spotted many monarch butterflies, bumblebees, and birds along our hike.  The Maximillian Sunflowers seemed to be one of their favorites.

Click Here To Create Your Own Pollinator Paradise … Easy To Grow From Seed

Muscatine Arboretum Prairie

Pollinator Magnet Maximillian Sunflowers On A Sunny Fall Day

The well-crafted labyrinth is a true gem.  We learned there are people who make pilgrimages to labyrinths because they find walking them a spiritual, magical experience.

Did You Know? Labyrinths have a lone continuous path that winds through it, leading to the center, while mazes have various paths striking off to different directions. With labyrinths, just keep going forward and you will get to the center; mazes, on the other hand, will not necessarily lead to it.

Labyrinths & Mazes: A Journey Through Art, Architecture, and Landscape – Click Here


Muscatine Arboretum Labyrinth

The Brick Path Labyrinth At The Muscatine Arboretum

The Muscatine Arboretum is a delightful place to learn about and savor majestic trees and natural areas.  Visit and enjoy the paved and mowed trails while relishing the beauty throughout!

Muscatine Arboretum Fall Flowers

Weed Park – Muscatine’s most historic park, Weed Park isn’t named after a pesky, unsightly plant. The 64 acre park is actually named after Dr. James Weed and his wife Mary, who donated the park’s present land to the city in 1899. The park has always been Muscatine’s pride and joy, and generations of area residents have contributed to Weed Park’s floral beauty. Besides the many floral displays, Weed Park is known for two special horticultural attractions …

The first is one of Iowa’s finest rose gardens, established in the 1940’s. The Weed Park Rose Garden is one of about a dozen in Iowa accredited by the American Rose Society …

Weed Park Rose Garden Muscatine

The Lovely Rose Garden At Weed Park In Muscatine

Muscatine’s Rose Garden boasts 12 beds of roses of more than 25 different species in a host of colors. This picturesque garden was started when a local dentist and the Park Commissioner at the time planted some rose bushes … over 75 years ago. It was begun on the site of the former Weed Park Clubhouse and the brick walks surrounding the garden are the original walks that surrounded the 1906 building.

Weed Park Rose Garden Muscatine

Click Here To Explore The Best Roses For Zone 5 Gardens … Easy Care & Hardy Varieties

The rose garden is thriving today!  The healthy mix of shrub roses, floribundas, groundcover roses and grandifloras is a delight for the senses. At the garden’s heart, there is a gazebo where people can relax and enjoy the flowers …

Weed Park Rose Garden

Julia Child Floribunda Rose At Weed Park – Fragrant & Prolific

The second delightful Weed Park attraction is the famous Zoo Garden. This garden sits on the site of the former Weed Park Zoo, a popular Muscatine destination for decades until it closed in 1980.

Weed Park Zoo Garden by

Stroll around and you’ll discover many striking animal sculptures, placed where their real life counterparts lived in the zoo’s heyday. The zoo garden’s location is particularly breathtaking, as it sits on a bluff high above the Mississippi River below.

Weed Park’s Zoo Garden was established by local volunteers in 2010. We love the nod to history and respect for the animals who once lived here. The Zoo Garden’s carbon steel menagerie includes sculptures of a bison, a turtle, an elephant, a monkey, a lion, a bear, a peacock, pheasants, a snake and a butterfly. The garden also helps keep history alive with its benches, some of which are fashioned from limestone from the old High Bridge, which once spanned the Mississippi River.

Weed Park Zoo Garden Muscatine Iowa

Did You Know? “Dolly” the elephant was the zoo’s most popular resident. Dolly came to Muscatine in 1966 and lived fourteen years here, delighting visitors of all ages who still remember her fondly. After the zoo closed in 1980, Dolly found homes at a couple of zoos before passing away of old age in 2016 …

Discover The Rich History Of Muscatine – Images & Fun Facts

The zoo contained a still standing historic log cabin (shown above) that once housed the reptiles, and a small Ferris Wheel added to the fun environment. Two timbered overlooks and a picnic shelter were built after the zoo closed in 1980.  Today, this special place is lovingly maintained by the Muscatine Parks Department and dedicated volunteers.

Weed Park Zoo Garden Muscatine

A special destination for Muscatine residents, Weed Park draws visitors all year around. Flower Chick enjoyed the park so much that we visited twice while in town …

Weed Park Zoo Garden Muscatine Iowa

Immerse Yourself In The Beauty & History Of The Zoo Garden In Weed Park

Bayer Butterfly Garden This thriving butterfly garden is adjacent to Muscatine’s Monsanto plant near the intersection of Wiggens and Ogilvie Roads. Adjoining the garden is native prairie, which was planted by employees and the Muscatine County Conservation Board in the 1990’s.

Bayer Butterfly Garden Muscatine

Open to the public, the one acre Bayer Butterfly Garden attracts many pollinators with an array of brightly colored flowers, shrubs and native wildflowers that bloom from early spring until fall.  There are also 65 acres of native grasses and wildflowers adjacent to the garden.

Attract Gorgeous Butterflies To Your Garden!  Click Here To See How … 

When we visited, the sedum was putting on a show as well as daylilies, milkweed, sunflowers and black-eyed Susans.  Butterflies, bees and birds were aplenty enjoying all the nectar and seed sources.

Bayer Butterfly Garden Muscatine

The Pond At The Bayer Butterfly Garden in Muscatine

Enjoy a picnic at the tables located in the Butterfly Garden or relax in the gazebo on site.  Adding to this peaceful space is a pond with dual waterfalls which attracts many birds … while koi and goldfish swim through the water lilies.

Muscatine Art Center Japanese Garden – Located at 1314 Mulberry Avenue, the historic Musser-McColm home houses the popular Muscatine Art Center.  Open since 1965, the Laura Musser Museum/Muscatine Art Center is many things to the community of Muscatine: Historic House Museum, Art Gallery and a Local History Museum.

Muscatine Art Center Japanese Garden

The Muscatine Art Center Japanese Garden Entrance

In 1929, Laura Musser McColm had the Japanese Garden installed in the side yard where it occupies approximately half an acre. In the 1920’s a Japanese style garden was viewed as a symbol of cultural sophistication, used for spiritual retreat and rejuvenation.  It’s free to tour the garden and home, but donations are appreciated.

Muscatine Art Center Japanese Garden

The Serene Setting Of The Japanese Garden

The traditional Japanese garden design was intended to evoke the natural landscape of mountains and rivers. The original design included four ponds, one stream, two waterfalls, an oriental entrance or Torii gate, two shrine houses, several foot bridges, a stone pathway, several stone pagodas, and Oriental statuary that included a pair of bronze cranes.

Design A Tranquil Japanese Garden In Your Yard – These Are A Must #ad

Did You Know? Muscatine, Iowa is the only city / town with the name “Muscatine” in the United States …

Muscatine Local Favorites

Pete’s Tap – Tucked away in a residential neighborhood just south of downtown, Pete’s Tap is a local bar and grill that has been a Muscatine favorite for decades …

Pete’s Tap is best known for their ample draught beer selection and spectacular pork tenderloin sandwiches. An Iowa favorite, pork tenderloin sandwiches consist of a flattened, breaded pork loin served on a burger bun with your choice of fixings (Flower Chick recommends pickles, mustard, and a slice of onion – delish!).

Pete's Tap Muscatine Iowa

Pete’s reputation for pork tenderloin sandwiches is far flung. Flower Chick first learned about Pete’s Tap at a Quad Cities establishment whose menu noted their tenderloin recipe is inspired by those served here at Pete’s …

Did You Know? A native of Muscatine is known as a “Muscatiner”. You’ll see their friendly faces at many of the places we profile, like Hubble’s Tap, Pearl City Popcorn, Mairet’s Produce, and more …

A lively, casual place, Pete’s is a Muscatine must-stop to mingle with locals. Enjoy a cold beer and a top notch pork tenderloin sandwich while you’re here!

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Cheri Top – You’ll find this seasonal drive in spot about five minutes south of downtown on Route 61. It’s Muscatine’s choice for ice cream and casual fare and it’s right on the way to Mairet’s Produce and the Bayer Butterfly Garden.

Cheri-Top Drive In Muscatine

In business since 1956, Cheri Top is a traditional drive in operation, complete with car hop waitresses who take your order and bring it directly to your vehicle. The menu features soft serve ice cream, burgers, catfish dinners, fries, appetizers, and the like. Flower Chick stopped for lunch to enjoy a cheeseburger, washed down with a tasty root beer …

In the early evenings, Muscatine families flock here to enjoy cones, banana splits, and more. Cheri Top is popular with all ages and well known for their summer classic car shows …

Mairet’s – A mile or so down Route 61 from Cheri Top is one of Muscatine’s best places to score fresh produce. Mairet Farms sells freshly picked produce from their adjacent farm, including a wide selection of Muscatine melons …

Mairet Farms Muscatine IA

In the late summer when we visited, Mairet’s offers pumpkins, mums, and fall decor to welcome the cooler autumn temperatures. Local honey, jams, and sweet corn in season add to the bountiful selection you’ll find here …

Pearl City Popcorn This cute Muscatine local business is just 1/2 block up the street from the Merrill Hotel, and it’s a real taste of Iowa. You’ll find Iowa grown popcorn freshly popping all hours of the day and early evening. Lots of flavors to enjoy!

Pearl City Popcorn Sign Muscatine IA

Also, Pearl City Popcorn is a great place to stop for some ice cream while you’re exploring downtown. They hand scoop cones and cups to order – you’re sure to find a flavor that hits the spot. We love patronizing downtown local businesses and were so pleased to see families and young people stopping in at Pearl City Popcorn to enjoy a sweet or savory treat …

Hubble’s Tap Chock full of history, Hubble’s is a Muscatine stalwart. It’s the oldest bar in Muscatine, dating back to before Prohibition. Hubble’s Tap opened in 1929 and has been slaking the thirst of Muscatiners and visitors ever since …

Hubble’s isn’t fancy, but that’s part of the charm. A long bar, friendly locals, pressed tin ceiling overhead, cold beer, and the game on t.v. – what more can you ask of a local bar?

Hubble's Tap Muscatine Iowa

Flower Chick stopped in for happy hour before dinner at the nearby Maxwell’s on the River. The Budweiser on tap is cold and the hospitality warm – a great stop in downtown Muscatine!

Contrary Brewing – About two blocks west of the Merrill Hotel across from the riverfront is Muscatine’s local brewery. This is Contrary Brewing, housed in a renovated historic building with an adjacent new outdoor seating area to enjoy their many house brewed beers …

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Flower Chick was drawn to their refreshing Pollinator Ale. This wheat style ale is brewed with an ample dose of local honey. Crisp, clean, and easy to drink, it’s a fun beer to sip while enjoying the riverfront scene just across the way …

Contrary Brewing Muscatine

If you’re not sure what to order, the brewery offers sampling trays with a selection of Contrary’s offerings. But we recommend just diving in and enjoying a pint of whatever sounds good to you. Plus, it gives you a reason to come back for a return visit to try all the others …

Muscatine’s new crown jewel, the Merrill Hotel, offers a prime location on the riverfront. We didn’t stay here but stopped in for dinner at the hotel’s Maxwell’s on the River. Maxwell’s is a relaxed, refined restaurant serving some of Muscatine’s best cuisine …

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The views here are spectacular! Opt for indoor dining adjacent to floor-to-ceiling windows, or seasonal outdoor patio seating. Enjoy a glass of Ardon Creek wine (as it happened, the winery’s owner was seated a few tables away) and Maxwell’s approachable, inventive cuisine …

Maxwells On The River Muscatine

Insider Tip: As an appetizer, we recommend the charcuterie platter (pictured above). It features a selection of artisan cheese, dates, lingonberries, olives, Iowa cured meats, house pickles, and toasted sourdough … Delicious!

After dinner, stroll the riverfront or downtown Muscatine and take in views of the Norbert Beckey bridge spanning the Mississippi River …

Did You Know? The Mississippi River, which travels south from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, actually runs primarily east to west for about 20 miles from the Quad Cities to Muscatine. The river then takes a sharp southbound turn at downtown Muscatine …

Norbert Beckey Bridge Muscatine Iowa

Muscatine Gardens – Summary

Muscatine is a perfect day trip destination from the Quad Cities … it’s less than 1/2 hour drive along the Mississippi River. If you’re a Midwest gardener, you’ll revel in the many beautiful garden spaces around town …

Weed Park is a Muscatine highlight, as is the impressive Muscatine Arboretum and Environmental Learning Center. Be sure to also stop at the Bayer Butterfly Garden and the peaceful Japanese Garden at the Muscatine Art Center. All these Muscatine gardens will inspire and spark your creativity for your own Zone 5 or Zone 6 gardens …

Muscatine Iowa Gardens

The Beauty Of Weed Park – Rose Garden & Zoo Garden

Most of all, spend some time enjoying the engrossing history of this friendly Iowa community. There are lots of independent businesses to explore and all sorts of options for a great meal, from classic drive ins to a relaxed dinner overlooking the riverfront …

Did You Know? Muscatine is very rich in history. The city boasts 14 listings on the National Register of Historic Places. The fourteen listings are a combination of homes, churches, and historic districts …

This was Flower Chick’s first visit to Muscatine. We’re already planning a return visit!

Muscatine Arboretum

Enjoy Nature Walks At The Harmonious Muscatine Arboretum

Be sure to tell us about your Muscatine favorites by reaching out at our Contact page. We love hearing from our readers and hope this feature inspires you to visit “The Pearl of the Mississippi” …

Lastly, many thanks to all the Muscatine locals we encountered on our visit who helped with insider knowledge and genuine Iowa hospitality. We’ll see you next time in Muscatine!

Check Out More Scenic Gardens In Iowa … Click To See The Details


  1. Ronnie Swailes

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