How much do you know about your city? Most of us know about the delicious restaurants, stores to shop, and parks to play at. You probably know the present city like the back of your hand. But the history of Council Bluffs? Learn about all the great things and people that started our wonderful city with adventures in history at several museums in Council Bluffs!
Museums in Council Bluffs
#1 Union Pacific Railroad Museum
Located in the old historic Council Bluffs Carnegie Public Library, the Union Pacific Railroad Museum opened in 2003. The building was restored and developed into a place to showcase a part of Council Bluff’s heritage. Inside you will find permanent galleries and limited time exhibits showcasing items and details about the railroad, Amtrak, and more. They also hold Family Nights on the first Friday of every month with extended hours and fun themed activities.
Location: 200 Pearl Street
Hours: Thursday – Saturday from 10AM-4PM
Cost: Free General Admission
#2 RailsWest Railroad Museum
Back in 1899, The Chicago Rock Island and Pacific Railroad Passenger Depot were built and today it is the home of the RailsWest Railroad Museum in Council Bluffs. Inside you will find model railroads, railroad artifacts, and exhibits, as well as the former ticket office. Outside you can go inside full-size railroad cars, something my kids really enjoy!
Location: 16th Avenue and South Main Street
Hours: Friday and Saturday from 1PM-4PM
Cost: Free for Historical Society Members, $7 Adults, $6 Seniors, $5 Kids 6-12, Free under 5
#3 Western Historic Trails Center
Inside Western Historic Trails Center you will find exhibits, maps, and films of what early travels saw along Lewis and Clark, Oregon, California, and Mormon Trails. After the center, you can walk or bike on the trails that take you to the Missouri River and other places in Council Bluffs. Pack a lunch and plan a day of learning and exploring!
Location: 3434 Richard Downing Avenue
Hours: Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday from 9AM-4:30PM during October 1st – March 31st
#4 General Dodge House
A place I remember from elementary school field trips is the Dodge House. One of Council Bluffs’ most famous residents, Gen. Grenville M. Dodge was a Civil War Vet touted as the greatest railroad builder of all time. The house was build in 1869 for $35,000 (can you imagine?!) and is now a museum showcasing many of the family’s original possessions. A new exhibit opened in 2016 if you haven’t visited recently, and you can also see the August Beresheim House which is now the orientation center for General Dodge House. Beresheim was a close friend of Dodge and the president of Council Bluffs Savings Bank from 1909-1916 when he passed away.
Location: 605 3rd Street
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday from 10AM-5PM and Sundays from 1PM-5PM
Cost: $7 Adults, $5 Seniors, $3 Students, Under 6 Free
#5 Squirrel Cage Jail
Built in 1885 and used until 1969, the Squirrel Cage Jail is one of eighteen revolving jails ever built and the only one that is three stories. I still remember going to a haunted house there as a child and being terrified when the walls rotated lol! Even so, I want to get back there soon..maybe during one of the flashlight tours in October!
Location: 226 Pearl Street
Hours: Thursday 11AM-7PM, Fridays and Saturdays 11AM-4PM
Cost: $7 Adults, $5 Seniors, $5 Ages 6-12, Free Under 5
#6 Great Plains Wing Museum
Located at the Council Bluffs Municipal Airport, the Great Plains Wing Museum is a place the whole family can learn about American, German, British, and Japenese Heritage. I haven’t been out there yet but it’s now on my list! There are over 1,200 WWII artifacts from uniforms to weapons to personal items that have been donated.
Location: 16803 McCandless Road
Hours: Wednesday 6PM-9PM, Saturday 9AM-4PM, Sunday 12PM-4PM
Cost: Free but donations are welcome
#7 Frontier Library & Heritage Museum
If you want to learn about or find information about the history of Council Bluffs, the Frontier Library & Heritage Museum is it. The Pottawattamie County Genealogical Society formed in 1992 to preserve and protect the history of the city and volunteers have been working hard to organize, index, and preserve ever since. I have not been here yet but my interest is definitely peeked to check it out now.
Location: 622 Fourth Street
Hours: Tuesday 1PM-4PM
#8 Kanesville Tabernacle and Visitor Center
While not actually a museum, Kanesville Tabernacle and Visitor Center is a place to learn some history about the Latter-Day Saints migration west. Inside the replica of the original Kanesville Tabernacle you will find exhibits and artifacts that you take you along the journey. They also host a gingerbread show during the holiday season.
Location: 222 East Broadway
Hours: Monday through Sunday 10AM-5PM from March to October
Do you know of any other museums in Council Bluffs?