Every year, the Dubuque Old House Enthusiasts annual old house tour is a big draw at DubuqueFest. Architecture and old home lovers congregate to this historic river city, with its rambling Victorians and ornate Italianate manors from times past.

The homes on this year’s tour are located in the West 3rd and Hill Street area, in neighborhoods nestled under sprawling trees on Dubuque’s scenic hillsides. Five charming old homes, restored to their early splendor, will be opened to the public during the festival weekend.

Never been on an old house tour? Here’s what typically happens:

You can ride a shuttle from the art fair at Washington Park or transport yourself to any of the five open homes. You can purchase a ticket at any of the homes on the tour from the friendly volunteers representing the Dubuque Old House Enthusiasts. Individual tickets cost $10, are good for one visit to each home, and may be used on either Saturday or Sunday. No registration is required.

Before entering a home on the tour, you will be asked to garb your feet in silly looking booties. These are a courtesy to prevent dirt and muck from getting tramped through the lovely homes. If a tour is already underway, you may be asked to wait outside for a few minutes until a new group goes in. That’s okay, since these marvelous old houses are usually lording over terrific views and nicely landscaped lawns.

Once inside the home, volunteers will greet you, guide you through the home, and give you a history of each noteworthy room. They will point out the details you shouldn’t miss, such as ornate woodwork or tile, or original fixtures or furnishings. Ask questions if you have them! You might even bump into the owners, trying hard to be invisible and hoping all the hard work of preparation and restoration will pay off in one glorious weekend of community admiration.

As you make your way through the house, please be considerate of the owners and only look, don’t touch. Stay out of the cupboards and closets, and please don’t ask to use the restroom unless it’s an absolute necessity. If any rooms are closed off, please don’t enter. For security reasons, photos are not allowed.

You will find that Dubuque boasts some stunning old homes, cared for by people who are devoted to restoring and polishing them up into showpieces. At the end of the tour, you have the option to deposit your house tour ticket into a drawing for a gift basket containing great prizes. Go ahead, give the Old House Tour a whirl this year.

What: Old House Enthusiasts 2011 old home tour
When: 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Saturday May 21st and Sunday May 22nd
Where: West 3rd and Hill Street neighborhoods in Dubuque, Iowa
More info: www.dbqohe.org