- Marcelina Morfin
There is no doubt that picturesque towns abound in Iowa. From towns surrounded by rolling farm land or set along the banks of rivers and villages with a distinct cultural heritage, beauty comes in many guises in this Midwest state. We check out 10 of the scenic places awaiting visitors to Iowa.
Composed of seven colonies, Amana Colonies is a charming area on the prairie of east-central Iowa. Settled by a group of German Pietists in the mid-19th century, the colonies they created were peaceful places to live their communal life. Today, the Amana Colonies is a treasured National Historic Landmark, complete with lovely brick, stone, and clapboard houses, lush gardens, and street lanterns. Guests can stroll along the quaint streets, or visit one of many heritage sites, including the Amana Heritage Museum and the Communal Kitchen and Copper Shop. A host of things to eat, handcrafted furniture and art can be found in Amana.
Once a popular steamboat town, Bentonsport is a picturesque village and a National Historic District situated on the Des Moines River in Southeast Iowa. One of the Villages of Van Buren County, Bentonsport is surrounded by breathtaking scenery, including woodland and historical sites. The village offers guests plenty of outdoor adventures, such as hiking and canoeing, and places to wander, including the stunning Rose Garden. History buffs will enjoy exploring Tony Sanders’ Indian Artifact Museum, which features over 4,000 arrowheads and other artifacts that Sanders has been collecting since he was a little boy, all of which are displayed in beautiful handmade inlaid wood panels.
Located in the northeastern portion of the State, Decorah is a lovely town brimming with beauty and Norwegian heritage. From the natural scenery, which includes bluffs, valleys, and rivers, to stunning architecture found around town, Decorah is a place for both outdoor and culture lovers. Guests can stroll along the charming Water Street, complete with floral baskets in the warmer months, where they will find incredible buildings housing galleries, unique shops, and resturants. They can head into the great outdoors for adventures in hiking, biking, and skiing to name a few. Specific must-visit destinations include the Vesterheim, The National Norwegian-American Museum and Heritage Center, and The Porter House Museum where visitors will discover a wonderful collection of history, art, and nature tucked inside an Italianate villa.
Founded in 1848 by James J. Dyer, Dyersville is a charming community situated in eastern Iowa. This friendly town is steeped in history and gorgeous scenery. Tourists can meander through the picturesque downtown to explore shops and restaurants before visiting the Basilica of St. Francis Xavier, a beautiful example of Gothic architecture. History buffs can visit the Dyer-Botsford House, which is a Victorian mansion filled with displays showcasing antiques, artifacts and an impressive collection of 2000 dolls. Fans of the Academy Award nominated film, Field of Dreams, will also be interested in this town, as the movie was filmed at the century old Lansing family farm.
Located along the banks of the Turkey River in Northeast Iowa, Elkader is a scenic town bound by verdant landscape. Wooded hills, farmland, plus rivers and streams make this area a popular one with outdoor enthusiasts. Visitors who would rather explore the history of the area can take a leisurely stroll through the downtown area or visit the Carter House Museum, which features displays telling the story of Iowans from 150 years ago, and the Keystone Bridge, a 346-foot long bridge built of locally quarried limestone in 1889.
LeClaire, is a picturesque town set along the upper Mississippi River that was once home to river pilots, who navigated the dangerous Upper Rapids. Today, this community attracts many visitors throughout the year seeking outdoor adventures and charming hospitality. The Cody Road Historic District, which is perfect for wandering, is where guests will find many mid to late-19th century commercial buildings and residences, several of which were homes to the river pilots. Must-see attractions include the Buffalo Bill Museum and the Lock and Dam #14, which is an area for nature lovers to try to spot bald eagles and pelicans.
Once an esteemed shipping port, McGregor is another northeastern beauty found along the Mississippi River. From adventure seekers to culture lovers, everyone will find something of interest in this diverse area. The scenic outdoors, which include Driftless Area, Effigy Mounds, and Pike’s Peak State Park, provide many recreational activities such as hiking, boating, and biking. For those guests who would rather explore the town, the attractive downtown area with its 19th century architecture housing boutiques and other businesses is a great place to start. The town also hosts several events throughout the year, including an annual Arts and Crafts Festival and the Lazy River Beer and Wine Fest.
A resort town found in Northwest Iowa, Okoboji in an outdoor paradise located along the shores of West Lake Okoboji, one of the stunning glacier-carved lakes that make up the Iowa Great Lakes. A popular summer destination, the area is brimming with water sports. Places of interest include the Higgins Museum, which showcases national bank notes, and the Okoboji Summer Theatre, which produces several productions for the summer season. Okoboji is also a great place from which to explore the area’s other resort towns, which offer more shopping, dining, and cultural activities.
A delightful community with a strong Dutch heritage, Pella is known as ‘America’s Dutch Treasure.’ This town has beautiful scenery around every corner. Pella has a colorful display of hundreds of thousands of tulips that bloom each spring around the town. Guests taking a leisurely walk will find attractions such as the Vermeer Mill, the largest working grain windmill in the USA , and the beautifully restored Pella Opera House. The Tulip Time Festival, is a must-see cultural celebration.
Located in Madison County in Southwest Iowa, Winterset is a lovely town that happens to be the birthplace of John Wayne. Indeed, guests can visit the birthplace of the actor and explore the John Wayne Birthplace Museum. Also known for its beautiful covered bridges (The Bridges of Madison County was filmed in the area), the town offers maps so that visitors can take self-guided tours. Winterset also features a lively town square where visitors will find a stunning, historic courthouse built in 1876, plus many interesting shops.