Our last post about charming small towns in Iowa was so popular, we had people asking for more! Obviously there are an abundance of beautiful, charming, and unique small towns in Iowa, so of course one list couldn’t cover them all… That’s why we decided to answer your requests with 10 MORE beautiful and charming small towns in Iowa! What these 10 tiny towns lack in population, they make up for in character.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Le Claire
Le Claire is a city in Scott County, with a population of 3,765 people. This tiny town has gained huge popularity since TV show hosts Mike and Frank, from American Pickers, set up their Antique Archaeology shop in town.
When you visit Le Claire, make sure to take a stroll through the Cody Road Historic District (shown above), take in some local history at the Buffalo Bill Museum, and try some delicious "Iowish Whiskey" at the Mississippi River Distilling Company.
2. Ida Grove
Ida Grove is a city in Ida County with a population of 2,142. This adorable small town is quite different from anywhere else in Iowa - it's full of castles!
While you're in town, you obviously need to check out all the castles and such, but some other fun and unique things to see are: the Moorehead House Museum or the Stagecoach Inn for a peek into the town's history, the Skate Palace if you feel like doing a little rollerskating, and the giant pirate ship on Lake LaJune, which is a once-in-a-lifetime sight.
The lovely little town of Winterset, population 5,190, is easily one of the most charming, gorgeous little towns in the country. Despite being so small, the town is packed with things to do and see. If you're in the area, check out the famous Bridges of Madison County, take a tour of John Wayne's house, grab a bite to eat at the Northside Cafe, and marvel at the well-preserved, historic courthouse square.
The tiny town of Marquette has a population of just 375 people, but what it lacks in population it more than makes up for in it's charming townscape. On your next visit, do a little gambling at the Lady Luck Casino, have a glass of local wine at the award-winning Eagles Landing Winery, and check out one of the unique Old West Reenactments on the last Saturday of each month from June to October.
5. Le Mars
Le Mars, population 9,820, is better known as the Ice Cream Capitol of the World. Aside from the mandatory Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor visit, here are some more things to do on your next trip to town: tour the Plymouth County Museum, admire the street art throughout town, and grab a bite to eat at Archie's Waeside.
Elkader, located in Clayton County, has a population of 1,273 people. Despite its size, the small town still has plenty of fun to offer visitors.
While you're in town, do some shopping at the Turkey River Mall, see a play at the opera house, and try some cultural cuisine at Schera's Algerian American Restaurant. Spend the next day horseback riding with Whistlin’ Bit Saddle Club, or going on a wagon/carriage ride at Clip Clop Wagon Rides and Carriage Service.
Another popular thing to do in Elkader is to kayak down the Turkey River on the Elkader Whitewater Feature, one of Iowa's few whitewater courses. The river is also a favorite spot for fishermen.
7. St. Donatus
Better known as Luxembourg in America, the quaint and historic village of St. Donatus is completely unique, and a must-see destination in Iowa.
The town of 135 people, located in Jackson County, is best known for its old-world European feel, as it is reminiscent of the European country of Luxembourg, from which the founders of the town came from over 150 years ago.
While you're in town, check out the beautiful Pieta Chapel, have a Kraut Sausage at Kalmes Restaurant, admire the old Gehlen Barn, and if you want to make a weekend of it, stay at the historic Gehlen House Inn.
8. Iowa Falls
Iowa Falls, population 5,217, is a quaint little river town in Hardin County. The beautiful town is perfectly situated on top of a bed of rocky bluffs, overlooking the Iowa River. If you're ever in the area, go see a movie at the historic Metropolitan Opera House, have an old-school burger and milkshake at the retro Princess Grill & Pizzeria, and go wine tasting at Eagle City Winery.
Iowa Falls offers several points for river access to go boating, and every summer, you can take a riverboat cruise on the Scenic City Empress. The Fourth of July Fireworks cruise is spectacular, and a very memorable trip for anyone aboard. The river also offers a fishing hotspot below the dam.
With a population of 5,533, Anamosa is certainly small, but they offer big opportunities for a fun trip to town. While you're there, take a tour of the beautiful and historic gem that is the Anamosa State Penitentiary Museum, and if you're a motorcyclist, the National Motorcycle Museum is a must-see. If you get hungry, The General Store Pub is the place to go.
Bonaparte, one of the 16 beautiful villages of Van Buren, is a tiny village with a population of about 433 people.
While you're in town, check out the Burns Gallery and Tea Emporium, have lunch at the Bonaparte Retreat Restaurant, and make a weekend of it by staying at the Bonaparte Inn Bed & Breakfast.
With such a charming, historic downtown area, it's no surprise that Bonaparte was once named the winner of the "Great American Main Street Award."
Who’s in for a tour of small town Iowa? I know I am! There’s so much to do and see in these small towns – it’s hard to believe not more people have realized that! Have any more towns you think should be on this list? Share them with us!