The little town of Pella may only have just over 10,000 residents, but what it lacks in population it more than makes up for in character. Because of its strong Dutch roots, Pella offers some very unique architecture, most notably the wooden windmills you will see around town. Also, make sure you visit Pella during the spring so you can check out their famous Tulip Time festival. This year’s festival runs May 4th through the 6th.
McGregor is a postcard perfect river town situated in the Northeast Iowa bluffs near the Mississippi River. With a population of only 871, the town has a laid back, slow pace that’s perfect for a relaxing day of exploration. Make sure to plan some time to wander through the stores, visit the Froelich Foundation Museum, and nearby Pikes Peak State Park.
Walking through the Bentonsport national historic district might actually fool you into thinking you’ve walked through a time machine. In fact, Bentonsport was recognized in 1972 for having changed very little since the mid-1800s. There’s plenty to do and see there, from visiting the Greef General Store to sampling homemade fudge.
Iowa City, home to the Hawkeyes, is definitely a must visit town. Not only are there plentiful events for sports lovers, it’s also been designated a UNESCO City of Literature, which isn’t hard to understand, since it’s home to the number one ranked creative writing program in the country. Downtown, there’s an Iowa Avenue Literary walk with bronze panels memorializing 49 writers with ties to Iowa. And don’t forget to go down to the ped mall and visit the shops and amazing restaurants.
With a population of 993, Riverside is a tiny town in Washington County situated on the English River. Its claim to fame? Being the future birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk. According to the town, the Star Trek character, Captain James T. Kirk, will be born in Riverside on March 22nd, in the year 2228. It’s even home to the annual Trekfest, which takes place every year at the end of June and includes a Star Trek themed parade and scavenger hunt.
Dyersville, located in eastern-central Iowa, is so charming and beautiful, it will make you feel like you died and went to heaven. This small town has a population of 4,058, and it was the setting for the 1989 movie, “Field of Dreams.” Make sure to visit the famous site while you’re there, as well as the incredible Basilica of St. Francis Xavier.
Stone City is a tiny, unincorporated community in Iowa with a population of 192. It is best known for its incredible historic buildings, limestone quarries, and being home to an art colony in the 1930s that was started by Grant Wood, Edward Rowan and Adrian Dornbush. While you’re there, make sure to drive around town to see all of the incredible old limestone buildings, and stop in at the General Store Pub for dinner.
Decorah, population 8,127, is a cultural hub known for its strong Norwegian heritage, as well as its charming and quaint Main Street shops and abundance of outdoor activities for visitors of all ages, during all seasons. While you’re there, make sure to check out the Vesterheim Museum and explore the beautiful areas surrounding the town.
Orange City is a small town in Northwest Iowa, and while it may only have a population of 6,004, it has an epic restaurant that’s actually three restaurants all rolled into one, and you’ll definitely want to visit. Not only does the Blue Mountain Culinary Emporium serve delicious food, you’ll find interesting and varied atmospheres in different parts of the restaurant, including the Lodge, the Smokehouse Grille, the Passport Club and the Barn.
Even if you’re a born and bred Iowan, you may not know that there is actually a real island hiding right here in the state. The tiny island town of Sabula, Iowa, is situated right on the Mississippi River and is home to roughly 600 people. Sabula is a one mile long and quarter mile wide island, and there’s plenty to see and do while you’re there, like wildlife watching, camping, fishing, swimming and more.
Brayton is home to a one-of-a-kind roadside attraction: a massive, 100-foot tall tree growing right through the center of this back road. This stunning cottonwood tree stands at almost exactly 100 feet. What's perhaps most extraordinary is that the tree doesn't even interrupt traffic flow. Drivers simply yield to it in the same way as they would a roundabout. To get to the site, take U.S. Highway 7 from Brayton traveling east on Country Road T towards F-65. Simply follow the signs marked “Tree In The Road” along the gravel roads. Also note that this is a B-service road, meaning there is minimum service and could potentially have ruts and potholes.