Iowa has picture perfect landscapes all over, but you can catch some of the most spectacular scenery in and around the smaller towns. From charming little river towns to cultural hubs of under 10,000 residents, here are 13 of the most picturesque small towns in Iowa that you’ve got to visit:
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:
Decorah, population 8,127, is a little taste of Norway in Iowa. Decorah is home to the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, which was named one of 15 Best Small-Town Museums in the U.S. by the world-respected travel guide, Fodor’s. When you're done at the museum, go explore the Ice Cave, check out the trout hatchery, and have a glass of wine at the Winneshiek Wildberry Winery.
Pella, population 10,344, is easily one of the cutest towns in the state, even the country. Spend your day here eating a Dutch letter from Jaarsma Bakery, taking a tour of the Vermeer Windmill, and going for a walk by the Molengracht Canal.
3. Storm Lake
Storm Lake is easily one of the most underrated cities in the state, and a true hidden gem! On your next visit, go for a stroll on the boardwalk, have some fun in the sun at the water park, and do some shopping at the unique downtown district.
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.
The little German town of Guttenberg, population 1,919, is a charming river town nestled on the limestone bluffs that line the Mississippi. While you're in town, check out the local shops, and go fishing or boating along the scenic riverfront.
7. The Amana Colonies
You can find many neat things at the little German villages of the Amana Colonies, which are known for their handmade items, arts and crafts, and cuisine. When you're there, check out the Woolen Mill, grab a bite to eat at the Ox Yoke Inn, and drink some dandelion wine from Ackerman Winery.
Bellevue, population 2,191, not only offers one of the most amazing views in the state, but also many fun things to do. On your next visit, go hiking at Bellevue State Park, enjoy an entertaining murder mystery dinner at Mont Rest Bed and Breakfast, and do some shopping at the riverfront shops.
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.
10. Orange City
Orange City, population 5,582, is known for its Dutch architecture, beautiful tulip festival, and charming windmills. While you're in the area, check out the Blue Mountain Culinary Emporium and the Sioux County Historical Museum. Don't forget to go back in December to celebrate Sinterklaas Day!
With a population of just under a thousand people, Lansing is a tiny town that offers some of the best views in the state. Located along the Mississippi, Lansing is a perfect place to do a little fishing or boating, and if you prefer to hike, just grab your backpack and head over to the nearby Yellow River State Forest.
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 its 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.
13. Saint Donatus
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.
These towns are so beautiful, but they just scratch the surface. Know of any more picturesque small towns in Iowa? Share them with us!