Everyone who’s been to Iowa at least once has heard of the major cities like Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Davenport, or Sioux City. They are all wonderful places, but Iowa has so much more than these few cities. There are loads of places that Iowa
should be known for, but few people know about them or appreciate them. Here are 13 underrated cities in Iowa that you should definitely make a point to check out:
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:
You can find many neat things in 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.
Pella 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.
Decorah 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.
Hidden up in northwest Iowa, Okoboji is a must-visit vacation destination that's not too far from home. With plenty to do, you won't have a boring minute here. Spend your days boating on the bright blue water, soaking up the sun at one of the beachfront resorts, or catching your thrills at the local amusement park, Arnold's Park.
6. Orange City
Orange City is known for it's 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!
Bentonsport is one of the Villages of VanBuren, which are highly underrated and a real hidden gem in Iowa. There are 12 tiny villages, incuding: Bonaparte, Keosauqua, and Farmington. On your visit, make sure to have some fudge, check out the local shops, and stay in the Mason House Inn, a famously haunted location.
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." 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.
Home to Five Island Lake, Emmetsburg is a unique little lake town that offers plenty of fun for the whole family. On your visit, you'll want to make sure you check out (and kiss) the city's own Blarney Stone, a gift from Dublin, Ireland, and if you're feeling the luck of the Irish, you can place big bets at the Wild Rose Casino & Resort.
10. Ida Grove
Ida Grove 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.
11. Le Claire
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.
12. Spirit Lake
Spirit Lake is a beautiful, underrated city in Dickinson County. Take a weekend trip up here to spend your days swimming, boating, and fishing on the lake. When you have a spare minute, go see a movie at the Superior 71 Drive-In Theatre, grab some treats at Goodies Handmade Candies, and spend a day at Pike's Point State Park.
13. 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. 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.
What are some more underrated cities and hidden gems in Iowa? Share your suggestions with us!