Has a bite from the travel bug left you itching to explore, but you don’t have the time or money to take an expensive, far away vacation? No worries, there are plenty of places in Iowa that will satisfy your wanderlust! From German villages to Danish settlements, here are 10 places in Iowa that will make you feel like you are traveling the world, without ever leaving the state:
Pella was founded in 1847 when 800 Dutch immigrants settled the area. Because of its strong Dutch roots, Pella offers some very unique architecture, most notably the wooden windmills around town. You will also see storefronts that sell everything from wooden clogs to Dutch letters. Another thing that has made Pella famous within the state is their annual Tulip Festival, where the whole town celebrates the beautiful blooming tulips. This year's festival will be held May 5 through 7.
2. The Amana Colonies
The Amana Colonies is a German settlement made up of seven villages: Amana (or Main Amana), East Amana, High Amana, Middle Amana, South Amana, West Amana, and Homestead. The total population of the villages is about 1,200 people. 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 - and don't miss out on their annual Maifest celebration, which is set for April 30 through May 1 this year.
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. Every year, the town proudly displays their Norwegian heritage during their Nordic Fest celebration. This year, the festival will be held on July 28 through 30.
4. Czech Village, Cedar Rapids
The Czech Village, also known as New Bohemia, in Cedar Rapids, will give you a full dose of Czech culture. While you're there, be sure to visit the National Czech & Slovak Museum, pick up some fresh baked goods at the Sykora Bakery, and do some shopping at Czech Village Antiques. Be sure to stop by May 20 through 22 for the 39th annual Houby Days, which is the village's annual spring festival celebrating the history and culture of Czech Village in Cedar Rapids.
5. Elk Horn
The tiny Danish towns of Elk Horn and Kimballton are the largest rural Danish settlements anywhere outside of Denmark. On your visit, make sure you check out the only working Danish windmill outside of Denmark, as well as the Museum of Danish America. Another fun site is the tiny Morning Star Chapel, a miniature chapel that seats four. The area is also home to a hjem, an ancient viking abode where re-enactments are done.
Swedesburg is a tiny, unincorporated community near Mt. Pleasant that is known for it's proud Swedish heritage. Swedesburg is home to the Swedish Heritage Museum, which displays all manner of artifacts, memorabilia, and other items of Swedish heritage. There is also a giant Dala horse nearby, as well as a giant straw goat, both of which are symbols of Sweden.
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. East Village, Des Moines
Historic East Village Des Moines is a great place to visit if you can't make it to East Village in Manhattan. The area is full of history, culture, and plenty of unique things to do and see. From funky shops such as Uglytree and Raygun, to unique eateries such as Zombie Burger and Tacopocalypse, East Village Des Moines offers all the best parts of East Village Manhattan right here in Iowa.
9. Orange City
Orange City, population 5,582, is another city in Iowa known for its Dutch heritage and charming wooden windmills. Orange City also has an annual tulip festival, which will be held on May 19 through 21 this year. Don't forget to go back in December to celebrate Sinterklaas Day!
10. Maharishi Vedic City
Maharishi Vedic City is a small city near Fairfield that was inspired by meditation guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who recommended that its development be based on ancient Vedic literature. The city lives according to this lifestyle, and has banned the sale of non-organic food and the use of cars other than electric ones. At Maharishi Vedic City, you will find that every building is designed according to Maharishi Sthapatya Veda design, to promote health, happiness, and good fortune. Each building faces east and has a central silent space called a Brahmasthan and a golden roof ornament called a kalash. The city even has its own currency, the Raam, which is the development currency of the Global Country of World Peace.
Grab a map of Iowa and your digital camera – it’s time to feel like a tourist in your own state!