Iowa is pretty much the face of small-town America, and we have countless numbers of them scattered across the state like chicken feed. While each one is charming and full of character, there are some who shine even brighter than the rest. Here are 10 of the cutest, most charming small towns in Iowa.
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:
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.
The town has a proud Dutch heritage, which you can see in its architecture and in its annual Dutch themed Tulip Festival.
2. The Amana Colonies
The Amana Colonies are 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.
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.
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.
5. Orange City
Orange City, population 5,582, 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!
6. Mount Vernon
Mount Vernon is a lovely little town of around 4,170 people. While you're in the area, spend a day (or two) at Palisades-Kepler State Park, and when you get hungry, check out Skillet Cafe. Make sure to visit again in early May so you can check out the Chalk the Walk Festival, where artists from all across Iowa gather to create beautiful chalk art on the street.
McGregor is a quaint little river town with a population of around 870 people. While you're there, don't miss checking out Pikes Peak State Park for a day of hiking and breathtaking views. You should also take a riverboat cave tour at Spook Cave. If you want to make a weekend of it, stay at the Stauer House Bed and Breakfast, and fuel up at Cafe McGregor.
8. Elk Horn
The tiny Danish town of Elk Horn has a population of around 650 people. 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. Feeling hungry? The Danish Inn is the place to go for some delicious, cultural cuisine.
Dyersville, population 4,100, is most famously known as the home of the Field Of Dreams movie site. Of course you have to make a trip to see that, but afterwards, check out the National Farm Toy Museum and the beautiful St. Francis Basilica, then grab a bite to eat at the Palace Saloon.
Eldora is a small town of about 2,700 people. Much of the downtown area is listed on the National Historic Register, and the charming, classic courthouse square is something you don't see much anymore. When you're in town, check out the beautiful Pine Lake State Park, take a tour of the Farm Museum, then head to Ahoy Fountain for a delicious old-fashioned malt. If you're planning to make a weekend of it, stay at Rock and Row Adventures and take a tubing trip down the river, then spend the night rocking out to live music.
Nothing beats a small town in Iowa. Cheap living, no traffic, and the friendliest people you’ll ever meet!