The United States gained control over the state of Iowa during the Louisiana Purchase, but battles were fought for years between the new settlers and the Indians. Iowa finally became a state in 1846, but no one there has forgotten the history of the land and they willingly share that and their traditions with anyone who visits. Here are the 10 most beautiful and historically rich small towns in Iowa.
Dutch immigrants settled in this town in 1847 and it is now where many architectural sites are located. The Vermeer Mill continues to work today and is the tallest working windmill in the United States. One of the best places to see in Pella is Molengracht Plaza, where a canal winds through the shops, restaurants, theatre, and more. The Dutch heritage of the area is celebrated every year in May during the Tulip Time Festival.
The Amana Colonies are seven villages that were built by German Pietists. The names of the seven villages are Middle Amana, Amana, South Amana, Homestead, West Amana, High Amana, and East Amana. This small town relies on tourists, who love to shop in the numerous stores and galleries, as well as enjoy a meal at a local restaurant.
The town of Bentonsport has not changed much over the years except for fewer people living there. Inside the historic district, people will find a blacksmith shop, Bentonsport General Store, churches, homes, the I.O.O.F. Hall, and the historic bridge. The bridge was built in 1883 and is the oldest wagon bridge on the Des Moines River.
The town of Decorah is larger than some of the other towns in the state and there are many unique natural features that fill the area. Visitors can see Dunning’s Spring, the Ice Cave, and Siewers Spring, as well as multiple parks that were built on the bluffs. The largest Norwegian museum in the United States is in Decorah, and everyone will want to see the numerous exhibits inside the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum. Every July, Nordic Fest is held in town to celebrate the culture and traditions of the Norwegians.
Dyersville has always been known for farming and it is now known as the Farm Toy Capital of the World. In June, the town hosts a farm toy show and then in November, they host the National Farm Toy Show. Many people visit the area to see the Basilica of St. Francis Xavier, which is one of the only minor Roman Catholic Basilicas that is not in a larger city. The movie, Field of Dreams, used Dyersville as the background for their baseball field.
Orange City also has many Dutch immigrants, so they celebrate with a Tulip Festival every May as well. The city used to be named Holland until it was renamed in honor of the Dutch Royalty. The town is filled with windmills, parks, and a unique shopping style that is considered Dutch Village. Orange City is such a beautiful place, that many couples travel there to get married in their new Event Center.
Mount Vernon of Iowa was named after the estate of George Washington. Artists can be found throughout the town and one of the locals, Mark Benesh, created his own rendition of Grant Wood’s American Gothic on the side of a barn on Highway 30. Everyone can be creative during the Sidewalk Chalk Festival that is held every year in May. Quite a few blocks of the town are closed so that people can create their own artwork on the streets using chalk.
Danish people are prominent in Elk Horn and the Museum of Danish America shares the history of them and the area. The heritage of Elk Horn is celebrated twice a year. In May, Tivoli Fest is held and in November, people can go to Julefest. The best scenery in the town can be seen from the Western Skies Scenic Byway.
McGregor was first founded in 1847 and became incorporated in 1857. The town was known as a shipping port for many years, however once the rail lines were connected by a pontoon bridge, the town began to decline. The business district is filled with buildings that were built during the town’s heyday and there are many antique stores that fill the streets. Two other things that people need to see when they are in McGregor are Pikes Peak State Park and Spook Cave.
Okoboji is all about the outdoors and people will find themselves enjoying all sorts of activities that include the University of Okoboji Winter Games. While the University of Okoboji may sound official, it is a fictitious school that three brothers created in the 1970s. The name has stuck though, and many people will purchase shirts, mugs, bumper stickers, and more with the University name while they are in town. The main attraction in this town are the lakes that were carved from glaciers.