I love to travel. And I’m lucky to have sisters who love it as much as I do. But this year our big plans for Iceland were put on hold so we decided instead to travel to...Iowa! We had a wonderful time!
You don't have to travel far from home to explore new sights and create some wonderful memories. Here are some highlights from my trip and some tips for your own travels be them near or far.
TIP 1: Focus on one area. Iowa is big! And each area has its special attractions. We chose Decorah and loved it.
Museums are always a great way to learn something special about the area you are visiting. We toured the nationally-rated Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, and the Bily Clocks Museum in the Czech community of Spillville, just down the road from Decorah. That is where Dvorak wrote his New World Symphony featuring the folk melody “Going Home.”
This is farm country, and I’ve never seen such neat and tidy farms anywhere! Farming is big business in Iowa. We visited the 24 hour demonstration milking operation at Iowa’s Dairy Center in nearby Calmer where we saw the sweetest Swiss Cows. We also visited the Seed Savers Company store. We took a walk on the property and saw trout in their reconstructed and renovated stream that runs through the farm.
Tip 2: Call ahead so you can book tours by the locals. We should have done more of this! Each time we did we really felt that we were getting the "real deal" by some wonderful local folks who love where they live.
We had great fun at the clock museum. These amazing clocks were built by two bachelor farmer brothers who never sold a clock. Even when Henry Ford came by and offered a cool million for a clock they said NO!
Tip 3: Follow your Interests - You’ll find them in the oddest places!
There seems to be a Laura Ingalls Wilder spot in every region of the upper Midwest. Iowa was no exception. Love plants? We had lots of fun at the Saturday Farmer’s market with music and vendors. I bought two goat collars handmade by local Amish women. Shopping in small cities like this is really great. The town was full of beautifully curated up-cycle shops, and don’t miss the feed stores! But no late night shopping here. This is a beautiful college town, home of Luther College, which is famous for its music. An email to their art department asking about tours alerted me to their small but elegant Inuit sculpture collection, a passion of mine.
Tip 4: Go with the flow... it's part of the adventure!
On the way down we took the Minnesota side and stopped at the small and wonderful Maritime Art Museum in Winona. Don’t let the name fool you. Their small European Collection is first rate, and the new local art inspiring.
We stopped at the farm in Cresco that bred my four fiber goats. I would have put one right into our car. Good thing they were all spoken for already.
We stopped at two garage sales on the way down, and had fun picking them out based on the quality of their signs. Both were fun, one even had goats with their own custom playground. It’s a great way to stretch your legs, just be careful not to bring home a goat! Oh how I love my goats!
One the way back home we took the other side of the Mississippi and saw great birds, bought Wisconsin cheese and, stopped, yes, at another yard sale for some last minute oddball gifts. Totally relaxing and fun.
Tip 5: Don't forget to pack for fun...Swimsuits!
The hotel we stayed at had a pool and hot tub. A soak felt wonderful after a day on our feet! Looking for a new swimming suit? We have got you covered! Check out all our new JunoActive swimwear here: JunoActive Swim.
Take time to get out of the car, stretch your muscles, smell the fresh air, chat with the locals. You won’t forget it.