Don’t ever let anyone tell you all Iowa has is cornfields. My mother and I took a weekend trip to Decorah, Iowa this fall, and we discovered that Iowa is actually VERY beautiful! Prior to this trip, besides a gymnastics camp at Iowa State and a few competitions in my youth, Iowa was always just a state to drive through. A flat state full of farms. Decorah, located in the northeast part of the state, completely changed my mind! I now am like a walking tourism commercial for Iowa! Decorah is the perfect place for an active weekend adventure. I urge you to take a trip to visit, and today I’m going to tell you where to stay, what to do, and where to eat!
Where to Stay:
Silo on the Ridge
For a unique and amazing stay choose Silo on the Ridge. This is a barn silo that has been completely transformed into a beautiful tiny home. The Silo has two levels of living space and everything you need for a great stay. My mom and I stayed here on our trip and we absolutely loved it! Read a more in depth review here.
Hutchinson Family Farm
Hutchinson Family Farm is a great option if you are looking for camping, and especially if you plan to canoe or kayak the river. We rented our kayaks from here and used their shuttle service and it was great. When we visited they had a boy scout group camping, and in addition to camping, and group camping they also have several small cabins, campers that are available for rental.
Hotel Winneshiek and Opera House
For a classier stay consider the Hotel Winneshiek. This is a beautiful historic property in a prime location. We stumbled upon the beautiful property while shopping in downtown. We walked through the hotel and enjoyed a glass of wine in the lobby bar. The service was great, and the building was lovely. The hotel is a premier wedding and event space and is home to the historic Opera House.
What to Do:
Kayak the Upper Iowa River
This is a MUST DO if you visit the area. This is what brought me and my mom to the area. I read online that the National Geographic Magazine names the Upper Iowa Rover as one of Americas 100 greatest adventures. So, when I was looking for somewhere to paddle south of the twin cities it immediately had my attention. We rented our kayaks and shuttle service from Hutchinson family farms and it was great. Hutchinson Family Farms offer a 2, 4, or 6-hour trip. We opted for the 4-hour trip and it was a perfect amount for us! We had planned to canoe but it was fall, and the river was very low. They recommended we kayak instead, and we were very glad we took the advice. The river had some fun rapids, but it also had some very low points! It was a good mix of fun and calm! I completely do recommend doing this in the fall as it the colors were glorious!
Bike the Trout Run Trail
The Trout Run Trail is a 11-mile loop around the city of Decorah. A section is along the Upper Iowa River, and the views are fabulous! We loved this trail, it was a good mix of city and nature. It is named the trout run trail because it runs by the Decorah Trout Hatchery, and it crosses trout streams five times! You may also get a view of Decorah’s famous Eagles! The trail is great for all types of bird watching!
Explore Downtown Decorah
Downtown is a cute area. There are many shops and restaurants to check out. We enjoyed the book store and had all our meals right in the downtown area. We were happy with everything, but there were a lot of stores closed even on the weekend which was surprising to us. It was late September, so it may be different in summer. There were not a ton of options, but the options that were there, were great!
Where to Eat:
Magpie Coffeehouse is located right in downtown, Decorah. This coffee house was very good, and very charming. They had great fresh breakfast options, many made with local products. We loved the comfortable atmosphere. While we only ate breakfast here, it did also look like a great place to enjoy lunch! Definitely make a stop at Magpie if you are in Decorah!
Mabe’s Pizza is a family owned restaurant in downtown Decorah. We loved the pizza, salads, and service!
Restauration Lounge – Hotel Winneshiek
This is a casual cocktail bar located off the lobby of Hotel Winneshiek. They offer wine, beer, cocktails, and fancy bar appetizers. We enjoyed a glass of wine here after our bike ride on the Trout Run Trail, and while we didn’t eat, we enjoyed looking at the interesting options on the appetizer menu. The service was great, and the hotel is lovely. While it is an upscale property, we felt comfortable in our biking clothes.
Decorah, Iowa is a great place for an active weekend adventure! I am so glad my mom and I discovered this magical part of Iowa! Have you visited Decorah? What should I plan for my next visit? I know I will be back!
Much Love & Happy Travels,
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