Need a day of retail therapy? Hit the road to any of these 11 magnificent main streets for unique boutiques and delicious treats.
Home to Iowa State University, Ames offers more than college town excitement. Explore the historic downtown district, where shops and restaurants cater to visitors and students alike. Cook's Emporium sells cookware, cutlery, kitchen tools and gadgets. Local food enthusiasts and chefs sometimes offer cooking demonstrations in the store. Savor lunch at The Spice, a Thai-inspired restaurant that showcases favorite dishes like pad thai, curry and tiramisu for dessert. Finish your day on a sweet note with a visit to Chocolaterie Stam and take home a box of white, milk or dark chocolate truffles.
Czech, Moravian and Slovakian immigrants settled this area in the mid-1800s, establishing the homes, businesses and unique cultural fabric that is evident today. The area was reborn after significant flooding devastated the district in 2008. The area is now home to a booming district of retailers and restaurants. Visit the area's anchor, the National Czech & Slovak Museum and Library, where history and culture is preserved for visitors to enjoy. Peruse the NewBo City Market where dozens of new business start-ups sell locally-sourced, sustainable and environmentally-friendly products. Stop in at Moss and find gifts for all occasions including candles, jewelry, terrariums and succulents. Grab a bag of handcrafted, gourmet popcorn from Almost Famous Popcorn. and wash it down with a craft beer from the award-winning Lion Bridge Brewery.
Once a bustling coal mining town, today Chariton is a quaint community that welcomes guests with impeccable southern Iowa hospitality. Visit the memorable town square and have lunch at the Iron Horse, located in the renovated Hotel Charitone. Then cross the street and spend the afternoon sampling homemade, old-fashioned candy at Piper's Candy, an antique-like grocery store and market.
Birthplace of the famous night show host, Johnny Carson, Corning claims more than Hollywood ties. Make the trip to this southwest Iowa community for an afternoon of shopping and a tour of the nearby French Icarian Village, the site of a communal society experiment in the 1800s. While the society no longer exists, guests can explore the schoolhouse and gravesites that remain. Find items made from repurposed pallets and handmade gifts at the one-of-a-kind shop, Lainy Janes. Then finish the day with a cherry phosphate at McMahon Drug Store, an old-fashioned soda fountain.
Wooded hills, rich farmland, river valleys and towering bluffs surround the cozy community of Elkader in northeast Iowa. Take a scenic drive and enjoy the charming downtown district that borders the winding Turkey River. The community tempts shoppers with a variety of unique stores and restaurants. Explore Archive, a boutique that carries antiques, gifts, Iowa wines, vintage and architectural finds. Grab a tasty treat with Gear Elkader's delicious selection of fresh baked goods and coffee drinks, or sit down and enjoy lunch.
Named for the lush green fields that cover the southwestern Iowa plains, Greenfield residents take pride in the thriving shops and businesses. Looking for local goods? Ed & Eva’s, an all-Iowa boutique located in Greenfield’s historic opera house, welcomes visitors with a warm atmosphere and Iowa-made products, books and artwork. Enjoy lunch at The Corner, a cozy coffee shop that serves smoothies, salads, soups and hot drinks.
German culture permeates the historic community of Manning. Located north of Interstate 80 in western Iowa, Manning’s German heritage impresses visitors. Shop ‘til you drop at The Market Place where you can wander through displays of home décor, including repurposed and refinished furniture. Do it all while sipping a hot cup o’ joe from the in-shop coffee bar. Visitors can’t leave Manning without stopping at the German Hausbarn, an authentic barn brought from Germany and assembled in the Iowa countryside in 1996. Explore the area’s history and learn about country life in the 1600s. The Hausbarn’s gift shop sells German gifts and chocolates.
A neighbor to Cedar Rapids, Marion boasts a modern but cozy shopping district. Take a stroll through the Uptown Artway alley and discover a collection of boutiques, pubs and restaurants. Stop at Connie’s Quilt Shop, home to more than 4,000 bolts of fabric. Then satisfy your sweet tooth at The Chocolate Shop where fine chocolates are crafted on-site.
9. Le Claire
One of Iowa’s most beautiful hidden treasures, Le Claire takes pride in the history and charm of its location along the banks of the Mississippi River. Enjoy the river views and explore Antique Archeology, made famous by the show “American Pickers.” Update your home with a visit to Bela, where kitchen décor is king. Dine at The Crane & Pelican Café, where fresh dishes, including vegetarian and vegan options, are served in a historic Italianate home that once belonged to a riverboat captain.
10. Sioux City
Step back in time at Sioux City’s Historic Fourth Street where several buildings date from the turn of the 20th century and are now home to a variety of shops and dining establishments. Get your morning caffeine and carb fix at Jitter’s Cafe, where fresh coffee and homemade donuts are the star.
Small town charm connects with big city shopping in Historic Valley Junction. Within the Des Moines metro but a world apart, shoppers can experience a variety of retail establishments. Love all things Iowa? The Heart of Iowa Market Place offers Iowa-made foods, gifts and other products for souvenir hunters. Purchase eclectic women’s clothing from Ivy Lane Boutique where they cater to personalities, not ages. For a unique cafe experience, stop by Coffee Cats, a combination coffee shop and cat lounge for adoptable cats from the Animal Rescue League of Iowa (ARL).