Decorah is one of the Midwest's best small town getaways and with its unique attractions, specialty shops, restaurants, outdoor recreation and charm, it's easy to see why. Here's a sampling of what awaits you in Decorah and beautiful Winneshiek County.
Start your adventure in Spillville to see an amazing collection of hand-carved clocks at the Bily Clocks Museum & Antonin Dvorak Exhibit. Brothers Frank and Joseph Bily crafted the clocks, which each depict a moment in history, religion or culture. The museum features hundreds of carved clocks, some which stand over nine feet tall.
The second floor of the museum was once the residence of world-famous musician and composer Dr. Antonin Dvorak. During his time in Spillville, Dvorak composed "American Quartet" and his piece "Humoresque" was inspired by the town.
Before leaving Spillville, step inside historic St. Wenceslaus Church. Built in 1860, it is the oldest Czech Catholic Church in the United States. The pipe organ, played by Dvorak, was the first to be installed in the country.
Check out local agriculture at Iowa's Dairy Center in Calmar, a working farm with a 250-head dairy herd. Explore the dairy industry with hands-on learning and interactive displays, watch cows being milked, pet calves (you may even see one being born!) and make homemade ice cream.
Just a few miles down the road, you'll find the World's Smallest Church. Built in 1885, the chapel is just 14x20 feet and seats only eight people.
Built as neutral ground for displaced Native Americans in the 1840s, Fort Atkinson is unique because it came with special protection from American military. You can still see the original fort stockades, barracks and post commissary. Private and self-guided tours are available.
Travel to Decorah to wrap up your day. For unique accommodations, the Hotel Winneshiek is a historic boutique hotel constructed in 1905. Guests can enjoy the original marble walls, terrazzo floors, cherry pillars and three-story glass atrium. Walk to shops, restaurants, river trails, museums, galleries and historic districts.
For dinner, visit Rubaiyat in downtown Decorah. It features seasonal American fare with locally-grown greens, meats and more. The bar has over 30 tap beers, 100 bottled beers and 200 varieties of wine. Cheers!
Begin your second day by admiring 24,000 artifacts and 12 historic buildings at the Vesterheim Norwegian American Museum. This national treasure features the most comprehensive collection of Norwegian-American artifacts in the world. The Vesterheim has colorful paintings, silver wedding crowns, woven tapestries and a boat that sailed the Atlantic Ocean.
After your historical morning, combine shopping with flavorful food. Peruse Pinter's garden center and settle in for lunch at the bakery. After a sandwich or salad, save room for their divine cupcakes, homemade fudge and other goodies.
Think green as you explore the 890-acre Seed Savers Heritage Farm north of Decorah. This living museum features historic varieties of thousands of heirloom plants grown in certified organic fields. You'll find beautiful display gardens, a historic orchard, ancient white park cattle, trails and an educational center designed to maintain and display collections of endangered food crops.
10. Dunnings Springs
Ranked as the number one attraction in Decorah by TripAdvisor users for good reason. Check out the spectacular 200-foot waterfall located minutes from downtown. There are plenty of places for a hike, picnic or just to take in the beauty of the area.
Relax with a handcrafted brew at Toppling Goliath Brewing Company, rated one of the best breweries in the world. Beer lovers should also make a point to stop in at Pulpit Rock Brewing Company, also located in Decorah, and PIVO Brewing in nearby Calmar.
12. Mabe's Pizza
Now that you've worked up an appetite, prepare for what some call the best pizza in the world. Mabe's Pizza was named one of the "Top 100 Places to Eat in Iowa Before You Die" by the Des Moines Register and is a must-stop. Not in the mood for pizza? Mabe's has a full menu of burgers, sandwiches, entrees, pasta and more. Enjoy!