1. Amana Colonies
A National Historic Landmark, these seven villages’ strong German heritage will make you feel oceans away. Founded by German immigrants in 1855, the Amana Colonies have provided decades of education, entertainment and dining to travelers. Make sure to stop in and sample freshly made German goods and have a bite of Wiener Schnitzel at one of the local restaurants.
Where to stay: Village Guest Suite, Zuber's Homestead Hotel
Where to eat: The Ox Yoke Inn, Ronneburg Restaurant
What to do: The Village Voyage, Amana Meat Shop & Smokehouse, High Amana General Store, Millstream Brewing Company
2. Orange City
Founded in 1870 this quaint Dutch town is a must visit destination in northwest Iowa. A charming European village atmosphere serves as a colorful backdrop for the annual three-day Tulip Festival that draws thousands of visitors each May. Can’t make the festival? No worries, Orange City has a variety of activities, dining experiences and entertainment options for every kind of traveler.
Where to stay: Hampton Inn
Where to eat: Brad's Breads and Bakery
What to do: Dutch American Heritage Museum, The Old Mill - Vogel Windmill, Orange City Century Home
3. Elk Horn & Kimballton
Boasting an authentic windmill from Denmark, Elk Horn and Kimballton are your Danish destinations within Iowa borders. These two towns have bragging rights for being the largest rural Danish settlements in the United States. Check out Tivoli Fest in May or Julefest in November to understand the true meaning of Danish hospitality.
Where to eat: Coffee Girl Specialty Drinks & More, Larsen’s Pub
What to do: Danish Countryside Vines & Wines, Museum of Danish America, Danish Windmill, The Little Mermaid Statue Garden, Bedstemor’s House
4. Cedar Rapids' Czech Village
The Czech Village in Cedar Rapids is teeming with European history thanks to thousands of Czech, Moravian and Slovak descendants who made it their home starting in 1852. The Bohemian spirit fills this quaint neighborhood district and boasts a variety of shops, authentic Czech dining and museums.
Where to stay:The Hotel at Kirkwood Center, Tru by Hilton
Where to eat:Lion Bridge Brewing Company, Sykora Bakery
What to do: National Czech & Slovak Museum and Library, Houby Days, Czech Fall Festival
Located southeast of Des Moines near Lake Red Rock, this quaint community was settled in the mid-1800s by a Dutch colonist. Today Pella keeps its European heritage on proud display with authentic Dutch Bakeries, meat markets and historical buildings. Not to mention the Tulip Time Festival held annually in May.
Where to stay: The Cheesemaker’s Inn, Royal Amsterdam Hotel
Where to eat: Jaarsma Bakery, In’t Veld’s Meat Market
What to do: Historical Village & Vermeer Mill, Scholte House, Downtown Shopping
Decorah’s rich Norwegian heritage is celebrated in the Vesterheim-Norwegian American Museum, home to more than 33,000 artifacts. (Fun fact: Disney called the Vesterheim looking for artifacts to use as a reference for the movie Frozen.) Locals take pride in their annual Nordic Festival, held every July celebrating their culture and history.
Where to stay: Hotel Winneshiek
Where to eat: Mabe’s Pizza, Magpie Coffeehouse, Rubaiyat
What to do: Vesterheim Norwegian American Museum, Decorah Fish Hatchery, Seed Savers Exchange, Trout Run Trail