Iowa’s quaint small towns welcome visitors near and far for weekend festivals, outdoor adventures and the perfect excuse to cuddle close to the ones we love. Like any Midwestern town, Winterset has charming downtown shops, a city park, a cafe with the best blueberry crisp and a fall festival. But unlike other places where you could spend a weekend relaxing, Winterset has a romantic touch of Hollywood wrapped around it.
World-Famous Covered Bridges
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Covered Bridges of Madison County feature five wooden bridges that were the prominent setting for the Robert James Waller novel The Bridges of Madison County, plus the movie and Broadway musical of the same name.
Constructed between 1870 and 1884 (yes, more than 135 years ago!), the historic covered bridges have inspired professions of love, heartbreak and even rumors of ghosts. The “haunted” Roseman Bridge has various mysterious stories surrounding it including a bride left at the altar and a jailhouse escapee’s disappearance in front of two county sheriffs. The Holliwell Bridge, the longest at 122 feet, remains in its original site over the Middle River, providing an incredible view from a kayak.
Personal and group step-on guided tours of the covered bridges are available from the Madison County Chamber of Commerce and Welcome Center. Or, download a map of the bridges and explore on your own.
Winterset's Hollywood Connections
A two-minute walk away you'll find the John Wayne Birthplace & Museum. The museum and restored family home of John Wayne pays homage to the American icon, Academy Award winner and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient.
Colorful Fall Festivals
The Madison County Covered Bridge Festival (annually in October) offers the perfect escape from big city life where you can slow down and appreciate the tart sweetness of a caramel apple on a stick. The festival features a parade, arts and crafts vendors and fall colors.
And, speaking of caramel apples, Madison County is home to the original Red Delicious apple seedling. A descendant of the original Delicious apple tree still stands in the field just north of Peru (in southern Madison County), and residents celebrate each year with an Apple Days Festival.
Ready to wander around and take in the sights of beautiful Madison County? Start planning your trip.