Decorah is an historic small town located in Winneshiek County, surrounded by some of the most impressive natural beauty in Iowa. The terrain is ideal for outdoor activities including walking, hiking, biking, canoeing and kayaking. The town oozes small-town charm and has a good variety of activities in store for visitors. Outdoor adventures include visiting the Malanaphy Springs, the Ice Cave State Preserve and Dunning Springs Park. Vesterheim is a great museum where you can learn about Norwegian-American history and culture, while the Porter House Museum transports you back to life in Decorah, circa 1860’s. Children will love visiting the famous Decorah Eagle’s Nest and the trout hatchery where they can have fun feeding the fish. Hours/availability may have changed.
Vesterheim (which means “Western Home”) is a unique kind of museum which protects and showcases the largest collection of Norwegian-American artifacts on the planet. This Norwegian-American Museum and Heritage Center traces the history and traditions of Norwegian immigrants to America and shows how they have influenced American art and culture. As you make your way through 4 floors of exhibits you will learn about the colorful traditions and arts which Norwegian immigrants brought with them to the US. Permanent exhibits include a 19th century wooded sailboat, an immigrant log-cabin dating back to 1853 and many examples of traditional wood carving, folk art, costumes and other crafts like rosemaling.
Vesterheim, 520 W. Water St, Decorah, IA 52101, Phone: 563-382-9681
2.Winneshiek Wildberry Winery, Decorah, Iowa
© Winneshiek Wildberry Winery
You can combine your love of the countryside with a little bit of history and a great wine tasting when you visit Winneshiek Wildberry Winery just outside Decorah. The winery was established on a 150-year old family farm which had previously been used to raise livestock. In 2001 the family planted their first small vineyard and drew up plans to convert their cowshed (barn) into a winery. Everything came together in 2005 when the brand new winery and tasting room opened its doors. Today visitors are welcomed to come and tour the vineyards and rhubarb fields before enjoying a tasting flight of their delicious wines. You can sit inside at the enormous oak bar or out on the patio, overlooking the beautiful countryside.
Winneshiek Wildberry Winery, 1966 337th St, Decorah, IA 52101, Phone: 563-735-5809
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3.Ice Cave State Preserve
Home to one of the largest Ice Caves in the US mid-West, Decorah Ice Cave State Park is an interesting place to visit on a day trip. The preserve covers about 3 acres and is open to the public on a “at your own risk” basis. The cave is quite unusual in that it is above ground and was never caused by glacier movement. In fact, it is a curious combination of natural factors which cause the cave to remain freezing cold all year round. Unfortunately, the limestone surroundings are not very stable and a rock-fall inside the cave has considerably restricted the interior space you can explore. You will need to take a short hike to reach the cave and you are advised to bring a torch and a warm jacket – even in July.
Decorah Ice Cave Preserve, Decorah, IA
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4.Porter House Museum, Decorah, Iowa
© Porter House Museum
The Porter House Museum is a wonderful example of a Victorian home which dates back to 1867. The house, which was built using bricks fired in local Decorah kilns, was once the home of the celebrated naturalist A F Porter, who traveled the world building up his collection of natural objects like butterflies, rocks, fossils and objects d’Art. As you step through the entrance of the elegant Victorian homestead you will be transported back in time. The house museum is filled with original furnishings and fittings, as well as Mr. Porter’s fascinating collections. Outside the house you will find the amazing Rock Wall, built using gemstones and ancient fossils from all over America.
Porter House Museum, 401 W. Broadway St, Decorah, IA 52101, Phone: 563-382-8465
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5.Rubaiyat Restaurant, Decorah, Iowa
© LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS/stock.adobe.com
Rubaiyat Restaurant (meaning “Food for Thought” and named for the famous book written by Omar Khayyam), is the brainchild of Chef Andy Bonnet and his wife Kim, who bring the concept of innovative, fresh, ingredient-driven dishes to the heart of Decorah. The restaurant strives to impress guests with the wonderful flavors of contemporary seasonal American cuisine, perfectly paired with delicious wines, craft beers or cocktails. Dishes are prepared using only the freshest seasonal produce, most of which is locally sourced. A few of the menu favorites include Shrimp or Mahi – Mahi Scampi, Pasta Rubaiyat and Prime Rib. Excellent service and a warm welcome complete the picture.
Rubaiyat Restaurant, 117 W. Water St, Decorah, IA 52101, Phone: 563-382-9463
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6.Mabe’s Pizza, Decorah, Iowa
© Mabe’s Pizza
Mabe’s Pizza has been serving up legendary pizzas for almost 65 years. The restaurant was originally called Mabel’s Lunchroom back in 1953, when it was a popular meeting place for the students of Luther College. When one of Mabel’s customers asked if he could make a pizza for his lunch, a legend was born. Several generations of Mable’s family have continued the tradition and today Mabe’s Pizza is arguably the best in the mid-west. If you love pizza you owe it to yourself to stop by and try one of these. The pizzas come in 4 sizes and you can choose one off the menu or make up your own version. The menu also features salads, pastas, burgers and entrees.
Mabe’s Pizza, 110 East Water St, Decorah, IA 52101, Phone: 563-382-4297
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7.McCaffrey’s Dolce Vita, Decorah, Iowa
The McCaffrey family has owned farmland close to Decorah since 1961. A flash-bulb moment occurred in 2006 while Jim and Brenda were on a trip to Rome, leading them to return home and re-create the authentic flavors of Italy in their own back yard. They built a massive wood-fired oven and designed the restaurant, which opened in 2008. The family strives to produce the finest pizzas in the region, using thin sour-dough bases, home-made sauces and freshly sourced local and imported ingredients. In addition to pizza you will find a good selection of soups, salads, sandwiches and some very enticing entrees. The restaurant hosts a Summer Concert Series when you are treated to free live music on Saturday nights.
McCaffrey’s Dolce Vita, 2149 Twin Springs Rd, Decorah, IA 52101, Phone: 563-382-4723
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7 Best Things to Do in Decorah, Iowa
- Vesterheim, Photo: Vesterheim
- Winneshiek Wildberry Winery, Decorah, Iowa, Photo: Winneshiek Wildberry Winery
- Ice Cave State Preserve, Photo: johnsroad7/stock.adobe.com
- Porter House Museum, Decorah, Iowa, Photo: Porter House Museum
- Rubaiyat Restaurant, Decorah, Iowa, Photo: LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS/stock.adobe.com
- Mabe’s Pizza, Decorah, Iowa, Photo: Mabe’s Pizza
- McCaffrey’s Dolce Vita, Decorah, Iowa, Photo: FomaA/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: James Reininger/stock.adobe.com
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