Decorah Iowa

I have always said the Midwest is underrated and Decorah, Iowa is no exception to this! Located im Northeastern Iowa about 30 minutes from the Minnesota border, this small town is packed with unique beauty- I did not feel like I was in Iowa anymore! Decorah is home to classic ice cream shops, waterfalls, wildflower fields and its own ice cave. Our family adventure here couldn’t have been more perfect with so much to do! Here are 10 Fun Family Things to Do in Decorah, Iowa (for summer time).

Note that Decorah Iowa is not the best town to get cell phone reception. I suggest printing out or saving directions of places you want to go prior to leaving your location with WiFi.

1. View a Waterfall at Dunnings Spring Park

Nestled in the town of Decorah is the scenic Dunnings Spring Park. A short paved walk will take you to the waterfall surrounded by limestone cliffs. There is a beautiful stone bridge you can walk across to access the stairs for a view of the falls. You can also walk the steep trail to the right of the bridge that leads to a series of other trails taking you to Ice Cave Road. (Note that not all trails are marked on the printable maps).

2. Go Tubing in the Upper Iowa River

Explore the Upper Iowa River in style by doing some river tubing. If you need a tube and transport, you can rent a tube offer $15 through Decorah River Tubes. There are tubes that fit coolers available and they also provide life jackets and transport.

3. Rent a Cozy Cabin in the Rolling Hills of Decorah

Decorah boasts some of the most beautiful cabins you could ever ask for built into the rolling hills of Decorah Iowa. By far one of my favorite cabins I have ever stayed in was the Hilltop House. The drive to the cabin alone is stunning! Located .5 miles from the Upper Iowa River ( we could see it from our front deck), Hilltop house has the most perfect view.

The house sleeps 8, but we welcome and encourage smaller groups as well. This location has 2 bathrooms, a relaxing loft and the most dreamy porch. I sat out there gazing at the most beautiful summer sunrise several mornings. It was a moment I will always remember with my kids.

4. Take a Bike Tour of Trout Run Trail

Trout Run Trail is a 12 mile asphalt trail that offers a tour of the most gorgeous views in Decorah. The trail winds around art sculptures, the Decorah Fish Hatchery, a LED-lit pedestrian bridge and along the Upper Iowa River. There are also numerous hiking trails along the route you can further explore like Pulpit Rock and Will Baker Park. You can rent bikes at Decorah Bicycles.

5. Explore the Ice Cave

The Ice Cave is the largest cavern with ice in the Midwest- and there is even ice in the summer months! The Ice Cave is accessible from the west end of Ice Cave Road and is near the Dunnings Springs Waterfall (the road does not allow thru traffic). Visitors should park in the gravel lot on the south side of the road. If the parking lot is full visitors may park along Ice Cave Road. Ice Cave is a 1/2 mile walk from the gravel parking lot. Head east on Ice Cave Road.  Ice Cave is open to the public with no fee for admission.

Check out other parks in Decorah Iowa at the Decorah Parks System website.

6. Go Back In Time at a Vintage Ice Cream Shop

If 1950s ice cream shops are your things (or if ice cream is your things in general) make sure to add an ice cream stop to your list of things to do in Decorah Iowa. First is the Sugar Bowl located downtown Iowa that offers ice cream flights, cones, dishes and even ice cream cakes. The shops is adorable with bikes floating in the air. The Whippy Dip is the classic small 1950s American ice cream shop, with all your favorite classics like the banana split.

7. Visit the Seed Saver’s Exchange

The Seed Saver’s Exchange was one of our favorite things to do in Decorah Iowa. They are a non profit organization that preserve heirloom plant varieties and is the largest seed bank in the US. They provide education on creating your own garden. We explored their gardens, the shop and the beautiful farm. If you pay a visit, I encourage you to explore the farm. It is stunning with trails that lead to unbelievable wildflower fields and a lovely creek. There are also farm animals that my kids had the best time feeding.

8. Explore the Decorah Iowa Fish Hatchery

Right off Trout Run Trail you can find the Decorah Fish Hatchery. This was one of our other favorite things to do in Decorah Iowa. Rainbow Trout are raised in 24 raceways and you can see them at all ages. There are food dispensaries so visitors can interact with the fish. The hatchery is also home to a gorgeous dam with limestone walls, a trail through a wildflower field and sculptures. They are open 365 days a year from sunrise to sunset.

9. Walk the Historic Downtown

Historic downtown has plenty of things to do in Decorah Iowa. I suggest parking and walking the entire downtown so you can see all the museums, stores, coffee shops and places to eat. Here are some of our favorite finds in downtown Decorah Iowa.

If your family is artsy, consider stopping in at Agora Arts to check out fine arts made by 250 artists in Canada and the US. Located on downtown’s Water Street is Dragonfly Books, a gorgeous book store with local artists and bestsellers featured. You also can’t go wrong by visiting Heavenly Made, THE original store for everything gnome-related. For clothing and home decor stops, J. Tuppy’s, Market 52, Modish, Rendered Unique and Sparrow’s were our favorite stops.

For coffee, you have to stop at Impact Coffee which also includes a bakery and a trendy place to dine. The Magpie is a local favorite, complete with serving breakfast, coffee, bakeries and outdoor seating for summer months. If you are in a rush, Mill Street Mocha Drive Thru is another good coffee spot). Some of our favorite food stops were the off the beaten path Bambinos (for the burger lovers), Blazing Star ( a delicious farm to table eatery with vegan options) and La Rana Bistro (big city vibes in a small town).

For wine lovers, stop in at Winnesheik Wildberry Winery for some wine tasting. They have a food and wine menu served all day. For the beer warriors in your life, try the Toppling Goliath Brewing Co., Pulpit Rock Brewing Company or Convergence Ciderworks.

10. Camp at Hutchinson Farm Family Campground

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We did not stay at the Hutchinson Family Farm Campground, but we still went there to explore it as an option for next summer. they camp site is located on the Upper Iowa River 10 minutes from Decorah and Luther College. They offer electrical, primitive and large or small cabins for a fun family camping experience. A watercraft shuttle is also offered for those interested in water sports. There is a swimming area and life jackets & water toys are provided free of charge. You can also tour their lovely farm and meet the animals free of charge.

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