Decorah & Winneshiek County

Tour Iowa
A monthly travel itinerary that highlights new, classic and just plain different Iowa destinations

Midwest Living Magazine calls Decorah one of the Midwest’s top 100 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.
Bily Clocks | St. Wenceslaus Church | The Train Station | Iowa’s Dairy Center
World’s Smallest Church | Hotel Winneshiek | Rubaiyat
Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum | Pinter’s Gardens & Pumpkins
Seed Savers Exchange | Dunning’s Springs | Toppling Goliath Brewing Co. | Mabe’s Pizza
Contact Brenda Luzum at 800.463.4692 or email

Day One
Start your adventure in Spillville to see an amazing collection of hand-carved clocks. Brothers Frank and Joseph Bily (Bee-lee) crafted the clocks, which each depict a moment in history, religion or culture. The clocks feature hundreds of expertly carved figures and some stand over nine feet tall.
The second floor of the museum was once the residence of world-famous musician and composer Dr. Antonin Dvorak. Dvorak came to Spillville in the summer of 1893 and while he was there, composed the widely-known “American Quartet.” His experience in Spillville inspired “Humoresque,” which he wrote after he left.
Bily Clocks Museum & Antonin Dvorak Exhibit
Spillville – 563.562.3569
Before leaving Spillville, step inside historic St. Wenceslaus Church. Built in 1860, it is the oldest Czech Catholic Church in the United States. Tour the grounds and beautiful cathedral The pipe organ, played by Antonin Dvorak, was the first to be installed in the country.
St. Wenceslaus Church
Spillville – 563.562.3617

For lunch, head over to Calmar and The Train Station restaurant. Select from a variety of delicious made-from-scratch menu options. Try their famous “Flashburger,” a hamburger steak served with hash browns, onions, cheese and warm Texas toast on the side.
The Train Station
Calmar – 563.562.3082

Photo courtesy Iowa’s Dairy Center
After lunch, check out local agriculture at Iowa’s Dairy Center, a working farm with a 250-head dairy herd. Explore the dairy industry with hands-on learning and interactive displays. Watch cows being milked in a state-of-the-art milking parlor, see the special needs barn for calving (you may see a calf being born!), pet a calf and make your own homemade ice cream. Yum!
Iowa’s Dairy Center
Calmar – 563.562.9957

Just a few miles down the road, you’ll find the World’s Smallest Church. Built in 1885, the chapel is just 14 by 20 feet and seats only eight people.
World’s Smallest Church
Festina – 563.532.9366

Explore the history of the area at the Fort Atkinson Preserve. Built in the 1840s as neutral ground for displaced Native Americans, Fort Atkinson was unique because it came with special protection from American military. By 1849, Iowa had become a state and the Native Americans moved north. Today, you can step back in time and see the original fort stockades, barracks and post commissary. Private and self-guided tours available.
Fort Atkinson State Preserve
Fort Atkinson – 563.425.4161

Travel to Decorah to wrap up your day and freshen up at a local hotel, motel or B&B. For unique accommodations, check out the Hotel Winneshiek, a historic boutique hotel constructed in 1905 in the heart of downtown Decorah. It was lovingly restored in 2000 for guests to enjoy the original marble walls, terrazzo floors, cherry pillars and three-story stained glass atrium. Guests can easily walk to shops, restaurants, scenic river trails, museums, art galleries and historic districts.
Hotel Winneshiek
Decorah – 800.998.4164

For dinner, check out the menu at Rubaiyat. It features a seasonal American menu with locally-grown greens, meats and other ingredients incorporated into a variety of delectable dishes. Relax in their warmly lit dining room and review the bar menu – they feature over 30 tap beers, 100 bottled beers and 200 varieties of wine. Cheers!
Decorah – 563.382.9463

Day Two
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. USA Today named Vesterheim one of the “ten great places in the nation to admire American folk art.”
Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum
Decorah – 563.382.9681

After your historical morning, Pinter’s Gardens & Pumpkins combines outdoor shopping with flavorful food. Peruse their garden center and settle in for lunch at the bakery. After a sandwich or salad, you’ll want to save room for their divine cupcakes, homemade fudge and other goodies.
Pinter’s Gardens & Pumpkins
Decorah – 563.382.0010

Keep thinking 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.
Seed Savers Exchange
Decorah – 563.382.5990

TripAdvisor users rank Dunning’s Springs as the number one attraction in Decorah 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.
Dunning’s Springs
Decorah – 563.382.4158

After a busy day, take time to shop in downtown Decorah where charming boutiques and shops tempt pocketbooks. Not into shopping? Relax with a handcrafted brew at Toppling Goliath Brewing Company. Their bold-flavored beers are brewed in small batches and they are always experimenting with new recipes.
Toppling Goliath Brewing Company
Decorah – 563.382.6198

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 in Decorah. Not in the mood for pizza? Mabe’s has a full menu of burgers, sandiwches, entrees, pasta and more. Enjoy!
Mabe’s Pizza
Decorah – 563.382.4297