This past summer, my family and I took a weekend getaway to Decorah, Iowa with some friends. I was blown away by the charm of this sleepy little town (in northeast Iowa) near the Iowa/Minnesota border. Don’t let the size fool you – it was full of fun things for our family to do and we only wish we had been able to spend more than three days there this time. We will definitely be back to visit this hidden gem.
It’s about 3 hours from the Quad Cities – perfect for a weekend getaway!
Things to Do
Rainbow trout are raised in 24 raceways and three rubber lined earthen ponds at the Chuck Gipp Decorah Fish Hatchery. Easy access to the raceways make this a popular stop to see fish of various sizes. A handful of feed purchased from dispensers brings fish swirling to the the surface. My kids LOVED feeding the fish (make sure to bring some quarters for the feed!).
The fish hatchery is open to the public 365 days a year from sunrise to sunset.
Siewers Springs (waterfall at the Fish Hatchery)
Be sure to stop by this beautiful spot during your visit to the hatchery. It’s the perfect place for a picnic, relaxing in the shade or dipping your line in for a trout. Water flows from an underground spring in the hillside and flows over a man-made structure creating a lovely cascade of water.
The world-famous Decorah Eagle nest is located just across the road from the Fish Hatchery. They can be watched on the eagle cam (online), and you may catch a glimpse of them in person. A short walk on the Trout Run Trail leads will take you to a spot where you can see the nest!
A lovely waterfall right in town. You can park anywhere along Twin Springs Road and follow the stream “up river” until the stream disappears into the ground—you have found the source of Twin Springs! Twin Springs park used to be the site of an Iowa DNR fish hatchery. It now is a City of Decorah Park, with benches, picnic tables, grills, a stocked trout stream, a children’s fishing pond, and trails for hiking. At the spring head, the 0.8-mile Odin’s Loop heads into the hills above the stream.
A spectacular 200-foot waterfall minutes from downtown Decorah. Park in the gravel area just south of the entrance to Dunning’s Spring Park. Walk to the waterfall and be sure to take time to walk across the stone bridge and climb the steps to view the source of Dunning’s Spring. To the right of the stone bridge is a steep trail leading up to a series of trails above Ice Cave Road. Dunning Springs is the site of a beautiful waterfall surrounded by limestone cliffs. The park features a walking path, scenic overlook, and bridge crafted by a local stone mason.
The Decorah Ice Cave gets its name from layers of ice that form every year in January and last through August. This was a welcome retreat for us on a hot, summer day! Trails surrounding the cave have steep inclines that cut around vines and exposed limestone.
Float down the Upper Iowa River
There were a lot of people floating down the river — we definitely want to do this next time! You can rent a canoe, a kayak or a tube and go for a float on a hot, sunny day!
Luther College is a private Lutheran liberal arts college. It has a beautiful campus and is known for its music and science programs. We have a lot of friends who attended Luther so it was fun to explore the campus and the athletic facilities!
Food + Eats
Luna Valley Farm: This was one of our very favorite places during the weekend getaway. We ordered pizza ahead and they had it ready for us when we arrived to the farm. We enjoyed drinks, music, pizza (which was some of the best pizza I’ve had!) in a beautiful, peaceful farm setting — while the kids were able to run around freely play.
They also offer ‘glamping’!
Toppling Goliath Brewery: Toppling Goliath is a destination brewery — great atmosphere for families (tons of comfy seating and games upstairs) and a huge menu of food (and of course beer!). We went on a night where they also had live music outside!
Pulpit Rock Brewing Company: Pulpit Rock opened in 2015. A great place to stop for a drink! They are pet-friendly and have sodas on tap for kids… and you are able to bring in outside food.
The Landing Market: We loved this place! Under one roof, they offer a variety of different vendors and locally sourced food, beverages and goods. They have different restaurant-style options and grab-and-go selections. The main goal is uplifting local small businesses and all of the amazing products that come from the driftless region!
Whippy Dip: I’ve been told you can’t visit Decorah without stopping for ice cream at Whippy Dip. So we made our stop and it didn’t disappoint!
T-Bocks Sports Bar & Grill: A family friendly dining option and a staple in Decorah! My friend ordered the Peanut Butter Cheeseburger — I was not that adventurous, but’s a favorite for many!
Mabe’s Pizza: Longtime family-run pizzeria turning out thin-crust pies in a laid-back, old-school atmosphere.
Impact Coffee: Impact is a craft coffee bar & roastery located downtown. We ordered breakfast sandwiches and smoothies.