Let the chorus of songbirds start your day with an early morning stroll or bike ride along the new Trout Run Trail. The 12-mile route was completed in 2012 and circles the city limits.
It’s about a 5-mile bike ride or a quick drive to Decorah Fish Hatchery, where a quarter’s worth of feed brings thousands of frenzied brown and rainbow trout to the surface of concrete tanks. When they’ve grown, they stock more than a dozen regional rivers and streams.
Most of the action is along Trout Run Road, though, where people park lawn chairs and tote binoculars to watch the eagle family that has become a viral online sensation as people worldwide began to follow them via live cameras.
Grab sandwiches or a salad at Oneota Co-op and have a picnic at Dunning’s Springs, a pretty waterfall on the town’s northwestern edge. Hike up more than 100 stairs to see where the spring gushes from a limestone cave in the cliff. Walk quietly and you may spot a deer in the shady forest.
Spend an afternoon picking up gardening tips and roaming the gardens at Seed Savers Exchange. The 898-acre heritage farm is the nation’s largest nongovernment seed bank and preserves more than 25,000 rare or endangered vegetable varieties. Pick up gifts for gardeners or catch special events, such as heirloom tomato tastings or a benefit concert by folk legend Greg Brown.
Dine on wood-fired pizzas, sandwiches made with artisanal breads and salads at McCaffrey’s Dolce Vita and Twin Springs Bakery on the edge of town.
Check in at historic Hotel Winneshiek in the heart of downtown or try one of Decorah’s bed-and-breakfasts. B&B on Broadway offers Victorian charm, comfy robes and breakfasts that might include caramel French toast. Dug Road Inn, in an 1870s Italianate home, has a vibrant, contemporary feel; enjoy organic breakfasts on the front porch or in the dining room.
Immerse yourself in Decorah’s local arts scene and Norwegian roots by exploring downtown along Water Street. You’ll find everything from traditional rosemaled (decorated) wooden plates to T-shirts reading “Hanging with my gnomies.”
Begin with the legendary Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, which has more than 24,000 artifacts and 16 historic buildings that tell about Norwegian immigrants in America. Even better: Visit during July’s community-wide Nordic Fest or take a specialty class.
Grab lunch next door at Ede’s and The Angry Pickle Deli. The food spans the globe with tea-smoked Asian chicken, gyros made with local lamb, and “the wapsie,” a smoked capon sandwich with pepper jelly.
Enjoy the often funny and usually profound words and distinct artwork from Brian Andreas’ Story People. His work is found in galleries across the country, but in Decorah, the best place to buy his wall art, prints and gifts is at Agora Arts, across the street from the artist’s world headquarters.
Other noteworthy shops: Vanberia International Gifts for gnomes, linens, cookbooks, solje (Norwegian silver jewelry) and other Nordic imports; Blue Heron Knittery for vibrant wool and sock yarns; and Milkhouse Candle Creamery for fragrant soy and beeswax candles. Top scent? Barn dance. It smells like a fresh-scrubbed hubby.
Relax at Rubaiyat, which showcases seasonal ingredients and entrees such as citrus-rubbed salmon. Or walk to La Rana Bistro for a mojito or The Frog (vodka, cranberry and lime juice) and locally raised meats, such as a smoky Rock Cedar Ranch burger or lamb sliders with cumin and smoked paprika aioli.
More information: Winneshiek County Convention and Visitors Bureau, (800) 463-4692; visitdecorah.com