In the state’s northeast corner, Decorah (population: 8,200) has deep Norwegian roots and great outdoor adventures.

By The editors of MidwestLiving.com
Updated March 01, 2021
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Despite an elevation below 900 feet, Decorah feels like a mountain town, a nook hiding more than an hour from any interstate. Limestone cliffs and clear streams dodged the last glaciers. (Northeast Iowa is part of the Driftless Area, rolling hills that also ripple into Minnesota and Wisconsin.)

Here, visitors will find refined paddling strokes, fly-tying, radical conservation efforts and brewing (with precision that has birthed beers voted No. 1 in the world). You can also explore the town's heritage through Nordic festivals and events at Vesterheim, The National Norwegian-American Museum. Then there's Luther College, a liberal arts school founded 150 years ago by Norwegian immigrants.

Do

O.F.F. The Driftless Wellness and Adventure Company The outfitter supplies tubes, canoes and kayaks for floats on the Upper Iowa River. offthedriftless.com

Upper Iowa River
Upper Iowa River

Parks For pretty waterfalls, follow short hiking trails to see Dunning's Springs and Malanaphy Falls. At Phelps Park, bluffs surround hiking trails and playgrounds. parks.decorahia.org

Seed Savers Exchange Pick up gardening tips, seeds or gifts, and roam the grounds at the 890-acre heritage farm, the nation's largest nongovernment seed bank. seedsavers.org

Decorah's Seed Savers Heritage Farm.
Decorah's Seed Savers Heritage Farm.

Shopping 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."

Downtown Decorah boasts local shops hidden under rows of nautical striped awnings.
Downtown Decorah 

Toppling Goliath Tap Room The mission: Make big beers in small batches. Try the King Sue Double IPA, voted one of the top 50 beers in the world by website RateBeer. tgbrews.com

Trout Run Trail The 11-mile paved biking-walking route circles the city limits, crisscrossing streams. troutruntrail.com

Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum Trace Decorah's Norwegian heritage through 33,000-plus artifacts, a folk art school, a library and 12 historic buildings. vesterheim.org

Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum
Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum 

Eat

Mabe's Pizza Chewy, thin- crust pies from this 66-year-old staple have drawn national attention. Try the Chicken Cordon Bleu pizza. mabespizza.com

Oneota Community Food Co-op Dig into local ingredients at the hot food bar, which might be serving roast pork, turkey tenderloins or Moroccan meatballs. oneotacoop.com

Rubaiyat More than200 wine varieties and 40 beers on tap complement dishes such as seared scallops with a lingonberry maple drizzle. rubaiyatrestaurant.com

T-Bocks Sports Bar and Grill The bar is known for its peanut butter cheeseburgers, but you'll find plenty of other options, too. tbocks.com

Stay

B&B on Broadway The 1910 home's five guest rooms come with luxe baths. The location in Decorah's historic district is near shopping, restaurants and other attractions. bandbonbroadway.com

Hotel Winnishiek The lobby's terrazzo floors, marble walls and cherry woodwork set the tone for the elegantly restored 1905 hotel, which has 34 rooms and suites in the heart of downtown. hotelwinn.com

For information: Winneshiek County Convention and Visitors Bureau (800) 463-4692;  visitdecorah.com