One-Day Itinerary in Pella, Iowa
In spring, Pella bursts gloriously to life with the blooming of thousands of tulips. They color the main square, cluster around the town's windmills (yes, plural) and line residential streets. It's Tulip Time in this little Iowa town located 40 miles southeast of Des Moines.
Founded in 1847 by a group of emigrants from the Netherlands seeking religious freedom, Pella was named after the biblical city of refuge. The town has since retained and preserved its Dutch heritage through historical displays, museums and popular festivals.
Visitors can immerse themselves in the culture in a way that feels authentic and quaint, whether they're coming for Tulip Time in May or on a spontaneous weekend. Shops, restaurants and bakeries round out the experience. Oh, and did we mention participants in the Tulip Time parade hand out Gouda samples? It doesn't get much more Dutch than that.
Related: Top Things to Do in Pella
9 a.m. Morning Brew
In addition to being the most Dutch town in Iowa, Pella might also want to claim the most coffee shops in a two-block radius. Take your pick of five coffeehouses. Iris Coffee Company is for the connoisseurs; The Brew Coffee House has a great patio; and The Sanctuary serves hot drinks out of a gift shop. Many of the cafes often feature a Dutch Letter Latte based on the locally famous treat (more on that later).
10 a.m. History Lessons
Before you explore on your own, head to the Pella Historical Village to learn how early settlers lived (and why they came). Climb or ride the elevator up the 124-foot-tall Vermeer Windmill, North America's tallest working windmill. Also step into a sod house, blacksmithing site and general store.
12 p.m. Meat for Lunch
In't Veld's Meat Market supplies the meats for its attached restaurant, Butcher's Brewhuis and Deli. Order the Bologna on a Stick, which uses In't Veld's famous ring bologna. If you're a bologna purist, go for the Double Dutch, with thick-cut bologna and Gouda cheese. Or try the Dried Beef with Gouda on raisin bread.
1 p.m. Shops to Explore
Main Street and its intersecting cross streets are filled with stores selling home decor, clothing and gifts. Keep up with home trends at Blush by Simple Treasures, shop for a handmade quilt at The Quilted Windmill, update your wardrobe at Adorn Clothing Company and pick out stationery at the Pella Paperie. Also stroll along the Pella Canal, a wink to the famous canals of Amsterdam.
3 p.m. Pastry Break
Pop into one of Pella's two popular pastry palaces: Vander Ploeg Bakery or Jaarsma Bakery. Jaarsma has been in operation since 1898, and the line proves it's still just as good. Try a Dutch Letter, an S-shaped pastry filled with almond paste, but don't pass up the cream-filled Puff Pillows. Vander Ploeg also sells Dutch Letters, along with freshly baked rolls and other treats, in a bright, subway-tiled space.
3:30 p.m. Garden Walk
A five-minute walk from downtown is Sunken Gardens Park, where tulips line Wooden Shoe Pond in spring. Sit under a tree to enjoy a peaceful view of the 1930s windmill, a historical landmark. Nearby you'll also find Tuttle Log Cabin, named for the first pioneers to settle in Marion County in 1843.
More to Try
Take advantage of nice weather and explore nearby Lake Red Rock. Have a picnic at Elk Rock State Park or climb the observation tower (it costs 50 cents; quarters only) at Cordova Park. Red Rock Marina rents pontoon boats. Or take the short drive to Des Moines to explore the capital city's attractions, restaurants and lodgings.