Posts Categorized: Driftless Day Trips

Driftless Day Trip: Coulee Region


Driftless Day Trip: Winter in the Coulee Region!
Adventuring to Mt. La Crosse, Snowflake Ski Club, & Kickapoo Valley Reserve

By Benji Nichols

Winter in the Driftless is a fickle season – cold and dark, but not always enough snow to have all the fun. So what’s a Midwesterner to do? I learned to ski at the long-gone-but-not-forgotten Nor-Ski hill in Decorah (rest in sweet peace, you glove-eating monster). Literally, my first downhill runs were with duct-taped boots on just enough natural snow to cover the corn stubble – but it was enough to plant in me a lifelong love of skiing and snow sports. For this Driftless Day Trip, we’ve decided to round-up a couple of our favorite places to swoosh, snowshoe, and take in the incredible winter light of the Coulee Region. Buckle up and get out there to explore the hills and coulees this winter!

What’s a coulee? The word coulee comes from the Canadian French coulée, from French word couler meaning “to flow”. West central Wisconsin, aka the Coulee Region, has been dissected by water erosion into a series of narrow ridges separated by steep-sided valleys called coulees.


Driftless is a term we use a lot here at Inspire(d), as we feel like it truly encompasses this amazing region of ours. The term has come to be used fairly widely, but if you really want to be in the heart of the Driftless, Western Wisconsin – particularly in and around Vernon County – is where’s it’s at. It also happens to embody a few of the more alluring and unique winter activities in the region. A mid-winter drive along the Mississippi River valley in any direction is almost guaranteed to produce bald eagle watching of epic proportions, and the scenic views only get better as you leave the river and wind up through the coulees.


SPOTlight: Mt. La Crosse

Just north of Chipmunk Coulee on River Road (really – it’s a place! … leave it to the Bohemians!), but south of La Crosse proper, is the turn-off for a special set of hills tucked perfectly off the Mississippi. Back in 1959, Mr. Ted Motchman saw these 200 acres of hillside and thought they looked just about right for strapping a couple of narrow boards on your feet and whooshing downhill. An ‘A’ Frame was erected, and adventurers of all ages flocked to show their support of alpine (downhill) skiing. Mt. La Crosse has been in continuous operation since, now with three chair lifts, a beginner tow-rope, and modern snow-making and grooming. They provide a fantastic regional skiing outlet that is family friendly and won’t break the bank. Terrain includes Wisconsin’s longest ski run (Mileaway), and Mid-America’s steepest trail (Damnation – really, it’s a doozie!). Action park and snowboard features also change up over the season to provide seasoned riders even more reasons to keep coming back, as well as high school ski racing action and state competitions. Throw in various special evening rates (the hills are all lit up!), as well as gear and lesson packages (snow boards too!), and these hills keep the adventuring alive as long as temps allow. We’re also fans of the St. Bernard Room, where you can enjoy a cozy view of the slopes with a Spotted Cow or warm beverage in hand. Always check the website or call ahead for conditions and hours – particularly for season opening and closing dates, which typically run from late November to early March.

Details: Mt. La Crosse
N5549 Old Town Hall Rd
La Crosse, Wisconsin
(608) 788-0044


If you think swooshing down the snowy slopes is adventurous, you’ll want to hang on to your stocking cap for what’s up next! Just up River Road you can catch Highway 14 toward Coon Valley. We’re headed to Westby, another well-known Norwegian enclave, then just past it on County Road P. Keep an eye out – you’ll see a large scaffolding structure jutting off one of the hilltops. What could be a better dead-of-the-winter Norwegian activity than – yep – Ski Jumping?!

Special thanks to Chad Berger/Lone Wolf Studios, Westby,WI for images)

Spotlight: Snowflake Ski Club

Friends, we’re not talking about sledding buddies mounding up a pile of snow here; we mean the real deal: Skiers in full suits gracefully swooping down an enormous (65 Meter – seriously!) jump and sailing off the end to hover over a snow covered hill that disappears beneath them. Really, its just like the Olympics – only in rural Wisconsin, and with bonfires, and music, and beverages, and… anyhow. The Junior Ski Jumping Competition is Sunday, January 10, 2016 where youngsters compete on all four sizes of ski jumps, while the Snowflake Ski Club Jumping Tournament runs February 5-6 with competitors participating from around the world. Friday night kicks off with opening ceremonies, followed by competition on the lighted course, and more fun continuing Saturday during the daylight. And if spectating isn’t enough, Snowflake offers memberships for youth and the young-at-heart that actually allow you to train to ski jump. Yep. Put that on your bucket list. Or just enjoy the festivities from the safety of the sidelines with a crowd that assumes you’ve all been friends since Shep was a pup.

Details: Snowflake Ski Club
E7940 County Rd P, Westby, WI 54667
(608) 634-3211

Junior Ski Jumping Competition – Sunday, January 10, 2016

Come see junior ski jumpers from around the Midwest compete on the 10, 20, 40, and 65-meter ski jumps. Competitors on the 65-meter jump will be qualifying for a spot on the Junior National Team to compete at the 2016 National Ski Jumping Competition. Free admission for spectators!

Snowflake Ski Club Jumping Tournament – February 5-6, 2016

Professional skiers come from around the globe to compete in this Olympic-like event on the 65-meter jump. Friday opening ceremonies are at 7 pm, with competition following at 7:30 pm. Saturday’s fun starts off at noon. Admission buttons are for sale on site.


Now, if you were to head east on that same County Road ‘P’ out of Westby and just keep going, theoretically you’d end up right about at the Kickapoo Valley Reserve. We’d give you at least a 65 percent chance of this, simply because the roads are winding, the scenery is beautiful, and you just might decide to get lost in the rolling countryside. But really, you should probably consult a map to find the best way to the KVR Visitor Center from your current location. Highway 82 to La Farge will get you close, or Highway 131 south out of Ontario will take you right through the reserve. Some might say that from this side of the river “you can’t get there from here,” but we’re here to tell you that, like most things, getting there is half the fun – and it’s worth the drive to get out into the wilderness. All that said, if you’ve got 4WD or just a good cross-country sense of adventure, our next destination should be perfect!

Spotlight: Kickapoo Valley Reserve (KVR)

KVRIf you’re an avid Inspire(d) reader, then chances are you’ve read our praises of the Kickapoo Valley Reserve before. The KVR has a fascinating and controversial history – stemming from the “La Farge Dam Project” that never came to fruition – but did relocate 149 farmers by the early 1970s and left an enormous piece of open country in Vernon County. After much political to-do, the project was forever left behind by the Army Corps of Engineers in the mid 1990s and the land was split between the Ho-Chunk Nation and the State of Wisconsin. Over 8,000 acres make up this incredible span of the Kickapoo River with high scenic hills, bluffs, and rock outcroppings standing several hundred feet tall. A gorgeous visitors center opened in 2004 and is a great starting point for first time visitors. It also houses several exhibits and galleries featuring great displays on geology, Native American history, and reserve information. Winter 2016 KVR offerings include an Ice Cave Hike Series, the KVR Winter Festival on January 9, and the “Dam Phunski” Cross Country Ski Race January 23. The visitor’s center and trails are open all winter for hiking and snowshoeing – but please note that trail permits are required for use and available at the Visitor Center as well as 13 self-registration stations in the reserve.

Details: Kickapoo Valley Reserve
S3661 State Highway 131 (visitor center)
La Farge, WI 54639
(608) 625-2960

Attending one of the following events is a great way to jump into the sprawling KVR and get an introduction into one of our regions most incredible pieces of wilderness.

Ice Cave Hike Series

Visit several spectacular ice caves and frozen waterfalls. Participants will also have the chance to try traditional and modern snowshoes. There will be lots of outdoor discoveries and, depending on the hike leader, the following topics might be discussed: winter wildlife ecology, geology, biology, and history of the Kickapoo Reserve. The hike is rated moderate to difficult. Dress for the weather and don’t forget your camera! Saturdays: January 30, February 20, 27. 12:30 – 4:00 pm

Fee: $10/Person; $9/KVR Friend; $5/Kids 12-18
Registration Deadline: Saturday prior to each hike

Winter Festival
Saturday, January 9, 2016
8:30 am – 4:00 pm

The KVR Winter Festival highlights fun cold-weather-friendly activities such as skating, sledding, skiing, archery, snow sculpture slide, ice cave hikes, birds of prey, face painting, horse-drawn bobsled rides, snowshoe exhibit, and the Tri-state Malamute Club sled dog race. The La Farge Lions Club hosts an annual chili and bread contest for the public and a Kickapoo Quick Auction of goods and services produced in the Kickapoo Valley raises funds for the KVR Education Program. Whoohoo!

Dam Phunski
Saturday, January 23, 2016, 10:00 am

The Dam Phunski is a classic and freestyle cross-country ski course along the scenic Old Highway 131 Trail. Courses include a 1k loop for youth, a 5k point-to-point for juniors and phunskiers of all ages, and a 10k point-to-point for adults.


It’s worth noting that all three of these winter destinations are in rural locations. La Crosse, Wisconsin, is by far the closest urban hub for this adventure, and a grand place to cozy up on a winter night.


With such dining and accommodations as the new Charmont Hotel (its amaaaazing!), as well as our favorite cozy eatery The Mint – and fantastic nightlife downtown, La Crosse can be a great jumping off spot for any of the above adventures.


Viroqua is also quite central to the KVR and Snowflake Ski Jump. Lodging is a bit more sparse, but with outlets like the Viroqua Food Co-op, Rooted Spoon/219 Drinkery, the incredible Driftless Café, and Kickapoo Coffee’s mothership – plus a charming downtown – it’s worth the trip. We’d also be remiss if we didn’t mention the Kickapoo Valley Ranch. If you really want to get lost in a cozy cabin in the woods – literally next to the KVR – this is it. You can see our Driftless Day Trips for more ideas on both La Crosse and Viroqua at

So bundle up, pack warm, and bring your sense of adventure this winter – The Driftless is waiting for you!



Feeling Inspire(d) to get outside? How about on a FAT BIKE?!

If these adventures leave you saying, “what’s next?”, we’d love to suggest you get out on two wheels – even in the midst of winter! If you haven’t had the chance to ride a “fat” mountain bike yet, now is the time! Think of a standard mountain bike, but with frame accommodations to fit tires 4”+. The extra large tires allow you to run at low air pressures giving great traction on snow, sand, and all sorts of terrain. Local trail organizations and systems like Decorah’s DHPT, Upper Hixon in La Crosse, and Vernon Trails in Viroqua are even grooming some trails for winter riding. Conditions vary widely – and day by day throughout winter ­– but believe us: fat biking is a great workout and a fun way to burn off the winter blahs. Several regional shops are now renting fat bikes as well – Decorah Bicycles, Blue Heron Bicycle Works in Onalaska, and Blue Dog Cycles in Viroqua are all great starting points.

Driftless Day Trips: Great River Road of Wisconsin

WIGRR Photo Jay Olson
(Above photo by Jay Olson-Goude. Below photos by Inspire(d) Media.)

Isn’t fall in the Driftless Region the best? The colors are lovely, and there are tons of perfect days ahead for a fun little road trip adventure. We suggest checking out The Great River Road of Wisconsin! The entire WIGRR ( covers 250 miles and 33 river towns. We just hit the Driftless Region section, including the towns of: Alma, Nelson,  Pepin, Stockholm, Maiden Rock, and Bay City.

Getting to Alma, WI:
88 miles from Decorah
60 miles from La Crosse
54 miles from Rochester
119 miles from McGregor

For over 250 miles of Wisconsin’s “West Coast” a ribbon or road flows next to the train tracks right along the Mighty Mississippi. The Great River Road is one of the Midwest’s most scenic road trips – it was even voted prettiest drive in the nation by the Huffington Post last year! Celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, the Great River Road in its entirety spans from Minnesota to Louisiana. Wisconsin’s section winds through 33 towns and countless sights, and this edition of Boxed (IN) takes on just the popular 30-mile stretch from Alma to Maiden Rock – just north of Trempealeau and the La Crosse area. Home to Lake Pepin – a popular 26-mile-long sailing area of the Mississippi River – this little slice of river is known for kitschy little stops, artist studios, galleries, and shops, and down-home charm.

AlmaStairsAlma itself is an adorable little river town tucked in and on 12 Mile Bluff – there are even 10 staircases (with over 750 steps total!) that connect the two main streets throughout the town! Lock and Dam #4 – including a great viewing platform – is also located here, and the lodging and dining options are fun and often unique since over 200 structures in the tiny town are on the National Register of Historic Places.

As you wind up the river through Nelson, Pepin, Stockholm, Maiden Rock, and Bay City take time to seek out the many treasures and destinations tucked along the way. The terrain is beautiful – and the locals friendly. Follow our notes carefully, and call ahead if you are making the drive (or boat!) as many of the best spots we found are seasonal and only open certain days of the week. (Like A to Z’s Pizza on the farm!). That said, there’s more than enough to keep you busy for a day or two – and plenty of relaxing to be had just watching all that is the mighty Mississippi go by.


Flyway Film Festival
October 21-25, 2015
Pepin and Stockholm

Great River Road Wine Trail Holiday Harvest Wine & Food Festival
November 14-15, 2015. 10am-5pm


Lock & Dam #4, Alma, WI – Built in 1935, this structure is an attraction in its own right and the southern border of  “Lake” Pepin. Watch barges and river traffic lock through from the viewing platform or from local establishments, while trains ramble by right underneath the pedestrian bridge.viewfromlookout

Lake Pepin is a 26-mile-long section of the widest, naturally occurring part of the Mississippi River that stretches from Bay City on the north end to Alma and Lock & Dam #4 in the south. It is extremely popular for sailing, boating, and fishing, as well as bird and wildlife watching.

Great Alma Fishing Float
35 Great River Road, Alma
Park and walk to the dock where a shuttle boat will pick you up and deliver you to the float! For over 25 years this has been a local favorite – Float Café open 7am-3pm, and bunk lodging is even available on the float. Minnesota or Wisconsin Fishing license is required.

Buena Vista Park, Overlook, and Trail – Alma
Just above Lock & Dam #4 in Alma (500 ft. above to be more exact), is one of the best views of the Mississippi River valley anywhere. Better Homes & Gardens called it “…one of the river valley’s finest natural balconies.” The view just down the road at Danzinger Winery isn’t too bad either!

Mossy Hollow Trails – Alma
In 1997 Dairyland Power Cooperative transferred 102 acres just south of Alma to the City. This property extends 12 miles up the bluff and provides hiking/walking trails along with some great views.



The Good View Bakery
105 South Main Street, Alma
Step through the screen door and be transported to the bakery you remember from childhood. Donuts, scones, rolls, breads, cookies, and all very reasonably priced! Grab a cup of coffee and a delicious caramel roll and plan your day one of the vintage counter stools.KiehlsOutside

Pier 4 Café and Smokehouse
600 Main Street, Alma
Best BBQ by a Dam Site!
(Closed Tuesdays) open Wednesday through Monday 6 am to 1 pm
Great breakfasts and lunch including lots of house made BBQ goodness. The German potato pancakes are a local favorite, as is the house made “Tangys” sauce! Views from the café are of Lock & Dam #4, and the back patio is a great place to take in all the river traffic.


The Original Nelson Cheese Factory
S237 State Road 35 South, Nelson
Although cheese is no longer actually made at this facility, the selection of fine cheese, wine, prepared foods, and sweets is stunning. So is the interior of the facility – stop by to pick up supplies for a picnic or grab sandwiches and sit on the patio.NelsonCreameryOut


Villa Bellezza
1420 3rd St., Pepin
Inspired by the beauty of the Pepin area and several classic Italian influences, Villa Bellezza was opened to the public by the Dahlen family in 2012. The first grape vines at Villa Bellezza were planted a decade previous, and their wines are pushing the typical boundaries and quality of Midwestern viticulture. The Cotes du Pepin is a highlight, as are the event facilities.Winery

Harbor View Café
314 First Street, Pepin
Closed Monday – Wednesday
This much-celebrated local café has a focus on local and sustainable ingredients. As comfy a spot as you’ll find, with fantastic people, great daily specials, and amazing deserts. No reservations, but the Adirondack chairs out front have a spectacular view and there’s New Glarus on tap if you have to wait!


Stockholm Pie Company
The Stockholm Pie Company sits unassumingly in a tiny corner space (next door to the beautiful Abode Gallery and below Wide Spot Performing Arts Center.) The pie is the real deal and you won’t be sorry with the selection, which rotates daily. In fact, plan ahead to grab breakfast or lunch and take an extra slice along for your trip to A to Z later in the day (see below)! YES – Pie isn’t just for breakfast anymore!


A to Z Produce and Bakery
N2945 Anker Lane, Stockholm
Pizza nights are TUESDAYS ONLY 4:30 – 8 pm (March-October)
So here’s the idea: Vegetable and CSA farmers A to Z build a brick oven (actually two) and make pizza one night a week on their farm. People come from all around, bring blankets and supplies, and make a night of it! What happens? Wild success – and long lines of pizza lovers! We can’t stress a few things enough though – really. Go early, write down directions (phones/GPS sketchy), bring games or good friends (or make friends with your neighbors), extra snacks, pie from the Stockholm Pie Company, and beverages (but the state of WI “does not allow carry in alcoholic beverages”…  beer and wine for sale on site). Some people even set up tables and chairs, but you decide just how far you want to take it.

They appreciate checks and cash (bring extra – there’s often bread for sale as well –  it’s worth it!) but also now accept credit cards. The results of all this? Stunning pizza in a lovely rural setting that makes for an incredible evening. Plan to go here if you’re in town on a Tuesday evening – you will not be disappointed (unless you don’t take our tips from above!). Serving through October – bundle up and enjoy!


Maiden Rock Apples / Maiden Rock Winery & Cidery
W12266 King Lane, Stockholm
Since 2000 Herdie Baisden and Carol Wiersma have been growing apples on their 80-acre farm. From Honeycrisp to Pomme Gris, the varieties are wide and interesting – and you can pick right from the fields in the fall. But the real draw may be the cider – both still and sparkling – Maiden Rock is doing some amazing work with their apples. Give yourself some time for a tasting, and savor the local bounty!


Maiden Rock Creamery/McNays Wine and Coffee Bar
W3487 State Road 35,
This remodeled, once-upon-a-time creamery now features two incredible lofts (available by the night) and a Coffee/Wine Bar.

Smiling Pelican Bake Shop
W3556 Hwy. 35, Maiden Rock
Weekends ONLY.
This little bakery is one of the best you’ll find. Yep, that was a period. House made Panna Cotta, amazing pies, cakes, cookies, breads – and only on the weekends, April through December.


Ice Cream: Flat Pennies in Bay City
10:30 am – 9 pm
Drive in and grab a quick coffee – or perhaps a dog and an ice cream cone! This Bay City favorite is a roadside oasis from yesteryear. Chat with the friendly owner – he might talk you into trying a Ramblin’ Rudy or the Flat Cow!


Chef Shack
Weekends only
Award-winning Minneapolis Food-Truckers opened this amazing little spot in 2012. It’s only open Friday-Saturday nights and Sundays for Brunch, but worth every second it takes to make your way there. Creative, delicious, ever-changing cuisine and wine/beer, plus a brick oven in the back yard. It’s pretty much the restaurant you’ve always wanted to stumble upon…

It is worth noting that the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi River is heavily traveled by freight trains – both day and night. Any lodging anywhere near the river will give you both grand vistas of river life, as well as of the working trains. Some folks love the steady, majestic, rumble and horns of a freight train – while others may find it hard to block out. That said, pack an extra pair of earplugs and your sense of adventure – this is river life.

Blue Door Inn, Alma
331 South Main Street, Alma
This 150-year-old renovated stone building features tastefully modern suites in historic spaces. The Inn can accommodate single rooms for a night, or combined suites for larger groups. The upper deck has fun views of Main Street and the Mississippi, while the garden level is a lovely escape full of well-tended flowers. The kind innkeeper, Kathy, even leaves Bakery treats for breakfast outside your door, along with juice and fruit to accompany your in-room Keurig!

Hotel de Ville, Alma
305 North Main Street, Alma
Do check out this unique European-influenced getaway with Italianate secret garden and Mississippi River views. With three buildings and a gypsy wagon making up the property, it’s shy of words to say the de Ville is wonderfully unique. The on-site café and ice cream shop is just the beginning of wonderment that leads to the secret gardens out back.

Maiden Rock Inn
N531 County Road S, Maiden Rock
Gary and Jennifer Peterson started renovating this century old schoolhouse in 1995 and have never stopped. The attention to detail in woodwork, renovation, and hospitality is hard to match. With over 16,000 square feet of skillfully and artistically renovated spaces, including four guest suites with impeccable 12-foot vintage tin ceilings, an outdoor grotto, rooftop deck (Accessed by spiral staircase! And there’s a hot tub up there!), and the original gymnasium, this is a show stopper of an Inn.

Driftless Day Trips: Elkader, Iowa

Main Street Elkader 09 009

By Shannon Dallenbach Durbin • Originally published in the Spring 2013 Inspire(d)

ArtInThePark>>> Check it out! This weekend is Elkader’s Art In The Park celebration. Saturday & Sunday, August 22-23, 2015. Enjoy Art, music, kids’Tent, Food & wine,and FUN!!! It all takes place in Founders Park (right across the street from the Elkader Whitewater Park!), in downtown Elkader. <<<

It’s another beautiful day in the Driftless Region! If you’re like us, you find yourself thinking, “We should take a little road trip!” Who wants to stay inside tapping away at computers or tidying the house when there’s exploring to do? Where should you head? Well, Elkader, of course. This little town by the Turkey River is full of life. If you love shopping, eating great food, a little nature exploration, and taking in a show (live or on the big screen) you’ve come to the right place!

There are many entrances into this lovely little town of 1,300. If you are a mystery fan, you’ll even find a sign indicating your arrival to “Maitland,” the pseudonym for Elkader used by best-selling mystery crime novelist Donald Harstad. Harstad still resides in Elkader, and if you take the Bridge Street exit, you will pass the beautiful Jail House Inn – the old county sheriff office-turned bed and breakfast – where Deputy Sheriff Harstad used to work.

Keep going on Bridge Street and you will experience the magic of crossing the historic Keystone Bridge as you enter downtown. Take a peek to your right as you pass over and you will see the waters of the Turkey River rushing over the dam.

Main Street Elkader 09 010

Start your day with a coffee at Treats just down a bit on Bridge Street. This little café has a vibrant atmosphere and friendly staff. The coffee beans are locally roasted and have fabulous flavor. They serve breakfast, plus daily lunch specials, soup, and homemade pie. My favorite combination is the cashew chicken wrap, a white chocolate mocha, and maybe a truffle…or two.


Let the retail therapy begin! Adjoining Treats is The Copper Frog, a fun little resale shop with lots of spunk, moved into their former digs. You’ll love their great collection of fun jewelry.

Cross the street pop into Bridge Street Boutique for the latest trends and head around the corner to Archive for Iowa wines and cool architectural finds. Next door you will find Common Clay Studio, with pottery by local artist Kate Chandler.

If you are still going strong, get into the thick of it at The Turkey River Mall. This place occupies an old hotel on the corner, and inside there are roughly 100 rooms all filled with different shops.

Across from the Theater is Willow Creek, featuring wine, garden decor, and paintings by local artist Jillian Webb Herrmann.

Elkader was named after Abd elKader, an Algerian freedom fighter in 1846. In 1983, Elkader became Sister Cities with Mascara, Algeria (the birthplace of Abd elKader).  This friendship is displayed throughout the town. For instance, in the small walking park, Mascara Park, situated near the Elkader Opera House, you will find a peace pole made in 2008 by local luxury lighting company, Fire Farm. An identical peace pole resides in Mascara. And in City Hall, housed in the basement of the Opera House, you can find a display of items that Elkader and its residents have been gifted from Algerians through trips and visits from ambassadors and so forth. Find other interesting Elkader documents and artifacts displayed at the Carter House Museum, across the street from the Court House.


By now your tummy surely is starting to grumble and Elkader is not short on places to dine. From burger stands to buffets, pizza joints to pubs, Elkader has over a dozen places to grab some grub. However, my favorite will always be Schera’s Restaurant.

Schera’s is an Algerian/American Restaurant that was started by a couple drawn to Elkader based on its namesake. Schera’s is a great place to try something new, but even their cheeseburgers are beyond compare. If you’re interested in quality beer, you are in luck. Schera’s takes their beer seriously. They have a rotating lineup of 18 craft beers on tap, with a specific glass to match each beer. When the weather is nice, you can enjoy your meal on the patio that overlooks the Keystone Bridge and Turkey River – make sure to try something that comes with the fabulous harissa!

And just across the river is a great place for dessert. The Burger Barn (open the first weekend in April until October) serves over 14 flavors of Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream, as well as other delicious ice cream treats. You’ll love their sandwiches that come on huge slices of Texas toast and your kids will love playing on the slides while you wait.

Burger Barn

If you’re undecided on where to fill your belly, time to take out your smartphone and look up An Elkader native created this website as a one stop shop for locating great dining venues and entertainment in the area. They even have many of the menus on their site so you can peruse them before you go. And while you’re on the site, check out what is available for evening entertainment.

Like many small Midwest towns, Elkader has golfing, bowling, churches, schools, and community clubs to keep the town hopping, but few can truly boast about their theaters (both live and big screen).


Even if you’ve chosen a random day to make your way to Elkader, you can always cap your night off with a movie at the Elkader Cinema. A beautiful, vintage neon sign invites you into the recently renovated cinema, which boasts a single, state-of-the-art digital projection screen. The movies are current, the concessions include beer and wine, and tickets are around $5. I usually finish up the night with something sweet from Pedretti’s Bakery which opens again late at night when the baker starts the morning’s bread.

If you happened to come to town on a night when the Elkader Opera House has an event, life couldn’t get much better. The Opera House is gorgeous and the entertainment is high quality. Musical acts and comedy appear a regular basis. The Opera House Players, a volunteer theater group, puts on shows at least twice a year. This fall will feature SHREK The Musical.

MSI Awards, Freedom Bank, Ladies Day Out 029

If you still have time to explore, check out the Clayton County Tourism Office and Iowa Welcome Center at its new location by the bridge. They can hook you up with brochures on everything from Spook Cave to Motor Mill. The Motor Mill’s historic building and just-completed restoration of the nearby bridge (it washed out in the 2008 flood) is a fun outskirt destination – you might recognize the mill from the 2013 Iowa Tourism Guide. You can get there by going back up Bridge Street and heading straight out onto the windy gravel, or if it is a nice warm day you can call up Turkey River Outfitters.  They rent out canoes, kayaks, and tubes with all the necessities and even provide shuttle service. And don’t miss checking out the new Elkader White Water park (image: Travel Iowa) on the Turkey River at the south end of town. This is the real deal for active kayakers, and has been drawing great attention since its completion.


If you’re just looking for a little jaunt, when you leave the Tourism Office take the River Walk for a stroll along the river. The path is paved with many resting areas for enjoying the beauty of the river. Once you reach the bottom of the path you have couple options:
1. Continue your hike onto the Pony Hollow Trail, which brings you deeper into nature on an unpaved path. Here you will find cyclists, runners, and even horseback riders enjoying the woods and limestone cliffs.
2. Explore the City Park, featuring a large playground, disc golf course, swimming pool, ball fields, horse barn, picnic shelters, George Maier Rural Heritage Museum, and a fitness trail around the perimeter of the park.

Wow, there is way more to Elkader than you thought possible, right? Maybe you haven’t tried Fennellys’ Irish Pub yet or taken a Clip Clop Carriage Ride so you’re thinking about extending your stay. There are several places to lie your head – check out the Elkader Lodging Association’s website for all the details (website to follow), but here are a couple of tips: If you’ve got a large party, think about taking the group to the Barn of the Bluff. Their dorm-style spaces are perfect for family reunions and friend getaways.

We hope to see you in Elkader this fall!

Main Street Elkader


Shannon Dallenbach Durbin grew up on a farm just outside the area and always admired the Elkader community. She moved to the town seven years ago with her husband, Bryce, and here they are raising their six-year-old son, Link and one-year-old, Felix. Shannon has served many roles in the community from newspaper editor to President of the Sister Cities Friendship Club. She currently is employed at the Clayton County Extension Office as the Program Coordinator.


110 W Bridge St

Burger Barn
688 Sunburst Ln

Pedretti’s Bakery
101 N Main St
563- 245-1280

Fennelly’s Irish Pub
105 N 1st St

107 S Main St

Check out more options at


Copper Frog
118 West Bridge St

104 First Street NW, Elkader, IA.

Bridge Street Boutique and Gift
107 W Bridge St

Turkey River Mall
102 S Main St


Carter House Museum
101 2nd St SE  Elkader, IA 52043

Elkader Cinema
108 N Main St

Elkader Opera House
207 N Main St

Spook Cave
13299 Spook Cave Rd, McGregor

Motor Mill
Galaxy Rd

Turkey River Outfitters
456 High Street SE

Clip Clop Rides


General Information: