Posts Tagged: Driftless Day Trips

Driftless Day Trips: Cassville / Potosi

DriftlessDayTrip_GuttenbergTopPhoto

By Aryn Henning Nichols • Photos by Inspire(d) unless noted • Originally published in the Fall 2015 Inspire(d)

WhatsDriftlessDayTripDriving south down Highway 52 toward Guttenberg, Iowa, it’s hard not to let out a little sigh. The valleys and farmland and big blue sky make the miles tick by faster than you’d hope.

The town of Guttenberg doesn’t actually come into view until the very last minute. No matter which way you enter, you come up over a hill or to a spot where the trees open and you’re greeted by this sweet little town way down in the valley, and truly amazing views of the Mississippi. Gotta get a pic? Scenic lookouts on the both the north and south side of town offer great selfies opportunities (don’t hate – we’re big fans of the family selfie!).

SPOTlight: Guttenberg

Guttenberg is snuggled right up to the Mississippi – the historic main street, River Park Drive, runs along the bank of the river. We packed a picnic and made a stop at a park near Lock and Dam 10. It was super fun to watch the boats and barges pass through the dam as we munched on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. There’s also a viewing platform available for an even closer look.

Picnic

History buffs can check out the National Register of Historic Places Lockmaster House Heritage Museum nearby. It now only houses memorabilia – it’s the last remaining lockmaster house on the Upper Mississippi River.

South of Lock and Dam 10, just down River Park Drive, is the Aquarium and Fish Hatchery (generally open 9 am – 3 pm May – October). It’s a quaint little one-room affair, operated by biologists with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Exhibits include a large selection of live Mississippi River creatures – catfish, turtles, mussels, trout, and other fun fish – plus some cool historical displays.

GuttenbergBand_SheilaTomkins
Photo courtsey Sheila Tomkins

Guttenberg is a German town through-and-through, and celebrates GermanFest each fall September 23-24, 2016 marks the 26th anniversary of the event! The family-friendly Fest includes an arts and crafts market, biergarten, kraut cook-off, hog roast, homemade beer tasting, live music, a 5K walk/run, wiener dog races, and more! www.guttenbergiowa.net

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From there, we were off to catch the ferry. We had hoped Roxie would also catch a nap, but alas…it wasn’t meant to be (yet). Just a few miles south of Guttenberg, there’s a sign directing you left to the Cassville Ferry. You’ll take some gravel that’ll seem almost like dirt roads…but know you’re on the right path. Just enjoy the scenery (and stop stressing already)!

CassvilleFerryBenjiRoxieFerry_Lolli

SPOTlight: Cassville Ferry

After passing by small farms and large fields, you’ll finally arrive at a gravel parking area next to the river – this is the Iowa side of the Cassville Ferry!

The Pride of Cassville Car Ferry – the oldest operating ferry service in the state of Wisconsin – connects two National Scenic Byways; the (Wisconsin) Great River Road and the Iowa Great River Road. It began in 1833 and continues today, making the same trip back and forth across the Mississippi.

The very first governor of Wisconsin, a then 23-year-old Nelson Dewey, made his first trip across the Mississippi to reach the tiny village of Cassville. He settled there in 1836 and attempted to turn Cassville into a metropolis. It never quite made it – Cassville is just shy of 1,000 people – but it’s a cute little town and the Ferry is definitely a fun way to get from Iowa to Wisconsin (or vice versa).

FamilyFerryWe had Roxie press the button and soon saw the ferry chugging our way. You drive aboard, give the friendly employees your fare, and enjoy the ride!

Details:
Cassville Ferry
Fall hours: September 8 to October 25
Friday, Saturday, & Sunday
10AM to 8PM
(7 days a week Memorial Day to Labor Day – check website for current hours)

From Cassville, (Wisconsin now, remember) we headed southeast on the Great River Road to Potosi. It was time for a beer! (Also a nap, but alas…not yet.)

Potosi

According to Wikipedia, Potosi is known as the “the Catfish Capital of Wisconsin,” because of its annual Catfish Festival in August, but when you arrive in Potosi, most would say it’s the Potosi Brewery (and The National Brewery Museum and Library) that you notice first. Another one of those pretty little towns nestled in the beauty of the Driftless Region, Potosi is truly a village – fewer than 700 people call it home – but that doesn’t mean it’s not busy at the main attraction, Potosi Brewing.

PotosiOutsidePotosi1

SPOTlight: Potosi Brewing

The Potosi Brewing Company began in 1852. At its peak, it was the fifth largest brewery in Wisconsin, shipping beers such as Good Old Potosi, Holiday, Garten Brau, and Augsburger throughout the United States. But business slowed, and it closed its doors in 1972. In 1995, after a terrible fire that took out almost a whole block of buildings, a man named Gary David bought the property and began restoration, rebuilding for three years before finally being able to assess the brewery itself.

In 1999, after a prompt by his wife, Madonna, David proposed a community meeting in hopes of bringing the public in on the restoration process. The meeting was incredibly well attended by the public and brought forth suggestions as well as support, and eventually led to the 2000 formation of the Potosi Brewery Foundation. In January of 2001, the Potosi Brewery building was donated to the Potosi Foundation, and the brewery property was officially transferred. Following a $7.5 million restoration, the Potosi Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and sole owner of the Potosi Brewing Company, reopened the brewery in 2008. The Potosi Foundation’s mission is to support historical and educational initiatives, and charitable causes.

To cap things off (pun!) in 2004 the Potosi Foundation was selected by the American Breweriana Association to be the home to its national museum.

Potosi Brewery now crafts and distributes a variety of beers throughout the region. We had some yummy tasters while Roxie checked out the koi pond, and the pub serves up tasty food ranging from brats and burgers to flatbreads and pasta. The building itself is beautiful and fun to wander around, and you can also tour the National Brewery Museum.

Beerkoipond

The National Brewery Museum is a joint venture between the Potosi Foundation and the American Breweriana Association. It showcases a collection of beer bottles and cans, glasses, trays, coasters, advertising materials and other items relating to breweriana collectibles.

FYI: Breweriana commonly refers to any article containing a brewery name or brand name, usually in connection to collecting them as a hobby.

P.S. There’s also live music through mid-September out on the Potosi patio!

Scenery_Potosi

Back in the car, we headed toward Dubuque. NOW it was time for Roxie’s nap (thank goodness).

Along the way:
Dickyville Grotto
One Catholic Priest, Father Matthias Wernerus, built this amazing place between the years 1925-1930. There’s no official record, but they say nearly 200 tons of rock were gathered from the Dakotas, Iowa, and nearby Wisconsin quarries to build it. Most of the site’s structures are covered in shells, stones, tiles, wood, glass, gems, and geodes donated by area parishioners.

IowaWelcome

Dubuque

While this could certainly be a one-day trip, with an almost-three-year-old in tow, we decided to spend the night in Dubuque. There are several great options. Our favorites are the historic Hotel Julien right downtown and the Grand Harbor – right on the riverwalk – this place has a riverboat-themed waterpark and is a fun option for a family overnight (especially in the cold months)!

If you do opt for the overnight, make sure to check out our Dubuque Driftless Day Trip for details on what to do while you’re in town (Highlights: Mississippi River Aquarium, Fenelon Elevator, L. May Eatery, and more.)

The next day, we got back on the road, this time headed northwest to check out another spot off the beaten path: Park Farm Winery.

Along the way:
Field of Dreams movie site – You know the story: If you build it, they will come. And apparently, so will the tourists and locals, for many years!

ParkFarmVines

SPOTlight: Park Farm Winery, Bankston, Iowa

Once again, we’ve taken you on a path that seems a little too far out of the way. And it’s kind of true. Because once you arrive at Park Farm Winery, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to another country! There’s the trademark Driftless rolling hills and valleys, but with the bonus beauty of rows upon rows of grapes. It’s just lovely.

ParkFarmOutsideParkFarmInside

Established in 2005, Park Farm is a family owned and operated winery near Bankston, Iowa. The chateau-inspired vineyard is home to a tasting room, wood-fired pizza oven, and event venue. The 11-acre estate grows specific ‘cold climate’ grape cultivars that produce great wine and withstand the harsh winters of the Upper Midwest.

Folks can grab some wine tasters (or just a glass of whatever they love), head out on the balcony, and enjoy the view while munching on a wood-fired pizza. It’s a pretty great spot.

Pizza

Check website for current hours.

It was finally time to head north, back to Decorah. We had a blast on this Driftless Day Trip and hope you are inspire(d) to head out on your own. Hit us up at on social media @iloveinspired if you do, and stay tuned for more Driftless Day Trips! Enjoy! – Aryn (and Benji and Roxie too)

Driftless Day Trip: Decorah

Decorah Driftless Day TripDecorah, We Adore Ya

By Inspire(d) Staff • Photos by Inspire(d) unless noted

Everyone knows we love Decorah. Some say it’s the beauty of the bluffs that draws people in. Others speculate there’s some sort of vortex created by the meteoric rock embedded way under those bluffs.

Or it could simply be the amazing downtown, variety of entrepreneurs, and all the great people here that brings the place to life.

Whatever it is, it’s magic. And we think it’s about time we shared some of our favorite things that make Decorah such a magical community.

Despite a fair amount of traveling and extended periods of time living in other states and countries, we at Inspire(d) HQ (Benji, Aryn, and Roxie) have called the Decorah area home for the majority of our lives. And in the 10 years that Benji and Aryn have been together, it’s possible that Decorah has changed almost as much as it did those 25 years previous! It keeps getting better.

It would be nearly impossible to sum up all of the good things in one, succinct article, so we’re just gonna go ahead and map out one perfect weekend in Decorah. Feel free to explore more on your own! Check it out at visitdecorah.com.

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Decorah is nestled in a crook of the Upper Iowa River, right along two rifts of craggy limestone bluffs. This sets quite the lovely backdrop for our charming Midwest town.

DecorahBluffsDecorah_Downtown

This community of just over 8,000 people is well known for a lot of things. Vesterheim Museum, Nordic Fest, Luther College, StoryPeople, a kick-ass food co-op, great paved and mountain biking trails, the eagles (of course!), and a thriving downtown with great restaurants, shops, and entertainment – to name just a few. So get out your calendars and get a trip to Decorah in the books.

We can’t wait to see you!

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Friday

It’s Friday afternoon. You’ll probably want to leave work early so you can get to Decorah in time for dinner. Make a reservation at La Rana for tonight then spend a few minutes – or, you know, like an hour – checking out some of the great stores on Water Street.

Tip: the Visitors Center is right on Water Street (507 W. Water St – near Vesterheim and ArtHaus!) for those looking for more local info or ideas.

If you still have a few minutes before dinner, grab a quick happy hour drink at Rubaiyat or the Tap Room in the Hotel Winneshiek. Renovation on this historic hotel and the attached Steyer Opera House was completed in 2000. The beautiful property really is an anchor for Downtown Decorah. Their motto is “the welcome is real” and, true to their word, they host tons of fun events throughout the year. We love their Live in the Lobby music series. Check facebook.com/hotelwinn for up-to-date details.

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Dinner time! Finally. Aryn might be a little partial to La Rana, the sweet bistro on the corner of Washington and Main Streets, because it’s where she worked for two years after returning to the area in 2005. But more than that, the food is amazing, and the ambiance pure loveliness. Go ahead and order one of co-owner Mark’s cocktails mixed up with house-made juice (best. mojitos. ever.) and pretty much anything on the menu. We love the rotating specials and you can’t beat a table full of starters like seasonal bruschetta or local shrimp.

La Rana insideLaRanaFood

Post dinner, check out some in-town entertainment. There’s often great live music kiddy-corner to La Rana at the Haymarket (grab a handful of pulltabs while you’re at it!). Not feeling the music scene? Cozy in for a great brew at the Courtyard and Cellar…think of it as pre-game for tomorrow’s brewery extravaganza (ha!). More on that later.

HaymarketBloody

Saturday

Ah, morning in Decorah. There are several great spots to get your caffeine fix in town, but we think you should start at Impact Coffee on Washington Street (right next to La Rana). If you came to town to check out the craft beer, let this be your precursor to that, but with craft coffee instead. The nitro cold-brews are Aryn’s favorites, and Benji loves the house-made chai. Looking for breakfast? Lots of great options for that too. T-Bock’s fare is local and tasty, plus if you’re watching a game, this is the place to be (their burgers are amazing too – the Southwest is our go-to), or if you’re looking for a coffeehouse to get a little work done (or a little social media check-in), Magpie is the perfect choice – they’ve got yummy breakfast (Aryn loves the “B” wrap) and our favorite Kickapoo Coffee from Viroqua, Wisconsin, brewed up and ready to roll.

ImpactCoffee

Next up, you really ought to get out for a ride. At Inspire(d) HQ, we’re pretty into mountain biking and love to spread the fun around the community (world!). If you don’t have a bike, head over to Decorah Bicycles to get fitted for a rental – they’ve got tons of options, and it’s only $25 for four hours (or $100 for the whole weekend if you’re really loving it)! There are somewhere around 20 miles of amazing single-track biking and hiking trails woven throughout the bluffs of Decorah – beginners might want to start on River Trail or some of the trails up around Palisades Park. Ask Josie or Travis at the bike shop for a map and suggestions – they’ll hook you up. And if this is your first time, maybe ask about scheduling a led-ride with Josie.

JosieRiding

If you’re thinking a fun – but still pretty challenging – paved ride is more your speed, it’s time for a loop around the Trout Run Trail – it’s 11 miles of lovely Northeast Iowa vistas (here’s a map!). No matter the direction you take on Trout Run Trail, you’ll pass by the Decorah Fish Hatchery, and the famous Decorah eagles too. Take a quick break to feed the trout, marvel at the waterfall at Sievers Spring, and snap a selfie with those magnificent birds before you continue on.

TroutRunTrail

Speaking of waterfalls, Dunning’s Spring is one of the best around (in our opinion). It’s always several degrees cooler back there, which makes it a perfect stop in the hot summer months, but we love to check it out pretty much any time of year. Make sure to climb the steps to enjoy the view from above too. Dunning’s also happens to be a great picnic spot, and is just off the single-track trails if you’re taking that route today.

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If you’re an old RAGBRAI pro looking for even more mileage today, perhaps you’d be up for a little out-and-back to Bluffton. The hills are real, and the beverages are cold at Randy’s Bluffton Store – it’s the only place in Bluffton, so you’ll find it!

And if biking just isn’t your thing (okay, okay), another great option for a morning expedition is Seed Saver’s Exchange Heritage Farm just north of Decorah. We love it (we even got married there)! The Lillian Goldman Visitor’s Center is the perfect place to start your visit. From there you can easily stroll the display gardens, or roam for a great hike on trails across the ridges of the farm – or even up to the heritage apple orchard. Special events during the summer include the annual Seed Saver’s workshop and campout weekend, as well as a benefit concert night that features Mason Jennings this year.

Photo courtesy Seed Savers Exchange.

Photo courtesy Seed Savers Exchange.

Morning adventures complete, it’s time for rewards: beer!

If you’re in to beer at all, you’ve surely heard about Toppling Goliath. Select TG brews have made big splashes, winning top-ratings in several circles, and we love their big-hop creations too. Aryn is a hoppy beer fanatic, and Benji is a good-beer-of-any-kind fanatic, so we’re really happy that TG is roosted here in our hometown.

The new kid on the block, Pulpit Rock (hey, a rhyme!), has no trouble meeting the good beer bar that’s set in our community. Pulpit Rock’s beers are super tasty and their tap room (and, in warmer weather, the large patio area) are fun- and people-filled pretty much all the time.

PulpitRockBeer

So. You should probably plan to visit both places. And you should probably plan to walk. It is also worth noting that both of these tap rooms allow you to bring your own food in (and don’t serve food), so plan ahead accordingly.

No matter where you’ve been exploring, it’s bound to be time for a little food in your belly. Grab a quick lunch at Oneota Co-op (delicious local salad bar, panini, and to-go fare) or Koreana (sushi and other Asian dishes). Or you could have the one and only Mabe’s pizza or our favorite “Taco Joe” from Happy Joe’s delivered to one of the breweries (if you go that route)! Finish your meal off with one of our favorite afternoon treats: a cake bite, procured at Beyond the Bar Bakery on Water Street, or the chocolate cake at Java John’s.

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Decided not to drink this weekend? There’s fun for you too!

For Aryn’s perfect alcohol-free afternoon, she would go to a yoga class at the Yoga Studio or Yoga Room downtown and then get a massage at Day Spring Spa or The Massage Room. Oooh! Or a session at the Acupuncture Center! Or a pedicure at one of the great salons in town. Benji would enjoy a little hike or a spin class at Reefuel, or maybe a canoe down the Upper Iowa River – you go ahead and decide what you’d like best.

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For dinner tonight, make a reservation at Restauration. Chef Tom Skold puts together a really tasty, ever-changing menu, and it’s fun to dine in that lovely Hotel Winneshiek. Or, if things are looking too busy at the Hotel, McCaffery’s Dolce Vita is a fun option. It’s right past Twin Springs Park (which would be a beautiful place for a quick hike before dinner). We love the thin crust pizza cooked to perfection in a wood-fired oven. Plus, there’s live music on select evenings in the summer. Owner Jim McCaffrey writes a column for Inspire(d) pretty regularly, and he’s a hoot to chat with, so tell him we say hello!

To cap off the evening, take a stroll through downtown…maybe with some ice cream at Sugar Bowl or Whippy Dip! Tip: Phelps or Palisades Parks both offer good sunset-viewing.

WhippyDip

Sunday

It’s your last morning in town. Coffee time? How about Java John’s? While you’re there, make sure to get one of Roxie’s favorites: a cinnamon roll! We love their cappuccino muffin tops too.

If you’re looking for something a little stronger, we recommend Bloody Marys at the Haymarket or the Bloody Mary bar at Rubaiyat. In fact, if you’re heading to Rubaiyat, you may as well go ahead and grab a booth or a table at the bar – the brunch menu is great. Or if you’re looking for down-home, no-frills breakfast, you can’t go wrong at the Family Table. The pancakes are truly plate-sized, and the service is quick and friendly.

RoxieHiking

Looking for a way to entertain the kiddos?

If we knew you were bringing your littles along, we probably would have outlined a totally different trip! Better add Vesterheim – think giant boat inside, Norwegian artifacts, and fun displays that you can walk around in – to the list. The Porter House Museum is stocked with cool rocks and a massive bug collection. And ArtHaus and the Clay Studio are perfect for creative kids looking to express themselves (check calendars for classes or open studio hours). Are you visiting us in the fall? Pinter’s Pumpkin Patch is so much fun every year – Roxie loves it!

PorterHouse

So hey! It’s been fun to have you in town. We hope you’ll come again! If you do, let us know at facebook.com/iloveinspired. Already a townie? We hope you get out and support local businesses in this amazing community of yours – we are so lucky to live here! XOXO

Get on your calendar:

Winneshiek Music Festival (January)

Oneota Film Festival (March)

Women’s Weekend Out (April)

Decorah Time Trials Mountain Bike Race (April)

Winneshiek Farmers Market (Wednesdays, 3-6 pm / Saturdays, 8-11 am, May-Oct)

Lawn Chair Night (in front of the Winneshiek County Courthouse, Thursdays, 7 pm, June-August)

Nordic Fest (July)

Loop-de-loop 5K & Half Marathon (September)

Northeast Iowa Studio Tour (October)

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Traveling to Decorah

Hokah_MN_-_Como_Falls

SPOTlight: Hokah, Minnesota

Heading from La Crosse down Highway 44, the river at your left, bluffs to the right, the scenic zen takes over (keep your eyes on the road, driver!). Need a quick break? Stop in Hokah to check out a cool waterfall – right before the big curve up into town, turn left into the fire station parking lot. Hop out and walk on foot to Como Falls Park – it’s got that lovely waterfall plus a few spots to have a picnic or a quick run around.
www.hokah.info/recreation/comoPark

SpringGrove_watertower

SPOTlight: Spring Grove, Minnesota

When you’re headed back to La Crosse after your weekend, definitely save time to stop in Spring Grove. This little town is, as they say, pretty neat – stop to see the Giants of the Earth Heritage Center, grab a bite to eat at Doc’s Blue Moose, a drink at Norski’s, or even a movie at best stadium-seated theater in the region, Spring Grove Cinema.
www.springgrovemn.com

 

SPOTlight: Lanesboro Minnesota

From Rochester, you can pop over to Lanesboro for a little Brigadoon-style fun. Take in a show at Commonweal Theatre, awesome art at Lanesboro Art Center, or unhitch your bike for a ride on the Root River Trail. It’s a fun place to spend an afternoon or even a day!
www.lanesboro.com

SPOTlight: Harmony & Preston, Minnesota

On the way back, you can schedule time to check out southern Minnesota – Harmony (lunch at Stella’s or a little exploring at Niagara Cave) or Preston (Forestville State Park is cool, and the area’s a trout fishing hotspot!). Maybe you’ll even want to pop over to Four Daughters Winery. It’s a little out of your way, but it’s a fun stop and the food is great.
www.exploreharmony.com
gethookedonpreston.com

beerSPOTlight: Elkader, Iowa

Coming from the south?

Make your way up the river through Guttenberg or stop over in Elkader. Elkader’s got an awesome white water play area right downtown on the river! Other highlights we love? Schera’s for amazing Algerian food (their shwarmas and falafel are favorites of ours) and there’s a great new park on the east side of town that’s perfect for some kiddo energy-busting. Check out our Elkader Day Trip at iloveinspired.com for more ideas!
www.elkader-iowa.com

(SPOTlight photos courtesy area chambers & visitor centers)

Read the Fall 2015 Inspire(d) Online!

Fall_15_Cover

You get a sneak peek, you unicorns, you! Check out the Fall 2015 Inspire(d) Magazine online here today.

Here’s what you’ll get to read:
Steam Sisters Clara Bergan • More Than a Hobby: Paula Brown. LüSa Organics. Tim Blanksi. Lori Biwer-Stewart. Yellow River Dairy • Driftless Day Trips: Cassville / Potosi • Good Gourd! Infographic • Sum of Your Business: Jessica & Derek Balsley • Probit: Marvin Wicks • & More!