Aerial view of Pella, Iowa, a Dutch community.

7 Most Vibrant Towns in Iowa

Iowa is a midwestern US state full of vibrant small towns that make for the perfect travel itinerary. With plenty of historical and natural landmarks to consider, like the Dyersville Doll Museum or the Vermeer Windmill, it is worth checking out this state for memorable views and fun locales within a humid continental climate. No matter how far one has traveled across the country or how experienced they are in exploration, there is so much to see and do here!


 Panoramic photo of the Lansing family farmhouse and baseball diamond in Dyersville, Iowa, USA.
 Panoramic photo of the Lansing family farmhouse and baseball diamond in Dyersville, Iowa, USA. Editorial credit: Bill Chizek /

A Victorian small town with 4,632 inhabitants, Dyersville has a lot of memorable hotspots. The Basilica of St. Francis Xavier is a medieval Gothic church quite famous for its vibrant architecture. At the Baseball Hall of Dreams, museum lovers will likely be fascinated by passionate stories of Taiwanese and Ugandan baseball players who helped this town fall in love with the sport and movies like "Field of Dreams." History fans will appreciate the 18th-century Dyer-Botsford Historical House & Doll Museum, where Victorian hand-carvings and German antiques are mixed with over 2,500 types of dolls.

For vibrant shopping in town, Plaza Antique Mall has an abundance of fine china and pottery creations perfect for taking home. At Fuse Restaurant, tourists can enjoy splendid cocktails and kitchen vibrance while chatting with high-spirited locals who love the sound of live music. Locales like the 7 Hills North may be more appealing for refreshing craft beer and thrilling arcade games.


View of the Mississippi River through the trees in Mcgregor, Iowa.
View of the Mississippi River through the trees in Mcgregor, Iowa. 

Also known as "The Pocket City," McGregor is a stunning small town with 726 locals. State Highway 76 is one of the primary reasons people come here, with its 19th-century vibrance and commercial specialty shops. Travelers who want to see the Mississippi River in depth may like to trek across Pikes Peak State Park, where forest overlooks and spectacular views of the Midwest are common.

For literature lovers, Rivertown Fine Books has a lot of novels and memorable collectibles from the 1900s. Another comfort spot is Paper Moon, where highly-rated gifts and bizarre jewelry create more memories. Gourmet shoppers can enjoy vibrant, homegrown goods and charming sandwiches at the By the Spoonful locale. At McGregor Historical Museum, tourists can learn a lot about this town with its frontier exhibits and northeastern Iowa history.


Cody Road Historic District is the main street through Le Claire, including the Central Business District.

Cody Road Historic District is the main street through Le Claire. By Kepper66, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

A small shopping town with 4,729 residents, LeClaire is home to landmarks like the Buffalo Bill Museum, where visitors can see Wild West props and replicas come to life through guided tours. Wide River Winery is a great spot for wine tasting and togetherness which create a memorable trip. Vintage furniture is an excellent motivator for tourists who want to shop at Antique Archaeology, which is famous for its welcoming vibes.

For unforgettable handmade fudge and caramel candies worth a return trip, travelers can visit The Shameless Chocoholic. Razzleberries Fine Gifts is another locale that may be worth it with its vibrant assortment of ukuleles and fancy hats. At Aunt Hattie's gift shop, one can find unique rural trinkets that are not likely to be found elsewhere!


Eldora Public Library building in Iowa.

Eldora Public Library building in Iowa. By Keith Snyder, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

A charming small town of 2,562, Eldora is a truly ambient destination. Natural vibrance can be found at Pine Lake State Park, which has 668 acres of rolling farmlands, deep ravines, and Iowa River pleasures. At Backwoods Gallery, one can find cute and memorable home decor that is sold by local artisans who love woodcarving and purse creations. Themed artworks can also be found at Daniel Adams Fine Art Gallery, a locale full of beautiful paintings and Floridian cultural influence.

Travelers can check out Hardin County Farm Museum for family-friendly pancake breakfasts and tractor farm history. At the Pickin' Preacher, custom heirlooms and antique conversations are the best ways to feel involved in town. Center Grove Orchard has countless apples and pumpkins for sale, along with a lively corn maze for all ages!


Spirit Lake is the largest town in the Okoboji Great Lakes region of Iowa, known for tourism.

Spirit Lake is the largest town in the Okoboji Great Lakes region of Iowa.

A famous summer town with 732 residents, Okoboji is home to various natural landmarks and commercial spots. Speir Park is quite memorable with its airplane take-off and landing spots that may appeal to kids watching from right across the street. Kenue Park has 75 acres of vibrant oak savannas and calming meadows that make the trip more pleasant. At Pikes Point State Park, dozens of swimmers can be found bathing under the sun while admiring a gorgeous view of West Okoboji Lake.

Higgins Museum is a nice historical landmark with lots of education related to the 1970s era of National Bank Notes. The Okoboji Store is a modern tourist spot in town with its grilled chicken cuisine and waterfront views of the Great Lakes. Anyone who likes vintage style may want to look no further than Okoboji Classic Cars, with its memorable collection of automobiles and t-shirts that are worth the visit.


Tulip Time Festival Parade in Pella, Iowa, USA.
Tulip Time Festival Parade in Pella, Iowa, USA. Editorial credit: yosmoes815 /

A Dutch-inspired town of 10,950 inhabitants, Pella makes tourists feel like they are living in a part of the Netherlands. The Vermeer Windmill is quite famous for its traditional 1850s architecture and Dutch milling history, and it has a fantastic view of the town at the top! For entertainment and evening fun, the Pella Opera House is an energetic and memorable locale where top-tier performances take place.

At Big Rock Park, 83 acres of native timber and trail mazes make for a beautiful jogging experience. Brinkhoff Park has blooming pink flowerbeds and vibrant picnic spots for families. For historic beauty during the trip, the Klokkenspel has mechanical figures in a stone courtyard that resemble the town's influence. The Molengracht Plaza has over 100,000 square feet of Dutch retail shopping treats, while those hungry can grab a bite at Jaarsma Bakery if they feel like having traditional European appetizers.

Fort Madison

Downtown Fort Madison, Iowa, along Avenue G in the Fort Madison Downtown Commercial Historic District.
Downtown Fort Madison, Iowa, along Avenue G in the Fort Madison Downtown Commercial Historic District.

With 9,940 residents, Fort Madison brings out the best of vibrant landmarks. At Old Fort Madison, tourists can see 1800s southeastern history and widened bluffs that are related to the town's first U.S. military outpost. The Sheaffer Pen Museum is a creative spot for travelers who want to take a closer look at fountain pen history and 19th-century jewelry, a type of locale one may not find elsewhere in town!

Buffalo61 Bar & Grille is a vibrant stop for crowded atmospheres and homemade steak cuisine. Canine Corral Dog Park is also close by, with its gigantic greenery meant for dog-friendly activities and memorable animal outings. At Riverview Park, travelers can enjoy 35 acres of a vast marina with a formal flower garden and reflection pond. Plus, the pond becomes an ice skating rink during the winter season!

Discover Iowa's Unforgettable Charm

All of these small towns hold so much vibrance and glamor that would make it easy to book a trip to Iowa. Visiting the "Hawkeye State" means being exposed to a lot of fun locales and landmarks that will bring fond memories and happiness to travelers. Having this list in hand, guarantees travel success for anyone wanting to witness the Midwest.

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