We know why you’re taking a road trip this time of year. The leaves are changing, it’s sweater weather, and you know that winter roads may keep you home during a decent amount of your weekends. Fall is here and you’re looking back at another summer of your life going into the history books. But you know there’s still time. One more memorable trip into the Iowa wilderness before you those Thanksgiving plans. One more family corps of discovery to an obscure area because you know you’ll run into a pumpkin patch, orchard, or Oktoberfest somewhere! The skies are blue, clear, and the air is as crisp as that apple you just plucked off the tree. Get off that pumpkin-spiced fanny and let’s squeeze in a little more exploring. Yes, these places we have listed are great when it comes to scenery, but we also know that you may need that little something extra to get the car out on the Iowa roads. Click on the links below to see what these amazing Iowa autumn communities have waiting for you!
Van Buren County
The Villages of Van Buren are always ready for visitors, but the fall is an especially great time. And by great time, I mean this weekend, October 8th to 10th! Their annual Scenic Drive Festival is loaded with activities, shopping, food, and great small town Iowa charm. We’ve visited Van Buren County often and we’re heading back again!
Iowa’s Loess Hills is an experience any outdoorsman would love and Glenwood, IA is one of the best launchpads for your trip into the hills. A lively town square with a one of a kind brewery and a winery right on the main drag.
There’s no doubt that Storm Lake is one of Iowa’s top summer destinations, but don’t forget about what it can treat you to in the fall. The lake is surrounded by trees and walking/biking paths. It’s also home to one of our favorite museums that’s entirely outdoors, dozens of local art pieces, some of THE BEST Mexican food in Iowa, amazing Laotian cuisine, and is one of Iowa’s most ethnically diverse communities.
The City of Dubuque has so much to offer with an incredible amount to see in the surrounding areas. Such as Breitbach’s Country Dining, the oldest restaurant in Iowa located in Balltown. Historic cathedrals in Dyersville, Peosta, Holy Cross, and Luxemburg. And do not pass up The Field of Dreams and National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium!
Adams & Cass Counties
We talk so much about the leaves on the trees and rightfully so. These areas have some opportunities to see the foliage, but a trip through Iowa’s Wind Turbine landscaped countryside is one of the state’s best drives. Especially right before harvest. The golden fields through the hilly countryside creates some inspiring scenes with endless turbines as far as the eye can see. Be sure to reserve a cabin on Lake Icaria near Corning!
Where do we begin? Some of our most viewed trips on The Iowa Gallivant have come from places such as the Hurstville Lime Kilns, Maquoketa Caves, and Iowa’s only island city of Sabula. Caving, wetland wadding, and island hopping, great for all seasons but especially scenic in the Fall. Only in Jackson County!
This is the county that just keeps on giving for Team Goodvin. The amazing Mississippi River scenery meets the rich history of places like Keokuk and Fort Madison. And off the beaten track towns like Donnellson and Montrose. How far will you travel for one of Iowa’s best steaks, biggest fish sandwiches, great craft beer, and a GIANT inflatable pillow?
The Amana Colonies is major hub for tourists and local Iowans searching for unique gifts, clothes, comfort foods, wines, and some of the best beer in world. A loop around the colonies is never a bad idea during the fall.And don’t forget about one of Iowa’s best restaurants that happens to located in the tiny town of Ladora. Do your shopping in Amana. Have your meal at The Ladora Bank Bistro!
Southern Iowa is absolutely loaded with some of Iowa’s best scenery. Near the Missouri border is Decatur County and the town of Leon. Just outside of town is beautiful Little River Recreation Area. Famous for some of Iowa’s best Walleye fishing and peppered with up cabins you can reserve during your stay. Leon is a classic Jefferson Highway town along its historic route.
Rural Johnson County
There’s a lot to get accomplished inside the metro area of Johnson County. It’s also very easy to find yourself in some beautiful rural areas this fall with some great off the beaten path and roadside attractions. Scenic drives through Lake Macbride State Park, a tasting at Cedar Ridge Winery, a stroll across the historic Sutliff Bridge, an amazing surf and turf special in Windham, and a dozen of the worlds greatest cider donuts at Wilson’s Orchard. You may even run into the old asylum at the Johnson County Poor Farm.
Another river run up the Mississippi brings you to some spectacular parks and places to unwind. Wildcat Den State Park and Saulsbury Bridge provide some wonderful hiking in the area. Ardon Creek Winery lures you in while you can also enjoy the countryside with breweries and plenty of places to get a tasty meal in Downtown Muscatine.
Another great drive to capture the wonder that is Iowa’s harvest season along with some very popular public areas including Lake Darling State Park. You can visit great Amish and Mennonite owned shops, bakeries, and grocers near Kalona and swing into the City of Washington and take in their historic town square. Need a place to crash for the night, weekend, or next few months? Look into the beautiful rural bed and breakfast called So Dear to My Heart near Ainsworth.
This is only 12 of many regions that can supply some ideal autumn getaways in Iowa. If you can’t find your way to these communities, then do what you can to make some memories closer to home or beyond. And let your friends at The Iowa Gallivant know about what you discover. Thanks for reading!