Family Adventures · Northwest Iowa

The Paullina Experience

They could not have thought of a better motto!

Paullina, IA: O’Brien County

One of the greatest autumn road trips Team Goodvin has ever taken occurred recently and the town of Paullina was our NW-IA hub for the majority of it. And that sounds like a plan for anytime you’re in this wild region. We had an amazing experience throughout this area with an incredible amount of memories from all over. But the Paullina experience was one that just kept producing moment after moment. Let’s get started!

You always start with appetizers! And I had the opportunity to sample a Paullina classic fresh from the grinder and free from any heating element. That’s what you heard…We’re talking original Ground Round. Incredibly lean ground beef with salt, black pepper, chopped onion and all on cracker. The locals have been serving and eating this raw for generations and they’re not letting up on the tradition. The Prairie Market has another local favorite in the meat department and it’s their fresh ham patties coated in corn flakes. Just pan fry and enjoy that flaky-crispy crust and never let up. Visitors and homesick locals living abroad say that this is something they can never leave home without a round or two of these. And look at the lower right corner! The Yoo-Hoo flavored candy bars might be all over the place but we didn’t know they existed until we got to Paullina. Mind officially blown! And no they did not make it to Halloween.

Time for some shopping and why not get more NW-IA home cookn’ while we browse! Old Market Antiques some of the best antique selections we’ve seen on The Iowa Gallivant with a lot of “I don’t need this but there’s no way I’m leaving with out it” moments. And look at those rolls! Baked fresh everyday by Marlys & Steve who own and operate the entire facility. Shop hard and eat hardy here. By the way, stay tuned for even more delights this one of kind destination is serving up.

The antiquing didn’t stop with just one stop. ND Millwerk had some very nostalgic antiques that could be found in many classic farms and now they’re on the show floor waiting for a new home, kinda like those rescue pets that want to be picked real, real bad. But what really makes this place special is the unbelievable selection in antique, retro and vintage mill work. Enthusiasts from all over the map know that ND’s has the goods on this market and you’ll leave wanting to redo your entire house. Seriously, I nearly bought Victorian chair rail for our car. And I might just do that anyway!

Main Street Iowa and its iconic landmarks could be seen as we strolled the sidewalks. And the sign on the right makes me smile every time. Yield to them in Paullina and everywhere. Our farmers are the reason we’re all here and we love all they do for us. The main drag had some great stops but one of Iowa’s best was just a block away.

The Wonderland Theater is a true Iowa living, breathing and entertaining historical landmark. The movie theater has upheld some its beautiful historic integrity from the lights to the buttons on the walls. This theater does have some modern touches though. It has one of Iowa’s best sound system and a brand new digital projector and all its sparkling quality showing up on the screen. The story of the Wonderland doesn’t stop there. The entire operation is headed up by a 100% volunteer staff of locals. From the ticket sales, cleaning, candy stocking and popcorn popping are done by some of the proudest locals Iowa has to offer. And I’ll say it again…They are superheros that preserve our history and they work their tails off here in Paullina.

When you’re late for breakfast there’s always brunch and JWs Bar & Grill has one of the best in the area. Baked ham, slow roasted beef and onions, fried chicken, drop biscuits, breakfast sausage, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, pancakes, rolls, eggs, and more! Like gravy on EVERYTHING! If NW-IA has flavor it would taste like this. A perfect way to wrap up our trip to Paullina. Wait. Let’s go walk this off.

Mill Creek Park is an incredible getaway and it’s just down the county road from town. The walking path and scenery is pure O’Brien Outdoors. The scenery with its changing fall colors, wind turbines in the distance, and all that lakefront beauty. Get your cabin booked quickly because the word is out!


Paullina produced some memories of a lifetime for us and it was the perfect way to link up to many of Northwest Iowa’s best areas. You think this is all we experienced in Paullina? Nope! You need to stay tuned and you will need to see the amazing place we had the absolute pleasure to stay in. I guess you can say it was pretty “suite”.

9 thoughts on “The Paullina Experience

  1. It was fun reading of your excitement with Paullina. I grew up there and my father and mother had a small meat market in the antique bldg. and they lived in the suite above. Glad the Hartongs were able to use the bldg. to promote tourism in this mighty little town. Sue Pauling Schulz

  2. WOW. What a great tribute to a great community, we came in 1975 and left in 1978, after all these years some of our dearest friends originated in PAULLINA!!

  3. WOW. What a great tribute to a great community, we came in 1975 and left in 1978, after all these years some of our dearest friends originated in PAULLINA!!

  4. I loved your wonderful, enthusiastic ar theticle about Paullina, Iowa, my hometown, and the beautiful pictures. You really captured the heart and soul of my small rural town. I especially enjoyed the part about the Wonderland Theater, which was a big part of my childhood, as my grandparents, Bill and Ann Johannsen, owned and operated it for 25 years, with the help of my parents. It closed in 1960, due to the invention and availability of television. People no longer saw a reason to drive into town and pay for entertainment when they could stay home and get it for free. It was a sad time for our family. I am so very grateful to all of the volunteers who keep it going. Thanks again for the great article.

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