Family Adventures · South Central Iowa

The Christmas Return to Ottumwa-Part 1 of 2


Ottumwa, IA: Wapello County

The holiday season is nearing its peak and that doesn’t mean anyone in the Ottumwa area will be slowing down when it comes to jolly ‘ole times in southern Iowa. We’ve made a few trips here and each one produces memorable moments like what you’re going to see in our recent trip back to one of our favorite Christmas towns in Iowa!


Edd the Florist was the first stop because we needed some of their beautiful flowers for one of the most unique land marks in all of Iowa later in the day. Owned and operated for decades by a family who immigrated to Ottumwa from Germany, they have plenty of gifts and quality plants and flowers all year long. Now for that historic someone we wanted to pay tribute to….

We have a sweet spot when it comes to our pets at home which made this memorial a must see for us.

The legend of this memorial has many stories behind it here at the Ottumwa Cemetery and you can find many of them on the Greater Ottumwa CVB blog page. My personal favorite is that some locals believe that a trusted family dog loved its owner so much it would visit him everyday even after he died and placed this in the cemetery. These are the kind of stories we look for on The Iowa Gallivant. Make the extra turn and learn about the legends and history of the area, one mysterious pooch memorial at a time.


The historic Otttumwa Cemetery also has an iconic wood carving memorializing Civil War soldiers. The large statue overlooks the section that has veterans placed there laying to rest with the look of forever standing guard by their side. Let’s get to the downtown area and get a proper supply of energy for the rest of the afternoon.


Top Hat Coffee is right on Main Street and this stunningly beautiful building is much more than a fantastic place to get your favorite beverage from skilled baristas. They have hot breakfast items, wonderful lunches, and Blessings Soup Kitchen that provides food for the community. That’s a concept I’ll happily support any day!


Lunchtime was full steam ahead at Market on Main with a wide variety of venues to choose from. Just how we like it! Watch the video below and see just a sample of what you can get here.


The age old story of walking into a place and having traditional wood fired pizza, flavorful Filipino pasta with rich custard pie, and perfect burritos rolled in a fresh made from scratch tortilla. That’s another day in the life of The Iowa Gallivant!


After a big meal, one should take a stroll. The day was mild in Ottumwa and the Historic Canteen Alley was an absolute pleasure to discover. We soaked in the afternoon rays while admiring the modern works of public art. A community that welcomes the arts is absolute treasure to everyone and artists can very much find a home for their work and a convenient loft for themselves.


Paintings, mosaics and sculptures aren’t the only pieces of art nearby us. Canteen Lunch in the Alley is undisputed king of loose meat sandwiches in Greater Ottumwa and possibly the world. If Ottumwa had their version of Lady Liberty ,it might look like the picture on the top left. They recommend topping off the meal with a rich slice of peanut butter pie!


The evenings are illuminated with some of the best displays in Iowa during the holiday season in Ottumwa. The drive-thru arrangements in City Park bring folks from miles and miles away every year and it caps off the night even better than the last time we visited. Make sure you take time to stroll through Central Park as well. The Lights of Love display is a way for community members to remember loved ones during the season by dedicating a Christmas tree in their honor. You will truly feel the spirit of the holidays here as hundreds of lights shine like crystals in the Ottumwa nights.

*Our stay at Hotel Ottumwa was complimentary and the opinions expressed are of our own. Thank you to Sara Gerot for assisting us with our stay. Now, let’s keep Gallivanting!


That was an eventful day and our old friends at Hotel Ottumwa welcomed us in once again. This historic hotel is positioned perfectly in Downtown Ottumwa and is an easy walk from so many places this area of town has to offer. We slept great and it prepared us for our second day in Wapello County. You’ll have to see what’s next in part two and I don’t think you’re going to be disappointed with our last minute shopping tips in Ottumwa!

Thank you to Andy Wartenberg of the Greater Ottumwa CVB for helping us with another great trip and guiding us to places you knew we’d love!


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