2021 T-Bone Trail · Family Adventures · West Central Iowa

Rediscovering Providence & Old Manilla in Iowa: Returning to the Denison Area

*The T-Bone Trail brought us back to Crawford County where we’re proud to have become regulars. Over the past five years, we have trekked back to this Western Iowa community for RAGBRAI coverage, Tri City BBQ festivals, and more. Now we’re back for another project while reconnecting with folks we couldn’t have been happier to see again. We were proud to be hosted by the Chamber & Development Council of Crawford County. Some of the products, meals, and services that we were provided with were complimentary. The views expressed in this blog post are of our own. Now, let’s Gallivant!

Roadside America & History

That’s a perfect scene of where Western Iowa locals have exceled through the centuries. Manilla’s locomotive welcome sign to the Crawford County Freedom Rock with an American fighter jet. We’ve made it back to the Denison area!

Crawford County, Iowa

Like we said before, we’ve made coming to Crawford County into bit of a routine on The Iowa Gallivant. We’ve experienced much of what the area has to offer, and yet we learned so much more during our recent trip back. I’m so happy to be returning to places we’ve gallivanted before and seeing folks in person that have crossed my mind during the days of 2020 and early 2021. I wondered about so many and this was an excellent way to start our summer season of road tripping. Let’s head to Manilla!

It’s been a while, Klondike Hotel. This mysterious time capsule was without a doubt on my mind during random moments since the last time we were here.

Historic, magnetic, ghostly, beautiful, and able to pull me in each time I get close to Manilla, Iowa. The Klondike Hotel and Museum is one of the wonders of Iowa that I feel connected to, not just because it’s become a paranormal destination. Yes, I love good and haunting story. I especially love it when it comes from an old hotel turned into a beautiful museum in small-town Iowa. Skeptics are just as welcomed here as believers when it comes to the ghost hunting world. So are travelers, historians, and anyone else ready to indulge themselves in some local lore wherever they may be.

The stairway at the Klondike is known as a spiritual conduit. Guides have said that it has constant activity and acts as a depot of sorts. Fitting since Manilla, Iowa is known for its long history with the railroads.
This was our second visit to the Kodiak Hotel and second picture together here. This time in front of an antique mirror.

Gigi has always been a sport when it comes to local museums and the stories of spirits in buildings we have visited. 2018 was our last stroll through this old hotel and much of it was the same. However, it still caught our attention as if it was the first time going through its rooms. Once again the natural sunlight was flooding through the windows and creating its own art among the relics of Crawford County’s past. Each time I have been here I have had my daughter by my side. There’s a range of emotions and questions I get when I’m here. It also hits the sensory parts of your brain in a way you can’t feel everywhere. You can look at the items but can’t touch them. You can hear the floors creek below you and breathe in that sunlight through the air all over the Klondike. The aromas of age in many forms are throughout corner after corner and room after room. I know what I feel here and some of it is on a personal level that I think doesn’t always have to be spelled out. Whether you believe in the paranormal or not, I don’t care. One thing for sure is that things are still happening here, and to me it feels like they will be endlessly.

From one piece of history to another. Denison’s beautiful architecture is all over and can be seen inside and out at the W.A. McHenry House.

Where do your thoughts go when it comes to historic concentrations of beautiful Victorian era architecture in Iowa? You may naturally gravitate to our metro areas and the many Mississippi River communities, and that would be a great start for your search. However, Western Iowa’s cities hold a great amount of history and with that comes old world styles and architecture that literally popped up from the ground. One of the historic homes displaying a Denison slice of history is the W.A. McHenry House. There was a lot more to this visit than I ever expected.

It was here that I learned of a legendary bull that happened to be owned by William A. McHenry. Not only was this family important to Denison history, they were VERY important to the American beef industry.
The sire of all sires in America. Earl Marshall the Bull….Behind Gigi of course.

Do you love a juicy and flavorful cut of Angus beef? Folks all over America would say yes to this. It’s quality is marketed in all sorts of ways for good reason. The Angus Beef industry in America has its origins in Crawford County and it has one single bull to thank for it. A prolific sire known as Earl Marshall and his decedents are everywhere in modern times. He began his story near Denison in the early 1900s and the rest is beefy history. That Angus burger, prime rib, T-Bone, pot roast and more of it’s beefy majesty started right here in Crawford County. Bowing down to this likeness of Earl Marshall at the fairgrounds is absolutely acceptable. Click here to see our video at old Earl Marshall! You know who else if world famous from Denison?

You can’t take a walk in Uptown-Denison without getting to know Donna Reed! The hometown of one of the biggest stars in Hollywood’s golden age was right here in Crawford County. The roadside attraction hunters love making their stops here in Denison.


Kristy Zenk met us at the front door once again, and her and husband Duane hosted us at the beautiful Providence Inn. 1517 1st AVE South, Denison, Iowa 712-263-5548

Providence Inn Bed & Breakfast was welcoming us to Denison for the second time during our years of traveling to the area. Kristy was eager to answer the door after we rang the bell and her amazing smile was once again beaming at us like I knew it would be. Providence Inn had the feeling of coming home with the Zenk family, making this emotion come out quite naturally.

From the parlor to the staircase. The patio to second floor. Providence Inn keeps the opulent Victorian era on display everywhere you may enjoy yourself here in this home.

The toughest decision you’ll have to make upon arriving is where you might relax first. There’s many options and we haven’t even gotten to the rooms yet! I recommend that patio right out of the gate. Breathe in that fresh air and soak in the summer while you can from the surroundings at the Providence Inn.

Each room is comfortable and shows it’s guests a unique style.
You knew this part was coming up! Don’t turn down Kristy’s French toast!

There’s beauty everywhere at the Providence Inn. It’s also walking distance to Uptown-Denison and through historic neighborhoods possessing more of the 19th and early 20th century architecture that sprang up in Denison. The story of the Providence Inn goes hand in hand with the story of Denison. I love the tangible feeling of history while I cuddle-up to places like this bed and breakfast. Be sure to keep your eye on The Iowa Gallivant as we have much more to say about our recent stay at Denison’s Providence Inn!

Stay Active

An afternoon at the beach!

Yellow Smoke County Park is just minutes from Denison and has always been a go-to when we’re spending warm summer days in Crawford County. We spent the afternoon here and soaked up the sun in this scenic rec area. Iowa’s county parks are some of our favorite destinations and I’m glad to see them growing in popularity and utilized by more locals and travelers alike. Seeing Iowa through these lands can be one of the best ways to explore your own backyard. Find your local county park and start marking more off the list with Yellow Smoke in Crawford County being one of them!

Let’s Eat Steak!

There’s a Buck Snort in many Western Iowa towns and now Uptown-Denison has their own!

The new franchisee of a Western Iowa concept welcomed us into the brand new Buck Snort here in Denison and it was another T-Bone steak adventure for us! The handcrafted bar, local craft beers, hunting lodge decor, and delicious meal was ready to be showcased on this Iowa Beef filed trail. We’ve had plenty of meals in Denison and this was one of the most memorable…

Fresh salad with plenty of veggies and shredded cheese to get this Buck Snort party going!
Loaded baked potato, T-Bone, and house made strawberry fluff on one plate!
Get after it, Gigi! That T-Bone was made for a grrrrrr face!
And that strawberry fluff made a big smile on JayJay!

It was like a potluck and a classic steak fry on one plate! Juicy T-Bone paired with a glorious baked potato. That’s a classic meal right there especially when you have a big side salad as the opener. The two different styles of beef that a T-Bone gives you is a welcomed sensation in the spectrum of beefy suppers. One thing you don’t get with every meal is the sweet and nostalgic bowl of homemade strawberry fluff. That is Iowa feel-good fare throughout every bite during the whole meal! Here’s to many years in Uptown-Denison, Buck Snort! Click here and watch our video from The Buck Snort-Denison! And stay tuned for more of what we have to say about this great restaurant!

Bonus Beef

A short trip to the outskirts of Charter Oak is a family that puts the vintage in every bite of beef they produce!

Vintage Beef is not what you see at every beef producer’s farm. The Gress family opened it’s doors and gates on a very hot day to show a Gallivanting guy like me how they operate here in Crawford County. I’ve been to a lot of farms and they all have a freezer full of meat that they have raised on their own. The Gress family is no different, but they also sell the beef they raise right on site and just yards from where the cattle were fed during their time at the farm. Do they sell the beef in a machine shed, barn, conventional farm building, or even in the house? Nope, nope, and nope. The Gress family has their beef ready to be loaded up into your boxes from one of the multiple train depots that were moved to this property many years ago. That’s a repurposing concept that you do not hear about on a daily basis. Click here and watch our video from Vintage beef. And when you’re done with that, you can check out what the Gress family has ready for you on their website!

Ice cream and burgers!

Dairy Queen doesn’t make it on The Iowa Gallivant on a regular basis. Except when we get a chance to be in Denison. This particular DQ is very much a historic one and it has streams of customers that put in constant orders from open to close day after day. It features a menu that you won’t see at any other DQ in America. Yes, you can get the traditional ice cream delights, but there’s more to this Denison institution. Just take the advice I’m about to give when you’re in town. ORDER A BURGER FROM THE DENISON DAIRY QUEEN! It’s just different here. It really is. Just how different is it? Let’s just say that this is a DQ in Iowa, but my favorite item on the menu is called the Nebraskaland. An all beef patty that’s breaded, deep fried, topped with cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, and all the condiments you want. That’s right folks, come to Crawford County and enjoy Iowa beef with a Nebraska name!

Time for another walk around Uptown-Denison and work off that breaded burger I just had!

Denison, Manilla, Charter Oak. Just three towns we ventured through on this gallivant of Crawford County. We need to see others. Westside, Kiron, Vail, and more. It’s why there will never be “too many” trips to this area. We met up with old friends and shook hands with folks we met for the first time on this excursion. That was the exact goal I had when I set out on this Western Iowa gravely and blacktopped cruise. I needed to see Crawford County again. From the hilly vantage points of Denison, the rural landscapes off of the Lincoln Heritage Highway, and the endless countryside that flanks highways 141 and 59. The long Sunday of a Crawford County summer day was just what this longtime traveler was hungry for. Thank you.

The cross-country Lincoln Highway trekkers motor into Denison on the daily. I’m looking forward to another historic road trip to Crawford County myself.

Book your stay at the Providence Inn Bed & Breakfast on their website.

Like Chamber & Development Council of Crawford County on Facebook.

Like Western Iowa Tourism Region on Facebook.

Like the Iowa Beef Council on Facebook and keep up with info, updates, events, and promotions!

See everything we’ve covered on The Iowa Gallivant in the West Central Region of Iowa!

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