*Hop on the Western Skies Scenic Byway and you’ll find yourself on the winding country roads of Shelby County! Our visit was sponsored by Shelby County Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Some of the goods, services, and meals were complimentary. The views expressed in this blog post are of our own. Now, let’s Gallivant!
Through renowned Danish Villages and into Western Skies. Past the giant windmill while admiring graceful pizza pies.
Ripening grapes on countryside vines to rural whisky casks and Scandinavia’s honey wines.
You’ll see Shelby’s Defiance and all of Panama’s lore and more of Iowa’s bounty through a purple door.
Welcome to Shelby County, my friends….
Milk and Honey is one of Western Iowa’s most well known restaurants and I will always have a little giddy-up in my step for all day breakfast joints. They also have their lunch items available during breakfast, too. What a concept! And if you love supporting Iowa businesses a long with local farmers, then Milk and Honey is your Harlan, Iowa go-to!
Roadside Attractions & History
Elk Horn, Iowa has the most eye popping welcome center in the entire state and it’s story is also one of the most inspirational tales you’ll hear during your travels. Built in 1848-Denmark and later dismantled for a cruise to its new Western Iowa home. This is the iconic Danish Windmill that’s been apart of Shelby County since 1976! The inspirational story behind it is that volunteers were the labor force that put it all back together when hundreds of pieces of the authentic Danish windmill arrived in Elk Horn. Community members coming together and spending their own free time on a sought after landmark to represent their heritage. Many in the Shelby County area grew up with stories of the “old country” and the Danish windmill was a necessary dream that came true for the community. And years later it continues to attract droves of travelers and tourists to the Danish Villages. The windmill is the largest and most notable reason to stop at this visitors center, but its far from the only memorable moment you’ll have here.
I know what everyone is wondering. What would our pal JayJay look like if he dressed up like a furry Viking? I wondered about it several times myself and I have Elk Horn, Iowa to fulfill this dream. And by several times I mean this never came up until I showed up in Shelby County. But hey! When in the Danish Villages do as the Danes do!
Better get that wish list out when you’re at Elk Horn’s Danish Windmill. There’s tons of gifts to get and give to anyone. And don’t leave without some locally made Danish kuchen!
There’s amazing places to see all over Iowa and museums with rural settings are without a doubt on that list. That includes this blissful home to Danish America. I also learned something incredibly important while I was here too. Lego is a Danish company! Watch the video and see another sample of this awesome museum…
Show me the way to any county museum! There will always be something that will peak your interests and the Shelby County Historical Museum did just that for us. Let’s get a two headed look at what this Harlan museum is housing…
The Shelby County Historical Museum just keeps going and going, when you step inside, and has one of the best exhibits for area veterans you’ll see in any county museum. Support these museums whenever you can. The folks here in Shelby county have done an amazing job of preserving precious pieces of the area’s history and I can’t thank them enough for showing us around.
It was lunchtime in Shelby County and we were welcomed into a very memorable Elk Horn restaurant. Grace on Main has an unbelievable story of perseverance in a community that wanted to see them succeed. Running a profitable restaurant is very difficult during any timeframe. It’s even more difficult during an ongoing pandemic. Especially when your opening day was March 17th of 2020. The day when everything had to shutdown all over Iowa. That could have been enough for anyone to throw in the towel and very few people, if anyone, would have disagreed with such a decision. However, the California couple that opened Grace on Main made it happen and a year later they’re expanding!
Wine & Whiskey
Danish Countryside Vines & Wines is a suiting name for this winery. It’s near the Danish Villages and in a sprawling and stunningly beautiful countryside setting. And they make wine!
It was early in the day for Danish Countryside Vines & Wines, but they had a lot to show us. Sure we tasted some fantastic wines, but there’s so much more to behold at this rural winery. Every room, every level, and every conversation we had assured us that we MUST come back during a lively evening in the future. We left with more than a couple bottles of tasty wine. One guitar solo, one tour, and many laughs later, we were instant regulars. The hospitality of this area was continuing to shine in every way possible. And the off the beaten path journey of Shelby County wasn’t done!
Near Harlan is this destination for a whole lot of products that some niche shoppers look for. Farm Sweet Farm is a destination shopping experience that offers tons of organic and sustainable products. This includes what they grow right here on their own farm!
Certified organic meats and homegrown items that can get your cooler filled for the ride home. They specialize in supporting local as much as possible and that’s always a concept I can appreciate. Let’s keep this locally produced theme going…
I really enjoy seeing business owners excited to show off their proud ways of bringing visitors to their communities. Lonely Oak Distillery is another rural way to discover so much of Shelby County!
Let’s Eat Steak
We have seen an amazing spectrum of restaurants through the year on the T-Bone Trail. The Purple Door has one of the most creative menus that we had the pleasure to look at this year, and that means some very entertaining and down right delicious appetizers that were a must-have on the Harlan town square.
Oh, baby! Gourmet appetizers, seafood, steaks, sandwiches, tacos, and desserts! The Purple Door has a complete menu of dishes that DID NOT disappoint! The T-Bone was very juicy and cooked just perfectly. Served with grilled veggies that went very well with he charbroiled flavor of the steak. You want more from this meal? Then click on the video below and see how much we enjoyed The Purple Door!
Scotty’s Place was the ending of our day in Shelby County and it provided just what we needed after a long and eventful day of gallivanting in West-Central Iowa. Josh and his family were gracious hosts and they featured a haven for movie buffs like me and countless other travelers. I live my life by quoting pop culture and this Airbnb catered to that “charming” part of my personality. Great couch for lounging and so many of my favorite Calvin and Hobbs books that I’ve cherished for most of my life. The entertainment center felt like an old friend greeting me and I had no problems falling asleep on my big-wonderful bed.
The fall is here and it’s my personal favorite time of year for road tripping. Shelby County highlights so much of what we all want in our travels and they showcase these places and moments in their own special ways. This county is one of the great foody destinations in all of Iowa and they mix local spirits, wines, and unforgettable roadside attractions to go with all that is tasty in the area. Winding scenic byways, proud history and all with a hardworking culture that celebrates its heritage. Shelby County, you know how to make a marvelous gallivant happen in Western Iowa!