Get ready to fall in love — just as thousands of others do when they first discover the beauty and magic of Decorah and Winneshiek County in northeast Iowa. Just an hour’s drive from La Crosse, Wis., visitors to the area find incomparable scenic beauty, rolling farm land, towering limestone bluffs, cascading waterfalls, and stunning vistas of the Upper Iowa River.
The area is also rich in history, fascinating museums and attractions, architectural beauty, quaint shop and boutiques, award-winning restaurants, recreational opportunities, and fun-filled festivals and events.
Nature lovers, canoers, bikers, hikers, anglers and others cherish the area for its recreational offerings. Decorah and Winneshiek County’s extensive and growing trail system is the ideal setting for a romantic evening stroll, power walk, or challenging bluff-side workout. Biking enthusiasts at all levels love the area for its diversity of trails. In fact, mountain biking in the Decorah area was recently named one of the “52 Great American Weekends (under $200) in the United States” by Men’s Journal magazine.
The Upper Iowa River offers some of the best canoeing in the tri-state area, but don’t take our word for it. National Geographic Adventure magazine called it “One of the top 100 adventures in the United States.” This is what their editors had to say: “Sections of the Upper Iowa River have deep, narrow valleys heavily wooded with pine and cedar, maple, birch, oak and hickory. Steep limestone bluffs — some are 300 to 400 feet tall — create massive, craggy backdrops to the river’s tight bends.
Cliffs have been carved into unusual palisade-like configurations by eons of weather and water. The most outstanding are the tall, slender conical bluffs, called chimney rocks, about four miles upstream from Bluffton.
After the days of summer and fall have passed and the midwest winter is in full-force, the Decorah area is a warm, cozy and romantic escape to make you feel like you are a world apart. With plenty of distinctive bed and breakfasts, rustic cabins and lodges, and a number of well-appointed hotels, the area is the perfect spot to unwind or rekindle a romantic spark. Excellent restaurants, bistros and tea rooms also abound, and boutique-style shopping offers something unique for everyone.
There is no shortage of enticing events in Winneshiek County. Annual events include Women’s Weekend Out, Laura Ingalls Wilder Days, Nordic Fest, Fort Atkinson’s Rendezvous Days, and the Northeast Iowa Artists’ Studio Tour, to name just a few. Museums like the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, with its extensive campus of more than 12 historic buildings in downtown Decorah, also host a wide array of celebrations and folk art classes.