Posts Tagged: fun stuff to do in the driftless region

RAGBRAI Fun in Northeast Iowa!

By Sara Friedl-Putnam
Illustrations by Aryn Henning Nichols
Originally published in the summer 2017 Inspire(d)

RAGBRAI is known for its seven fun-filled days, with upwards of 9,000 riders pedaling west to east across the entire state of Iowa. The three days scheduled in Northeast Iowa this year (2017) are no exception. There’s so much fun stuff here, in fact, we thought we’d put together just a few ideas to get folks started (do adventure on your own too!). Have fun, and welcome to the Driftless!

————————————

THURSDAY, JULY 27, 2017

Today’s relatively short 54.6-mile ride should give you plenty of time to explore Cresco and its surrounds before calling it a night.

CRESCO (overnight)

Lovely day out? Discover unique prairie wildflowers and grasses at Prairie’s Edge Nature Center – and relax beside the small waterfalls and sloping pools at Vernon Springs Ladder Dam, Iowa’s first rock-arch rapids project.
Read a fun feature on Cresco here!

Cresco Theatre and Opera House
115 Second Avenue West

Are you looking for someplace fun to rest those weary bones? Look no further than the cushioned seats of this architectural gem of a theatre, opened in 1915 (to a packed house) and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1981.

Once a popular stop for vaudeville performers, today the 425-seat theatre hosts concerts, stage productions, and, of course, recently released films. The price at the door may be more than the five cents it was a century ago, but the experience is worth every (additional) penny.

Dough and Joe Bakery
114 North Elm Street

A full day in the saddle awaits, so why not start your ride off right with a full dose of carbs and caffeine? This family-owned bakery offers plenty of both, from the latte of the week to cookies and cake pops. But it’s the heavenly cream-filled long johns that helped earn Dough and Joe Bakery the seventh spot on Travel Iowa’s list of best donut establishments in 2016.

FRIDAY, JULY 28

What’s on tap for day six? You’ll climb 2,483 feet as you traverse just about 60 miles of scenic Northeast Iowa terrain. First stop is Decorah, where the town’s annual Nordic Fest promises to be in full swing. Then Ossian, Castalia, and Postville await before you call it a day in Allamakee’s county seat: Waukon.

DECORAH

Outdoor highlights:
One town, three waterfalls! At 200 feet, the truly spectacular Dunnings Spring waterfall is just minutes by bike from downtown Decorah. Out of town but right off the Trout Run Trail (map here!) you’ll find Siewers Spring, located just steps from a popular trout-rearing station. Further off the RAGBRAI path is Malanaphy Springs, near Bluffton but well worth the ride if you have the time and inclination to make it.

Nordic Fest
Water Street and environs

Dish up the kringla, krumkakke, lefse, and lutefisk. Cue up theNordic Dancers and Luren Singers. Each July since 1967, small-town Decorah has put on one big Norwegian celebration, featuring an array of entertainment and, yes, lots and lots of energy-boosting Scandinavian food, most served up by friendly locals from food booths up and down Water Street. Even if you don’t know varme polse from rømmegrøt, hop off your bike, partake in the fun, and take advantage of the opportunity to be a little bit Norwegian for the day.

Oneota Community Food Co-Op
312 West Water Street

Swing by and stock up on some healthy fuel for the road. Locally grown organic produce, piping-hot panini sandwiches, and fresh-baked breads and pastries – this thriving community co-op has them all, as well as shelves stocked with everything from natural peanut butter and sweet potato chips to bulk bins with nuts, dried fruits, and other nutritious treats.

College Drive Breweries:

Toppling Goliath

Small-town Decorah has some big-time beer. Poured inside the modest Toppling Goliath taproom is craft beer so remarkable it’s widely considered among the best in the world. And as locals will tell you, the outdoor patio is tailor-made for kicking back and enjoying popular tap varieties like Pseudo Sue pale ale and Dorothy’s New World Lager.

Pulpit Rock
Just down College Drive you’ll find Pulpit Rock, which opened its doors in a retrofitted laundry / garage in 2015 and has quickly made a name for itself as a destination taproom. Thirst-quenching pale ales, delicious Saftig IPA, and variations of (local) Impact coffee-infused pour-over porter – there truly is something to satisfy even the most discriminating of beer enthusiasts at this adventurous craft brewery. While you’re at it, swing down around the corner on Water Street and hit the Courtyard & Cellar for beer garden or cellar-shade nirvana

What cyclist doesn’t crave ice cream on a hot summer day? Take your pick of soft-serve at the Whippy Dip on College Drive, or hand-dipped Sugar Bowl on Water Street.
Read our “thoroughly researched” Driftless ice cream guide here!

Its nitro cold brew on tap may be perfect for a hot July day, but Impact Coffee Bar also offers a full menu of custom-roasted coffee, pour overs, espresso-based drinks, and loose-leaf teas. Read more about Impact Coffee  in our ‘Summer 2017’ magazine!

EN ROUTE

Need to make a quick pit stop before you hit Postville? Then be on the lookout for Shooters Bar and Grill (Main Street, Ossian) and Susie’s First Chance Saloon (Greene Street, Castalia).

Home to one of the smallest YMCAs in the nation, the small but diverse town of Postville also boasts some memorable restaurants, including the Brick Oven Pizza and Eatery on Greene Street and the authentic (and tiny) Mexican restaurant and carniceria, El Pariente, next door. Not hungry yet? Swing by the city park and relax to the strains of live Mexican music, or check out the music and beer garden downtown.

RURAL WAUKON

Empty Nest Winery
1352 Apple Road

Want to take in the countryside without pedaling? Then check out this off-the-beaten-path winery, established in 2011 by husband and wife team Dave and Pam Kruger. Folks can sit back and relax with a glass of wine while enjoying the picturesque woods, hills, and fields of Northeast Iowa. In addition to its handcrafted pure-berry wines, the Empty Nest will be serving up beer, sangria, and slushies – plus a tasty food buffet – for RAGBRAI riders (or any visitors, really!).

The “Old” Rossville Store
851 Volney Road

There’s nothing more quintessentially Midwest than the supper club. And the homespun “Old” Rossville Store has a reputation as one of Iowa’s best. Be sure to come hungry, though, as large portions of entrees like its popular prime rib come with choice of potato, steamed veggies, AND a trip to a far-from-ordinary salad bar. Be on the lookout for marinated carrot salad, cottage cheese, pea salad, macaroni salad, potato salad, tomato salad, and even chocolate pudding and strawberry ambrosia.

WAUKON (overnight)

W.W. Homestead Dairy
850 Rossville Road

When nearby Luther College needed a dessert (literally) fit for a king, it was this small dairy that got the call. That’s right – in October 2011, King Harald V and Queen Sonja of Norway capped off a luncheon at the college with a helping of W.W. Homestead Dairy’s cinnamon ice cream created just for the occasion. No doubt RAGBRAI riders will be equally pleased by the rich, flavorful ice cream – made with farm-fresh, cream-line milk – served up in dishes, cones, and carryout containers. Or if ice cream’s not your jam, swing by and sample the dairy’s fresh cheese curds, just as sought after by the hometown crowd.

Main Feature Theater and Pizza Pub
38 West Main Street

Pizza. Popcorn. Beer. And, yes, a movie. What more could you ask for after a long, hot day biking Iowa’s back roads? First opened as the Town Theatre in the 1930s, this Main Street fixture was re-invented as a dine-in theatre in 1989. Since then, it’s been welcoming hungry adults and kids for an affordable, one-of-a-kind entertainment experience. Word on the street is that the pizza & movie combination may be going away soon, so catch it if you can!

Steel Cow Gallery
15 Allamakee Street

Her works decorate the sides of barns and the walls of homes, businesses, and galleries throughout the Midwest. Hop off your bike and check out the bovine artistry of Valerie Miller, creator of the popular Steel Cow line of original paintings and canvas prints. 

SATURDAY, JULY 29

Further explore the splendor of the Driftless Region as RAGBRAI ascends 3,200 feet over 44.8 miles. Wind through Waterville, then the Yellow River State Forest, with its 8,500 acres and 25 miles of trails known for rocky outcrops, stunning bluffs, and steep slopes. Gotta stop for a quick drink or bite to eat? Check out Missfitz Bar and Grill or Spillway Supper Club, both in Harpers Ferry, before finally conquering the last 13-mile leg to Lansing, the last stop on RAGBRAI XLV.

LANSING

Driftless Area Education and Visitors Center
Great River Road

Learn more about the Driftless flora, fauna, and other natural features you’ve seen from the seat of your bike. Be among the first to experience the interpretive displays of this just-opened center, which overlooks the mighty Mississippi River and explores the mysteries of the region, including its limestone bluffs, Native American mounds, and algific talus slopes.

Horsfall’s Lansing Variety Store
300 Main Street

Itching to hitch up your bike and head for home? Better press that pause button because no trip to this scenic Mississippi River town is complete without at least a brush through the bargain-stacked aisles of the store known simply as Horsfall’s. Variety is the name of the game at this storied establishment, which celebrates the glory days of five-and-dimes and carries pretty much anything you can imagine. From greeting cards and sunglasses to cookbooks and cat toys, Horsfall’s has it all.

Safe House Saloon
359 Main Street

Kick back, relax, and write the final chapter of your RAGBRAI adventure at this fun local eatery. As its name suggests, the Safe House Saloon offers plenty of beer, both bottled and on tap, craft and otherwise. But you’ll also find beer-battered cheese curds, wings slathered in homemade sauces, and an array of gourmet pizzas with entertaining names like the Naked Cowboy and the Bootlegger to satisfy those hunger pangs before you hit the road back home.

Congrats to all who are making the 2017 trek across the state – we hope you find your way back to the Driftless soon – and please tell all of our friends above that we sent you! Cheers & happy riding!

Summer Fun List!

Summer should be all about fun, playing outside, spending time with family, and enjoying all the good stuff that comes with longer days and these warm, magic-filled nights. Here are some things we plan to do this summer…maybe you’ll want to add them to your list too!
XO – Aryn

——————————-

Catch fireflies!

——————————-

S’more smores!

It’s a simple recipe (cracker, roasted marshmallow, chocolate) for a sweet summer tradition.

——————————-

Make a wish on a shooting star

(and enjoy looking at the others while you wait)!
Summer meteor showers to put on your calendar:

The Delta Aquariids – July 30
The Perseids – August 12

——————————-

Explore caves to keep cool

——————————-

Daylily farm!

An 1854 farmstead filled with daylilies?! Fun! And what a sight! More than a hundred varieties of daylilies – literally thousands of blooms – grow on Oak Hill Farm just south of Preston on Highway 52. They are open weekends when the lilies are blooming – usually the month of July until the first part of August, or by appointment (507-696-3251). You can stop by just to see the flowers, but it might be hard to resist taking some home (they dig the plants for you, in case you can’t resist)!

——————————-

Disc golf on a fun farm!

There’s another Southeast Minnesota farm we’ve heard has some cool offerings: Sweet 16 Farm near Houston, Minnesota – on, you guessed it, Highway 16. They not only have a Friday (6-8 pm) and Saturday (8-10 am) farm stand, but a 20-hole disc golf course too! The par 3 course features shorter distance fairways with naturally occurring hazards –tall grass prairie, ravines, a pond, through the woods… you get it! Sounds like a fun adventure!

——————————-

Mason Jennings at Seed Savers

Mason Jennings concert at Seed Savers couldn’t happen last year because of flooding, so we’re excited it’s on the calendar for July 8 this year!

A summer concert under the stars is always lovely, and add to that the gardens of Seed Savers and singer-songwriter Mason Jennings and it’s downright magical. Folk rock artists The Pines and Iowa songwriter Pieta Brown will open the show. Ticket sales support SSE’s non-profit mission to protect and promote America’s garden and food heritage.

Visitors can head out to Seed Savers early for wine or beer and a garden tour with Diane Ott Whealy at 6pm. Doors open at 5 pm and the concert begins at 7 pm. Food vendors and cash bar will be offered, and primitive camping is available for $15.

Details at www.seedsavers.org/benefit-concert

Check out Inspire(d)’s 2016 interview with Jennings here.

——————————-

Driftless Winery Events!

There are some super fun events on the docket this summer at area wineries. Empty Nest in rural Waukon is hosting fun wine releases, live music on the patio, and their ever-popular murder mystery dinner theaters (advance tickets only).

And north of us at Four Daughters Winery near Spring Valley, Minnesota, they’re offering up “dine in the vines” evenings, where visitors can enjoy a 10-course meal under the full moon (advance reservations). Plus, they’re planning free outdoor movies all summer!

June 21: Wayne’s World
July 12: The Proposal
July 19: A Walk in the Clouds
August 2: Field of Dreams
August 16: Signs
August 30: Twister

Note: No outside food or drinks will be allowed, but options for a pre-order picnic basket (charcuterie, cheese, bread, fruit and nuts) or pizza and salad for two are available, or various movie snacks are offered on-site. Movies will be shown in the Barrel Room in case of rainy weather. Bring your own blankets or chairs.

——————————-

Looking for more ideas to keep your kids active and engaged? Check out our big list of fun kids summer activities!

——————————-

P.S. Save the Date: Takkefest, September 23, 2017

We know we’re talking about summer fun here, but we want to be sure you save the date for a cool new event at Vesterheim Museum this fall: Takkefest.

Takk is the Norwegian word for “thank you.” Vesterheim will host a celebration in their “back yard,” the museum’s Open Air Division. Everyone is welcome to come and celebrate.

  • Live Music, including the Scandinavian dance band Foot-Notes
  • Dancing
  • Norwegian Fusion Cuisine
  • Norwegian-American Beers and Aquavit
  • Crafts and Pioneer Activities (for kids and adults)
  • Mini Folk Art Classes

“Let’s loosen our bunads and kick up our heels, enjoying what we’ve got ?here in Decorah!” Indeed. Thanks, Vesterheim! We can’t wait. Check vesterheim.org for more details.

June 2017 Calendar!

June 2017! Helllooooooooo, summer! Can you believe it’s here?! Start your planning now with this handy-dandy June 2017 calendar (and you can download the pdf here).
Enjoy! XO, Inspire(d)

LOOKING FOR MORE DETAILS ABOUT EVENTS ON THE CALENDARS?
Check out these great June 2017 activities!  In chronological order, each event’s number coincides with its number on the calendar!

1. June 1: Driftless Safari offers free outdoor adventure and exploration in Winneshiek County all summer long! Visit www.driftless-safari.org or stop by any Winneshiek County library to join!

2. June 1: Step back in time to 1899! Visit Historic Forestville, rural Preston. Memorial Day Weekend-Labor Day: Thur- Sun, (Saturdays only Sept/Oct) $6-$8 507-765-2785 forestville@mnhs.org  – Where real history happened!

3. June 3: Garden Bugs Workshop: Friend or foe? Learn to identify & manage garden insects while attracting pollinators. Seed Savers Exchange. 11am-12pm. $5 registration: seedsavers.org/events 563-382-5990

4. June 9: Guttenberg’s River of Music (ROM)EVERY Friday, June 2-August 11, 6-8 pm in Ingleside Park Bandstand along the Mississippi River (Rain location – City Hall)

5. June 17: Breakfast on the Farm- 8:30a.m.-noon at Iowa’s Dairy Center, Calmar, Iowa. Including: wholesome breakfast, dairy tours, and more! On-site parking available; donations are appreciated. www.iowadairycenter.com

6. June 17: Art in the Park Fine Art Festival featuring 100+ artist booths, live music, craft beer & food vendors at Sylvan Park in Lanesboro. 10am-5pm www.lanesboroarts.org

7. June 17: Good Earth Village welcomes their littlest campers yet! Preschoolers, invite an adult to experience camp with you from 9am-1pm! Spring Valley, MN. More at GoodEarthVillage.org/preschool

8. June 21: FREE Summer Solstice yoga class outdoors at Reefuel! You’ll perform 108 Sun Salutations soaking up the rays to ring in summer! 6:30pm. More Information: www.reefuel.biz

9. June 23-24: 60-Mile Garage Sale! Join the communities along the Root River Trail System for garage sales in nine communities! Online map and more info available at www.rootrivertrail.org