fall weekend getaway in decorah, iowa
FUN FACT: decorah is in the driftless area; a small part of the midwest that escaped the flattening effects of glaciation during the last ice age. this makes the landscape unlike much of the stereotypically flat midwest. the town of decorah is quaint. the beer is brewed local. the outdoor activities are plentiful. we think decorah is the perfect fall weekend getaway.
WHERE TO CAMP IN DECORAH
we stayed at pulpit rock campground, on the twin springs side. if you plan in advance and are feeling lucky, you can reserve a spot online. if you fly by the seat of your pants (or purchase your camper at the end of the season and have no other choice), you can call the campground to inquire about day-of reservations. basically, they'll let you know if they have a spot available and you'll show up sometime that day to camp. that's what we did. the husband called at 8:00AM on thursday morning. they had one spot available that night. we took it. at 5:00PM, we loaded into the truck and headed 3 hours to decorah. we parked + set up in the dark, and woke up to a beautiful fall scene.
you can read our full campground review here. in short: this campground is so good. it is surrounded by streams. the trees are plentiful. the location is AH-MAZING: it is less than a mile walk to ice cream, a local brewery, and the quaint downtown.
THINGS TO DO IN DECORAH
IF IT'S FALL..
PINTER'S GARDENS & PUMPKINS
the scenery in decorah is beautiful, especially in the fall months as the leaves turn vibrant colors. we were there to do "all the fall things," so our first stop was a pumpkin patch, pinter's gardens & pumpkins.
it's set on a hill, just outside of the city. they have so many activities for the littles, farm animals to feed, and pumpkins galore. the duck races + big slide were the fam favorites. we sipped hot apple cider, ate monster cookies, and left with many pumpkins.
EAT + DRINK LOCAL
after our visit to the pumpkin patch, we were hungry. being craft beer lovers, the husband + I didn't hesitate picking toppling goliath for our lunch destination.
we ordered a king sue pretzel (with mustard + beer cheese) to share. we all ate pizza for lunch: the littles got cheese, and the husband + I split the authentic greek. we've visited the brewery before, but this was our first time dining here. the food was DELICIOUS. the service was great. and as always, the beer was two thumbs up.
pseudo sue is the crowd favorite, but we're convinced there isn't a bad pick on the beer menu.
PULPIT ROCK BREWING COMPANY
our campsite was within walking distance from the other brewery in town, pulpit rock brewing company. we walked less than a mile along the trout run trail, and arrived at the brewery. with the dog in tow, we were seated at a table on their patio in close proximity to the ordering window. (the inside was closed due to COVID).
they generously offered + provided a water dish for the pup. we order two of their canned beers: IPA and kellerbier, and a root beer for the littles to share. on our way out, we grabbed two more cans to go!
THE WHIPPY DIP
the whippy dip is the town's ice cream shop. it is a walk up window, and there is always a line. (at least every time we've been by). the littles loved their chocolate vanilla twist with rainbow sprinkles. the pup sampled the vanilla soft serve. the husband + I split a chocolate peanut butter shake. RAVE REVIEWS! (*they are closed during the winter months).
if you mention you're visiting decorah, you will be told you must go to mabe's pizza. we ordered a large vegetarian pizza to go, and dined fireside at our campsite's picnic table.
on our way out of town, we stopped for coffee at impact coffee. it was recommended to us, and thank goodness it was.
the little ones got hot chocolate (which I happily sampled - YUM!). the rest of our order: obsidian blend nitro cold brew, pumpkin spice creamy cold brew, and a raspberry chocolate chip scone. YUM! YUM! YUM!
PLAY BY THE WATER
this is a well-known spot in town. it is worth the short walk to take this in. the little ones loved just following the stream up to the springs.
the most accurate description of dunning springs: an iowa waterfall.
fishing is not my jam, but the husband visited a fish hatchery on a trip to alaska, and said we must go. according to the iowa dnr, the decorah fish hatchery raises "about 130,000 catchable-size rainbow trout each year".
it was an impressive operation, with SO MANY FISH! the little ones really enjoyed it. I'd say it's worth a visit.
STICK TO THE TRAILS
TROUT RUN TRAIL
the trout run trail is an 11-mile loop around the city of decorah. you can easily access it from the pulpit rock campground.
if you enjoy bicycling, this is your place. so many bicyclists! we walked a portion of the trail that runs alongside the upper iowa river, and leads right to downtown decorah.
IF YOU HAVE EXTRA TIME...
DRIVE THE MISSISSIPPI
head east out of town, toward the mighty mississippi river. the drive is picturesque. we had our sights set on the little ones getting a good car nap in, but if you want to make a stop: effigy mounds national monument, pikes peak state park, and the towns of marquette & mcgregor.
if you cross the bridge over the mississippi right there, you'll be in wisconsin. that's what we did.
STOP IN WISCONSIN
just across the river in wisconsin, you'll find the town of prairie du chien. it's quaint river town, with a lot of history and things to see.
this is actually what we did in wisconsin: with the kids still napping, the husband ran into starks liquor store and stocked up on new glarus beer. they only distribute within the state of wisconsin. so yes, we crossed the border for beer.