There are also plenty of amenities to explore at home including dozens of recreation areas and parks, manicured golf courses and natural attractions where we can hike, hunt or explore the outdoors. Western Iowa’s picturesque landscape of rolling hills, lakes and river trails provide the perfect backdrop for other outdoor activities such as biking, hiking, swimming, fishing, golfing, sightseeing, kayaking and canoeing, or just relaxing. Farmers markets, festivals and events add a richness to local living and ample opportunity to get out and meet your neighbors. Many communities have constructed beautiful aquatic and recreational centers for all-season enjoyment. Movie theaters, diverse restaurants and a large variety of national to local retailers round out the list of abundant activities to enjoy close to home.
Raccoon River Valley Trail
The 89 mile paved trail begins just outside downtown Jefferson, in Greene County and is used for biking, running, walking, inline skating and cross country skiing. The trail runs from Jefferson to Waukee, and is located just a few blocks from the downtown Mahanay Bell Tower, and a wide variety of dining options and lodging facilities. For more information please visit, raccoonrivervalleytrail.org.
Mahanay Bell Tower & Festival
This 14-story carillon tower provides a spectacular view of Jefferson and the surrounding countryside. Take a glass elevator ride to the 120-foot high observation deck. Cast bells (14 of them) chime the time of day and play bell concerts regularly. Tours are available from Memorial Day to Labor Day (12:00 pm to 4:00 pm) plus weekends in May and September. Call 515-386-2155 for appointments. For more information please visit, www.belltowerfestival.org.
This third generation apple orchard (open mid-July through Christmas) has 45 acres of trees with over 25 varieties of apples. Other fresh produce is available in season including cherries, tomatoes, sweet corn and pumpkins. Each year 25,000 to 30,000 gallons of fresh apple cider is processed. Celebrate the harvest on the second full weekend in October at the Annual Fall Festival. Located three miles west of Jefferson on E53 (old Lincoln Highway) and a quarter mile south on K Avenue. For information call 515-386-8279 or visit www.dealsorchard.com.
RVP-1875 Historical Furniture Shop
Robby Pedersen, Master Furniture Maker, builds period furniture using only the hand tools, techniques and finishes from that time period. Based in the year 1875, this living history museum displays more than 100 of Robby's show pieces as well as the largest collection of period hand tools anywhere. Tours, hands-on programs, weekend workshops and apprenticeships are all available. The workshop produces and sells tables, beds and trunks for those who wish to have furniture built to last for hundreds of years. Hours: Tuesday through Saturday 9 am to 5 pm or by appointment. For information call 515-975-3083 or visit www.RVP1875.com
Raccoon River Artisan Colony
Iowa's only Artisan Colony is located in the loft area of RVP-1875, the world's only producing furniture museum which exclusively uses tools and techniques available in 1875. The Artisan Colony, RVP-1975 and History Boy Theatre Company are all housed within the same building. The provide a multi-event complex offering tours of the Artisan Colony and RVP-1975 Historical Furniture Shop, plays, musicals and dinner theatre, a general store, educational and training events, a wide range of unique artisan products and a chance to see how those products are made. The Artisan Colony includes varied artisans such as a toy maker, chair maker, fused glass, potter, weaver, tinsmith, telescope maker, gunsmith and more. Shops in the loft area are mostly full but there is still space available for artisans who want to be part of this unique experience and get a chance to expose their talents and goods to visitors from all over the country. Dealers of quality antiques are also encouraged to apply. If interested, contact Robby at 515-975-3083.
Lake View & Black Hawk Lake
Black Hawk Lake is Iowa's southern-most glacial lake and features a state park with CCC-constructed buildings and restored WPA community piers. The Sauk Rail Trail's northern terminus is in this Iowa Tourism Community of the Year. For more information please visit, www.lakeviewlifestyle.com.
Andy Williams Birthplace & CNW Depot
Wall Lake is home to the restored birthplace of Andy Williams, whose father was a railroad employee in the adjacent restored depot. For more information please visit, www.walllake.com.
World's Largest Popcorn Ball
Alongside Main Street in Sac City, along the former US20 route, is housed the world's largest popcorn ball. Testament to the county's deep history in popcorn production, the story of this achievement is documented on the website of Noble Popcorn, a local business that distributes popular snacks nation-wide. For more information please visit, www.saccountyiowa.com
Take a tour of the picturesque countryside and see a multitude of quilt patterns displayed on barns throughout the county. For more information please visit, www.barnquilts.com.
Swan Lake State Park & Conservation Education Center
510 acre park includes 110 acre lake, biking and walking trails, disc golf, cross country skiing, camping, swimming, concession, paddle boat & canoe rentals, wildlife exhibits is located two miles south and ½ mile east of Carroll. The Conservation education center is a public facility. It celebrates the natural and cultural resources of Carroll County and West Central Iowa. The building contains interactive displays and exhibits as well as large meeting rooms, concessions and a gift shop.
Conservation Center: www.carrollcountyconservation.com
Santa Maria Vineyard & Winery
Located 218 W 6th St. near downtown Carroll. See the winery in a renovated historic building along the Old Lincoln Highway (Hwy 30). Try their award-winning wines, relax on an outdoor piazza, grab a bite at the restaurant or warm up in front of the fireplace. Vineyard is located in Willey. For more information please visit, www.santamariawinery.com.
Sauk Rail Trail
The 33 mile paved hiking, biking and walking trail runs from Swan Lake State Park, Carroll to Blake Hawk State Park, Lake View. Enjoy the beautiful country side along the trail. For more information please visit, www.sauk-trail.com.
German Hausbarn/Heritage Park/Trinity Church
Travel through time to experience Manning's authentic German Hausbarn, built in 1660 in Schleswig-Holstein Germany and reconstructed in 1999 in Manning. Experience the 1915 era Leet-Hassler Farmstead, restored to its original state with all the furnishings of the period. The 92 year old Trinity Lutheran Church's congregation organized in 1881 by immigrants from northern Germany. For more information please visit, germanhausbarn.com.
John James Audubon Plaza and Bird Walk
Visit the John James Audubon Stained Glass Clock. It is 20 feet tall and 8 feet wide. It has exact Universal time and is lighted at night. Admire the John James Audubon Ceramic Tile Mosaics they showcase replicas of Audubon’s prints from “Birds of America.” The mosaics are made by native and nationally known artist, Clint Hansen. Visit the John James Audubon Plaza, a life-sized bronze statue of John James Audubon is in the center of the John James Audubon Park. Audubon native Russ Christensen cast the statue in 1996. This statue is surrounded by native plantings and water feature showing Audubon painting in a natural environment. Listen to Audubon’s story at the birdhouse close by.
Audubon Post Office Mural
This is a 1930’s art project in the Post Office depicts John James Audubon and his party during their journey down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers along with the boatman and owners who dropped by for a little relaxation.
John James Audubon Library Mural
The entrance to the library hosts a large tile mural of John James Audubon and a Great Blue Heron designed by Judy Sutcliffe, Audubon native and nationally known tile artist. The Library houses several John James Audubon prints and books; and has an origami mobile of over 1,200 paper cranes called “Free to Fly” by Linda Merk. The John James Audubon Cultural Center is party of the 1912 Carnegie Library.
John James Audubon Meeting Hall
This facility is decorated with fifty of John James Audubon’s 435 bird prints.
John James Audubon Festival
A celebration of the arts in the spring with an art show, entertainment, food and much more.
‘Albert the Bull’
Albert is the world’s largest bull. He is located on the south edge of Audubon, visible from Highway 71. The lighted statue welcomes visitors to Audubon. It is 30 feet tall and weighs 45 tons with a horn span of 15 feet and is recognized nationally. This gigantic statue is a salute to the beef industry and offers a great photo opportunity.
Audubon’s largest celebration is the first Saturday in August. The festivities include fireworks, a parade, John James Audubon 5K/2K Fun Run & Walk, a talent show, a fabulous Chili Cookoff, variety shows, class reunions, a street dance, Wheeler Power (Car) Show, T-Bone feeders’ auction, horse show, golf tournament, and more!
The trail was built on the rail bed of an abandoned spur in the in the 1990’s. The trail is 12 miles long. The surface is asphalt/concrete. The trail is intended for biking, walking, and roller blading.
“Tree in the Middle of the Road” –Brayton
The story of “The Tree in the Middle of the Road”. A surveyor was making the line between Audubon and Cass counties and used a slender cottonwood branch as he walked. When the line was established, he pushed it to the soft earth at the exact point where the lines crossed and where the present crossroad was to be in later years. The switch took root and it has grown into today’s tall and widespread 100 foot tree.
“Plow in the Oak Park”- Exira
At “Plow in the Oak Park” one mile south of Exira, there is a legend that a farmer went off to the Civil War leaving his plow against the sapling. As it grew, the plow became part of the tree. Today, less and less of the plow is visible but there stands yet, a large oak tree, with an iron plow in its heart.
Cyclist, walkers, and hikers enjoy over 20 miles through the beautiful countryside of Audubon County. This trail is part of 2 national trails- American Discovery Trail and Great American Rail Trial. Trailheads are located in Audubon, Hamlin, Exira, and Brayton.
Littlefield Recreation Area
A hidden gem of over 400 acres and 70 acre lake where you can swim, kayak, paddleboard, or fish. The park also has campgrounds, picnic areas, native timber, biking and hiking trails.
Danish Countryside Vines & Wines
Winery and vineyard has made its home in a renovated barn located West of Exira on F58 that has over 21 wines available.
Nathaniel Hamlin Park & Museum
The park features one of the last original “poor” houses in the state, machine building with antique farm equipment, a 100 year-old schoolhouse, a 200 foot mural depicting the cattle industry, nature area with trails, and elk.
Albert the Bull- The Word’s Largest Hereford Bull. Stop by and listen to his story and stay at the campground.