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An Afternoon in Winterset
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An Afternoon in Winterset

Earlier this summer, I challenged my family to visit at least one new place in Iowa each month. The only rule was that it had to have something of interest to each member of the family.

Our first choice was Winterset because it was close by and met all of our requirements.

When we arrived, we had a quick lunch at Northside Café on the downtown square. Northside Café is most famous for being a film location in The Bridges of Madison County – but they should also be at least semi-famous for their peach iced tea and cilantro lime chicken salad (in my opinion). There were rave reviews on the Reuben sandwich and kid’s chicken strip basket too. But – my favorite feature was that the restaurant is super kid-friendly but also has quality food for the adults. A rare find!

After lunch, we strolled the shops on the downtown square (mom’s choice!). Most known for the Fons & Porter Quilt Shop (with the nationally-known magazine of the same name), the square has a lot of shopping options for non-quilters too. From antiques to boutiques, I found lots of places to drop some cash. My favorite was the Re:Home occasional market, full of rehabbed furniture and home goods.

Although I could have spent all afternoon on the square, the boys were getting restless. So we headed to the Winterset City Park. First off, it’s massive. So when we thought we could walk to the popular Clark Tower, we were way wrong. Instead, we explored the covered bridge (you know, those bridges), the European-style hedge maze (pictured above!) and several swings and slides. The park was quiet and shady – perfect for a hot summer afternoon.

After the park, it was dad’s turn for fun – so we headed east out of town to Twisted Vine Brewery. Which, as luck would have it, is also home to Madison County Winery. We sipped on a flight (for him) and a glass (for her) and wished we could stay for their live music that evening to enjoy their multi-tiered patio that flows perfectly with the rolling hills surrounding the winery/brewery. Instead, we headed home with a growler of craft brew and a bottle of Iowa-grown Vignoles.

Our family only scratched the surface of things to do in Winterset and Madison County. I would also love to visit all of the Bridges of Madison County, the Birthplace of John Wayne and the Madison County Historical Museum Complex. Or, venture to town during the upcoming Covered Bridges Festival, October 11-12, 2014.

Go to to plan your trip to Winterset!

Photo courtesy Madison County Chamber of Commerce


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