Best known for sprawling cornfields and wide-open blue skies, Iowa is dotted with lovely towns that are ideal romantic vacation destinations. Whether you prefer a quaint cottage along the banks of the mighty Mississippi or a countryside cabin, there are an abundance of Iowa vacation rentals to choose from. Venture to Iowa for your next weekend getaway.

1. Bellevue

bellevue state park iowa
Source: Flickr/jaygannett

The natural beauty of a choice spot on the Mississippi River makes Bellevue an ideal place to swim, boat, or take a scenic drive along the Great River Road National Scenic Byway. This 300-mile highway meanders through landscapes that inspired American Gothic artist Grant Wood, over rolling hills and into deep valleys, and past wineries, museums, and historic sites. Winter welcomes visitors to cross-country ski or snowshoe at the Bellevue State Park where bald eagles make their home. Dine accompanied by live music at the Inn at Potter’s Mill, or enjoy barbecue at Flatted Fifth Blue.

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2. Clarinda

wabash trace iowa
Source: Flickr/S C Hargis

Legendary musician Glenn Miller was born in Clarinda in 1904. Admirers of this talented American bandleader and composer flock to the 3,000-square-foot Glenn Miller Birthplace Museum and Home that is filled with memorabilia from the Big Band era. Entertainers from around the world converge in Clarinda every June for the annual Glenn Miller Festival. The recently renovated 1908 library houses high-quality, often-changed collections at the Carnegie Art Museum. The brick walls, wooden floors, and antique tin ceiling at the Garrison Coffee House make this a wonderfully romantic place to start your day. Enjoy a prime rib dinner at J. Bruner’s before retiring to your vacation rental.

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3. Algona

des moines river lakefield
Source: Flickr/Joe Passe

Drive through the rugged hills of the old-growth forest at the Ambrose A. Call National Park, which commemorates the first area settlers along the East Fork of the Des Moines River. Hike along its scenic paths and find a peaceful spot for a romantic picnic. More than 8,000 German and Italian World War II prisoners of war were interred at Camp Algona. This POW museum is a great place to learn about this experience through archives, interviews, and memoirs. Sample local wines at the friendly Train Wreck Winery or Plum Creek Winery. Settle down for a cozy prime rib dinner for two at the Chrome Country Inn.

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4. Kalona

amish country sign amsterdam ny
Source: Flickr/Clemens v. Vogelsang

This beautiful Amish settlement is 15 miles south of Iowa City. Established in 1846, Kalona is the Quilt Capital of the World. Get an insider’s view of the scenic back roads, homes, schools, and farms in this charming community on a 90-minute Amish Byways Tour. Leave the world behind when you enter the restored Kalona Historical Village that immerses you in pioneer life on the Iowa prairie. Thirteen authentic buildings and informative displays represent the hard work ethic, family values, and simple life of the hearty immigrants.

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5. Harpers Ferry

harpers ferry steps
Source: Flickr/Erik Drost

This lovely community is nestled along the Mississippi River where trapping, clamming, and commercial fishing were practiced by early settlers. This historic community is a short drive from the DC-Baltimore metro areas, so you have more time to enjoy the treasure trove of pre-Civil War and Civil War history at the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. In addition to living history presentations, interactive exhibits, and several museums, you can hike, ride your bike or take a swim. For a thrilling drive, take the 1.5-mile Roller Coaster Road through the countryside. Slow your heart rate down with a cozy meal at the rustic Anvil Restaurant where live music soothes your soul.

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6. Columbus Junction

lovers leap bridge new milford ct
Source: Flickr/Bob P. B.

Located in the wooded hills between the Cedar and Iowa Rivers in southeastern Iowa, Columbus Junction is 30 minutes southwest of Muscatine. Join in the fun as locals gather to celebrate the 1886 swinging bridge that is a hallmark of this community. Also known as Lovers Leap Bridge, legend says a young, lovesick Indian maiden leaped to her death from this landmark. Columbus Junction also hosts the county fair in July. Bike along the Iowa River Nature Trail which meanders off-road over the countryside. The OK Restaurants serves tasty Burmese food, or you can enjoy Mexican fare at the family-owned La Hacienda Taqueria.

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7. Decorah

phelps park decorah ia
Source: Flickr/Denise Krebs

Decorah is nestled in the northeast corner of Iowa in the Oneota River Valley, where rolling hills and the river create a small-town feel far from the hubbub of city life. Pick up a picnic lunch at Ruby’s Restaurant and head to Dunnings Spring Park. Just minutes from downtown, this park has a spectacular 200-foot-tall waterfall and plenty of hiking trails to explore. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum is in nearby Burr Oak, and the town holds outdoor summer concerts, a county wine festival, and the Oneota Film Festival. The Ice Cave State Preserve is fascinating fun in the summer. Ice formed during the winter stays frozen until late summer, thanks to cold wall surfaces, making this preserve a neat place to escape the humid summer temps.

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8. Winterset

cutler donahoe bridge madison county
Source: Flickr/Phil Roeder

This quaint, historic town is the birthplace of legendary actor John Wayne and home to the only museum in the world solely dedicated to him. Forty-five minutes southwest of Des Moines, Winterset is featured in the romantic movie ‘The Bridges of Madison County.’ Visit the six famous covered bridges by foot, on a boat, in a car, or astride a bike when you come for the annual Covered Bridge Festival in October. Spend time at the Iowa Quilt Museum in the town square, where exhibits of vintage and new quilts change quarterly. After a busy day of sightseeing, settle into the cozy Podunk Center for great food and fabulous table-side views.

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