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Elkader Trip Ideas
Use the trip suggestions below to plan a day in Elkader. Ideas range from a trip "just for kids" to shopping, historic sightseeing, a tour based upon Elkader's namesake, Abd El Kader, a photographic tour, biking, fishing, canoeing and other outdoor adventures.
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See our Calendar of Events to schedule entertainment for your trip.
Day Trip #1: Shopping (Half Day)
- Stroll through our Main Street district and visit the many interesting shops we have to offer, including some great antique and home décor options. Don't forget to check out the adjoining shopping areas on First Street and High Street.
- Grab lunch at one of our restaurants.
- Catch an afternoon show at our state of the art movie theatre, the Elkader Cinema, or take in other entertainment events.
Day Trip #2: Bike Adventure (Full Day)
- Bring your own bikes or rent a bicycle built for two from Riverside Cooperage Mill 'n' Retreat. Start off by biking through the downtown enjoying the architecture as well as the many historic houses.
- Cross the Keystone Bridge and down the Riverwalk to City Park. Stop for a picnic lunch or a quick dip at the City Pool.
- Pick up Pony Hollow Trail south of the City Pool. The trail runs through four miles of wooded land, streams, and the Turkey River. Follow the trail to the end, then bike south on Highway 13 for a short distance to High Street.
- Follow High Street toward town until it intersects with Bridge Street which will return you to the downtown area.
- Finish up with a cool drink and some ice cream from one of our local ice cream spots.
Day Trip #3: Shop, Tour, Recreate (Full Day)
- Arrive in Elkader at 9-10:00 a.m.
- 10:00 Enjoy coffee and a scone at Treats on Bridge Street Bistro, or orange juice and scrambled eggs at Johnson’s Restaurant while you plan your day. See restaurants.
- 10:30 Begin the Elkader shopping experience! Up and down Main and First Streets, back and forth on Bridge and Mulberry Streets are located stores, shops and boutiques that are waiting to welcome you.
- 11:30 Lunch, and what choices: Fennelly’s Irish Pub, Schera’s Algerian – American Restaurant, Drew’s Sports Bar & Grill, Treats on Bridge Street Bistro, Johnson’s Restaurant and Subway! See all the choices at restaurants.
- 1:00 If time permits, take a casual stroll down the Riverwalk at the end of the bridge where you can continue on the Pony Hollow trail or return to the downtown area with your strength renewed and your stomach filled!
- If a break is needed from shopping, now would be a good time to visit the Carter House Museum or the Rural Heritage Museum. The kids would probably want to swim in the pool or play on the equipment in the city park. As the afternoon goes on, you might want to resume shopping, enjoy a digitalized movie, or fish, canoe, kayak or tube on the Turkey River. See recreation. (By now you might be thinking that you need to spend more than one day here!)
- 5:30 Time for a leisurely dinner before leaving Elkader. Perhaps you’ll return to your luncheon choice or try a place that’s new to you.
- 7:00 If you haven’t seen the current movie, this would be the time to see The Elkader Cinema, a state-of-the-art digital cinema – or you might have tickets for some entertainment at the beautiful Elkader Opera House.
- 9:30 It’s been a busy, full day and if it should happen that the drive home suddenly seems like a long way to go, check out local B&Bs, motel, or campgrounds to find everything from plain to fancy to rest your weary, happy heads!
- Come visit us soon!
Day Trip #4: Historic Tour (Full Day)
- Start at the George Maier Rural Heritage Center, and browse a huge collection of artifacts from Iowa rural history.
- Grab lunch at one of our restaurants.
- Take a walking tour through town and see 8 of Elkader's sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places, ending at the Carter House.
- Take a guided tour through the Carter House Museum.
- Get a to-go snack at one of our restaurants and drive to the Motor Mill site, located on the Turkey River 6 miles south of Elkader. View the 1870's grist mill, inn, ice house, cooperage and stable and hike through the park.
- See the Historic Tour Brochure for a complete list of historic sites in Elkader.
Day Trip #5: Just for Kids (Full Day)
- Enjoy a late breakfast at one of Elkader's breakfast spots (pancakes, anyone?), then head to the Elkader Public Library where you can view the Big Dam from the Children's Reading Room. Take some time to browse the books and take in a story or two.
- Stop by to pick up some snacks or a picnic lunch to go from one of our restaurants and stroll to the Riverwalk. Observe the beautiful Turkey River as you follow the River Walk to City Park. Once at the park, the kids can play on the various jungle gyms and swings before lunch.
- After lunch, everyone can head to the City Pool for some water fun.
- Return to the downtown to catch a weekend movie matinee at our first run movie theatre.
- After the movie, stop for ice cream before heading home.
Day Trip #6: Photographers Tour (Full Day)
- Climb Lover's Leap for stunning views of the Turkey River as it runs through Elkader.
- Walk down Main Street and capture the great architecture of one of the best preserved historic downtowns in the area.
- View the Keystone Bridge from several vantage points: in the Children's Room at the Public Library, from the Riverwalk across from the County Court House, or from Schera's Restaurant patio.
- Walk further down the River Walk for amazing views of the hill overlooking the town. From certain places, the steeple of St. Joseph's Church appears to be rising out of the forest (especially stunning in the fall when the leaves change.)
- Great river views from along the Riverwalk and the River Dike on the other side of the River.
- Drive several miles outside of town to the Motor Mill site for great pictures of the historic limestone Mill as well as great shots of the Turkey river.
Day Trip #7: Abd El Kader Tour (Half Day)
- Learn about Elkader's namesake Emir Abd El Kader, the 18th Century Algerian anti-colonial revolutionary leader that became the father of his country. Start at the Carter House Museum and visit the Algerian room to find artifacts from Algeria.
- Visit the Jazairi Playground, built in memory of the former Algerian Ambassador to the United States and great friend of Elkader Idriss Jazairi's young son who died in a tragic fire in Algeria. The playground was built with funds raised by the community.
- View the Abd El Kader display at the Elkader Public Library.
- Stroll through Mascara Park, named after our sister city of Mascara, Algeria. Notice the peace poles, one of which was made in Elkader; a second identical peace pole was sent to Mascara. Also notice the plaque to former Mayor Ed Olson, one of the founding members of Elkader's sister city program.
- Stop by Schera's Algerian American restaurant to view Algerian posters, photographs and other items from Algeria. You can also try some Algerian food while you are there.
Day Trip #8: Upstream Canoe Fishing (Full Day)
- Bring your own canoe or rent one for the day from one of our local outfitters.
- Put in at Frieden Park across from the outlet of the State Trout Hatchery and fish while you float downstream seven miles to Elkader. Trout can be taken from the Turkey River near the outlet of the Big Spring Trout Hatchery.
- Take out in Elkader above the big dam. Relax with dinner and an artisan beer at one of Elkader's restaurants and pubs, and stop by are few shops for some treasures to bring home.
Day Trip #9: Downstream Canoe Fishing (Full Day)
- Bring your own canoe or rent one for the day from a local outfitter. You can also arrange to be picked up and returned to Elkader later in the day.
- Arrive in Elkader the night before your float trip for the most relaxing experience and spend the night at one of our local B&Bs, motel, or campgrounds.
- Enjoy breakfast at a local breakfast spot.
- Put in south of the dam in Elkader. Fish and float six miles down to the historic Motor Mill site. Turkey River fishing includes smallmouth bass, catfish, redhorse, carp, sheepshead, northern pike and walleye.
Day Trip #10: Nature Attractions (Full Day)
- Drive to the Big Springs Trout Hatchery located about 10 miles northwest of Elkader. Big Springs is the largest cold water spring in Iowa and home to the State Trout Hatchery. Kids under 15 can fish in a special trout pond or in the nearby Turkey River. Fishing license and a trout stamp is required for adults to fish and can be obtained from the county courthouse or at several local sporting goods stores.
- Enjoy lunch at one of Elkader's many lunch spots.
- Head south of Elkader to the Osborne Nature Center. The Center features an interactive Nature Center as well as 300 acres of public land composed of upland forest, lowland forest, native prairie and coniferous forest, 12 miles of multi-use trails, bird viewing areas, a historic pioneer village, live animal displays and much more. Osborne is also the site of an official Iowa Welcome Center.
Day Trip #11: Athletic Pursuits (Half Day to Full Day)
- Start the day with a round of golf at Elkader's 9-hole public golf course. Stop by the club house for refreshments before and after your game.
- Head down to City Park for a few set of tennis on the tennis courts, or bring a group of friends and play softball at the ball diamond.
- Canoe or kayak down the Turkey River or on the other nearby springs and streams. Canoes and kayaks can be rented from local outfitters.
- Practice archery at one of the best 3-D ranges in Iowa, located at Osborne Nature Center.
- Go for a perfect game at the bowling alley, CJ Lanes.
- Join the Whistlin' Bit Saddle Club for their annual open ride on the second Sunday in October.
- See our Recreation page for more ideas.