Elkader Day 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.
Be sure to check out our Calendar of Events to schedule additional entertainment for your trip.
Day Trip #1 Elkader: One Huge Museum of History and Culture
*To visit all of the stops outlined, we recommend that you schedule your trip on a Saturday.
- Start your day with your favorite style of eggs, bacon, and a cup of coffee from one of our local breakfast spots where the food and service make you feel right at home.
- Then visit the brand new Earth Moving Legacy Center located just one mile north of Elkader. It is a 38,000 square foot facility developed by C. M. Moyna and Sons Construction to showcase the rich history of earth moving for soil conservation practices and road construction. The Legacy Center is open Monday through Saturday 9 am. to 4 p.m. Admission is charged.
- The Carter House Museum is a Greek Revival building built in 1850 as a duplex by brothers Ernest and Henry Carter. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Both the museum and its annex contain displays with historic information about Elkader in the form of newspaper clippings, photos, and antiques. The Algerian Room contains artifacts about Elkader’s namesake, Emir Abd El Kader. The museum is open Saturday and Sunday afternoons from Memorial Day weekend through September 30 or by appointment. Admission is charged.
- You’ll find the George Maier Rural Heritage Center in the Elkader City Park in a former livestock pavilion built in 1919 for the Elkader Fair. When the fair was discontinued, the pavilion became home to the Elkader Sales Barn. In 1998 the last livestock auction was held, creating the opportunity for the George Maier collection to have a home. The museum is open from noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays from May through mid-October. Admission is charged.
- While you’re visiting the Rural Heritage Center, be sure to look around at the Elkader Depot Museum. This building is currently under construction but will soon feature a rebuild of the Elkader Milwaukee Road Depot and museum that will provide history of the Milwaukee Road that used to be the lifeline to our community.
- Head to Elkader’s award-winning Main Street District to enjoy lunch at Elkader's very own Algerian restaurant, Schera’s. Schera’s offers Algerian and American cuisine, seasonal menu plus an extensive selection of craft beer and natural wines. Beautiful patio dining overlooks the Turkey River and historical information of our Algerian Sister City is highlighted throughout the venue.
- Continue growing your knowledge about Elkader’s Sister City through the Emir Abd El Kader Tour – Learn about Elkader’s namesake, Emir Abd El Kader, the Algerian 19th century anti-colonial revolutionary leader that became the father of his country. Visit the Elkader Public Library and the Elkader City Hall located under the Opera House for collections of artifacts and artwork. If you visit when City Hall is not open, be sure to take a stroll through Mascara Park, named after Mascara, Algeria. This park is conveniently located next to the historic Opera House. Notice the peace poles and plaque to former Mayor Ed Olson, one of the founding members of Elkader’s sister city program.
- By now you’ve worked up an appetite. Stop by one of our other local restaurants for dinner, drinks, or some afternoon ice cream.
- After getting a small glimpse of what Elkader’s rich history has to offer, you may be ready to plan on an overnight stay and stay another day to complete our “Photographic Tour of Elkader’s Historic and Natural Sights”. Visit our lodging page to make your reservations.
Day Trip #2: Northeast Iowa's Shopaholics Paradise
- Arrive in Elkader with a carload of your friends between 9 and 10 a.m. The best days to shop in Elkader fall between Tuesday through Saturday.
- Enjoy coffee and a quick bite at The Brim, GEAR Elkader, Pedretti’s Bakery, or at Johnson's while you plan your shopping day.
- Start shopping! Most retail shops and boutiques are in Elkader’s Main Street District up and down Main and 1st Streets and back and forth on Mulberry, Bridge, and Cedar Streets; our map can help you find your way. Don’t forget to check out shops on High St. NE!
- Hear the noon siren? Time for lunch! Elkader eateries offer everything from grab-and-go snacks and ice cream treats, sandwiches with sides, coffee and beverages, or complete meals with full bar service. Carry out your meal and make it a picnic at one of Elkader’s Parks.
- During the afternoon, visit any shops you were not able to see during the morning, and make time for return stops at shops you want to revisit. Always remember and repeat your shopping mantra, “I may never see this treasure again. Purchase it today!”
- By now you’ve shopped until you’ve dropped and you’re ready to be pampered. Stop by one of our salons and spas for a massage, facial, and more!
- End the day with dinner and a movie. Revisit your lunchtime venue or try a new Elkader restaurant. First-run movies are shown at 7 p.m. every day at Elkader Cinema.
- Couldn’t find time to do everything you wanted in one day? Check out our lodging options to make overnight reservations for your next shopping adventure in Elkader!
Day Trip #3: Let's Get Physical: Recreational Activities in Elkader!
- You have a busy day ahead! Start the morning off right with breakfast from The Brim, GEAR Elkader, Pedretti’s Bakery, or Johnson's.
- Park your vehicle and unload your bikes on South Main Street by Founders’ Park.
Bike through downtown Main Street enjoying Elkader’s historic architecture. Cross the Keystone Bridge and continue down the River Walk to the Elkader City Park. Pick up Pony Hollow Trail along the Turkey River across from the Depot Museum. The trail runs for four scenic miles of wooded land along the Turkey River and Robert’s Creek. When
the trail ends, bike south on Highway 13 to High Street. Continue traveling on High Street until it intersects with Bridge Street. Cross the Keystone Bridge and you are back downtown. If you’re a marathon runner, put on a good pair of running shoes and run this route instead of biking! Walkers can take it as a hike!
- Elkader eateries offer everything from grab-and-go snacks and ice cream treats, sandwiches with sides, coffee and beverages, or complete meals with full bar service. Carry out your meal and make it a picnic at one of Elkader’s Parks.
- For your afternoon adventures, you have many choices that are perfect for all ages! You could:
Enjoy a relaxing round of golf or challenge yourself and your friends at the Elkader Golf and Country Club. It’s a 9-hole golf course situated in groves of mature trees with scenic vistas.
Head down to Elkader City Park for a few sets of tennis or bring a group of friends and play softball at the ball diamond or sand volleyball. You could also have fun on the Disc Golf/Exercise Trail that wraps around the City Park.
Or cool off by taking a swim at the Elkader City Pool.
5. All this physical activity really burns calories! Replenish your body with cool and healthy drinks, hearty foods, and sinfully delicious ice cream found in Elkader’s restaurants. If you are visiting in late spring through early fall, Elkader’s 2 MIT Burger is sure to leave you wanting to visit again soon!
6. Rest your body after that full day of exercise at one of Elkader’s unique lodging options.
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: Coffee Shops, Wineries, Breweries