Small-town charm and low-key adventures make Winterset a great day trip for Des Moines families. It’s an easy, scenic 45 minute drive from Des Moines, especially if you take Highway 169 into town vs. taking I-35 south. This quaint community boasts some top-notch family attractions, including the famed Bridges of Madison County, and fall is the perfect time for a visit.
Read on for a few of our tips to enjoying a day trip to Winterset:
Family Friendly Shopping in Winterset:
1st Avenue Collective – Unique, handcrafted gifts by artisans from Iowa and the Midwest.
Ben Franklin – General store that has been open on the Winterset square since 1939.
Harvest Creek – Antiques, gifts, Marich chocolates and fair trade fresh roasted Madison County Coffee.
Heartland Fiber Co. & Gifts – Fibers, yarn, notions, classes and gifts.
Jones Creek Boutique – Graphic design, stock and custom women’s apparel.
Madison County Mercantile – Home decor, antiques, women’s clothing and accessories, gifts and more.
Pine Creek Limited – Home décor, gourmet foods and kitchen gadgets, locally roasted coffee and more.
Where to Eat with the Kids in Winterset:
Anything Sweet & More Café – Homemade entrees, soups, and fresh, made-to-order sandwiches, as well as, hand-made and imported gourmet chocolates and desserts.
The Bakery Unlimited – Old fashioned bakery featuring donuts, special order cakes, breads, cookies, muffins, bagels and other dessert items.
The Cellar Coffee Shop – Coffee, smoothies, homemade sandwiches, salads and pastries.
Frostee’s – Seasonal soft serve ice cream shop.
Montross Pharmacy – Old fashioned soda fountain and restaurant.
Northside Café – Historic and notable restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. (“The Bridges of Madison County” was written here by Robert Waller and the restaurant was featured in the 1995 film of the same name.)
Attractions in Winterset:
Covered Bridges – Can you visit Winterset without checking out at least one of the six bridges?!?
Iowa Theater – A historic theater that is a non-profit movie theater and performance space.
Iowa Quilt Museum – The Museum displays quilts and provides information about quilt history along with changing exhibits of American quilts both vintage and new.
John Wayne Birthplace and Museum – Tour the “Duke’s” birthplace home. The Museum which is adjacent to the home boasts the largest diversified exhibit of John Wayne artifacts.
Madison County Historical Complex – The complex is situated on several acres on the south of edge of Winterset and features 14 buildings and a number of historical collections.
The Pumpkin Ranch – Local farm featuring specialty pumpkins, gourds and squash and fun activities for the whole family. Open weekends September – October.
Winterset City Park – Located at 300 South 9th Street, Winterset City Park has many wonderful features spread out over 76 acres. Facilities include: three beautiful limestone shelter houses; play equipment; restrooms; picnic areas; campground; sand volleyball court; hedge maze; lower park natural area, Cutler-Donahue Covered Bridge; Clark Tower; and other historical sites.
Annual Community Events in Winterset:
Madison County Farmers’ Market – Held Saturday mornings on the square from the second Saturday in May to the first Saturday in October.
John Wayne’s Birthday Celebration – In celebration of the May 26 birthday of John Wayne, Winterset hosts an action-packed festival on Memorial Day Weekend.
Madison County Covered Bridge Festival – Held the second full weekend in October, county residents gather under the brilliant hues of autumn to celebrate their historic covered bridges.
What are your tips for a day trip to Winterset?