A visit to Pella, Iowa, is a one-of-a-kind experience you won’t find just anywhere. This historic Iowa town values its heritage and is steeped in Dutch history. As a result, some areas feel like you’re in the Netherlands! And there are so many things to do in Pella, you’ll want to stay awhile.
So, head there for an experience like no other. Tour the Dutch heritage museums, a working windmill, and an authentic Dutch canal. And that’s only the beginning. The food, bakeries, and surrounding nature areas make it a place you’ll want to visit again and again.
Things to Do in Pella
Pella Historical Village & Vermeer Windmill
Pella Historical Village
The Pella Historical Village has over 20 unique buildings dating back to the 1840s. Take a self-guided tour through a blacksmith shop, wooden shoe shop, 1850s bakery, and other historic displays! And don’t miss Wyatt Earp’s childhood home, where he lived in the 1860s.
At nearly 125-feet tall, the Vermeer Windmill is the tallest working grain windmill in the country. This 1850s replica grain mill was designed and made in the Netherlands and shipped to Iowa in 2002.
Take a guided tour through five floors of the windmill to learn how the windmill was built and operates. While you’re there, you might even get to see flour in the making! Also, the observation deck will get you up close to the windmill blades and give you a nice view of the town.
Important! Don’t miss the miniature village display at the Vermeer Windmill! All ages love this intricate representation of the Netherlands in the 1840s.
Scholte House Museum & Gardens
Take a tour of the Scholte House Museum, located at the Pella town square! The Scholte family originally built this (very) large home in 1848. After it was built, the family made additions to accommodate their needs over the years. The house continued to expand and grew to over 25 rooms.
Before visiting the Scholte House, consider making a reservation at Maria’s Tea Room!
See the website for more on the museum.
Molengracht Plaza (The Pella Canal)
If you’re in Pella, Molengracht Plaza is a must-see! You won’t experience anything like this anywhere else in Iowa!!
It’s a 100,000-square-foot replica of a Dutch square with a 5720-square-foot canal! So stroll through the authentic plaza, shop a little, and grab a bite to eat there. Plus, it’s the perfect spot for a photoshoot.
The Pella Canal holds 100,000 gallons of water and has a working drawbridge. And it’s surrounded by beautiful Dutch-style buildings with shopping, businesses, entertainment, and restaurants.
Pella Tulip Time Festival!
Since its debut in 1935, visitors flock to Pella each May for the tulips and festivities. Trust us, this is one spring celebration you don’t want to miss!
Over 300,000 tulips bloom throughout town, especially in Central Park, Sunken Gardens Park, and the town square! The Historical Village alone has 45,000+ tulips.
But the colorful spring flowers are only the beginning. The festival celebrates Dutch heritage with activities, food, entertainment, and more! Parades, tour wagons, period costumes (with wooden clogs), performers, craft markets, and food vendors are a few of the many (many!) things you’ll enjoy at Tulip Time.
Want to attend the Tulip Festival this year? It’s best to plan ahead! Hotels fill fast, and it’s wise to plan for parking and activities before you get there.
Here are a few great ways to find out more about the Tulip Festival:
- Pella Historical Society’s Tulip Time webpage and Facebook page.
- History of Tulip Time
Pella weather alerts: Text Pellatulip to 67283 for weather alerts during tulip time.
If you’re near the town’s center at 11:00 am, 1:00 pm, 3:00 pm, 5:00 pm, or 9:00 pm, you’ll hear 147 bell chimes from this Old World-style clock. And if you’re on Franklin Street, you can see the four-foot mechanical figurines put on a show. The clock is near beautiful gardens, benches, and Dutch tile scenes and is worth a stop if you’re near the town square.
Sunken Gardens Park
In the spring, Sunken Gardens Park is filled with blooming tulips. But it’s a fun place to visit year-round. The pond is shaped like a wooden clog, and there’s a windmill. There are sidewalks and benches throughout. And if you’re there in winter, make sure you bring your ice skates!
The Tuttle Cabin is just south of Sunken Gardens Park. This log cabin dates back to 1843 before Dutch immigrants settled in Pella. It’s available to tour by appointment, but it’s sometimes open to the public for special events (like Tulip Time).
Historic Pella Opera House
Since its opening in 1900, the Pella Opera House has experienced many changes. From 1900 to 1918, it hosted a range of performers. But, after 1918, it stopped offering shows. Instead, all different businesses used the building until 1987, when it was sold to the Pella Historical Society.
Then, in 1988, after extensive renovations, the Opera House became the Opera House once again! It’s now on the National Register of Historic Places and offers tours and entertainment.
Shop the Town Square
The town square and Molengracht Plaza offer quaint shops in the heart of Pella. Find one-of-a-kind items and gifts in stores like Simple Treasures, Silver Lining, and The Wijn House.
Tour the Vermeer Museum & Global Pavillion
Learn about the history of the Vermeer Corporation’s farming and equipment innovations from 1948 to the present. Open 8:00 am to 4:00 pm, Monday through Thursday.
Golf & Disc Golf
- Bos Landen Golf Club is an award-winning 18-hole public golf course on the outskirts of Pella. Its beautiful wooded surroundings and variety of holes make it a favorite.
- The Central College Disc Golf Course is an 18-hole course with a mix of holes and a beautiful location.
- Roberts Creek Disc Golf Course is a short 9-hole course surrounded by woods at Roberts Creek Park.
- For a different experience, stop at Nederlanders Tap & Golf for some indoor golf, a drink, and a gourmet hot dog!
Pella Christmas events and shopping
There’s something in the air around Christmastime in Pella. Stop by for a Christmas tour, fresh-baked Dutch letter, and warm cider, or find that perfect gift!
Take part in the Pella Christmas Tour of Homes and shop at the Kerstmarket: Pella’s Dutch Christmas Market. Both take place at the beginning of December.
Best restaurants in Pella
There are too many eateries in Pella to list them all, so below are some favorites to consider.
- Dutch Fix offers fast Dutch favorites, like Stroopwafels and Poffertjes. So stop by and try something new!
- Windmill Cafe is known for its excellent breakfast (served all day) and homemade pie. And it’s conveniently located in the town square.
- Liberty Street Kitchen is an excellent restaurant with a delicious menu at the Amsterdam Hotel. Reservations are recommended.
- Butcher’s Brewhuis serves up fresh-cut meats & cheese in a historic brick building on the town square.
- George’s Pizza & Steakhouse has been serving up the best pizza and steaks around since 1974! The good news is, it’s near the town square on Franklin Street.
- The Bread Board is a favorite local bakery and restaurant rolled into one. It’s just east of the town square on Franklin St.
- Nana’s Table Cafe & Mercantile offers delicious breakfast, sandwiches, and salads made from scratch. It’s one block east of the town square on E. 1st St.
- El Charro Mexican Grill has excellent Mexican fare and great margaritas and isn’t far from the town square. It’s on Main Street, two blocks south of the square.
- Nederlanders Tap & Golf serves up gourmet hot dogs, craft beer, a full bar, and indoor golf.
You can’t visit Pella without stopping at a bakery for fresh, hand-made pastries and bread! And, of course, you’ll definitely want some extra Dutch letters to take home.
- Jaarsma Bakery has been a local, family-owned business since 1898! Homemade Dutch pastries are their specialty, but they have a little of everything. Located right in the town square.
- Vander Ploeg Bakery, a local bakery since 1847, sells the most delicious homemade pastries, bread, donuts, and more!
- Cranberry Stone Bakery has everything, from unique cakes and cupcakes to cheesecake and, of course, Dutch letters!
- The Bread Board is a newer bakery on Franklin Street – with more than pastries and bread. Stop by for your favorite bakery item and stay for lunch!
Other local favorites
- The Cellar Peanut Pub has an extensive selection of local craft brews, highly rated Bloody Marys, and other great drinks.
- Van Veen Chocolates serves up homemade candy and specialty chocolates on Franklin Street, just east of the town square.
- Ulrich Meat Market has been in the Pella area for over 150 years, providing fresh-cut and smoked meats, plus Iowa cheeses.
- In’t Veld’s Meat Market offers authentic Dutch bologna and other smoked and cured meats (and cheeses). Also, they provide meat for Butcher’s Brewhuis restaurant, both on the town square.
- De Scoop Ice Cream is a classic small-town Iowa ice cream shop. They have many flavors plus some local favorites, like the Dutch Letter Avalanche.
- Frisian Farms Cheese House is just outside Pella but worth the short drive! Stop in to try their famous Gouda cheese and sample fresh curds.
Where to stay in Pella
Hotels and Bed & Breakfasts
- The Royal Amsterdam Hotel completes the Pella experience. It’s convenient to all the charming attractions and delicious eateries in town. Liberty Street Kitchen is on-site.
- The Dwelling Place Bed & Breakfast is a historical 1918 Craftsman-style house. It’s within walking distance of many area attractions.
- The Cheesemaker’s Inn Bed & Breakfast is a 1918 Craftsman farmhouse serving homemade, locally sourced Dutch food. Located on the southwest side of town.
More Pella hotels
- Baymont Inn & Suites
- Country Inn & Suites
- GrandStay Pella
- Super 8 Hotel
- AmericInn Hotel & Suites
Camping & Cabins near Pella
If camping or a cabin stay is more your style, you’re in luck. Several campgrounds (with hundreds of campsites) and cabins around Lake Red Rock are within minutes southwest of Pella.
Lake Red Rock
The US Army Corps of Engineers manages several (excellent) campgrounds around Lake Red Rock. For camping reservations, see Recreation.org.
- North Overlook Campground
- Howell Station Campground
- Wallashuk Campground
- Ivans Campground
- Whitebreast Campground
Elk Rock State Park
Elk Rock State Park is on the south side of the lake and is about 25 minutes from Pella. The park has two campgrounds with electric and non-electric sites (including an equestrian campground). See the campground maps here and go to Reserve America for camping reservations.
Roberts Creek Park
Roberts Creek Park is a Marian County Park on the north shores of Lake Red Rock. It has two modern campgrounds with 100+ full hookups. See MyCountyParks for reservations.
- Cordova Park Cabins are modern cabins on the north shores of Red Rock Lake and a short drive to Pella.
- Horn’s Ferry Hideaway Cabins are nestled in the woods south of the Des Moines River, near Lake Red Rock. They’re just seven miles from Pella.
- The Twin Oaks Retreat Cabin is a modern cabin in the countryside overlooking a pond a few miles east of Pella.
Other things to do near Pella
Lake Red Rock is a 15,000-acre lake just minutes from Pella and a favorite among outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you want to boat, swim, camp, fish, picnic, hike, or bike, you’ll find what you want at Red Rock. North Overlook Beach, Red Rock Marina, and the Red Rock Visitor’s Center are some places to check out.
At Cordova Park, climb the Cordova Observation Tower, a former water tower, for excellent views of the Des Moines River Valley. At 106 feet tall with 170 stairs, you’ll need to remember part of the fun is the journey. 😉 Cost is $0.50 per person – you need quarters!
The Volksweg Trail is a 13+ mile paved trail that extends from Pella to Lake Red Rock. It’s perfect for a bike ride or a long walk through diverse Iowa landscapes. See the map here.
Elk Rock State Park is along the south shores of Lake Red Rock. It has a large boat ramp and thirteen miles of multi-use trails and is great for boating, fishing, camping, hiking, and equestrian use.
Roberts Creek Park is on Lake Red Rock’s north side and has excellent (full hookup) camping, disc golf, kayaking, fishing, and more!
Ironside Axe Club is an ax range and will teach you how to throw for competition or fun.
Tassel Ridge Winery is 15 minutes southeast of Pella. Check out their gift shop or attend a seated wine tasting or event!
See a sprint car race or another event at the Knoxville Raceway, 18 miles southeast of Pella. Check out their event schedule here.
Visit the Nelson Pioneer Farm & Village to tour historical buildings, like a schoolhouse, log cabin, general store, and more! It’s about 18 miles southeast of Pella in Oskaloosa.
The Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge is an 8600-acre restoration project with activities for all ages! The Prairie Learning Center, auto tour, and trails make it the perfect place to spend a day outdoors. Find the refuge 25 miles northwest of Pella.
Learn more about Pella
- Pella Historical Society
- Visit Pella (check out their scavenger hunt!)
- City of Pella