Winterset is a quaint Iowa community with many fun and unique things to do! The great thing is, it’s only 40 minutes southwest of Des Moines and makes a great day trip.
While you’re there, see the famous covered bridges, tour the museums, and take in the views from Clark Tower. You can also shop at the town square, taste a local cider or wine, and attend an event. There’s no shortage of fun things to do in Winterset, Iowa!
Things to Do in Winterset, Iowa
Start at the Madison County Chamber of Commerce and Welcome Center website. There you’ll find everything you ever wanted to know about the area, complete with itineraries, guides, and more!
Visit the Covered Bridges
The historic covered bridges near Winterset draw visitors from all around! Madison County has the most remaining covered bridges west of the Mississippi. And five of the six remaining bridges in the area are on the National Register of Historic Places. Don’t miss the annual Covered Bridge Festival each fall. The celebration centers on local history, complete with activities, vendors, and competitions.
Also, the 1992 book (and 1995 movie), The Bridges of Madison County, made the covered bridges even more famous. If you’re a fan, you might want to see the abandoned farmhouse from the movie. Francesca’s house suffered fire damage and is closed to visitors, but you can drive by (3255 130th Street, Cumming, IA 50061).
Covered Bridges in Madison County
- Cutler-Donahoe Covered Bridge (Winterset City Park, access via pavement)
- Imes Covered Bridge (St. Charles, access via pavement)
- Cedar Covered Bridge (rural Winterset, access via pavement and some gravel)
- Roseman Covered Bridge (rural Winterset, access via gravel)
- Holliwell Covered Bridge (rural Winterset, access via gravel)
- Hogback Covered Bridge (rural Winterset, access via gravel)
Spend the Day at a Local Park
The Winterset area has several excellent parks in and around town!
The Winterset City Park is a unique 76-acre park with a covered bridge, limestone tower, maze, and more! And the views from Clark Tower go on for miles.
This 80-acre park is just south of Winterset City Park. It has picnic areas and a paved, accessible trail.
This unique 350-acre park is 8 miles southwest of Winterset. Go camping or rent a yurt there! Hike the backbone trail (on a limestone ridge!), float the river, and go fishing there too.
This 60-acre park is 7 miles southwest of Winterset, near Pammel State Park. Fish at the accessible fishing pier, have a picnic, or stroll the one-mile loop trail around the park!
This 45-acre recreation area is 10 miles south of Winterset. Go fishing in the 9-acre pond and camp at the campground (RV and tent sites).
Clanton Creek is a large, 1115-acre natural area 15 miles south of Winterset. Hike on 10 miles of trails, or go hunting and fishing. The area contains native remnants of prairie, wetlands, and savanna oak.
Tour the Museums
People from all around the world have visited John Wayne’s Birthplace. The museum has an extensive collection of John Wayne relics, including one of his cars! And you won’t want to leave without stopping at his birthplace home.
The Iowa Quilt Museum is on the south side of the historic town square. They feature collections of unique, historic, and modern quilts. And the great thing is, the exhibits change periodically, so you can see new quilts every time you go.
Tour the 1856 Bevington-Kaser Mansion and 13 more historic buildings on 18-acres. Also, you can see many exhibits at the museum, including Native American artifacts, rocks & fossils, farm equipment, and more.
For more museums, see the Madison County Chamber of Commerce website.
Sip a Local Drink
There are several quaint places to eat and drink in and around town! And here are some favorites you won’t want to miss.
The Winterset Cidery offers a unique offering of craft hard apple cider! They like to keep their cider as natural as possible for an excellent, fresh taste. If that wasn’t enough, they offer a lineup of concerts and events.
The Covered Bridges Winery uses Iowa grapes to make their award-winning local wine. So stop in for a taste, and take home a bottle or two! Or make it a date and attend one of their events.
Places to Stay
The Winterset City Campground offers a super convenient place to stay. It’s next to the Winterset City Park and has tent and full hookup RV sites.
The Cobblestone Inn is off Highway 92. It offers complimentary breakfast, Wifi, and a fitness center. And for an extra fee, dogs are welcome.
The Covered Bridge Inn is near Cedar Bridge, has affordable rates, free breakfast, and Wifi. See their website for more information or to make reservations.
Town Square Shopping
There are several quaint shops to browse while you’re in town! Here are a few to check out around the town square:
- Heartland Fiber Co. & Gifts (they offer classes too)
- White Cottage Market
- 1st Avenue Collective
- The Finishing Touch (& Rhapsody Rose Floral)
- Piece Works Quilt Shop
Visit Winterset, Iowa Today!
Directions to Winterset, Iowa
It’s about a 40-minute drive from Des Moines:
- Take I-80 west to Hwy 169 South (Exit 110). Head south 15 miles to Winterset.
- Or, take I-35 south to IA 92 West (Exit 56/Bevington). Head west for 13 miles to Winterset.