Best Things to Do in Pella, Iowa: Top 12 Attractions to Visit

by Jen
Best Things to Do in Pella, Iowa
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Are you thinking about visiting Pella in Iowa this year? Here are some of the most fun and unique things to do in Pella. These quaint sights, activities, and attractions are sure to make for an unforgettable vacation experience.

Pella, a gem in America’s heartland, brings Dutch heritage into the fabric of the Midwest. As you meander through its picturesque streets, you’re greeted by the silhouette of windmills against the horizon and the splash of tulips in a myriad of colors. This charming town offers a variety of things to do in Pella. This includes everything from exploring its historical architecture to indulging in delicious Dutch pastries and immersing yourself in vibrant cultural festivals.

The town’s allure isn’t just skin deep. Beyond its visual charm lies a rich history waiting to be unraveled, a community that welcomes with open arms, and traditions that celebrate the essence of its origins. The renowned Tulip Time festival is a testament to Pella’s commitment to preserving its Dutch roots. It draws visitors from all corners to partake in the festivities.

But Pella isn’t just about tulips and windmills. The serene Lake Red Rock beckons nature enthusiasts, while the historic downtown, with its architecture and eateries, offers a slice of the Netherlands in Iowa. For those yearning for a blend of cultural immersion and relaxation, Pella stands out as an ideal destination.

So, as you gear up to explore what this Dutch enclave has to offer, prepare to be enchanted by its stories, landscapes, and the wafting aroma of freshly baked Dutch pastries. Here’s everything you need to know about these fun things to do in Pella.

The top places to visit in Pella, Iowa right now
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Best Places to Visit in Pella

Ready to jump into all the coolest things to do in Pella? As noted above, there’s something for everyone at this enchanting vacation spot. So keep reading to discover all these unique Pella places to visit.

Are you looking to explore captivating museums and serene canal boat rides? Or would you prefer savoring delectable Dutch treats or strolling along charming streets? Whatever you’re planning, these must sees in Pella can accommodate your needs. Here’s all the best attractions in Pella that you should know about.

1. Vermeer Windmill & Historical Village

Stepping into the Vermeer Windmill & Historical Village is like taking a leap back in time. This iconic landmark stands tall as the largest working grain windmill in the United States. Things to do in Pella often start here, as visitors are captivated by the intricate wooden gears and mechanisms that bring this Dutch marvel to life.

Guided tours offer a deep dive into the windmill’s history, its construction, and the traditional milling processes. As you ascend its levels, panoramic views of Pella unfold, making it a photographer’s delight. Adjacent to the windmill, the Historical Village paints a vivid picture of 19th-century Pella. From the Wyatt Earp house to the blacksmith shop, each building has its own tale, echoing the rhythms of a bygone era.

For those with a sweet tooth, the village bakery is a must-visit. The scent of Dutch letters and almond pastries fills the air, promising a treat that’s hard to resist. Coolest activities in Pella? Watching the windmill’s sails turn gracefully against the sky, while indulging in a pastry, is undoubtedly one of them.

Visiting Vermeer Windmill is one of the best things to do in Pella, Iowa.
Step back in time at Vermeer Windmill, the largest working grain windmill in the U.S., where Dutch marvels and history await.

2. Pella’s Tulip Time Festival

Every spring, Pella transforms into a vibrant tapestry of colors, celebrating its Dutch heritage with the renowned Tulip Time Festival. It’s a must-see in Pella, where streets come alive with parades, traditional dances, and thousands of tulips in full bloom. The festival is a testament to the town’s deep-rooted Dutch traditions. It’s easy to feel transported to the Netherlands without ever leaving Iowa.

Visitors are treated to a visual feast as locals don traditional Dutch attire, wooden shoes, and participate in lively street scrubbing parades. The town square becomes a hub of activity with craft stalls, food vendors offering Dutch delicacies, and live performances. One of the coolest activities in Pella during this time is the evening light parade. This is where beautifully illuminated floats glide through the streets, casting a magical glow.

For those keen on history, there are reenactments depicting life in the 1800s, giving a glimpse into Pella’s rich past. And, of course, the tulips! Gardens and parks showcase a myriad of tulip varieties, creating a mesmerizing palette of reds, yellows, pinks, and purples. It’s a Pella attraction that promises memories to last a lifetime.

Tulip Time Festival blooms each spring, showcasing parades, dances, and vibrant tulips.
Tulip Time Festival blooms each spring, showcasing parades, dances, and vibrant tulips.

3. Lake Red Rock

Lake Red Rock beckons nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike. As Iowa’s largest lake, it offers a plethora of things to do in Pella and its surroundings. The shimmering waters are a haven for boating, fishing, and kayaking, while the miles of trails surrounding the lake invite hikers and bikers to explore the scenic beauty.

For those who love bird-watching, the lake is a paradise. From bald eagles to migratory birds, the diversity is astounding. Pella attractions aren’t just limited to its Dutch heritage; the natural beauty here is equally compelling. Set up a picnic by the lakeside, and you might just spot deer grazing nearby or hear the distant call of a loon.

Camping enthusiasts? You’re in for a treat. The well-maintained campgrounds around Lake Red Rock provide the perfect spot to stargaze and enjoy the tranquil ambiance. If you’re wondering where to visit in Pella for a mix of relaxation and adventure, this lake is the answer. And for those who prefer a bird’s-eye view, the observation tower offers panoramic vistas of the lake and the sprawling landscapes beyond.

4. Scholte House Museum & Gardens

Stepping into the Scholte House Museum & Gardens is like taking a journey back in time. Built in 1847, this historic home was the residence of Pella’s founder, Dominie H.P. Scholte. As you wander through the rooms, you’ll get a glimpse of the life and times of the early settlers. Antique furnishings, personal artifacts, and detailed exhibits paint a vivid picture of Pella’s rich history.

The gardens surrounding the house are equally enchanting. Bursting with colorful blooms, they’re a testament to the Dutch love for horticulture. Coolest activities in Pella? Strolling through these gardens, especially during spring, is undoubtedly one of them. The scent of fresh flowers in the air and the gentle hum of bees make it a sensory delight.

For those pondering about the best things to do in Pella, the Scholte House offers a blend of history and natural beauty. It’s not just a museum; it’s a storybook of Pella’s past. And if you’re lucky, you might even catch one of the special events or workshops hosted here, adding another layer to your Pella experience.

Visit Scholte House, where antique furnishings, personal artifacts, and detailed exhibits. Source: https://www.visitpella.com/
A top place to visit in Pella. | Source: https://www.visitpella.com/

5. Pella Opera House Theatre Center

Imagine a place where history, art, and community converge. The Pella Opera House Theatre Center is precisely that spot. Established in 1900, this iconic venue has seen countless performances, from operas to plays, and has been a cornerstone of Pella’s cultural scene. Best places in Pella? This opera house surely ranks high on that list.

The interior is a marvel, with intricate woodwork, plush red seats, and a stage that has witnessed over a century of artistic expression. For those wondering where to visit in Pella, attending a show here is an experience in itself. The acoustics are impeccable, ensuring every note, every dialogue reaches the audience in its purest form.

Beyond the performances, the Opera House also offers guided tours. Dive deep into its history, hear tales of yesteryears, and maybe even encounter a ghost story or two. It’s a blend of the past and present, making it one of the unique places in Pella to immerse oneself in art and history.

The Pella Opera House Theatre Center is a cultural cornerstone, where history, art, and community unite.
The Pella Opera House Theatre Center is a cultural cornerstone, where history, art, and community unite.

6. Pella Historical Village and Tulip Tower

Stepping into the Pella Historical Village is like taking a journey back in time. This meticulously preserved area offers a glimpse into the Dutch heritage that Pella prides itself on. Coolest activities in Pella? Wandering these streets, you’ll feel the essence of the Netherlands right in the heart of Iowa.

One of the standout features here is the Tulip Tower. Standing tall, it offers panoramic views of the town, especially during the tulip season when the surroundings burst into a riot of colors. It’s a sight that answers the question of what to do in Pella for those seeking both beauty and history.

The village itself is dotted with historic buildings, each telling its own story. From old bakeries to blacksmith shops, it’s a living museum showcasing the daily life of early Dutch settlers. And if you’re on the lookout for unique things to do in Pella, attending one of the traditional Dutch craft demonstrations is a must.

In essence, the Pella Historical Village and Tulip Tower are more than just attractions; they’re a testament to the town’s rich heritage and the spirit of its people.

Exploring Historical Village and Tulip Tower is one of the best things to do in Pella, Iowa.
Tulip Tower provides panoramic town views, especially vibrant during tulip season, offering a blend of beauty and history.

7. Vander Ploeg Bakery

For those with a sweet tooth, Vander Ploeg Bakery is a must-see in Pella. Established in 1847, this bakery has been serving the community with traditional Dutch pastries for generations. Things to do in Pella for foodies? Dive into a world of deliciousness here!

From the moment you step inside, the aroma of freshly baked goods fills the air. The bakery is renowned for its Dutch letters, a pastry filled with almond paste and shaped into an “S”. It’s a treat that’s both delightful to look at and even better to taste. If you’re wondering where to go in Pella to satisfy your cravings, this is the place.

But it’s not just about the pastries. The bakery also offers a range of bread, cookies, and other baked goods, each carrying the authentic taste of the Netherlands. It’s a cool destination in Pella where you can enjoy a cup of coffee, paired with a pastry, and watch the world go by.

In essence, Vander Ploeg Bakery is a slice of Dutch heaven in Iowa, offering both locals and visitors a taste of tradition in every bite.

Indulge your sweet tooth at Vander Ploeg Bakery, an 1847 tradition of Dutch pastries.
Indulge your sweet tooth at Vander Ploeg Bakery, an 1847 tradition of Dutch pastries.

8. Klokkenspel & Plaza

Right in the heart of Pella, the Klokkenspel & Plaza stands as a testament to the town’s rich Dutch heritage. This musical clock tower is not just a timekeeper but a storyteller, recounting tales of Pella’s history through animated figures and enchanting melodies. If you’re pondering what to do in Pella, this attraction is a delightful blend of art, history, and entertainment.

Every day, locals and tourists gather around the plaza to witness the clock’s performances. The figures dance and move, narrating stories from the past, all while the bells chime harmoniously. It’s a Pella attraction that captures the essence of the town’s spirit and pride.

Adjacent to the Klokkenspel is a beautifully designed plaza, perfect for a leisurely stroll or a moment of relaxation. With its intricate brickwork and charming benches, it’s one of those unique places in Pella where time seems to slow down.

In a town that beautifully marries the old with the new, the Klokkenspel & Plaza stands as a symbol of Pella’s enduring love for its roots and traditions.

Explore Klokkenspel & Plaza, a Dutch heritage musical clock tower blending history, art, and entertainment in the heart of town.
Explore Klokkenspel & Plaza, a Dutch heritage musical clock tower blending history, art, and entertainment in the heart of town.

9. Molengracht Plaza

Stepping into Molengracht Plaza feels like being transported straight to the Netherlands. This meticulously designed plaza replicates a Dutch canal, complete with a working drawbridge and charming brick-lined streets. It’s one of those unique places in Pella where you can experience a slice of Europe without ever leaving Iowa.

As you wander the plaza, you’ll find an array of boutique shops, delightful eateries, and even a boutique hotel. It’s a Pella attraction that offers something for everyone. For those looking for things to do in Pella, attending one of the many events hosted here, from art fairs to music nights, is a must.

The water in the canal reflects the beautiful architecture surrounding it, creating a picturesque scene that’s perfect for photography enthusiasts. And if you’re wondering where to visit in Pella for a romantic evening, the soft glow of the street lamps over the canal at night creates a magical ambiance.

Molengracht Plaza is more than just a shopping destination. It’s a place where history, culture, and modern amenities come together, offering visitors a truly unique experience.

Molengracht Plaza features a Dutch canal replica with a drawbridge and brick streets, offering a European experience.
Molengracht Plaza features a Dutch canal replica with a drawbridge and brick streets, offering a European experience.

10. Central Park

Right in the heart of the city, Central Park stands as a testament to Pella’s commitment to preserving green spaces and providing recreational areas for its residents and visitors. If you’re wondering what to do in Pella for a relaxing day out, this park is your answer.

With its beautifully manicured lawns, vibrant flower beds, and a stunning fountain as its centerpiece, Central Park is a favorite spot for picnics, leisurely strolls, and even outdoor concerts during the warmer months. It’s one of those cool destinations in Pella where you can just sit back, relax, and watch the world go by.

For families, the park offers a playground that keeps the little ones entertained. History buffs can admire the various statues and monuments that tell tales of Pella’s rich past. And if you’re on the lookout for Pella attractions that offer a mix of nature, history, and culture, Central Park fits the bill perfectly.

In the evenings, the park takes on a magical aura with its lights reflecting on the fountain’s waters, making it a romantic spot for couples. Truly, it’s one of the best places to go in Pella to unwind and soak in the town’s charm.

Central Park showcases the city's dedication to green spaces, offering a relaxing haven for both locals and visitors.
Central Park showcases the city’s dedication to green spaces, offering a relaxing haven for both locals and visitors.

11. Pella Rolscreen Museum

Dive deep into the history of innovation at the Pella Rolscreen Museum. This fascinating spot showcases the evolution of the iconic Rolscreen window, a product that put Pella on the map in the world of window manufacturing. If you’re pondering about the best things to do in Pella to get a mix of history and innovation, a visit to this museum is a top pick.

The interactive exhibits take visitors on a journey through time. They highlight the company’s milestones and the genius behind the Rolscreen’s design. It’s not just about windows, though. The museum paints a vivid picture of Pella’s industrious spirit and the community’s dedication to craftsmanship and quality.

For those who appreciate unique places in Pella, the museum offers a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the Rolscreen, complete with vintage machinery and tools. And if you’re a fan of architecture, you’ll be captivated by the museum’s building itself. It beautifully blends modern design with traditional Dutch elements.

Wrapping up your visit, don’t miss the gift shop where you can pick up souvenirs that celebrate Pella’s rich heritage. It’s a testament to the fact that sometimes, the coolest activities in Pella are found in the stories of its past.

12. Pella’s Dutch Letters and Local Delicacies

When you’re wondering about the coolest things to do in Pella, indulging in the town’s culinary delights should be high on your list. Pella is renowned for its Dutch Letters, a pastry filled with almond paste and shaped into an “S”. These treats are a staple in local bakeries and are a must-try for anyone visiting the town.

But the culinary journey doesn’t stop there. Dive into a world of flavors with other Dutch delicacies like speculaas (spiced cookies), rookworst (smoked sausage), and oliebollen (Dutch doughnuts). Each bite transports you straight to the streets of Amsterdam. This makes it one of the best places to go in Pella to experience authentic Dutch cuisine.

For those looking for cool destinations in Pella to satiate their sweet tooth, there’s no shortage of bakeries and cafes that serve these traditional treats. And if you’re keen on taking a piece of Pella back home, many establishments offer beautifully packaged Dutch Letters and other goodies. This makes it perfect for gifting or enjoying later.

In a town rooted in Dutch traditions, it’s no surprise that its culinary offerings are a reflection of its heritage. So, when you’re in Pella, make sure to treat your taste buds to these delectable delights.

Indulging in Dutch Letters is one of the best things to do in Pella, Iowa.
Discover the renowned Dutch Letters at Jaarsma Bakery, almond paste pastries shaped like an “S”, showcasing the town’s culinary charm.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Best Things to Do in Pella, Iowa

Looking for more content on the top things to do in Pellal? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to Pella:

How do I get to Pella?

To reach Pella, you can drive via major highways like Highway 163 or Interstate 80. Located in Iowa’s heartland, Pella is easily accessible by car from nearby cities. The nearest airports are Des Moines International Airport and Eastern Iowa Airport, both offering connections to Pella.

When is the best time to visit Pella?

While Pella is beautiful year-round, many visitors flock to the town during the Tulip Time Festival in May. However, if you prefer a quieter experience, consider visiting during the fall or spring.

Are there any Dutch restaurants in Pella?

Yes, Pella offers a variety of Dutch restaurants that showcase the town’s rich heritage. You can savor traditional Dutch cuisine, including stroopwafels and pea soup, in charming settings that reflect the town’s Dutch roots. It’s a delightful culinary experience that adds to Pella’s unique charm.

Discover this Dutch restaurant that offers an authentic taste of Dutch cuisine, enriching the town's cultural experience.
Discover this Dutch restaurant that offers an authentic taste of Dutch cuisine, enriching the town’s cultural experience.

Is Pella family-friendly?

Yes, Pella offers a range of activities suitable for all ages, from historical sites to parks and delicious bakeries.

Is Pella worth visiting?

Absolutely! Pella, Iowa, offers a unique blend of rich Dutch heritage, stunning tulip gardens, and delightful culinary treats. This makes it a must-visit destination for travelers seeking a charming and culturally immersive experience. Here’s what might make a visit to Pella appealing:

  1. Dutch Influence: Pella’s Dutch roots are evident in its architecture, windmills, and cultural festivals. The town takes pride in preserving its Dutch heritage, and you’ll find many buildings reflecting traditional Dutch architectural styles.
  2. Tulip Time Festival: If you visit in May, you might catch the annual Tulip Time Festival. This is a celebration of Pella’s Dutch culture with parades, traditional Dutch costumes, food, and, of course, beautiful tulip displays.
  3. Historical Sites: The Vermeer Windmill, a working 1850s-style windmill, and the Historical Village, a collection of preserved buildings and artifacts, offer insights into the area’s history and Dutch traditions.
  4. Outdoor Activities: Lake Red Rock, Iowa’s largest lake, is nearby and offers opportunities for boating, fishing, hiking, and camping.
  5. Shopping and Dining: Pella’s downtown area is filled with unique shops selling Dutch treats, gifts, and antiques. You can also enjoy Dutch-inspired cuisine at local bakeries and restaurants.
  6. Scenic Beauty: The town is known for its well-maintained gardens, parks, and landscapes. It provides a picturesque setting for a leisurely visit.
  7. Proximity to Other Attractions: Pella’s location makes it a convenient stop if you’re exploring other parts of Iowa. It’s also a great pitstop when traveling between larger Midwestern cities.

What is Pella famous for?

Pella, Iowa, is renowned for its Dutch heritage, evident in its architecture, windmills, and the annual Tulip Time Festival that celebrates the town’s vibrant tulip gardens and Dutch traditions. The town also boasts historical landmarks and delicious Dutch pastries, adding to its fame.

Final Thoughts on Exploring Pella

Pella is more than just a town; it’s a delightful blend of history, culture, and culinary wonders. From its iconic windmills and tulip gardens to the mouthwatering Dutch Letters, every corner of this charming town tells a story. Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or someone just looking for a unique getaway, Pella promises an experience that’s both enriching and unforgettable. So, pack your bags, and let the enchanting streets of Pella take you on a journey like no other.

The top things to do in Pella, Iowa for all types of travelers
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