Pella is an adorable, quaint city in Iowa. It is best known for the annual Tulip Time festivities held every May in honor of the cities Dutch heritage. Yet beyond the tulips, Pella has a vast array of things to do. Having been awarded “Tourism Community of the Year” Pella has plenty to do – outdoor activities, historical sites, outstanding performances, great food and unique shopping! So pack up the car for your summer road trip and visit this must see destination for a touch of Holland right here in America!
Pella was founded in 1847 when eight hundred Dutch immigrants, led by Dominee Hendrik P. Scholte, settled the area. The settlers were seeking religious freedom and in turn named the area Pella after Pella in the Perea, a place where the Christians of Jerusalem found refuge during the Roman-Jewish war. Pella is also well known for being the childhood home of Wyatt Earp.
Pella is a lovely place to visit in every season, but it is during Tulip Time (May 1-3) that it springs to life with over 25,000 tulips, parades, Dutch attire, food and fun. Look for unique festivities like wagon rides and street scrubbing. For these three days, Pella magically becomes a mini Holland. Come travel back in time to visit a European village straight out of a fairytale. With whimsical windmills and picture perfect flowers you won’t want to leave!
In 1847, leader Dominie Hendrik Pieter Scholte, left the Netherlands for America with 800 others, inculding his wife. Not completely thrilled to leave her beautiful home, Dominie Hendrik promised her a new home much like the one she left behind. Today the historic home, located down in town Pella, is surrounded by award winning flower gardens. Over 80,000 tulip bulbs and annuals are planted each year in the Scholte House gardens and Historical Village. Tour the gardens and visit the home to see original antiques, furnishings, and paintings.
An additional historical find in Pella is the childhood home of Wyatt Earp. The home was restored in 1966 to a typical 1850’s residence. The Wyatt Earp House, located in the Village, is on the National Register of Historic Buildings.
A third historical landmark to see is The Amsterdam School. The school was named after a famous Dutch city. As well, Dutch language was used in some of the teaching and pupils often wore wooden shoes. The building, constructed in 1882, is now owned by the Pella Historical Society. It still contains the old stove, desks and other items used during its last years as a school.
Points of Interest
First, you can’t miss the tallest working windmill in America – total height 124 feet! Built in Holland and assembled in Pella by two Dutch craftsmen, the authentic Vermeer Dutch Mill grinds wheat into flour using only wind power. The stone ground flour is used in local restaurants and bakeries. Souvenir bags of flour are available in the gift shop.
Next follow the beautiful sounds of the musical clock on Franklin Street. The eight, four foot mechanical figures perform regularly throughout the day to the music of a 147-bell automatic carillon. There are only a few animated musical clocks like this one in America.
Where To Eat
For some delicious Danishes you must head over to Jaarsma Bakery. For over a century this family owned-and-operated bakery has been baking up delicious "Dutch Treats" like their famous Dutch Letters Pastries, Dutch Apple Bread, and Dutch Spice Cookie.
While your sight seeing in the historic downtown Pella, stop to please your taste buds at George’s Pizza and Steakhouse. This family owned restaurant is known for its amazing pizza, mouth watering steaks, salads, and Grecian delights. Relax and enjoy a cold beer or glass of wine while talking about your Pella adventure.
Look for the cute storefront along Franklin Street and you’ll find The Windmill Café. Step inside this quaint restaurant to experience the welcoming atmosphere and great service. Enjoy comfort food like Beef-n-Noodles or the tasty French dip. The Windmill Café also has a brunch buffet for fewer than ten dollars -simple, delicious food for a reasonable price. Open until 2pm daily. As well, be sure to bring cash or check as credit cards are not accepted.
As adorable as its name, stop by the Tulip Tea Room for a spot of tea. Located in a restored 1915 home and a 2009 Tourism Hall of Fame winner, this charming house features mouthwatering homemade specialties like chicken salad with sugared walnuts and delicious cheesecakes. The menu changes weekly, offering five homemade entrees a day. When you’ve had your fill, visit the unique gift shop featuring Victorian gifts, jewelry, home decor, and tea items. Find that special souvenir as many items feature tulips.
Where To Stay
There are plenty of great places to stay during your visit to charming Pella, Iowa. From modern to historical hotels, to cozy Bed and Breakfasts and, for a rustic feel, even cabin rentals.
Located one block from downtown Pella, The Royal Amsterdam Hotel is a true European experience. Guest rooms have gorgeous views of the Molengracht plaza and canal or Windmill. Complimentary breakfast is available and for dinner the Monarch restaurant is just a few steps away. The menu boasts an extensive array of meal types prepared by the exclusive chef. Enjoy something local or global depending on your mood.
Step back in time by staying at The Cheesemakers Inn. This Inn is a restored turn-of-the-century farmhouse within five minutes from downtown, Pella, and Lake Red Rock. The four suites are newly renovated with rooms ranging from elegant to cottage-chic. In the morning don’t miss the made-from-scratch complementary breakfast featuring Dutch recipes with dairy-fresh and garden-fresh ingredients. The Inn also coordinates tours to visit the Tassel Ridge Winery in Leighton, Iowa.
If you are visiting Pella with a group or family, consider making a great memory with a cabin rental at Twin Oaks Retreat. A peaceful private four acre pond awaits you. Come relax in the company of Mother Nature - two night minimum stay.
There is plenty to do in Pella involving the arts. For a laugh spend a night at Union Street Players, Pella’s award-winning community theater. Voted many times over as the best performing group in Marion County, the non-profit stage troupe produces up to four main stage shows each year. If you’re looking for an upscale evening out during your stay visit the historic 1900 Pella Opera House. The venue has both musical and theatrical performances as well as live music and upbeat bands. Open October through May. Meander your way through The Joan Kuyper Farver Art Gallery and The Mills Gallery. Both present the area with gorgeous art exhibits that inform, educate and celebrate the diversity of the visual arts. Stop to admire work from students, award winning artists in the community, Midwest, nation, and world.
Few shopping excursions are quite as picturesque as Pella, Iowa. While you stroll down the brick walkways surrounded by the beautiful Dutch-flavored architecture, you will be delighted by the various shops around the square including cute boutiques like The Boutique of Pella on Franklin Street. Here you will find one-of-a-kind handbags, colorful jewelry, stylish watches, bright scarves, soy candles and plenty of accessories. There is sure to be something that matches your personality perfectly for the upcoming season.
Located on the South side of Pella’s town square is Ulrich's Meat Market. John Ulrich brought his treasured recipes to Pella from Europe in 1868. He perfected the craftsmanship of smoking meats while offering excellent service. Word spread quickly and soon people traveled great distances for a taste of Dutch history and traditions. Fine smoked meat choices include flavorful bratwurst, liverwurst, beef and jerky sticks. Be sure to try Ulrich's Genuine Pella Ring Bologna in delectable flavors like blue cheese, or Jalapeño and cheddar. Another favorite, the double smoked ham, utilizes Ulrich's secret method of smoking to make it unlike any other. Pick up an imported cheese like the Leyden cheese with cumin seeds for a unique flavor sure to please every cheese connoisseur. This destination is a must! Get a taste of the Netherlands for yourself or to take home as a gift.
Additional Outdoor Activities
If you enjoy golfing, perfect your swing at The Bos Landen Golf Course. The unique name is taken from the Dutch meaning of Land of the Woods. This wooded 18-hole public championship course was rated as Iowa’s #1 Public course for many years as well as being ranked in Golf Digest as the Top-75 Most Affordable Golf Courses in America. Golf Digest also awarded Bos Landen with a "Four Star Place to Play." Each hole features 5 sets of tees for players of all skill levels. The picturesque scenery and rolling hills are sure to please. While you’re there, stop by the Grille on the Green for great food and the lush green view. Open March through November.
Lake Red Rock, is the largest lake in Iowa, and has plenty to do. Spend a day catching fish or soak up the sun boating or at the beach. Bike or walk the lake trails and show off your stair climbing abilities on the 100’ Cordova Observation Tower. If you are a bird watcher, have your camera ready! Enjoy spring and fall migrations on more then 50,000.00 acres. Then, when the day is done, spend your evening camping under the stars. There is plenty here to keep the avid outdoor adventurer happily occupied.
Credits // Author: Wendi Wendt Photo By: Clarence Smith