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Monday, June 27, 2016

8 Reasons to Take a Break in Northern Iowa

Red Barn Rest Area

Will you be traveling I-35 in northern Iowa this summer? If so, plan to take a break in Northwood. Just a few miles south of the Minnesota line,

First, stop off at the Red Barn rest stop and visitor’s center. Undoubtedly, the best rest area I’ve ever seen, boasting a coffee shop and a boutique.

Diamond Jo Casino
The Diamond Jo Casino ( is adjacent to the freeway, attached to the Comfort Inn and Suites. A Holiday Inn Express is across the street. The casino is small compared to some of the big names and prides itself on more personalized service.  As part of Worth County, a percentage of its revenue supports schools and other programs in the area. For some reason, that makes me feel better about leaving some of my hard-earned money there.
In Finders Keepers

If you enjoy unique shopping opportunities, Northwood offers a couple that are sure to delight.  Finders Keepers is truly a “find anything” kind of place. Jennifer, the owner, and her husband are collectors who love to find the unusual. He travels all over the world and brings new items home. She is willing to share the story of special items – where it came from and when they found it. (

The Hen House
Finders Keepers also hosts a coffee and pastries bar. Also, Jennifer told us a fascinating side fact. The building was once a stop on the orphan train route.

Across the street is The Hen House Coffee Shop & Boutique, another shopping experience housed in a renovated old building. Once again, you’ll find an abundance of antiques and home decor. If you love repurposed items, you’ll discover them here. (

We ate lunch at Tequila’s. I had the lunch fajitas and they were fabulous. My husband ordered a burrito and loved it.

Swensrud School

The Worth County Historical Society ( operates several museums, including the one-room Swensrud School. When we visited, we learned about its history from a woman who had actually attended the school. The museum is well organized. I particularly enjoyed the period clothing and military history sections. The Pixley Log House, built in 1858, served as a home to several families over its lifetime. With furnishings from before 1870, it gives visitors a good idea what life was like in rural America.
Museum display

Take a stroll through the Worth County Fairgrounds and enjoy the statues that represent the various towns. Beautiful flowers and old trees line the trail of this enjoyable walk.
At Fairgrounds

Tired and thirsty yet? Cool off with a cold one from the Worth Brewing Company ( In another renovated building with a tin ceiling, the d├ęcor alone is worth the visit.

Worth Brewing Company
I love to visit towns that choose to revitalize old buildings rather than simply building new ones.  A nonprofit group, Waking Miss Winifred, has taken on the task of renovating the old Winifred Hotel, built in 1912-1913. Check their Facebook page: for more information.

Northwood, founded in 1853, may be small but its residents have mighty big plans for keeping their culture and history alive!

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