However, a few stand out. The best I’ve seen thus far is the Red Barn Rest Stop and Visitor’s Center at the Northwood (Hwy 19) exit off I-35 in northern Iowa. Billing itself as a rest area/visitors center/coffee shop all in one, it fills the bill. The architecture is a perfect fit to showcase northern Iowa’s heritage.
On the first level, you’ll find big, clean restrooms and vending machines. The upstairs (by the way, it has an elevator) houses a coffee shop, a shopping area, a welcome center and brochures from the surrounding area.
Don’t just stop with the first floor or you’ll miss the best part. Have a coffee and a roll at the Cow Coffee Shoppe (I can vouch that the caramel roll is awesome) and shop at the Barn Boutique for local craft goods – lots of handmade, unique items including jewelry, personal, household one-of-a kinds and Amish baskets. I found some really cut handbags with cats - if I'd found one with a dog, it would have come home with me.
Be sure to pick up plenty of brochures and learn about the area. It’s all right here for you.
The landscaped grounds showcase nature’s gifts in this part of the country. This rest area, the brainchild of Jean Stowell, a local Iowan, makes taking a break an enjoyable experience. It’s easy to see why it’s such a busy place!