Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Marshalltown, IA

  • Published 2023/03/24

Your next holiday destination should have a dynamic hometown lifestyle that allows you to experience a good blend of urban and rural living.

When it comes to this, there is only one place you should keep in mind: Marshalltown, Iowa.

Situated right in the heart of Iowa, Marshalltown began in the 1870s and pushed to connect with the Lincoln Highway in 1913.

Henry Anson founded the city, which is now the seat of Marshall County.

It gets its name from Marshall, Michigan.

However, since another town in Iowa was already named Marshall, residents chose the name Marshalltown.

One of the must-sees in the town is the Historical Society of Marshall County, which lets you revisit the place’s history.

With its own library, you will have access to all the books and materials you need to know the town better.

It is also a haven for art lovers, with the Fisher Art Gallery collecting impressionist and post-impressionist works by Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas.

You can take your family to its community parks, such as the Kiwanis Park and the Timber Creek Park.

These are just the tip of the iceberg.

You should plan your vacation to Marshalltown right to enjoy everything it offers.

Here are the best things to do in Marshalltown, IA:

Discover the Beauty of the Glick-Sower House

Exterior of the Glick-Sower House

ChickenPieLinux, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There is so much history in Marshalltown, and one of the best places to visit to discover more is the Glick-Sower House.

This place is an 1859 structure and an example of a beautiful upper-middle-class Victorian home.

It’s majestically decorated with original furnishings and parquet oak floors.

Front view of Glick-Sower House's exterior

ChickenPieLinux, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The house is also known as the Susie Sower House, though its original owner was Dr. George Glick.

Today, the house is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Historical Society of Marshall County operates the place as a historic house museum.

Enjoy a Family Camping Experience at the Riverview Park Campground

Located on Woodland St, the Riverview Park Campground is adjacent to the Iowa River within the stunning Riverview Park.

It offers campers comfort and amenities such as ample space for accommodating RVs, tents, and fun hookup sites that provide water, sewer, and electricity.

Find camper parking pads and a shower house with flush toilets and hot water.

You also have two hydrants.

Staying here in the campground lets you enjoy the different amenities and features of Riverview Park.

Explore its beautiful flower gardens, three tree sculptures, a dog park, an 18-hole disc golf course, tennis and basketball courts, and open-air shelters.

This will be a fun and exciting camping experience for the family.

Visit the Historical Society of Marshall County

To celebrate the rich local history of Marshalltown and educate the coming generations, the Historical Society of Marshall County manages and preserves four historical properties.

To succeed, it has partnered with various organizations in the town that are as passionate as they are for preserving their culture and history.

If you want to conduct historical and genealogical research, you can visit its library, which brims with documentary and photographic history.

Enjoy a Pizza Dinner at the Pizza Ranch

Exterior of Pizza Ranch

Crcjfly, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Who doesn’t love pizza?

Give in to your cravings and take the entire family to the Pizza Ranch, where you can enjoy a legendary dining experience.

Try all your Ranch Favorite pizza flavors, complete with sides, chicken, and fresh salads, before completing your meal with a sweet dessert.

Located on S. Center Street, everyone will want to come back for more.

Visit the Impressive Mowry Irvine Mansion

The Mowry Irvine Mansion is another must-see in Marshalltown because it’s the headquarters of the Historical Society of Marshall County.

The society preserves and manages four properties.

Built in the 1870s in the Second Empire style, the Mowry Irvine Mansion houses a genealogy library.

They added a porch to the structure sometime in the 1900s.

The prominent Lounsberry and Mowry families initially owned the house, which still has the original furniture and woodwork.

Aside from those, there are displays from local artists in the upper part of the house.

Explore the Marshalltown Historic District

Like most other towns, Marshalltown has its own central district that’s considered historic.

The Marshalltown Historic District covers East Main’s 200 blocks, all the way to West Main’s 100 blocks, including 3rd Street to 3rd Avenue and Church to State Street.

Interestingly, the Marshalltown Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.

It’s a representative collection of Marshalltown’s vernacular building forms and commercial architectural styles from the 1860s to the 1940s.

Upon its nomination, the place had 96 resources, including one contributing site, 79 contributing buildings, and 16 non-contributing buildings.

If you want to see the central business district, this is where you should go.

Admire the Tallcorn Tower Guarding Main Street

Standing tall and acting as the guard of Main Street is the Tallcorn Tower, Marshalltown’s tallest commercial building, located on N. Second Avenue.

More than that, this 8-story concrete building has provided 48 housing units to the community that lost hundreds of homes after the devastating tornado in 2018.

This apartment was once a hotel with 125 rooms; it was already a huge part of downtown Marshalltown.

The Tallcorn Tower’s role in the city earned it a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.

Try a Uniquely Delicious Hamburger at Taylor’s Maid-Rite

Exterior of Taylor’s Maid-Rite

Kepper66, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

One of the most important reasons to try Taylor’s Maid-Rite’s delicious hamburger is its rich history of serving hamburgers to central Iowa.

Since 1928, this family-owned business has served great food in Marshalltown for more than 90 years.

Their single sandwich menu has become a tradition and a worldwide favorite.

Their loose meat sandwich is created only from the finest 100% choice beef, sourced in Iowa and ground to perfection every day.

The meat is then cooked in a cast-iron cooker, placed between buns, and topped with pickles and chopped onions before getting drizzled with mustard.

After 90 years, they have finally made ketchup available on their counter for those who like it.

But, mind you, every Taylor’s Maid-Rite sandwich pops with an explosive taste each time, with or without ketchup.

Shop Like a Local at the Cartwright Downtown Farmers Market

On N. 2nd Avenue, you will find the spot where locals come together for different reasons.

The Cartwright Downtown Farmers Market is a lot of places to the locals, the go-to place for their produce and groceries.

Vendors from different corners of Marshalltown come together to offer their goods, ranging from fresh and crisp vegetables, fruits, and baked goods.

Likewise, buy honey, jellies, crafts, and more.

The place brims with everything you can ever need or want, plus the bustling atmosphere can get you excited without being too overwhelming.

Visit in the morning, because not too many people are around yet.

Then, you can see how the locals start their day.

The Cartwright Downtown Farmers Market also hosts numerous community organizations over the summer.

These are the Marshall County Master Gardeners, MICA, Marshall County 4-H, and ISU Extension and Research.

Experience the Unique and Lovely Central Iowa Fair

One of the ways that Marshalltown welcomes its visitors is through the Central Iowa Fair, sponsored by the Central Iowa Fair Association.

This fair makes E. Olive Street even more lively as it hosts numerous events all year round, including Bingo, Stock Car Races, Rodeo, craft shows, banquets, receptions, and weddings.

It’s a great activity that brings families together, locals and visitors alike, with exhibits, food festivals, bazaars, live music, and exciting contests.

It truly is a can’t-miss activity in Marshalltown.

Discover the Interesting Story of the Grimes Farm and Conservation Center

Lush greenery of Grimes Farm and Conservation Center

renee_mcgurk, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you’ve never been to a farm and conservation center, this is the chance you need.

Even if you’ve already been to one, still, you should come and see the Grimes Farm and Conservation Center.

Mildred and Leonard Grimes purchased a farm in the western part of Marshalltown in 1964.

It was a deteriorated parcel of land that they restored through sustainable farming and conservation practices only.

What were these practices?

They built terraces, excavated a pond, dug waterways, planted native grass, and avoided tillage to help reverse soil erosion, which had already ravaged the land.

In the 1990s, the couple started donating parcels of the land to the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation.

Today, you can do a lot of activities during your visit, including walking or biking through prairies, crop fields, wetlands, and even woodlands.

Then, you can visit its Conservation Center to admire its environmental education classroom and exhibits on natural history.

Admire the Beauty of the Iowa River’s Edge Trail

Marshalltown boasts beautiful natural environments; one of these is on the Iowa River’s Edge Trail.

As the Iowa River makes its way to Mississippi, it creates a greenway.

However, the River’s Edge Trail is where you can find small settlements upstream.

Admire the riparian scenery.

This trail covers a right of way for 34 miles on the former rail line that traverses Steamboat Rock in Hardin County from Marshalltown.

It is secured and open to the public.

However, only the first and last few miles have been paved and developed as the trail is an ongoing project.

Indeed, there’ll be more sights to see once it is completed.

Discover the Marshall County Freedom Rock

One of the best ways to honor those who have given up their lives for the country is to dedicate a mural for them.

Such is the Marshall County Freedom Rock, a mural that honors a specific veteran from each era of war.

Located on S. 6th Street, the mural is dedicated on the grounds of the American Legion Golf Course with designs from artist Bubba Sorenson.

The mural depicts the lives of the five soldiers from Marshall County who gave their lives during the Vietnam and Korean wars and in Iraq and World War II.

Play Bowling at the Wayward Social

Enjoy a few rounds of taking down some pins with your family and friends at the Wayward Social on South 6th Street.

Formerly known as Totem Bowl, this bowling alley features 20 lanes with an updated scoring system, making it more comfortable and enjoyable for bowlers.

There’s also a great selection of food to grab, including vegetarian options that you can customize on request.

The Wayward Social also offers arcade games to enjoy with the whole family.

Look out for its Happy Hour for bowling, especially since you get to play for 2 hours for the price of 1!

Cool Down at Marshalltown Family Aquatic Center

On hot days, the best spot to cool down when you’re in the city is Marshalltown Family Aquatic Center.

The center features 8-lap lanes, diving boards, water slides, play equipment, and a drip slide, as well as a lazy river for a full fun day.

Lifeguards are also on-site, but you still have to keep an eye on your toddlers if you’re taking them with you.

It’s a perfect place to beat the heat, especially when summer kicks in!

You can find Marshalltown Family Aquatic Center on Washington Street.

Watch Car Racing at Marshalltown Speedway

If you love car racing, Marshalltown Speedway is your place!

It features a 1/4 mile of dirt track with high banks, hosting car racing events in the city and its surrounding areas.

Many groups of race car drivers join the different events, so be sure to check the schedule for the perfect time to go.

There are concessions to grab your snack and drinks to enjoy while watching the race.

And since it’s a dirt track, it’s loud and noisy, so bring earplugs if you’re a little sensitive to protect your ears.

Overall, it’s a fun activity to do in the city for car racing lovers alike!

Marshalltown Speedway is located at East Olive Street.

Hang Out at Fiddle & Whistle Irish Pub

After a long day getting around Marshalltown, you can cap the night at Fiddle & Whistle Irish Pub with your family and friends.

The pub serves food and drinks in a true Irish sense with lots of specialty cocktails to try.

And of course, a great selection of craft beers on tap and Irish whiskeys are not to be missed,

There are open mics, live music, and pub crawl events to enjoy with!

Enjoy the night at Fiddle & Whistle Irish Pub on West Main Street.

Make Your Own Souvenir at Create a Keepsake

How unique and memorable is it to bring home a souvenir from Marshalltown that you created by yourself?

Yes, Create A Keepsake makes it happen.

This charming gift shop has a huge selection of ceramics and glass items that are all ready to paint, which is perfect for art and DIY craft lovers.

You can paint any design to your liking and also with the help of the staff here with your creation.

Go, create your own souvenir and gifts for your loved ones before heading back home!

You can visit Create A Keepsake at West Main Street.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Visit the Matthew Edel Blacksmith Shop

In this day and age, it’s not every day that you get to see an intact blacksmith shop from a century ago.

You can visit the Matt Edel Blacksmith Shop and House.

Find it in Haverhill, Iowa, 15 minutes from Marshalltown.

This complex includes a house from the 1890s, a garage added in 1915, and a blacksmith shop dating back to the 1880s.

In 1873, Matthew Edel immigrated to the US from Germany.

He owned the blacksmith and its subsequent furnishings.

Edel was a skilled inventor and blacksmith who owned the shop and lived in it until 1940.

Though he was just one of the 2,100 blacksmiths in Iowa, his shop is the only one that remains complete and original.

He left the building the same as it was when he died.

Marvel at the Matchstick Marvels Museum

In Gladbrook, Iowa, some 21 minutes from Marshalltown, you can find a true marvel and jewel, the Matchstick Marvels Museum.

It’s not the average museum because everything you see here—all the structures—is made from matchsticks that have been glued together.

Seventy-five detailed scale models of complex machines, structures, and world-famous architecture have been created using more than 8.6 million ordinary matchsticks.

The efforts of artist Patrick Acton have made this breathtaking matchstick spectacle possible.

Among his most famous creations are the 13-foot scale model of the battleship USS Iowa and the 12-foot model of the United States Capitol.

No words are enough to describe the magnificence of this museum, so you should visit it.

Final Thoughts

There is no doubt that Marshalltown can give your family the holiday they deserve.

This town is an excellent blend of history, family fun, and adventure.

It’s perfect for families who want to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.

Book your Marshalltown trip today!

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