The suburban city of West Bend, Iowa, lies in Kossuth and Palo Alto counties.
This sparsely populated city was formerly called Ives, named after Charles Ives, who was the President of the Burlington, Cedar Rapids and Northern Railway.
It was later changed to West Bend, referring to a bend in the town’s river area.
The first town in Palo Alto County, West Bend was founded in 1856 and incorporated in 1884.
Today, the famous Grotto of the Redemption has become a well-visited attraction in the city.
You’ll also find local attractions, unique shops, and establishments that reflect its small tight-knit community and its laid-back character.
Here are the best things to do in West Bend, Iowa:
Visit the Famous Grotto of the Redemption
The Grotto of the Redemption is the city’s most famous attraction and is often hailed as the “Eighth Wonder of the World.”
This fascinating site on 1st Avenue Northwest is composed of nine adjoining grottos made up of precious stones and rocks, each depicting scenes from the life of Christ.
The Grotto of the Redemption was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001.
It was designed and crafted by Father Paul Matthias Dobberstein as a pledge to the Virgin Mary when he was gravely ill with pneumonia.
He served in West Bend’s parish in 1898 and took over a decade to collect piles and carloads of rocks and precious stones used to make the grottos.
Father Dobberstein’s right-hand man, Matt Szerensce, aided him in constructing the meticulous project.
You can get a schedule of seasonal tours to the grotto, including a museum tour.
You can also spend a few nights at any of the 53 camping sites in the grotto, with electricity, water, firewood, shower areas, and sewer stations available.
Drop by the Grotto of the Redemption’s gift shop for some souvenirs you can take from the trip.
Learn about the City’s History at the West Bend Historical Society
You’ll learn more about the city’s past and culture through the West Bend Historical Society’s exhibits and displays.
Take a peek at the five historic buildings, including the first single-room Country School House in Palo Alto and the original Post Office of West Bend.
You’ll find Iowa’s only full-size sod house replica displayed here.
Explore the antique Barn and Main Museum building, which houses an array of artifacts dating back to the earliest days of West Bend until the mid-20th century.
You’ll see plenty of tools and farming equipment from before the era of gas-powered machines.
You can enjoy hands-on activities and interactive exhibits at the barn and museum while learning.
Lastly, don’t forget to stop by the West Bend Veterans Memorial.
Have a learning experience at West Bend Historical Society, located on 3rd Street.
Check-in with the Family at Park View Inn and Suites
If you’re looking for a place to stay at the heart of West Bend, Park View Inn and Suites is a family-friendly accommodation you can book.
This small-town hotel is located on 4th Street.
From here, you can access nearby locations in Emmetsburg, Algona, Pocahontas, and Humboldt.
Have a relaxing stay at their themed rooms and suites.
You can also enjoy a swim with your little ones at the indoor pool.
Pet-friendly rooms are also available if you plan on bringing your fur best friend along.
Other amenities at Park View Inn and Suites include free parking, ADA-friendly rooms, and high-speed Internet.
Taste Local Delights at the Wagon Wheel Cafe
For a taste of the local noon menu, stop at Wagon Wheel Cafe on South Broadway Avenue.
Owners Les and Lindy Schneider started the business in 2008 and offer nothing less than great food and a warm dining atmosphere.
Enjoy a hefty serving of daily specials with meatloaf on Monday, eat-all-you-can pizza, and broasted chicken every Tuesday.
Drop by for Hot Beef Wednesday and savor a tender roast beef meal with Texas bread and mashed potato covered in tasty gravy.
You can also enjoy the salad bar every Friday and Saturday night.
Get to pick other specials on the menu, like steaks, seafood platters, burgers, sandwiches, and homemade pies for desserts.
The Wagon Wheel Cafe also has a private room you can rent for special events and occasions.
Tour the West Bend Public Library
The West Bend Public Library was built in 1966 and sits on the business district’s main street.
Stop by and browse their collection of books and magazines, or check out some audio-visual materials you might find interesting.
Kids can have fun and enjoy puzzles and puppets.
The library also hosts a book club that meets every month, Summer Reading programs, Story Hour, and Tot Time.
They offer many free programs for all ages throughout the year.
The West Bend Public Library also provides other services like online resources, genealogy collections, and the use of desktop computers.
Try Specialty Deli Goods at Skoglund Meats
For local quality deli meats, you can go to Skoglund Meats on 2nd Avenue.
The family business was started by Mark and Lori Skoglund in 1978 and has grown from custom-processing local pork and beef to developing specialty products.
Skoglund Meats has earned several awards for its various products in several state meat competitions.
Try their high-quality and hand-crafted deli meats like summer sausage, Pork loin, jerky, and beef sticks.
You can also purchase other livestock and wild game meats like deer, lamb, and buffalo.
Skoglund Meats also collaborates with fundraisers aside from processing custom and retail products.
Go for Healthy Shakes and Snacks at West Blendz
Looking for some healthy drinks and snacks?
Located on South Broadway Avenue, West Blendz provides a list of all-natural and refreshing alternatives.
You won’t go wrong with refreshing choices on their Smoothie and Juice Bar.
Try their assorted protein shakes, iced coffee, and energizing tea drinks.
Order a plate of protein waffles for breakfast, and you’re sure to start the day right.
Taste other West Blendz drink flavors like Brown Sugar Cinnamon Poptart or their fruity Açaí bowls.
Find Gift Items at Homestead Country Store
Located on South Broadway Avenue, Homestead Country Store is best known as West Bend’s “candy store.”
This bulk food store offers sweet treats like mini orange slices, gummi bears, mini gummi butterflies, dried pineapple tidbits, and more.
Going on a picnic or heading off on a long ride?
Stock up on snacks like pretzels, mini animal crackers, Monkey Munch, Fiesta Sunshine Snack Mix, or bags of salted caramel snack mix.
You can also find baking ingredients, seasonings, and kitchen items by Rada Cutlery at the store.
Don’t forget to grab some flavorful ice cream before leaving The Homestead Country Store.
Visit the Country Maid Headquarters
Country Maid is a family business established by Ken and Marlene Banwart, who started by selling produce and baked goods at the farmer’s market in 1989.
They began by making braided pastries in their home basement, and these eventually became a hit.
In 1991, the brand Butter Braid® was created, and Country Maid, Inc. was born.
They started selling it frozen so people could bake these goods in the comfort of their homes.
Many of their products are available exclusively through local fundraisers, as this was the tradition they started.
If you’re interested in dealership opportunities or want to learn more about Country Maid, you can visit their headquarters on 4th Avenue.
Grab Some Brews and Wines at Da Booze Barn
A local wine, beer, and spirits store on South Broadway Avenue, Da Booze Barn offers a wide selection of liquors and drinks.
They have spirits and hard drinks you can purchase by the bottle, along with gift items you can give for special occasions.
The store sells a variety of brands from Jack Daniel’s and Johnnie Walker and whiskey flavors from Ciroc and Black Velvet.
Iowa-made brands like Hair of the Dog bloody mary mix and vodka brands Truly and Sobieski are also available here.
If you want something cool, Da Booze Barn has some Hard Seltzers, Truly Lemonade Freeze Pops, and Bud Light Seltzer Ice Pops you can grab.
Other Things to Do Nearby
Enjoy the Outdoors at Meredith Park
Meredith Park is located in the north-central part of Pocahontas County.
The attraction is also known as Plover Pit and features more than five acres of excellent lake area.
You’ll enjoy swimming and fishing at the natural lake with a beach area where you can lounge and relax.
You can also have a picnic with the scenic lake in view.
The park has a playground made of 15,000 pieces of recycled milk jugs and a shelter house with electricity.
Set out for a camp at any of the 17 campsites with available electric and water supplies.
You can also avail of the camping cabin with amenities like restrooms, showers, and a septic station.
Head off to the outdoors and visit Meredith Park.
Gain Historical Insights at the Camp Algona POW Museum
The Camp Algona POW Museum was organized to collect information and artifacts about German prisoners of war (POW) who were sent to Algona’s base camp during World War II.
You’ll get to view various exhibits about the POWs in America and their huge impact on Algona and the surrounding areas.
Learn about the Kossuth women who took on the jobs of men in different industries during the war and about the American military men and women who worked and operated the camp.
There’s also an exhibit honoring military personnel from Kossuth County who gave their lives in service for the country.
The museum also features the POWs’ experience and life with opportunities that made them productive through arts, theater productions, writing, and industries like woodworking.
Take a tour of the Camp Algona POW Museum, 20 minutes from West Bend.
Admire the Artistry at the Freedom Rock
The Freedom Rock started in 1999 when artist Ray "Bubba" Sorensen II painted a large boulder in rural Iowa to thank and honor War Veterans for their service to the country.
He repainted the 60-ton-plus boulder every year as recognition for Memorial Day.
From there, he came across the idea of making murals in other communities in Iowa, which can now be seen in the state’s 99 counties.
You can see one displayed in Whittemore, 10 minutes from West Bend.
Stroll, take pictures of the iconic Freedom Rock murals, and marvel at the art.
Check Out Unique Displays at the Kossuth County Agriculture & Motorsports Museum
The Kossuth County Agriculture and Motorsports Museum is a unique museum that presents the rich history and developments of agriculture and motorsports in Kossuth County.
Here, you’ll discover the history, traditions, and significance of agriculture in the county and the changes over time from the period of racing horses to powered machines.
Take a peek at the ‘O scale” train collection created by Arlen Benschoter that will entertain you and the little ones.
View the exhibits at the Kossuth County Racing Hall of Fame, dedicated to distinguished race car drivers who lived and raced in the county.
Visit the Kossuth County Agriculture and Motorsports Museum in Algona, 20 minutes from West Bend.
Savor Local Wine Selections at Plum Creek Winery
For locally crafted wines, Plum Creek Winery in northeast Algona has the selection to suit your taste.
This family-owned business opened in 2012 with locally grown grapes produced in their two-acre vineyard.
You can visit the winery from April to December, but you can book and reserve first if you plan to visit from January to March.
Take a sip of Plum Creek Winery’s Red selections like Cottonwood Corner, Waterfront Red, and Elevator Red.
Taste different choices of White wines like Chatterbox, Dusk, and Serenity, to name a few.
Country Neighbor, Birds-Eye View, and Raspberry Blush are some great choices to try for fruit wines.
The Blackberry Wine is equally flavorful.
Plum Creek Winery also offers Paint and Pour, where you can paint while enjoying sips of beer, wine, or sangria.
It’s a great bonding experience you can have with families and friends and also take home your masterpiece after.
West Bend may seem just a small suburban city, but it’s never the least in offering great experiences.
It’s home to many family attractions, unique shops, and local restaurants you’ll surely enjoy checking out.
There are also plenty of parks, nature sites, and interesting museums nearby that you can visit.
Plan your vacation and enjoy the best things to do in West Bend, Iowa.