Ever planned a trip around your accommodations instead of things you were going to do? Welcome to the world of quirky inns and other unique places to stay in Iowa. You’ll want to pick the overnight spot first and then plan your itinerary!
I did a similar post for unique places to stay in Nebraska, so check that out, too.
What is it: This 145-year-old Presbyterian Church has been given a second life as an artist studio and loft. We visited during an art fair, so while I can’t vouch for the overnight experience, I can say it’s incredibly unique.
The interior chapel ceiling is painted vibrant colors, and the large windows provide ample lighting.
Sleeps: 5 people
Where is it: 201 E. Fourth St., Malvern, Iowa
Tip: You can book a stay at the church via airbnb. If you’re new to airbnb, you’ll need to sign up for an account first. Use my referral link and get $50 off your first stay! You’ll get a coupon to use for your qualifying reservation. Sign up for airbnb.com.
Villisca Ax Murder House
What is it: Over 100 years ago, a family and two young girls were murdered in this house. The murders were never solved, and the house is now believed to be haunted. I included the house in a list of urban legends and haunted places near Omaha.
So, of course, people want to stay there. It’s much like it was back in the days, so the restroom and running water is in the barn next door. Bring a sleeping bag and pillows since guests aren’t permitted to sleep on the beds.
While I didn’t encounter any paranormal activity during a daytime tour, there is no way I’d stay overnight there.
Sleeps: 1 to 10 people; additional people over 6 must pay an additional fee
Where is it: 508 E. Second St., Villisca, Iowa
CR Station Train Caboose
What is it: This small, but charming caboose has all the amenities you could hope for (including barware), with the bonus of being located next to a horse pasture. There are two bedrooms and a bath in the caboose.
Sleeps: Up to 4 people
Where is it: Decorah, Iowa (an excellent getaway for outdoorsy people)
Related post: Decorah is one of a dozen great road trip destinations for families looking for easy getaways from central Iowa.
Glamping at Luna Valley Farm
What is it: Stay at Luna Valley Farm, in a furnished tent set on a wooden platform. Each tent has a king-sized bed with luxury linens.
My experience with Luna Valley Farm is a memorable one. This picturesque place has a wood-fire pizza oven that they use for pizza dinners on Friday nights. The pizza is made with ingredients grown or raised on the farm. When I went, there was also live music and beer.
And yes, there are farm animals to mingle with.
Sleeps: 2 people
Where is it: Luna Valley Farm, 3012 Middle Sattre Road, Decorah, Iowa
Historic Park Inn
What is it: The last Frank Lloyd Wright designed and built hotel in the world is found in the town of Mason City, Iowa. The gorgeous hotel has 27 rooms and none are alike.
Sleeps: 2-4 people
Where is it: 7 West State St., Mason City, Iowa
What is it: What once was a junior high school is now a chic boutique hotel. There’s no escaping the hotel’s past: There are chalkboards in all rooms and the room key card sleeves resemble hall passes.
Sleeps: 2-10 people
Where is it: 925 Park St., Grinnell, Iowa
Related post: Best Hotels In The Midwest For Sustainable Travel
What is it: This beautiful hotel has been around since 1913, and has a small bowling alley in the basement as well as a spa. A highlight for families are the unique suites, each with their own theme.
When we stayed there for a ski trip, our suite had a whimsical travel theme to it. There was a king-sized bed in one room and a bed and trundle bed in the other. In one of our friends’ suites, the kid’s room had a bunk bed.
Sleeps: 2-4 people
Where is it: 1112 Willis Ave., Perry, Iowa
What is it: One of Iowa’s newest hotels is in a former textile mill. The Hotel Millwright recently opened in a building that was part of an 8-acre mill complex. Back in the 1800s, the mills — and the textiles produced in them — were essential to the colonists’ communal living. They produced goods for the community to use, but supported the colony by producing textiles to sell around the U.S.
Each room is unique and features historical art inspired by the work areas in the mill: the Dye House, Bale House, and Spinning Building.
Sleeps: 2-4 people
Where is it: 800 48th Ave., Amana, Iowa
New Day Dairy GuestBarn
What is it: Just prior to this whole 2020, nutty year, I’d reserved a stay at this utterly charming guest barn (sorry, I couldn’t resist). But, I had to cancel, so I can’t give you first-person reviews of it.
I can tell you is that, yes, it’s on a working dairy farm. You can rent the whole barn — which is the best option for families — or just one of the rooms. A tour of the barn is included.
Sleeps: The individual room sleep up to 2; the entire GuestBarn sleeps up to 6. Additional people may be added but you’ll have to contact them first.
Where is it: 31000 175th St., Clarksville, Iowa
Silo on the Ridge
What is it: A grain silo is a round structure attached to a barn that holds grain and feed for the farm animals. In this instance, the two-story silo has been converted into an airbnb. It has two beds and a bath.
Sleeps: 2 people
Where is it: 1555 Canoe Ridge Road, Decorah, Iowa
Tip: This silo is available through airbnb. If you’re new to airbnb, you’ll need to sign up for an account first. Use my referral link and get $50 off your first stay! You’ll get a coupon to use for your qualifying reservation. Sign up for airbnb.com.
Spook Cave Hut
What is it: Not quite a mini house, the hut that’s nestled among Spook Cave’s larger cabins is a curious-looking thing. To me, it looks like a barrel on its side. And yet, it has two beds! Like the yurts mentioned above, the hut has electricity but not plumbing.
And in case you were wondering, yes, you can tour Spook Cave and you’ll be doing it by boat!
Sleeps: 3 to 4 people
Where is it: Spook Cave and Campground, 13299 Spook Cave Rd, McGregor, Iowa
Squirrel Cage Jail
What is it: OK, technically, these are ghost-hunting overnight stays at the historical jail, so you probably won’t be sleeping. Squirrel Cage Jail is a three-story lazy susan jail, one of the few remaining in the U.S.
It’s rumored to be haunted. Like the ax murder house I mentioned earlier, I visited this place in the daytime and had zero creepy moments, but I would not choose to spend a night here. If you want to, there are options for 4-hour and 8-hour overnight investigations.
How many people: 4 people for the 4-hour session; 6 people for the 8-hour session; more can be added for an additional fee.
Where is it: 226 Pearl St., Council Bluffs, Iowa
What is it: I like to say a yurt is that step between tent camping and cabin “camping.” It’s rustic, but you don’t have to pitch a tent, and likely, you’ll have a bed or two. And probably electricity.
We stayed in one of the yurts at a state park near Clear Lake a few years ago. It was so nice being steps from the lake!
The downside? Like a tent, yurts do not have plumbing, so we had to use the nearby bathhouse to wash up.
Sleeps: 3 to 4 people
Where is it: McIntosh Woods State Park, 1200 E. Lake St., Ventura, Iowa
Other Iowa yurts
The Clear Lake yurts were the closest to Omaha when I had first gone on a search for yurts, and the only in Iowa. Years later, Iowa has more yurts.
Madison County, Iowa, has two yurts located at Pammel Park, for instance.