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13 Unique And Quirky Places To Stay In Iowa

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.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

You can stay overnight in a 145-year-old Presbyterian Church in Malvern, Iowa.

Art Church

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

Check availability

Villisca Ax Murder House

Exterior of the 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

Check availability

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)

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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

Guests eating pizza inside a barn at Luna Valley Farm in Decorah, Iowa.

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

Check availability

Historic Park Inn

Photo courtesy Travel Iowa

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

Check availability

Hotel Grinnell

Photo courtesy Travel 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

Check availability

Related post: Best Hotels In The Midwest For Sustainable Travel

Hotel Pattee

There's a bowling alley in the basement of the Hotel Pattee in Perry, Iowa.

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

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Hotel Millwright

Photo courtesy Travel 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

Check availability

New Day Dairy GuestBarn

Photo courtesy Travel Iowa

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). A year later, my family finally got to stay in the GuestBarn and it was a highlight of the summer. We still talk about the calves! 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.

UPDATE: Heads’ up! There’s an overnight giveaway hosted by New Day Dairy in 2023. Enter the giveaway for a chance to win a one-night stay at the GuestBarn! Giveaway runs Feb. 1-28, 2023. Be sure to let them know Oh My! Omaha sent you.

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

Check availability

Button to Iowa story archives

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

Check availability

Photo courtesy Travel Iowa

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

Check availability

Exterior of Squirrel Cage Jail in downtown Council Bluffs, 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

Check availability

Exterior of a yurt at McIntosh Woods State Park in Ventura, Iowa.

Yurt camping

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

Check availability

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. 

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Keith Ladage

Sunday 6th of December 2020

I can vouch for the beauty of the hotel in Mason City, loved it! No axe murder house for me either! However, I'd love the Art Church, the Yurt, dairy barn, and the school! Thanks for sharing. I was supposed to go glamping this year then things fell through, I love different stay options!

Jennifer L Brommer

Monday 30th of November 2020

Wow! These truly are some unique places to stay in! So fun to read about all of them!! Like you, I would NOT want to stay in the home where the ax murders took place...yikes!

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