Over the years, my husband, Keith, and I have traveled extensively in Iowa. During our travels, we have come upon wonderful places to stay that are different from the typical hotel/motel variety. While some stays only require a clean room and a bed, others call for a bit more. Below are some of the places where we have found the comfort of a place that you want to linger at and sit and sip a little before heading out! These stops have been found through research and opportunities that others have shared along the way. Enjoy a little luxury in beautiful Iowa next time you head in that direction!
1. Hotel Millwright
The Amana Colonies are some of our favorite destinations, and a few of our favorite stops are in the Amana area. Our latest stay in Amana, Iowa, was at the Hotel Millwright. Hosted by the Amana Colonies Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), the Millwright is in the heart of Amana, where you can walk to almost anywhere in town!
This hotel is a former woolen mill converted to a historic hotel. The mill helped the immigrants who fled Germany because of religious persecution make money once they arrived in the United States, where they found land and opportunity. Equipment for the mill was shipped from Germany, first to New York, and eventually to the Amana Colonies. There are seven villages in Amana where the colonists lived communally until 1932.
Elise Heitman, executive director of the Amana Colonies CVB shared that Hotel Millwright is owned by the Amana Society, but run by a hotel management company IDM. Elise added, “I think they did a great job.”
The partnership successfully creates a combination of the mill’s historic elements and adds industrial design to create a one-of-a-kind hotel experience. The hotel has two stories and offers 65 guest rooms, all different due to the historic nature of the building. Shelby Foster, the events coordinator explained, “This campus was a working woolen mill process from the very beginning. This building became part of the electric company based on the Mill Race. The electric ran a lot of electricity, the woolen mill, and the flour mill across the stream.”
In each room, visitors find pictures that the Amana Society provides showing what happened in that area. Our room was a king suite. Woolen equipment is strategically placed throughout, and items that were non-functional became furniture, tables, and such.
There is a signature restaurant, on-premise whiskey bar, and 8,000 square feet of meeting and event space. While there, we had breakfast in the Indigo Room, the former boiler room, and enjoyed the selections. An eco-friendly hotel, the electricity for the building is generated by methane from the Amana Farms digester resulting from the cattle operation!
Rates vary depending on events, but the average room is between $130-$140 a night. There are elevators so the hotel is accessible, and ADA rooms are available as well.
Pro Tip: Be sure to dine at one of the two family-style restaurants, the Ronneburg, or the Ox Yoke Inn.
2. Zuber’s Homestead Hotel
Zuber’s is one of the original buildings. It started as a stagecoach stop and later expanded to a hotel. The hotel served the colonists until 1938 when it was sold to Bill and Connie Zuber. The Zubers turned the inn into Bill Zuber’s Dugout Restaurant. Bill Zuber is famous for his career playing baseball, having played for the Cleveland Indians, Washington Senators, Boston Red Sox, and the New York Yankees. In 2004, the hotel was sold and remodeled. Today, the hotel is owned by Brian and Bonnie James and offers 15 rooms with private baths.
We love the community dining room where friends and family can gather. Breakfast is amazing and is included with the stay. Room rates are between $100-$120 and may vary during events.
If you have accessibility issues, book a downstairs room; there is no elevator, and the stairs to the second floor are steep.
Pro Tip: If you attend Prelude to Christmas, check out the house tour on Saturday.
3. Hotel Blackhawk
The Hotel Blackhawk in Davenport is part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection. We usually stay there during a John Deere event called Gathering of the Green. The Blackhawk was built in 1915 and renovated in 2010.
In 1923, the hotel went from seven floors to 11. It was at this time the downstairs bar and bowling alley were added. We have tried it out, and it was great fun!
The Blackhawk has hosted presidents and more. During Gathering of the Green, this luxurious hotel is quite a sight with John Deere equipment in the lobby! My favorite thing about this hotel is the big bathtub.
Rates are around the $200 or more mark unless you get a break on a rate.
4. The Black Hawk Hotel (Cedar Falls)
The second Black Hawk Hotel that was quite lovely to stay at is in downtown Cedar Falls. I was hosted by Cedar Falls Tourism a couple of years ago. The Black Hawk was not the first name for the hotel. Built in 1853, it was originally known then as the “Winslow House.” The hotel began as a wooden-framed stagecoach hotel. The hotel had several other names throughout the years and was once even destroyed by a fire. It was rebuilt in the Second Empire style in the 1870s, then received another upgrade in 1914, leading to the current combination of Second Empire and Mission-style architecture.
Rates vary between around $130-$160. Included is a European-style breakfast. Located in a historic neighborhood, we loved our stay at this quaint, beautiful hotel! Elevators are available at the Black Hawk.
Pro Tip: If you are interested in tractor history, the John Deere Tractor and Engine Museum is in nearby Waterloo!
5. The Hotel At Kirkwood Center
Located on the Kirkwood Campus in Cedar Rapids, I was hosted by the Cedar Rapids CVB at The Hotel at Kirkwood Center, a fascinating teaching hotel. The hotel is a teaching laboratory and is the largest, most comprehensive teaching hotel at a community college in the U.S. Besides being a teaching hotel, they are also a “green” hotel featuring native grass and local limestone.
All aspects of the hotel’s hospitality connect to teaching, including dining. According to their website, “over 100 pieces of local and artisan art are dotted throughout our accommodations and public spaces” adding another wonderful aspect to this urban setting. Depending on the time of year, room rates average $149-189. This modern hotel is easy to navigate and has elevators and other modern conveniences.
6. Cheesemaker’s Inn Bed and Breakfast
Visit Pella hosted my stay at the Cheesemaker’s Inn. Kim and Rob Bandstra own the beautiful inn once located in the heart of a dairy farmstead. The Bandstras’ nephew, Mike Bandstra, who grew up milking cows on the farm, went on to become a cheesemaker and today owns Frisian Farms Cheese house.
The Cheesemaker’s Inn is located on the edge of Pella and is a 1918 Craftsman-style house that has been converted into a B & B. The rooms are quite charming, and the morning meal is Danish-inspired. We had Kim’s amazing fruit soup as part of our selection. Every breakfast also includes a selection of Gouda cheese made at Frisian Farms. Each room has its own bathroom, and there is plenty of sitting space on the porch and out back. For a relaxed country feel, this is a great place to visit while checking out Pella’s many sites.
Note that all rooms are upstairs and there is no elevator. Rates are currently $140 a night for each room.
Pro Tip: Tour the Vermeer Mill and Historic Village while in town!
7. McNeill Stone Mansion B&B
The McNeill Stone Mansion B&B in Oskaloosa is a true luxury stay. Hosted by Oskaloosa Main Street, this beautiful mansion left me awestruck! Virginia Walker, the owner, said this stone mansion constructed between 1908 and 1909 is fireproof and has lasted over the years because of the use of steel and concrete building materials. Originally built by Wilbur McNeil, this home is a combination of Colonial Revival and Mission Spanish style. Beautiful limestone covers the mansion outside.
The mansion is full of antiques and memories of Virginia’s travels with her late husband, Gary. The floors in the living room and dining room are Mexican Tabasco hardwood.
Our room was quite lovely and included a four-poster bed and a huge bathroom. Again, I was blessed with a huge jacuzzi tub to relax in after playing tourist all day. In the morning, we had a wonderful breakfast at the huge dining room table. Luxury mixed with a wonderful hostess make this an amazing stay! Room rates vary between $115 to $170.
There are so many places to stay in Iowa, but these offer a few of our favorites over the years!