Bridges of Madison County & Pella, Iowa
Updated: Feb 21, 2019
Isn't it interesting how we can miss so many things in life that are nearly under our noses? For instance, just three hours down the road from us stand the Bridges of Madison County. Yes, the Bridges in the book are real! You had no idea? Neither did we! They're located in Madison County, Iowa and are a site to see.
Situated in the quaint, little country town of Winterset, Iowa the Bridges of Madison County are photographic gold. Throw in a little fall and it's almost too much charm to handle!
We visited the bridges during their annual Madison County Covered Bridge Festival. The bridges are always open for viewing, but the festival adds some extra excitement to the trip with some activities and vendors at a few of the bridges and a big celebration in Winterset. However, if you're looking for the perfect photograph, it may be better to skip the festival and come when there may not be as many visitors around.
The festival in Winterset boasted shopping, folks in period dress, presentations, food, craft fair, parade, car show and all kinds of goodies! The kids even watched a sheep sheering!
The bridges range in setting from isolated and set back, to city park locals, and one stop with a gift shop where you can pick up a copy of The Bridges of Madison County the book or the movie!
We had ample time to visit all of the bridges in one day, explore the Festival in town, and even stopped in at a pumpkin patch since we visited in October. The tour of bridges can easily be done in a single day and you can even take some detours if you wish!
The Birth Place of John Wayne is located in Winterset as well. Although we choose not to visit due to running out of daylight, we drove by the sizable museum and the house itself. It's right in the middle of town, so if you have the time when you visit, let us know how the museum was!
Sadly, one of the bridges had recently burned down when we visited. So recently that it was still on all of the maps and the information for the Covered Bridge Festival. Be sure to visit the Madison County Chamber website for the latest information. You can also find a self-guided tour map on the website.
Tips for Taking the Kids | Bridges of Madison County
Go Potty First | Bathrooms aren't always readily available, so make sure the littles do their business before you go!
Bring Some Snacks | Although they have plenty of opportunities to get out of the car and explore the bridges, it does get to be a little bit of a drive for tiny humans. Snacks helped us navigate the day a bit more smoothly!
Dress for the Weather | The locations of the bridges are not sheltered from the weather. You'll be out in the middle of the Iowa country side! If it's warm, dress cool...if it's cold, add one more layer than you will think you will need! And don't wear your favorite shoes if you want to get the good shots! Be prepared to get a bit muddy.
Let them get out at every bridge | Each bridge has it's own unique landscape to explore and there is plenty of room for the kids to get out and roam around! Let them have fun and experience each bridge.
If you're in Madison County to see the bridges, you should also make a stop into Pella, Iowa known as "A little bit of Holland". The town is home to Pella Doors and Windows, but is one of the most adorable towns I have ever visited. It's hard to say whether it's the beautifully crafted buildings, the breathtaking windmills, or the canals running through the town that make it shine.
We visited off season, and on a Sunday, so we didn't get to explore many shops, museums, or see the canals filled...but we still fell in love with Pella. We hope to visit in the Spring for their Tulip Festival. There is also a Klokkenspel, which appears to no operate on Sundays.
We camped at Elk Rock State Park, just outside Pella. The campsites were good...although we didn't get to explore them much because of the weather. It ended up snowing on us on the way home, so it was VERY cold and we spent most of our time in the camper staying warm!
We are glad we discovered these treasures so close to home. The setting was beautiful and the charm was thick! It has inspired us to continue to search, talk to people, and scour the internet for more locations to visit.
It always seems as though when we think we have visited everything there is to see within a 3 hour drive, we find another fantastic location!
See you on the trail!
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