Last Sunday I spent the day in the Villages of Van Buren, my first ever visit to the county. I think this area of Iowa is beautiful no matter what time of year, but it is especially beautiful now as the leaves are changing and harvest is in a full frenzy.
Earlier, I posted about my stop in Keosauqua, which is the county seat and the county's largest community. It's a beautiful town in its own right, but I have to say, I truly loved everything about two smaller communities: Bentonsport and Bonaparte. Talk about historic! In this post, I'll focus on Bonaparte but be on the look out for a future post about Bentonsport.
Bonaparte, like several other local communities, resides alongside the Des Moines River. It was founded 180 years ago, almost a decade before the creation of the State of Iowa, and has so much charm. This is the kind of historic community that you think you might only find in the New England states, but really, we have something very comparable right here in Iowa.
Like every village in the county on this particular weekend, they were enjoying a full slate of festivities as part of the annual "Scenic Drive Festival". There were additional activities happening around town, but truly, I think you could find plenty of reasons to visit without the draw of a "special event".
Upon entering town via a beautiful bridge over the river, I decided just to park my car and start wandering. I happened to park right across the street from the Bonaparte Mercantile, which is a locally famous market.
Moving along a bit further, I came across some truly incredible and historic buildings. When you think about the gorgeous architecture of a bygone era, I think of some of the buildings I saw in Bonaparte. As the old cliche goes, "They just don't build 'em like they used to!"
Down in the historic river park area, there were lots of different vendors selling antiques, crafts, and other goods.
I entered the park through an incredible stone arch.
As I moved down the street, I encountered a whole host of businesses who are selling antiques and other primitives. I stopped in a couple and found a some beautiful mission style furniture pieces that I was very tempted to buy, but ultimately abstained.
I stopped to get a beverage at Taste of the Country, this food truck catering business. Many of their menu items looked quite delicious.
Up the street a little further, I stumbled upon Bonaparte Pottery and they were offering tours of their pottery studio. I even went inside their gorgeous and unique gift shop building where you could buy pottery. A kindly older lady in the gift shop was very eager to show me around. This area is on the National Registry and I do not think any trip to Bonaparte is complete without stopping at this place, if it is open.
Before getting in my car and heading on over to Bentonsport, I wandered around a bit more. I discovered a really neat local grocery store. In the era of Hy-Vee, Fareway, Wal-Mart, Target, and Amazon, it's increasingly more rare to find independent grocers like this - and that's why you certainly must stop in when you see one.
This is a great historic community and they are doing a good job working together to bring tourists there. I think you can spend a few hours there (or longer!) and not even begin to consider what else you could do. Put Bonaparte on your own list of future Iowa adventures.