A Dane good time in Elk Horn, a town embracing it's rich heritage


We are probably all a little guilty for driving by a place or sign for a place and saying, "Someday, I'm going to stop there". However, when does "someday" come? Sadly, for a lot of people, it's never.

For me, one of those "signs" was for the Museum of Danish America, which is just on the outskirts of Elk Horn in Shelby County. Elk Horn and Kimballton, a small town just a few miles to the north, comprise Iowa's Danish Villages. They are the two largest rural Danish settlements in America.

On a recent Saturday, after having lunch in Hamlin, visiting Albert the Bull in Audubon, and stopping to admire the Danish attractions in Kimballton, I decided that this was going to be my "someday" for visiting the Museum of Danish America.

As you roll into town, there are many signs directing you to where the Museum is.

I didn't realize the national magnitude of this museum until I got here. There are three floors of outstanding exhibits.

There's ample parking in a parking lot just to the south of building.

It is open all seven days of the week, but there are specific hours. It does cost $5 to get in for adults but it's $2 for children under 18 and free if you are a member. There was a woman working at the main desk and she was quite friendly and helpful in explaining what was available to see.

Victor Borge is one of the greatest entertainers of the 20th Century and he happens to be a Danish immigrant to America. His grand piano is on display in the museum.

Elsewhere on the main floor is an area for kids (or, I guess adults too) to tinker around with LEGOs. LEGOs is perhaps one of the most famous Danish companies.

There is a Danish Immigrant Wall of Fame as well as a locally made quilt of era veterans who served in World War II.

Additionally, there was a little area showcasing local art.

Elsewhere, there were several showcases of other interesting artifacts, furniture, clothing, bicycles, and more.

The first floor also had an extensive gift shop which includes these pretty great shirts. I always love a good pun.

As you head upstairs, there was more gallery space which was presently focused on Danes in the military.

In the basement, they have a great timeline of Danish history as well as a gallery and artifact storage. The artifact storage is in a big glass room so you can still look in and see what else is in the museum that is not presently on display.

Those little "Troll" dolls are also Danish.

There is another small room that has art as well as space to show a presentation to a group.

Outside, there is an extensive grounds that includes a trail. If it were not so cold during my visit, I probably would have spent a little more time and taken it to see where it would lead. I guess I will have to come back another time.

This is worth stopping at. You can probably get through the whole museum in as little as a half hour or you could easily spend hours here. I would certainly add it to your itinerary for a future adventure.

However, the museum is just the start of the Dane good fun you can have in Elk Horn. I went into town to the visitor center, which is home to the only authentic working Danish windmill in America.

This authentic windmill was built in Denmark in 1848 and moved to the Iowa, in pieces, beginning in 1976. There is a lot of great information on it's history on the website.

The town recently conducted a big ($200,000) capital campaign to do some renovation to the windmill and according to the very nice lady working in the gift shop, the blades will soon be re-attached.

The grounds also have several other elements to it, including this bust of Hans Christian Andersen, one of the greatest authors to ever live.

There's also the Morning Star Chapel.

There is a house/cottage/shack that is supposed to show how Vikings lived.

There is a small replica of the Ebeltoft Village.

Inside the gift shop, it's full of opportunities to buy some great souvenirs and find information on other great potential Iowa adventures.