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.
In the parking lot I noticed some electric vehicle charging stations. I barely see those in urban areas of Iowa, let alone in rural Iowa.
Elsewhere in town, I spotted a cool building that ended up being an antique mall. I always love a good antique mall and Egg Krate did not disappoint. There was a wide array of antiques from collectibles and furniture to primitives and artwork.
I got a little chuckle out of this metal decoration.
I always love nice mission oak furniture.
Seeing an overhead projector and a car phone in an antique store made me realize the 1990's are a lot longer ago than any of us might care to admit.
This was a fun visit and check out Egg Krate's Facebook for more information.
Before departing town, I drove around a bit and took a few more photos. This mural on the side of a building, dedicated to veterans, was very nicely done.
I was hoping Coffee girl was open to grab a cup of coffee for the road, but I guess I'll have to try them another time.
In the main street area of Elk Horn is also a place where you can do genealogy and ancestry research. I believe it is affiliated with the museum.
There is an enormous senior center built right in the heart of the downtown area.
With all of the Danish attractions going on, you can easily do a full day of activities. There are nice bed and breakfasts, restaurants, hotels, and more in the area so why not make it a Dane good weekend getaway?
As always, I welcome your suggestions of places to visit and profile in Shelby County or in any of the other 98 counties. Please drop me a note through my website and be sure to follow the Iowa Adventurer on Facebook.