Pella, Iowa – Windmills, Tulips and All Things Dutch

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Whether you are a believer in European culture having an influence on American society or simply consider this to be a myth of years gone by, there are distinctive cultures throughout the United States that continue to prove this ideology exists. I will be the first to admit that my knowledge of geography in Iowa is limited aside from Des Moines, so needless to say our trip through this state was all about spontaneity. But that’s when you find those real hidden treasures and we were delighted when we stumbled across the town of Pella, Iowa which was just oozing Dutch influence!

Taking random road trips with no real idea where you are going and then stumbling across a location like Pella makes everything worthwhile. I can’t imagine this town having anywhere near as much publicity as it deserves, though perhaps this is a good thing as it enables the locality to maintain their richly cherished heritage and Dutch influence.

Pella, Iowa – Dutch Influence

Distinctive yet quaint is a perfect way to describe the small town of Pella, Iowa. As we approached this town with a little over 10,000 population, we immediately realized that this was far different from the regular, run of the mill American town that you come across on your travels around the Midwest.

dutch influence pella

The advertisement of a windmill was an intriguing pull factor for us as we drove through Iowa’s rural landscape, though the moment we entered the downtown area of this town we knew that this town had much more to offer.

When you think about clogs, tulips and windmills, what is the first thing that springs to mind? Amsterdam perhaps or more generically the Netherlands! Well, Pella is a stereotypical example of an American town that has undergone this European influence and over the years has continued to maintain this Dutch heritage.

dutch influence pella iowa

Just to give you a brief history on Pella. Founded in 1847 by a number of Dutch immigrants led by Henry Scholte, Pella is a reference to ‘Pella in the Perea’ which Christians of Jerusalem found refuge. It is understandable that the Dutch opted for this name as they fled the years of religious persecution and famine in their homeland and moved to this newly found ‘City of Refuge’.

Ever since these days, Pella has continued to thrive on the Dutch heritage and long may this continue if our experiences are anything to go by.

Central Park

We parked directly in front of Central Park which is located in the heart of Pella’s community. Surrounded by the main central business district, this is an ideal location to get out and explore everything this town has to offer. Central Park exudes Dutch influence, but then again so does the rest of the town!

dutch influence tulip tower

The Tulip Tower is an iconic landmark in the town and provides the focal point during the first week in May when Tulip Time takes place in Pella. Street parades take place throughout the town and of course it wouldn’t be a true reflection of the Netherlands without Dutch dancers performing on the deck in front of the Tulip Tower, making this a great spectacle for everyone involved.

dutch influence central park

Wandering around Central Park, we noticed that this was much more than just the hub for the Tulip Tower. A Civil War statue, historic sundial and a replica windmill are all situated here making this a perfect spot to relax and take in the gorgeous weather (if you are fortunate enough to visit Pella on a day like we did)!

dutch influence central park sundial

Vermeer Windmill

If you are seeking true iconography while wandering around the town of Pella, look no further than the incredible sight of the Vermeer Windmill located a short walk down the main street from Central Park. Standing proudly in the heart of Pella, the history surrounding the largest Dutch windmill in the United States is pretty impressive.

dutch influence vermeer windmill

All of the pieces that comprise this windmill are completely Dutch, though the final construction and piecing together of this landmark was done inside the town of Pella. What is even more impressive is that Vermeer is still a fully functioning windmill and is constantly churning out flour from wheat, utilizing wind power alone.

A tour of the mill is available should you wish to visit the Historical Museum and Gift Shop, though for us seeing this magnificent structure in action from the outside was enough to inspire us to explore more of Pella’s Dutch background.

dutch influence clogs

The large clogs directly in front of the windmill are yet another iconic representation of Holland, and what better way to entertain your time in Pella than by taking a picture wearing these oversized icons.

dutch influence clogs

A Touch of Holland

The signpost that depicts a map of Pella provides a perfect summary and representation of the town – “A Touch of Holland”. If you are going to have a tagline like that, you should probably live up to the expectations and I can honestly say that Pella does this extremely well.

dutch influence a touch of holland

The Royal Amsterdam Hotel located in close proximity to the Vermeer Windmill offers a great spot to stay the night and of course sample a little Dutch cuisine by visiting Jaarsma Bakery, offering a variety of Dutch pastries etc.

dutch influence royal amsterdam hotel

Summary

Spending a couple of hours in Pella, Iowa was probably one of the most rewarding experiences we have encountered on our weekend travels. Whenever you come across a gem like Pella, you really have to make the most of your time because this is truly where memories are made.

If you are a US citizen, forget looking for your passport if you are interested in traveling overseas, because the town of Pella provides an amazing alternative yet maintains a true Dutch influence. Think about the Netherlands for a few moments and then take a look at Pella.

Someone recently wrote on our Facebook page commenting on a picture of Vermeer Windmill:

When I scrolled over this picture I was sure that this picture was taken in the NL (so it even fools a Dutch girl)

I think that proves the beauty that lies within the boundaries of Pella, Iowa! Remember that name when you are next road tripping around USA, you won’t regret spending time here.

Weekend Wanderlust


25 COMMENTS

  1. Yes, you had me completely fooled with that one picture you posted on Facebook. It’s interesting to see how many Dutch immigrants there are in the States and in Canada and how much of our culture’s still visible in some of the areas.
    Maaike recently posted…48 Hours in TuliplandMy Profile

  2. The longer I live in North America, the more unique little towns I discover…and it looks like you’ve found another for me to visit! I love the idea of a little bit of the Netherlands in Iowa. Sounds like you two travel in a similar way we do – I love stumbling on lovely unexpected locations like Pella. The photo of the Amsterdam Hotel really looks like it could be from Europe!
    Gemma recently posted…There’s still gold in Dawson City, YukonMy Profile

  3. Love, love, love Pella! If you decide to visit don’t miss Jaarsma’s (and if you can’t make it there and have a hankering for some Dutch pastries look them up online they ship!) not to mention all the other great little shops. Isn’t it amazing what we can find in our own back yards if we only take the time to look.

  4. This is a great article on Pella. Though you missed so so much. As a former resident of Pella I can tell you, this article only scratches the surface of what this town has to offer. From the quaint eateries to the world renowned bakery on the square, and the sunken gardens and the molengracht, I don’t know how that was not added to this . I suggest to anyone planning a drive via Iowa to take the time, jump off interstate 80 and drive the 40 minute or so and enjoy a truly wonderful town.

    • Thanks so much for adding these additional attractions in Pella! We only scratched the surface as we only passed through and spent maybe a hour wandering around the town. But even in that short time we were able to see just how awesome this town is and we just had to write and share our experiences there!

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