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Visit Guttenberg: Iowa’s Gem on the Upper Mississippi

MidwestRiverCities.com/guttenbergOne of the most rewarding aspects of living and traveling in the Midwest is the almost never ending variety of historic river towns to visit. Along the Mississippi River in the Upper Midwest, dozens of charming towns beckon, offering friendly smiles, welcoming small businesses, and breathtaking river views …

One such river town that has become a personal favorite is Guttenberg, Iowa. It’s located along Route 52 in the northeast part of the state, a scenic 35 mile drive north of Dubuque

Perfect for an overnight or weekend stay, Guttenberg, IA is the very definition of historic river town. Coming into town from the south, you’ll be treated to spectacular views of the Mississippi River below the bluffs. Once you reach town, you’ll discover a clean, walkable downtown area nestled along the great river and scores of historic limestone structures.




A Bit Of Guttenberg Trivia …

You’ll make friends quickly here with this Insider Tip …

Although it’s an easy mistake to make, Guttenberg is not pronounced like the famous Bible, i.e. “Goo-ten-berg”. The town is correctly pronounced “Gutt-en-berg”, with the first syllable rhyming with “hut”.

History and legend tell an interesting story about why Guttenberg is pronounced as it is …

It seems when the town was settled back in the 1800’s, it was in fact intended to be spelled and pronounced like the famous Bible, as in “Gutenberg” (one “t”). Subsequent surveys of the town noted the settlement as “Guttenberg” (with two “t’s”) in their documents …

The name (with two “t’s”), and pronunciation, stuck. Area residents were given an opportunity in a 1961 special election to revert the name back to the original intended form, but the vote supported leaving well enough alone. So … Guttenberg it is, and proudly so!




About Guttenberg

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Even The Fire Hydrants Are Good Looking In Guttenberg!

Surrounded by rich, fertile farmland to the north and west, Guttenberg is most closely identified by its location adjacent to the Mississippi River. The riverfront is ribboned with an expanse of green park space, featuring a two mile Riverwalk path punctuated by local marinas at the north and south end …

A town of approximately 1,900, Guttenberg is a four seasons community with a passion for outdoor activities. Hiking, jogging, cross country skiing, and boating are among the most popular pursuits, and for a town its size, there’s a surprisingly diverse array of shopping and dining opportunities …

Where To Stay In Guttenberg: Our Recomendation

After our first visit here in late spring, we promised ourselves we’d get back when warmer weather settled in. Guttenberg is a town best enjoyed coupled with (at least) an overnight stay; there are too many sites, shops, and establishments to experience in just one day!

With that in mind, we were delighted to spend the night at the wonderful Reinitz Haus, located on River Park Drive directly across from the Mississippi River …

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Directly Across From The Mississippi River

Location is but one of the many appealing facets of the Reinitz Haus. Step out the front door and you’re a mere two blocks from the heart of town. Guttenberg’s famed riverwalk is just steps away and you can watch the boats and barges navigating Lock & Dam #10 any time of day …

Quiet, immaculately clean, and comfortable, the Reinitz Haus is truly a home away from home. Newly renovated, it’s ideal for getaways, girl’s weekends, or a leisurely longer stay. The fully furnished home features three full bedrooms, two full baths, and sleeps up to eight …

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Happy Hour With A View!

If you’re traveling with youngsters, they’ll particularly enjoy having their “own space” in the home’s lower level with their own television, board games, and more. And if anyone wants to explore town on two wheels, bicycles are provided for your convenience …

There’s complete laundry facilities and a beautiful glass enclosed four seasons room on the north side of the home – perfect for enjoying a bottle of local wine at happy hour while enjoying a spectacular sunset over the Mississippi …

The Reintiz Haus has quite a history. It’s the childhood home of current owner Jane Reinitz-Pearson, who is the daughter of long time owners of the famed Lakeside Ballroom, several blocks away on the north edge of town. You’ll notice numerous historical photos of the Ballroom throughout the home, picturing many of the famous bandleaders who graced the Lakeside’s stage …

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Reinitz Haus: Peaceful, Comfortable, & Quiet

One simple, practical touch we particularly enjoyed at the home … everything is labeled. You’ll know exactly where to find dishes, towels, board games, glassware, and anything else you’d expect in a fully equipped vacation home rental. Parking is conveniently located at the rear of the home, underneath a carport to protect your vehicle from the elements …

The Reinitz Haus also boasts a spacious back yard complete with lawn chairs for relaxing and a charcoal barbecue grill for summer cook outs …

We are proud to give Guttenberg’s Reinitz Haus our highest recommendation. For more details and to book your stay, visit the Reinitz Haus online

And now, on to seeing the sites! Here are just a few of Guttenberg’s highlights you’ll want to experience …




Get Out On The River

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There’s Always Something Happening on the Riverfront in Guttenberg

With the possible exception of the coldest winter weeks, the Mississippi River in Guttenberg is bustling with activity. Pleasure boaters and fishermen ply the waters, and it’s always a treat to view river barges making their way through Lock and Dam #10, located just steps from downtown …

For a Guttenberg river experience like no other, get out on the great river with Captain Joe’s Mississippi River Charters, which offers sightseeing and fishing charters customized to your preference. Captain Joe is a licensed Master Captain by the U.S. Coast Guard and has over 40 years experience on the river. Charters are available for up to six people for a fun and relaxing excursion on the Mississippi … contact Joe directly for all the details at the website linked above …

Insider Tip: Visit the Guttenberg Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center on River Park Drive downtown for a discount card offering $50 off on 4 or 8 hour excursions …

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Stop By To Visit The Fish & Turtles

While you’re thinking water / river / fish be sure to stop in at the Guttenberg Aquarium and Fish Management Station. Located adjacent to the Chamber of Commerce building in the heart of town, this small aquarium is owned and managed by the Department of Natural Resources …

Open in the warmer weather months and free of charge, the aquarium showcases various species of fish commonly found in the Mississippi River, along with other aquatic creatures like turtles. There are a few exhibits about wildlife in the area, and it’s a fun little stop for all ages …

The aquarium here has a long history in Guttenberg, dating back to the 1930’s. Visit the website linked above to learn more about all the activities at the facility. Be sure to stop in when you’re in town, because free attractions are often the best kind!

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Guttenberg Farmers Market on the Riverfront

Another free Guttenberg attraction happens every Saturday morning in the warm weather months. It’s the Guttenberg Farmers Market and it’s located just south of the Chamber of Commerce building in the park along the river. River’s Edge Bakery and Moxie’s are directly across the street …

The Farmers Market presents a wide variety of local vendors each week, and you’ll find the season’s freshest produce, locally made jams, jellies, baked goods, honey, and more. Vendors showcasing attractive home decor and craft items are also present and there’s something here for everyone … click through to the Farmers Market Facebook page, linked above, for up to date details on what’s happening when you visit …




Guttenberg Shopping & Dining

You’ll love strolling and exploring downtown Guttenberg, especially if you’re a fan of local, family owned and operated establishments. This town is a refreshing break from chain stores and chain restaurants … there’s a real sense of pride and customer appreciation everywhere you go.

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Picket Fence Cafe

The best way to explore your surroundings is on foot. Start with a brisk walk on the Riverwalk, which takes you along the banks of the Mississippi River and through Ingleside Park where community events are held. Here’s a list of just a few Guttenberg shopping and dining destinations to put add to your agenda …

On the south end of town house at 531 S. River Park Drive is the Clayton Ridge Farm Meat Market & Gift Shop. A combination meat market, gift shop, and comfortable cafe, it’s housed in an historic limestone structure dating back to the mid 1800’s.

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Clayton Ridge Farms Popcorn

Locally owned, Clayton Ridge Farm Meats Market & Gift Shop features specialty cuts of meat sourced directly from local producers. The gift shop is the primary outlet for several house made products, like salsas, jellies, sauces, and more. Insider Tip: Be sure to buy a bag or two of the Clayton Ridge Farm popcorn – you won’t find any fresher! The corn is grown on their farm and the Caramel Corn is outstanding …

In the on site Picket Fence Cafe, locally sourced foods are prepared using traditional recipes handed down for generations. The Cafe is particularly known for their BBQ dishes like pork shoulder, beef brisket, and spareribs. Be sure to save room for dessert, especially the award winning pies (the Triple Berry is a real treat) …

Right across River Park Drive from the Picket Fence Cafe is Kaffee 1858, so named as it’s housed in a handsome brick building dating back to that year. Kaffee 1858 is a hybrid coffee house, gathering spot, and excellent choice for your morning coffee, lunch and early dinner …

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Inside Kaffee 1858, Guttenberg

The menu includes daily specials, their signature blend coffees, and an eclectic selection of wine and beer (most of which are local). This wonderful place is fairly new to the scene, but is already becoming a Guttenberg mainstay …

Insider Tip: stop in for an early dinner (they usually serve until 7 p.m.) and try the pork schnitzel sandwich. It’s very similar to a pork tenderloin sandwich and comes with your choice of toppings (we’re pickles and onions fans). The bakery fresh bun is so fresh and delicious, it almost steals the show from the pork!

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The View From The Dam Bar’s Deck

If you’re looking for a good place to imbibe and mingle either before or after dinner, head one block north and you’ll see Riverview Dam Bar, whose name is one of the most accurate for a restaurant / bar we’ve experienced. This friendly spot boasts an impressive view of the river as well as Lock and Dam #10; their raised outdoor deck is so close to the water you can almost touch it …

The Dam Bar, as locals call it, features a casual menu of bar favorites (try the wings) and an impressive selection of bottled beer along with a few on tap. We enjoyed a Potosi Beer, a Wisconsin brewery not far across the river, and took in the view …

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Blooming Branches – Guttenberg

On 1st Street is Blooming Branches a welcoming, good looking store featuring fresh flowers, home decor items, jewelry, and a coffee shop offering smoothies, desserts, and coffee drinks. It’s right next to the Guttenberg Post Office …

Another Guttenberg mainstay is Kuempel Hardware, one of the oldest hardware stores in Iowa. It’s located at 430 S. River Park Drive and you won’t miss it … Kuempel’s is housed in an 1850’s limestone building that’s one of Guttenberg’s many buildings on the National Register of Historic Places …

Insider Tip: The Guttenberg Chamber of Commerce website offers a wealth of information about the community. If you’re interested in exploring Guttenberg on foot, see the “Plan Your Trip” menu button and click on the “Things To Do” drop down. Scroll down to the History section and the Historic Buildings paragraph. You’ll see a link to an informative walking tour video of some of Guttenberg’s historic structures …

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Bought A Moxie’s Shirt!

If you’re shopping on a budget, a must stop is Garments and Goods, located just steps north of Moxie’s Tap (see below). The store supports area residents with developmental disabilities and offers a variety of home decor items and gently used clothing for women, men, and children …

MidwestRiverCities.com/guttenbergSituated toward the south end of downtown at 528 S. River Park Drive is perhaps Guttenberg’s best known shop, Kann Imports. Truly a shopping experience like no other, this shop features gifts, fine art, imports, and collectibles from around the world. Renowned throughout the Upper Midwest, Kann Imports has been a Guttenberg staple for 70 years.

A popular choice for wedding gifts, baby showers, and special occasions of all types, Kann Imports also offers online shopping if you can’t make it to town. The variety of items on display is impressive and you’re sure to find something you love …

MidwestRiverCities.com/guttenberg A good stop after visiting the Guttenberg Visitor Center is Sodes Green Acre Country Market & Cafe. It’s located just around the corner on Goethe Street and offers a wide selection of locally made products like honey, jams, and sauces. The cafe, which is open for breakfast and lunch, features daily sandwich, salad, and soup specials like cod, pork tenderloin, reubens, and a selection of entree salads. There’s a full breakfast menu and drinks are available. Sodes is one of the most comfortable and pleasant places in town for a relaxing breakfast or lunch – stop in and you’ll see what we mean …




Who Doesn’t Love A Good Bakery

MidwestRiverCities.com/guttenbergLocated right in the heart of town on River Park Drive, River’s Edge Bakery is Guttenberg’s local bakery, and a fine one at that. Everything is baked fresh daily, from donuts to coffee cakes to pastries and more. It’s the go to source in town for cakes for any celebratory occasion and the freshly baked breads are outstanding …

Insider Tip: When you stop in, see if the cinnamon raisin bread is available. You’ve probably never had a version as good as this one!

The Oldest Bar In Guttenberg

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The Oldest Bar In Guttenberg

Technically, the oldest continuously operating bar in Guttenberg is the venerable Moxie’s Tap, a downtown mainstay right on River Park Drive. Moxie’s isn’t fancy, and therein lies its charm … it’s like a comfortable pair of jeans with no pretense, airs, or drama …

A very casual, come as you are place with a bar area in front along with a few classic video games (Ms. Pac Man, anyone??), there’s a room in back with a few tables for when things get busier later in the evening. Moxie’s has been around since the mid-late 1940’s and has always been here and continuously open, so it respectfully gains our “oldest bar in town” nod …

There’s no beer on draught here, but stop in for a cold one and mingle with the locals. A friendly place with easy on the wallet prices, Moxie’s is a good old fashioned local bar that’s a Guttenberg mainstay. Garments and Goods Resale is right next door and if you’re lucky, you might score a good looking Moxie’s Tap golf shirt (see above) like we did!




Get A Little Fresh Air & Exercise (and a great view!)

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Get Some Exercise In Guttenberg

Visit Guttenberg in the warmer months and when you feel like working up a healthy sweat, head on over to the intersection of Herder and Bluff Streets, just west of Highway 52.

There you’ll see the sign pictured, marking the entrance to the Buechel Hill Trail. The trail winds up to the top of the bluff, affording a one of a kind view …

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The Spectacular View From The Top

Insider Tip: The Buechel Hill Trail isn’t easy, but it isn’t terribly difficult either. We suggest a sturdy pair of hiking shoes or boots, though. The trail is unpaved and you’ll need to watch where you’re walking (there are a few big rocks and such which might cause you to lose your footing). If you’re in reasonably decent shape, the trail will afford a nice challenge and an excellent workout, either first thing in the morning or just before happy hour …

Guttenberg’s Historic Lakeside Ballroom

We also want to offer a nod to the iconic Lakeside Ballroom, located on the north end of town …

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Guttenberg’s Famous Lakeside Ballroom

Lakeside Ballroom has quite a history. It opened in 1927 and has been the premier gathering spot and special events location in town ever since. Featuring a large specially crafted dance floor, the ballroom was known by aviators for decades for the large “Lakeside” lettering painted on the building’s roof, which served as a flight checkpoint for small aircraft …

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Lakeside Ballroom’s Iconic Bar

Lakeside has hosted a bevvy of musical and entertainment legends in its day, including Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson. After Prohibition ended, a bar room was added to the ballroom (in 1935), so there’s a lot of history here …

Today, Lakeside is one of only a handful of traditional ballrooms remaining in Iowa. It’s open for special events, weddings, and during the warmer months … stop in when they’re open and soak up the atmosphere!




Take Time For Local Art

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Guttenberg Gallery & Creativity Center

If you enjoy checking out local art in all mediums, the Guttenberg Gallery & Creativity Center will be your kind of place …

Located at 214 S. River Park Drive across from the high school, this wonderful local gem is a combination of gallery displaying local art and studio space for those creating art.

A non profit organization, the Gallery exhibits and sells handmade items like paintings, prints, jewelry, pottery, and more. All the art is created by local artists, some on site. Upstairs from the first floor gallery is the Creativity Center studio, which provides artists of all ages the opportunity to create …

MidwestRiverCities.com/guttenbergThe studio organizes and hosts an ongoing after school program, which encourages and assists young students to learn about art and explore their artistic talents. A true community initiative and gathering place, the studio also offers art classes and hosts private parties.

The Guttenberg Gallery and Creativity Center is housed in another of the town’s handsome historic limestone buildings, as you can see in the photo to your right …

The immediate area adjacent to the Creativity Center is rapidly becoming a shopping destination with the addition of a few new independent shops opening in the space. We loved shopping at Roots, an fun, eclectic shop carrying clothing, antiques, home decor, and everything in between.

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Shopping In Guttenberg

Next door to Roots is Starving Artists, a maker owned shop showcasing handmade artwork, vintage treasures, and much more. Recently opened, Starving Artists features the carefully curated choices and work of talented local artists Molly Moser, Stephanie Svoboda, and Emily Sadewasser.

Creativity abounds in Starving Artists, and each piece tells a story. We loved the succulents planted in vintage planters, hand painted signs, and other one of a kind designs. The kind of independent shop you hope to see when traveling in small town America, Starving Artists is open all year around on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays …




On Your Way In Or Out Of Town …

If you’re continuing your travels over to Wisconsin from Guttenberg (or vice versa), the best means of transport across the Mississippi River is via the Cassville Car Ferry …

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PromiseLand Winery

The ferry picks up on the Iowa side about six miles south of town. There’s access to the ferry landing off of The Great River Road (Highway 51) on County Road C9Y – you’ll see the signs.

on your way to the ferry, you’ll pass Guttenberg’s local winery, PromiseLand Winery. The beautiful stone structure houses a tasting bar and special events space for dinners and live music. We loved the bottle of “Great River Red” from Promiseland … it’s made from Iowa grown grapes and offers a slightly sweet and fruity flavor that pairs well with just about anything.

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The car ferry, named The Pride of Cassville crosses the river in about 20 minutes. It docks in Cassville’s beautiful Riverside Park, where you’re just steps away from downtown Cassville …

The ferry runs seven days a week from Memorial Day through Labor Day, and weekends in May, September, and October. It’s a trip on the river not to be missed!

For More Information & Special Thank You’s

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Guttenberg’s Riverfront

This travelogue is only a sample of what you’ll find in Guttenberg. The community is especially active during the warmer months … make sure you visit the Saturday Farmers Market (above) German Fest and numerous other annual events all dot the Current Events calendar in this fun historic river town. Any time of year is a great time to visit!

We encourage you to stop in Guttenberg for a relaxing weekend, or even just a day trip from destinations in the Upper Midwest. It’s a short car ferry ride and drive from Cassville and just 20 miles south of Wisconsin’s second oldest city, Prairie du Chien.

Simply put, Gutenberg is a delightful historic river town with shops and attractions sure to appeal to everyone!

MidwestRiverCities.com/guttenbergFor more information about Guttenberg, visit the Guttenberg Chamber of Commerce website, which outlines all there is to see and do in the area. Check out the “Itineraries and Trip Inspiration” tab (under “Plan Your Trip”) for more ideas and suggestions …

Thank You …

Special thanks go out to Emily Sadewasser, Director of the Guttenberg Chamber of Commerce, for her help planning and coordinating our two visits. Emily is a wealth of knowledge about Guttenberg and her enthusiasm for her community is refreshing.

Thanks also to Molly Moser, Manager of the Guttenberg Gallery and Creativity Center, for her time, recommendations, and informative tour of their facility …

Let us know your thoughts about Guttenberg in the comments below … we can’t wait to return for another visit!

Jim & Laura Hofman, Midwest River Cities

    1 Comment

  1. We are so glad we took the time to get to know Guttenberg!

    What are some of your favorite local Guttenberg places?

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