Some unexpected things happened on a recent visit to Franklin County, Iowa. I was expecting farmland, small town friendliness and a vaudeville show.
That all happened according to plan.
I wasn’t expecting to learn so much.
I wasn’t expecting my son to be so fascinated by a county museum.
I wasn’t expecting a microbrewer in a town of 4,000 to make beer that competes with the best of Nebraska’s.
And I wasn’t expecting my daughter to become so attached to another blogger’s daughter that she’d cry when we left.
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Halfway between Omaha and Minneapolis, lies the small town Hampton with an unexpected number of things to do. My family were invited to the county seat of Franklin County as guests of Franklin County Farm Bureau and Franklin County Tourism along with four other bloggers and their families – Simplify Live Love, Her Heartland Soul, Midwest Wanderer and The Gingered Whisk.
Due to the uniqueness of the fourth annual Franklin County Harvest Blogger Tour we were on (search Instagram for some great #FranklinCoHarvest photos), it doesn’t make sense to recap the whole weekend for you – it’s not something easy to duplicate without some insider help.
Instead, I’ll break down the highlights for you, in case you’re planning a road trip to Minnesota and you need a good stopping point to stretch legs or rest for the night.
Our large group dined at two restaurants in Hampton – Rustic Brew and La Frontera.
Rustic Brew is an inviting coffee shop in the morning, with so much charm and décor you’ll want to linger and look everything over. We ate warm scones – the raspberry and white chocolate was good – and tried a variety of quiches and breakfast sandwiches.
There’s a 100-year-old piano you can play, and a chalk wall to pass the time while you wait.
I returned with a few of the BHs of the group (bloggers’ husbands), and tried one of the microbrews the owner Joel makes above the coffee shop. The “Brew” in Rustic Brew doesn’t just mean coffee. They have about six brews – he recently made a cucumber peppercorn ale.
I tried a brown ale called Bad to the Brown and it was so good. So good. He said the most popular one, Slobber Knocker, is always on tap.
La Frontera is a Mexican restaurant connected to a grocery store that’ fun to browse (writes the former exchange student).
We ate chicken enchiladas and way too many chips scooping up the good salsa.
A Quick Stop
If you’re looking for a place to stop briefly to stretch your legs and get a bite to eat, hit up Rustic Brew and then browse some of the shops on Hampton’s Main Street. I bought the cutest scarf and earrings at Orange Possum and could’ve shopped the clothes there for an hour.
Hampton has eight specialty shops worth checking out. We also went into The Wood Cellar, which had so many quirky and cute things to decorate your home and garden, and Cornerstone Cottage, where Farley bought a coloring book illustrated by a local artists.
Cornerstone Cottage had some darling handcrafted stuff that’d make great gifts. They give you a free book with your purchase (not usually with a coloring book, but they made the exception for us). So we got a new chapter book for Farley – score!
A Longer Stop
If you’re sticking around a little longer than an hour, you have more options. The Franklin County Historical Museum dives into the history of the county. My kids surprised me and really enjoyed this stop on our tour.
From old telephones and toys, to what beauty salons and classrooms looked like, there was a lot to see. The machine shed was pretty interesting to explore, but the outdoor building were particularly fun for the kids.
So I hear. Mr. Wonderful took Mooch out there with a few other parents and kids, while Farley and I made our way through the museum inside. Farley had a lot of questions, and our stop was brief.
We visited another museum that’s way more niche and I’d only recommend setting up an appointment to see if it it’s a definite interest of yours or someone in the family: Power Plant Museum.
The kids got a kick out of the chicken duster (just like what it sounds like – it was a way to clean chickens of mites).
The Windsor Theatre is 102 years old and now screens movies. Our visit was timed so that we could see the annual vaudeville show (first weekend of October).
You’d be surprised – the kids enjoyed it, especially the silent film “You’re Darn Tootin’” (1928), which a orchestra played live accompaniment to.
I liked TownsEnd Winery in nearby Hansell, Iowa. We went there one evening with our group for a potluck and wine sampling. On a warmer night, we could’ve been outside on their nice patio or playing a beanbag game in the vineyard.
But it was chilly, so we stayed inside and tried elderberry wines and a variety made from northern grapes. My favorite was the cranberry table wine, which will be a nice addition to Thanksgiving dinner this year. The cranberries were the only thing not grown in their vineyard or in Iowa (Wisconsin-grown).
There are three places to stay in Hampton, and I will vouch for where we were hosted: AmericInn Lodge & Suites.
I was skeptical, having stayed in several small town inns that were less than stellar, but this surpassed all expectations. They did a good job making this hotel feel like a lodge when you first arrive.
We arrived late and were warmly greeted with cookies and milk. The rooms are pretty standard hotel rooms: clean, big TV and pretty speedy wifi.
The kids enjoyed the pool and hot tub, I loved that there was always coffee in the lobby.
There’s a breakfast every morning starting at 6 a.m. – even hot breakfast options like biscuits and gravy and bacon.
About our tour
Many thanks to the people made the 2015 Franklin County Harvest Tour possible! My kids made some friendships during our stay there – learning about tiling and riding combines at Arends Farms, and playing with their toys in their Ag in the Classroom goodie bags at Latham High-Tech Seeds.
We learned a lot, and enjoyed the change of scenery. Thanks for inviting us!