Winterset Iowa is the setting for the novel and movie, The Bridges of Madison
County. The timeless scenery in this part of the state and the history
of the lovely covered bridges are the Winterset attractions
that draw most visitors. There were once nineteen of these bridges, and six
remain. They were built in the 1870s and 1880s, and are covered to protect the
large floorboards, which were more expensive to replace than the cost of the
time to cover them.
The bridges are all located within a short driving distance of the town, and one of the things to do in Winterset is take a scenic drive to discover them. During this drive, you can also take in a couple wineries in the area. One of the important events in Winterset Iowa is the Covered Bridge Festival held each October, and featuring old-time handcraft demonstrations by local artisans, a wide variety of food, music, and entertainment including an antique vehicle parade and tours of the bridges. If you're interested in when to go, this is a wonderful time due to the brilliant autumn foliage.
Another of the important events is at the birthplace of John Wayne during the May celebration of his birthday. The iconic actor was born here in 1907, and this is the most popular of the Winterset attractions after the covered bridges. Things to do in Winterset include tours of his modest little home, which has been restored and furnished with authentic period pieces. Displayed in the birthplace of John Wayne are various bits of memorabilia, including the eye patch he wore while playing the crusty sheriff in True Grit and Rooster Cogburn, his second to last film.
History comes alive in two Winterset Iowa buildings, the 1876 Madison County Courthouse and the North River Stone Schoolhouse, which was built in 1874 and remained in continuous use until 1945. The Madison County Historical Society provides things to do in Winterset as it is housed in a complex of historic buildings, including a log school and post office, an 1871 train depot, 1856 stone barn, a Zion church, and a rather elaborate wallpapered and walnut-trimmed three-hole privy.
In addition to the birthplace of John Wayne, Winterset is also where the Red
Delicious apple was born. The seedling was carefully nurtured by an 1870s farmer
who entered it in the Missouri State Fair in 1893, where a judge's proclamation
of its flavor named it.
Another of the Winterset attractions is the Art Center, which has an interesting collection of art and crafts by local artists and artisans as well as a pottery barn and kiln. Many of the things to do in Winterset are actually in the surrounding countryside and communities, so having a vehicle or using car rentals is important for transportation. The city of Des Moines is only about an hour's drive away, and Winterset is near a major highway interchange. There are some Winterset motels right in town, and you will find a number of charming little bed and breakfast inns both in town and the surrounding communities.