The Best Things To See & Do In O’Brien County

*Thank you to O’Brien County for hosting me and it should be noted that all of the opinions here are mine and nobody else’s.

Iowa is home to 99 counties and they all offer something unique. O’Brien County surprised me on a hosted visit in the spring of 2022. I had driven the Glacial Trail Scenic Byway in the summer of 2020 and I quickly learned that this area of Iowa had a lot to offer. Wow, was I ever missing out. I hope you will make the time to put your foot on the brakes and “brake” for fun in O’Brien County. Here are the best things to see and do in O’Brien County in Northwest Iowa.

Grounded Coffee Shop- Hartley, Iowa

Grounded in Hartley will inspire you to enjoy a cup of coffee and turn your inner craftiness on. Little did I know that I would meet Kelly and Deidre who had an enthusiasm for their business that blew me away. Where else can you enjoy breakfast with family and friends, while taking a step back in time in an “old” John Deere dealership?

I had the pleasure of meeting Deidre’s parents in the living quarters that make up this eclectic restaurant. It’s also fair to say that Deidre made my day when she placed a piping hot plate of biscuits and gravy in front of me. Family, coffee, a hot meal, and love are what you will find at Grounded in Hartley. Start your day off here, and your day will be a winner! Grounded is one of the top things to see and do in O’Brien County.

100 Things To Do In Iowa Before You Die

Yesterday’s Memories & Truck Museum- Sanborn, Iowa

Yesterday’s Memories & Truck Museum in Sanborn is home to thousands of items. A highlight is the hundreds of trucks and cars, including fire trucks. This immaculate kept museum will keep your head turning as you walk from building to building.

O'Brien County truck museum

If you are a car/truck enthusiast, you will want to plan a minimum of four hours when visiting this hidden treasure in Iowa. If you look closely through the cabinet windows in a back building, you will find toys from your childhood. I can guarantee you that you will reflect on the toys from your childhood.

Prairie Heritage Center- Peterson, Iowa

The Prairie Heritage Center near Peterson includes 4.9 miles of hiking trails, birding, and wildlife viewing that includes bison. Nature centers are unique, as they offer four memorable times of the year to visit. Iowa has four distinct seasons; therefore, you should visit the Prairie Heritage Center during each season. Spring time is fabulous in Iowa as the temperature is usually comfortable with low humidity. The wildflowers are abundant in May and June, which make for a beautiful visit.

My March of 2022 visit was on a cold, rainy day. It was the perfect day to explore the indoor facility, which is well done.

Old Market Antiques & Bock Suite- Paullina, Iowa

If you enjoy antiquing or don’t, the Old Market Antiques & Bock Suite is a fantastic place to stop. Enjoy a freshly baked cinnamon roll with the locals and even spend the night in the Bock Suite, a room above the antique shop.

My theory is this; every antique shop has a treasure that is calling your name, you need to find it.

O’Brien County Freedom Rock- Sanborn, Iowa

Artist Ray “Bubba” Sorenson has painted a freedom rock for all 99 counties in Iowa. The Freedom Rock in Sanborn is one of the largest on the tour and most likely the largest.

The O’Brien County Freedom Rock is #52 of the 99 Freedom Rocks. The rock pays homage to local veterans and folks who have sacrificed for our freedoms in America.

The Iowa Freedom Rock Tour is an experience in itself. Begin your quest to visit all 99 of them in Sanborn, Iowa

JW’s Bar & Grill- Paullina, Iowa

JW’s Bar & Grill on Main Street in Paullina is where you can indulge in broasted chicken in O’Brien County. Dine in or carry out, the option is yours. Wednesday night is wing night and the locals come out in droves for this experience.

I have learned over the years that the “locals know.” To stay up to date with the menu additions and changes, follow their JW’s Bar & Grill Facebook page.

Sheldon Prairie Museum- Sheldon, Iowa

The Sheldon Prairie Museum in Sheldon is a well done museum that showcases the history of O’Brien County and the surrounding area. In the spring of 2022, a wooly mammoth tooth was found in O’Brien County. The tooth is at the Sheldon Prairie Museum, but it won’t be available for the general public to view for a few months. You can view a wooly mammoth rib and another wooly mammoth tooth, similar to the one most recently found.

The volunteers that run this museum are passionate about what they do. Call 712-324-3235 to schedule your visit or follow the Sheldon Prairie Museum Facebook Page to stay up to date with their hours. With so much local history, the Sheldon Prairie Museum is one of the best things to see & do in O’Brien County.

Patch-Eeten House- Hartley, Iowa

The Patch-Eeten House in Hartley is a 1890s Queen Anne style home. If you enjoy visiting historic homes, put this one at the top of your list.

The home is filled with history of local veterans and memorabilia from the town of Hartley and O’Brien County. If you would like to visit, call 712-928-2978 and a local historian will greet you.

Prairie Arts Historical Park- Sheldon, Iowa

The Prairie Arts Historical Park in Sheldon is a destination in itself. A highlight of my visit was O’Brien County’s Baker School #5. I love visiting a school house that has been refurbished and lives in the time period that students attended school. With a ceramic house on site, you will find a space where you can paint ceramics and create art. This unique stop is a one of a kind experience.

Follow the Prairie Arts Historical Park Facebook Page to stay up to date with their events. The uniqueness of this site, which includes a Sears Roebuck Home is a walk down memory lane for many that visit. You can call Karin at 712-324-9718 for a personal tour, as she will be glad to show you this incredible facility.

I hope you will plan a visit to O’Brien County. This is a sliver of the best things to see & do in O’Brien County in Northwest Iowa. Most importantly, make time to relax in one of the parks in O’Brien County. Most importantly, make the time for a little rest & relaxation in one of the parks, your soul will thank you.

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Sara is a travel enthusiast that resides in North Iowa. You can find her traveling where the plane, train, ship, or car will go. Are you looking to take a road trip? Sara has solutions for you!

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