The city of Decorah is 19th on Smithsonian magazine’s third annual list of the 20 best small towns to visit this year.

From country music to herbal cocktails to horseshoe crabs to Rodin, our third annual list takes you to cultural gems worth mining,” the article states.

“They beckon from nearly every corner of the country, from grand rivers and awesome mountains, from the Great Plains and a misty farm valley and a venerable whaling harbor, and what never fails to charm us is that each one follows its own, unhurried clock, saving up stories to tell and making time to talk.

“They are America's Best Small Towns to visit, and for this, our third annual search-and-enjoy mission, we've singled out communities for particular strengths in history, music, visual arts, learning, food, theater and science …We worked with the geographical information systems company Esri, which analyzed tons of data to find towns or cities of fewer than 15,000 residents where cultural opportunities abound, at least on a per capita basis.”

The article provides the following description of Decorah:

“If Decorah, Iowa, has a mission, it's to prove that there's much more to the Midwestern state than cornfields. Decorah sits in the heart of Iowa's bluff country, an area heralded for scenic beauty and wildlife. Dunning Springs, just minutes from downtown Decorah, is a 200-foot waterfall—visitors can explore the area by bike or via a network of hiking trails.

“For those looking for a little dash of history, Decorah's main attraction might be the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, which features over 24,000 artifacts and 12 historic buildings, making it not only the most comprehensive collection of Norwegian-American artifacts in the world, but the oldest and most comprehensive museum about any single ethnic immigrant group. Founded in 1877, the museum takes its name from the Norwegian word for "western home," a tribute to the important presence of Norwegian immigrants in the Upper Midwest.

“But Norwegian-American artifacts aren't the only thing Decorah stores in large numbers: the town is also home to the largest non-governmental seed bank in North America, Seed Savers. Think all tomatoes are created equal? Seed Savers has over 6,200 varieties of the fruit.

“For shopping, visit one of Decorah's newest shops, Lillesoster Butikken, which means "little sister's shop" in Norwegian, and check out their selection of ladies clothing, jewelry, handbags, fashion belts, home decor and even children's accessories. Also consider stopping by Milkhouse Candles, which sells a blend of soy and beeswax candles that actually clean the air as they burn.
Nearby Lanesboro, Minn. was 10th on the Smithsonian's list.