I found an Iowa town that’s great for a quick overnight getaway for families: Fairfield. Fairfield, Iowa can be filed under “Quirky, hidden gem” if you want to know why I want to suggest it to you. Quirky because its population is a mix of artists, transcendental meditation practitioners, and creative entrepreneurs. Hidden gem because few people can readily tell you what’s in Fairfield, if they haven’t visited before.
Disclosure: I visited Fairfield during a press trip. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own. This post may contain affiliate links.
This is an itinerary for Fairfield if you only have one day. For more ideas on things to do around the town, check out this Fairfield guide for families!
Morning in Fairfield: Taco Dreams & Trails
Start your day off at Fairfield Food Cooperative for breakfast. The cooperative is home to several small businesses that work out the kitchen or sell items there. Taco Dreams is the spot for breakfast, though. You can order a hearty and colorful breakfast, like the Sunshine Bowl, consisting of veggies with a little spicy kick to them served over a bed of hashbrowns. There are also pastries for those with lighter appetites. Don’t forget to order your coffee or a spicy chai latte!
If you are more of a pastry-and-coffee kind of person, steer your family to Bountiful Bakery, located on the first floor of an older home. There are fresh pastries plus a full cafe menu of hot drinks.
Sufficiently fueled, head outdoors. If your family travels with bikes, try biking the Fairfield Loop Trail. It’s a 16-mile path, so maybe you won’t be biking the whole thing, but what you do bike will take you around the city, passing by a few parks along the way.
Related post: Another great trail for biking riding is Wabash Trace Trail in southwest Iowa!
If biking isn’t your thing, I recommend exploring a park with the kids, either Waterworks Park or Jefferson County Park. Waterworks Park has a small sandy beach on Bonnifield Lake. It’s also home to Bonnifield Cabin, the oldest two story log cabin in Iowa. Jefferson County Park is a nice spot for hiking. The trails are easy for small legs and great for birdwatching.
Afternoon in Fairfield: Fried Chicken Sammies & History
Lunch time! Head to Lunchbox and get yourself a fried chicken sandwich, one of the most popular menu items at this little restaurant. I opted for the famous fried chicken sliced on top of a salad, and it did not disappoint! And it’s good to note: They have a small kid’s menu.
Your next stop is in town, as well: Carnegie Historical Museum. It’s crammed full of historical items and taxidermy that will no doubt fascinate your whole family. It’s old taxidermy. It’s a little weird taxidermy. The museum has a scavenger hunt for kids, which makes it entertaining to explore every room trying to find the items to check off. Turn in the scavenger hunt to the museum gift shop and collect your prize.
Night in Fairfield: Pho and the Art Immersion Home
For dinner, I have two recommendations and where you go will depend largely on how adventurous of an eater your kid (or kids) can be. Asian Pho Bistro is located in town and is an amazing hidden gem of a restaurant. It’s not much to look at from the outside, but venture inside and you’ll be treated to a great meal.
Pho is a specialty, but the large menu has something for most tastes (and the spice level is easy to control). My kids are fairly picky, and even with them, I can find something they’d eat there…namely, the Phad Thai. And it’s delicious.
Note: Asian Pho Bistro closes briefly before lunch and dinner, so check the hours before you go.
Your other choice, and it’s equally as good but for different reasons, is Fishback & Stephensen Cider House. Here, burgers reign supreme and you can smell the patties cooking from the parking lot. The award-winning burger is Das Kraut Burger, topped with sauerkraut, grilled pineapple, housemade pickled jalapeno, swiss cheese, and boetje’s spicy dutch mustard.
There isn’t much in way of a kid’s menu, besides a grilled cheese sandwich, but kids are totally welcome there. I personally like the place because I’m a fan of ciders and if you order a flight, you can sample a wide variety.
The Cider House wins for best view of all the restaurants you’ll dine at in Fairfield. It’s located just outside of town and if you’re lucky, you might catch a beautiful sunset.
After dinner, head back into town to explore the Fairfield Art Immersion House. Fairfield has a vibrant art scene for a town its size, and one of the this immersion home is one of the most memorable experiences you’ll have in art during your visit! You’ll need to contact Tom Lassota to set up an appointment. He’s the artist who has spent 20 years creating an immersive, neon art explosion in the upstairs room of his home. It’s strangely fascinating and kids will no doubt love it. I mean, I loved it!
There is no fee to visit, but donations are accepted. To sett up the appointment, try connecting with Lassota on Facebook.
Want to visit any of the businesses and parks mentioned? Here are the addresses you need to know:
- Taco Dreams at the Fairfield Food Cooperative, 400 N. Second St., Fairfield, Iowa
- Bountiful Bakery, 303 S. Main St., Fairfield, Iowa
- Waterworks Park, North B Street and Pleasant Plain Road, Fairfield, Iowa
- Jefferson County Park, 2003 Libertyville Road, Fairfield, Iowa
- Lunchbox, 403 N. Fourth St., Fairfield, Iowa. Starting Jan. 2, 2024, Lunchbox will combine forces with Broth Lab and operations will move to 102 N. Second St.
- Carnegie Historical Museum, 112 S. Court St., Fairfield, Iowa
- Asian Pho Bistro, 110 W. Burlington Ave., Fairfield, Iowa
- Fishback & Stephensen Cider House, 1949 Pleasant Plain Road, Fairfield, Iowa
- Fairfield Art Immersion House, Fifth Street in Fairfield, Iowa