Planning a stop on a road trip for ice cream is pretty typical for me. You can’t be surprised, then, that I planned an out-of-the-way stop on a recent road trip in order to visit the Ice Cream Capital of the World.. That’s how I ended up in Le Mars, Iowa. And the must-visit place in town is the Wells Visitor’s Center & Ice Cream Parlor.
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If you find yourself in western Iowa, you should definitely plan a little side quest to Le Mars. And while there, obviously you’ll need to visit the Wells Visitor’s Center. As the “Ice Cream Capital of the World,” Le Mars offers an immersive journey into the sweet world of ice cream.
The Visitor’s Center stands as a tribute to this legacy, showcasing colorful exhibits about the ice cream making process and the history of the well-loved Blue Bunny brand. And of course, you can get ice cream there. The ice cream parlor has a ton of flavors, including some exclusive to the Visitor’s Center. The charm of Le Mars and the allure of the Well’s Center together make for a stop that’s more than worth it on any traveler’s itinerary.
Le Mars and the legacy of Blue Bunny
As you pull into the picturesque city of Le Mars, nestled in the heartland of Iowa, you’re greeted by an unexpected title: “Ice Cream Capital of the World.” The city, with its friendly small-town charm, has earned this mouthwatering moniker for good reason – it’s the birthplace of Blue Bunny, a renowned ice cream brand recognized across the United States. They tout that they package more ice cream here than any other place in the world.
And in case the big sign proclaiming “Ice Cream Capital of the World” isn’t enough, you’ll also find more than 55 fiberglass ice cream sculptures around town. Ice cream is a huge part of Le Mars. And it all started with Blue Bunny.
Blue Bunny and Le Mars have a deep-rooted history. Founded by the Wells family in 1913 as a simple milk delivery business, the company expanded into ice cream production. Eventually, the small venture evolved into one of America’s largest family-owned and managed dairy processors. Blue Bunny, one of Wells Enterprises’ flagship brands, soon became a household name, delighting ice cream lovers with its wide variety of flavors and offerings.
With the establishment of the Blue Bunny Visitor’s Center, Le Mars celebrates its proud connection to the brand. Housed in a historic building, restored and refurbished to reflect its early 20th-century charm, the Visitor’s Center offers a unique experience to locals and tourists alike. Here, you can discover the fascinating journey of Blue Bunny – from a humble milk delivery business to a national icon.
The Visitor’s Center is a bit of a museum, featuring interactive exhibits that will appeal to younger visitors. You’ll get a quick recap of the evolution of the company from the early days to a massive production. And of course, there’s also a gift shop full of memorabilia, apparel, and home decor.
What to expect at the Wells Visitor Center
From the moment you approach the Visitor Center, it’s clear this isn’t a standard tourist stop. The building emanates an old-world charm with its red brick exterior and playful hints to the ice cream that awaits inside.
Inside, the interior is quite charming. It feels, at the same time, like a visit to an old-fashioned ice cream parlor and a modern day shop. As soon as you walk in, you’ll feel transported. To the left of the entrance, you’ll see a retro-styled dining area fit for an old-school ice cream parlor. To the right, a long ice cream counter awaits. But there’s more to the Visitor’s Center than eating ice cream.
If you can hold off, save the ice cream treat for the end of the visit and head upstairs to explore the interactive exhibits. Use the stairs or elevator to reach it. The upstairs area has a couple exhibits on the ice cream production process. Touch screens and Interactives will be an appealing part for kids. There’s enough space to let kids roam around, making this a great stop to stretch legs.
The highlight for me (and I’ll bet for most visitors) is the Ice Cream Parlor. There are the usual flavors you’ve come to love from Blue Bunny. I’m partial to Bunny Tracks, which is vanilla ice cream with swirls of fudge and caramel, and chunks of chocolaty peanut butter bunnies and chocolate-covered peanuts.
The menu also includes sundaes, like a banana split and Dirt ‘n Worms. For an extra challenge, they offer the Mega Mix-Up, a sundae that consists of four scoops, two toppings and two crunches.
After satisfying your sweet tooth, you can meander over to the gift shop. As you could probably guess, you’ll find an array of ice cream-themed souvenirs. I found cute stuff for kids, plus cozy-looking sweatshirts.
Beyond ice cream: Exploring Le Mars
While the Wells Visitor Center is undoubtedly a must-visit attraction in Le Mars, the city has much more to offer. For those interested in history, the Plymouth County Historical Museum is a treasure trove housed in the Le Mars Community School building. It’s free to visit, and features regional history. Also I recommend looking for murals around town. There are nine downtown alleys that have been transformed by more than 100 artists.
For more ideas on things to do in Le Mars — including more restaurants and cute shops — check out the post Ice Cream and 21 More Great Things About Le Mars.
A stop at the Wells Visitor Center in Le Mars is a charming and tasty stop. It blends history, education, and indulgence, giving visitors a peek into the ice cream-making process, the Blue Bunny brand, and its deep roots in the city. From interactive exhibits and the nostalgia-infused ice cream parlor, it’s a visit that promises to leave a lasting memory.