Road Trip 2015: Burlington and Denmark

Sometimes you have to leave home to find the things you need. I tested that theory at the end of June, when I took Betsy and Emily on a road trip through Iowa. Today I share the things we found in Burlington, Iowa.

The B and B
The B and B

We arrived at the Squirrel’s Nest bed and breakfast just before 8 p.m. on the first night of our road trip. I chose the place because of its location in Burlington’s historic north end, and because of the reasonable room rate. The Squirrel’s Nest boasts a spectacular third-floor suite with a panoramic view of the Mississippi River, but I opted to share a smaller, equally comfortable room with the girls. Our friendly innkeeper, Inez Metzger, keeps a clean and pleasant house, and accommodated our schedule with ease.

We have roots in Burlington. My husband’s grandparents lived a few blocks from The Squirrel’s Nest for many years, and his uncle owns a dental practice in town. I formed an attachment to the place when we moved there as newlyweds. I took the girls to Burlington for many reasons, not the least of which was family history.

Mosquito Park 1After we settled into our room, Emily and I coated ourselves with bug repellant and set off to explore the neighborhood. We walked along streets lined with stately old homes that date back to the town’s most prosperous days, stopping now and then to admire the river below. Mosquito Park (well-named!) offered the best lookout spot. We stood at the rail a while and watched the mist rise over the water.

On our way back we passed an alley, complete with its own cat. Alleys are a fixture in Burlington, but they’ve always seemed foreign to me. Red cobblestones gave this one a sense of old-world history.

The following morning we breakfasted on Denver omelet and fresh raspberry muffins, thanked Inez for her hospitality, and headed out to see the town. We drove by Jon’s grandparents’ former house, then crossed the highway and drove through the sleepy downtown commercial district to look for our next adventure.

To our delight we found an open bookstore. Burlington by the Book opens at 8 a.m., the owner told us, because he sells newspapers. Whatever the reason, we were glad to browse his excellent collection. I told him about Lottie’s Gift, and he gave me his card. “I sell books on consignment,” he said.

First home on Main StreetFrom the bookstore, we drove south on Main Street to the 1890 farm house where Jon and I once lived. We had the upper floor, a spacious and charming place, though not very warm in winter. The house is a single-family home again, and that makes me happy.


On our way out of town, we stopped at Crapo Park to take a picture of the tornado slide. My husband remembers riding that slide as a little kid, and he describes it as a dangerous beast. It’s painted a sedate brown now, not so intimidating to three grown women. I was more taken with the real wooden see-saws, which I begged my girls to ride with me.

We had a 1:30 appointment in Iowa City, so we needed to stay on schedule. We said goodbye to Crapo Park and headed south into the countryside.Twenty minutes later we arrived in tiny Denmark, where the only paved street is the highway that runs through it. More family history….and something else entirely. Which brings me to my last reason for visiting Burlington.

I’ll save that reason for next time.


  1. Iowa is a big small town… My mother’s parents were from Burlington. My grandfather lived on Madison Avenue, just across the street. I have a video of him pushing Alissa on the swing by the see-saws in your picture!

  2. My Mom grew up in a “Tiny Denmark” town called Kimballton, Iowa. She didn’t speak any English until she was six years old. They have a little mermaid fountain that honors Hans Christian Andersen. The “real” little mermaid statue is in Copenhagen, a much more expensive place to visit!

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