Welcome to Le Mars, a delightful city nestled along the Floyd River in Plymouth County, Iowa. With a population of 10,571, it may not be the largest city in the state, but it has gained international recognition as the Ice Cream Capital of the World. Let’s dive into the enchanting story behind this sweet title and discover what else Le Mars has in store for you.
A Scoop of History: Le Mars’ Rise to Ice Cream Fame
In 1869, the Sioux City and St. Paul Railroad Company purchased the land where Le Mars now stands. The city takes its name from the acronym of seven remarkable women who accompanied the railroad builders. But it was in 1925 when Le Mars became truly synonymous with ice cream. Fred H. Wells and his sons Harold, Mike, Roy, and Fay opened an ice cream manufacturing plant in the city. After briefly selling their initial venture, the family returned to the ice cream business in 1935 with a new company. A contest was held to choose its name, and the winning entry was Blue Bunny.
Wells’ Dairy Inc., later taking over the reins, witnessed exponential growth in the 1980s and 90s. The brand gained national fame, turning their frozen delights into a staple of American freezers. In 1994, Wells’ Dairy helped Le Mars secure its title as the Ice Cream Capital of the World. The city boasted the highest production of ice cream by a single manufacturer in a single location worldwide.
To celebrate this delicious achievement, Wells’ Dairy commissioned local artists and sculptors to create 55 charming ice cream sculptures. These delightful creations can still be discovered throughout Le Mars today. The original ice cream plant, which kickstarted it all, continues to produce a staggering 150 million gallons of frozen treats each year. While touring the plant is not possible, fear not, as Le Mars has plenty of other delectable ice cream experiences awaiting you.
The Creamiest Destination: Wells Visitor Center
Wells Visitor Center, located at 115 Central Ave NW, is an ice cream parlor like no other. Here, you can savor dozens of flavors of ice cream, sherbets, sorbets, and a variety of other frozen desserts. Above the ice cream counter, an interactive museum awaits, offering insights into the ice cream-making process and its journey to the center. Additionally, a theater screens a captivating film chronicling the history of the Blue Bunny company. As you indulge in your favorite frozen treat, the walls adorned with Blue Bunny signage and vintage pictures from the Wells Ice Cream Plant transport you back in time. It’s an ice cream lover’s paradise and a testament to why Le Mars has earned the title of Ice Cream Capital of the World.
Beyond Ice Cream: Exploring Le Mars’ Hidden Gems
While renowned for its ice cream, Le Mars offers much more to satisfy your appetite for adventure. Let’s take a look at some of the best dining spots and experiences the city has to offer.
Archie’s Waeside – located at 224 4th Ave NE, Le Mars, IA 51031 – is a must-visit for steak enthusiasts. Indulge in top-quality dry-aged steaks, seafood delicacies, and an extensive wine menu featuring over fifty options. Whether you’re a steak aficionado or seeking a memorable dining experience, Archie’s Waeside is the place to be.
Cue the mouthwatering aroma of barbecued meats as you enter the Iowa Barbecue Company at 100 Plymouth St W, Le Mars, IA 51031. From savory sandwiches to delectable sausages, this barbecue haven has something to satiate every craving. Pair your meal with homemade sides like macaroni and cheese and cornbread, and let your taste buds revel in the flavors of the region.
For a taste of nostalgia and classic diner charm, swing by Bob’s Drive Inn at 23 5th Ave SW, Le Mars, IA 51031. With its timeless exterior dating back to 1949, this family-owned restaurant serves up scrumptious sandwiches, salads, and handcrafted shakes and malts. Bob’s Drive Inn offers a quick and satisfying meal at a reasonable price.
Experiences to Savor
Amidst the ice cream indulgence, don’t miss out on these unique Le Mars experiences:
Plymouth County Fair – located at 500 4th Ave NE, Le Mars, IA 51031 – invites you to immerse yourself in the “Five Best Days of Summer.” This vibrant fair, held in the final days of July, offers a wide array of festivities. Enjoy talent shows, explore a pioneer village, witness exhilarating motocross events, and more. The fair is a fleeting gem, so make sure to seize the opportunity while it lasts.
Nature enthusiasts will find their haven at the Willow Creek Campground, situated at 445 Park Ln, Le Mars, IA 51031. Immerse yourself in the great outdoors and indulge in a plethora of amenities, including a pickleball court, picnic areas, and scenic bike trails. This picturesque campground is an ideal destination for a memorable vacation with family and friends.
Calling all golf enthusiasts! The Willow Creek Golf Course, found at 935 Park Ln, Le Mars, IA 51031, beckons you to tee off and partake in the joy of the game. With three nine-hole courses of varying difficulties, the Willow Creek Golf Course ensures an enjoyable experience for players of all skill levels.
Le Mars, Iowa: A Journey Worth Savoring
Le Mars, the Ice Cream Capital of the World, is sure to capture your attention. Yet, it is the city’s hidden treasures that will captivate your heart. With its small-town charm, rich history, and delightful culinary scene, Le Mars beckons you to embark on a sweet adventure while traversing the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.