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  • Writer's pictureHelen Avaient

Life is sweet in the ice cream capital of the World

Updated: Oct 22, 2023

This is a delicious tale of ice cream and a vibrant community in a Midwest American town, right in the heartland of USA.

Le Mars Iowa USA earnt the title of Ice Cream Capital of the World, in 1994. More ice-cream is produced in this one town than any other town on the planet. Family-owned business Wells Blue Bunny started manufacturing their first products back in 1913.

a banner hangs from a lamppost stating Le Mars Iowa Icecream capital of the world. hello. attached to the lamppost is also a large basket of small blossoming purple flowers

Most visitors stop into the Wells Visitor Center and Ice Cream Parlor in the main street. There are over 40 flavors to choose from, interactive displays and information about the company, spread over the two-story building. In June every year there is a four day ice-cream days festival featuring car shows, concerts, socials, outdoor movies, carnivals, games, fun runs and bike races, markets and scavenger hunts. It all culminates on the final day with a street parade through town.

Over 50 fiberglass five foot tall ice-cream cone sculptures are scattered throughout the town. They have been painted by different artists and organizations. It is a treat to follow the trail and discover the different types.

a five foot tall fiberglass icecream cone has been painted with a red cone. Around the top of the cone is a white rim and the round top of the icecream has been painted with blue sky, green pine trees in different shades and an american flag flying from a flagpole. The cone is on a plinth in a park with green grass and tall trees behind it.

I am a big fan of the little free libraries, so this next picture gets two ticks of approval. Little free libraries are great when you are traveling. Pick up a book, read it and drop/swap it at the next one. no carrying around heavy books in your luggage, and others get to read them too.

a wooden box, shaped like a house, with a large door at the front. It has a clear insert through which two rows of books can be seem stacked spine out. Next to this is a fibreglass icrecream cone standing 5 feet tall. It has a brown cone and metal semi circles overlapping in layers all the way up as the cone. These two are set in a grassed park between two roads with houses on the far left and far right.

It is fun to see the ice-cream cone theme to go with the placement, such as the artistic sculpture outside the arts center.

in the background is a two story brown brick building that houses a local arts centre. the five foot fibreglass icecream cone in front has a black cone. The top of the icecream has been painted with the starry night picture, swirling clouds and dark houses. a white row between the cone and the top significates melting ice cream

The town also has Alley Art, a public art project started in 2013. These amazing murals can be discovered on 42 buildings throughout 9 downtown alleys and 6 parking lots. Over 115 artists have painted beautiful artworks. Check out the train mural and see if you can identify dairy features disguised as ordinary items.

 a black and white mural on the back wall of a building has a railway theme. It has a  man getting out of a stagecoach, a train's steam engine and a railway depot from the late 1800s in the town.

(Yes, the train does go right through the town. As teenagers we would play fire drill when our cars were stopped on a Friday or Saturday evening by the train passing through the middle of town. Kids today would think we were crazy, but when stopped, everyone would jump out, run around the car and then jump back in before the train passed through. Strange, but it was fun!)

on a brick wall are two wall art murals, both of a fantasy dragon theme. One has a scaly dragon rising from the ocean depts and looking straight at the view with bright yellow eyes. The second artwork has fairies on the grass and tree trunks with a dragon flying overhead
down an alley way and painted on a two story purple back of a building are scenes from famous movies. Dorothy from the wizard of oz and other box office dramas, painted as if looking through a window. The murals on the bottom are of two scary faces.

I also truly like the different architecture in town. This is middle America, a town of extended families and new neighbors. Residents sit on porches and greet each other during the warmer months. This is like coming home.

a two storey midwestern wooden house. White with two windows in the upper floor, trimmed in grey. the bottom floor has a front door and one window. A front porch has plants in hanging pots, an American flag flying, and is warm and inviting. A windchime hangs from the roof of the porch.
a blue two story wooden house in middle America. decorated with white trim, the porch has two white rocking chairs, just inviting people to come sit and take it easy.

There is even a rotunda in the park for a band to play upon. Seriously, at times this town is truly like a rom com movie.

Looking like it could be a set from a movie, is the Plymouth County Courthouse. Built in 1902, its exterior is smoothly-dressed red sandstone. The front features an impressive columned portico.

the two storey red block courthouse has a large four columned portico.  wide steps run the length of the portico. on the left there is an American flag flying from a flagpole. Flowers decorate the ground, and a large grassed area is outside the building.

The main street of town is lined with carefully preserved old buildings. As you walk along the street, there are signs on these premises that detail they year it was built, the various purposes it has served over the years, and frequently a photo from the archives. Le Mars was established in 1869, so there are plenty of old buildings to admire.

a series of two storied stores all lined up together in a main street in midwest USA. Each building is different materials, sizes, windows, designs. They have been carefully preserved for over 100 years.

There are some superb places to eat in town. The multi award winning Archie's Waeside was named 2nd best steakhouse in America by Rachel Ray magazine. Bob's drive in serves many classic "drive in" foods, including taverns and hot dogs. They are so popular, another Bobs has opened at the summer vacation destination - Lake Okoboji in Iowa. My favourites though, is the Pizza Ranch, mainly because their broasted chicken is superbly tender, and I make this a definite dining destination whenever I am in town.

Le Mars, with a population of around 10,000 people is located in prime crop growing farmland. The name does not really mean anything, it is an acronym of the first initials of a group of women who attended a party for town in the 1890s (It was previously called St. Paul Junction).

This is truly a charming small town that has something for everyone. Whether it be any of the activities listed above, attending the County Fair in Summer or the Christmas events in Winter, this is one place I enjoy coming back to year after year.

map of where Le Mars is located in the USA

Happy Travels!

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