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Visit the 8th Wonder of the World…in Iowa?

You’ve heard of the Great Wall of China and the Colosseum, but what about the Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption? If not, you may have a new location to add to your bucket list.

Unlike the other wonders of the world, you won’t need a passport to visit this one if you reside in the United States. Its location might surprise you.

Today, we’re sharing about the Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption and what many consider the world’s eighth wonder.

Let’s dive in!

Brilliant purple geodes similar to what you'll find at the Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption
Geodes and other stones make up much of the shrine

About the Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption

The Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption is a religious site with nine grottos that display important biblical events. Each uses statues, plaques, agates, geodes, quartz, petrified wood, and other geological formations to tell the redemption story.

Construction began in 1912 from Father Paul Matthias Dobberstein’s inspiration. He was gravely ill and promised to build a shrine to honor the Virgin Mary if he lived. However, completing it took hundreds of truckloads of materials and 52 years. 

The result is the most extensive collection of minerals, fossils, shells, and petrifications in a single place. It covers two city blocks and attracts thousands of visitors each year.

They stroll by to admire the incredible craftsmanship and intricate details while having a spiritual experience. It continues to serve as a place of worship, reflection, and inspiration for all who visit.

Where Is the Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption?

The Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption is a one-of-a-kind attraction in West Bend, Iowa, near Fort Dodge. The site resulted from the bishop sending Father Dobberstein to serve here. Such a magnificent creation may seem out of place for such a humble environment. However, it’s divinely ironic as it’s how the Bible says Jesus spent most of his time.

The town has a population of approximately 700 residents and is relatively close-knit. Agriculture drives a majority of the local economy. Many are involved in crop and livestock farming. Cattle, hogs, corn, and soybeans are the primary economic contributors.

As you’d expect from a rural farming area, the land is full of rolling fields. It’s peaceful and welcoming, and residents take tremendous pride in their community. There’s just about everything you could need in this small town.

Fun Things to Do Near the Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption

Aside from visiting the Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption, there are other fun things to do nearby. Here are a few different places you’ll want to check out during your visit.

Visit West Bend’s Historical Sites

West Bend, Iowa, is home to the Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption and several historic sites. It’s an incredible opportunity to get a close-up view of what rural life would have been like.

The first one-room school in Palo Alto County is a notable part of the tour. The building was restored in 1976 and now provides an authentic look into what education was like for kids living here. Don’t expect to see iPads, laptops, or any fancy technology.

Other fun sights include the post office, sod house, and a historical museum. The sod house replicates what pioneers would have created during the mid-1800s. Families lived in these tiny structures for up to five years to acquire 150 acres of free land. 

You can visit the historical museum and learn about the history of West Bend and the surrounding area. The facility opened in 2006 and shares artifacts and various educational exhibits to learn about the incredible community.

You can find tour information by visiting the city’s website. Just call to set one up for a guided look at these unique stops.

Kossuth County Agriculture & Motorsports Museum

This unique site is a tribute to the local history and heritage of agriculture and motorsports. It sits on the Kossuth County Fairgrounds property. It’s open on weekends from April through December and by appointment only from January 1 through March 31.

Inside, you’ll find educational displays and farm equipment. The exhibits showcase the changes in agriculture and its impact on the local community. Visitors see how vital the industry is to their everyday lives.

While here, you’ll also have a chance to explore the train station and Racing Hall of Fame. They have a gigantic collection of “O scale” trains. If you enjoy models, then this is one exhibit you’ll want to experience. The Kossuth County Racing Hall of Fame honors those who set themselves apart during their time in the community.

Model railway featuring agricultural siding and steam train, with workers preparing farm products.
Explore the model railway at Kossuth County Agriculture & Motorsports Museum

Explore Ambrose A. Call State Park

You can stop by the Ambrose A. Call State Park while you’re on your pilgrimage to the Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption. This 138-acre space in Northern Iowa combines rugged hills and rolling farmland. One of the primary features is a log-cabin-style lodge built in 1928. People often use it for family reunions and other large gatherings.

The park offers something for just about everyone. You can camp, hike on one of the two trails that snake through the forest, or play a round of disc golf. It’s also a great place to spend a relaxing day outside with your friends and family.

Best Places to Stay Near the Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption

If you want to stay in the area, we know a few great options to consider. These choices will allow you to be close to the sites and reduce travel times.

The Grotto Campground

The Grotto Campground is a seasonal facility with 53 spots that offer 30-Amp and 50-Amp electrical connections. Whether you’re looking for a tent or RV site, they have plenty. It’s first-come, first-served, but be sure to dump your waste tanks and fill your freshwater tank before you pull in.

This small basic campground doesn’t see a lot of visitors. But that means you’ll get to enjoy some peace and quiet. Be aware that the railroad tracks are nearby, but trains are relatively infrequent. And don’t forget to test the power pedestal before unhitching. We’ve seen reports that some need maintenance.

Queen Marie Bed and Breakfast

The Queen Marie Bed and Breakfast is a 4-star bed and breakfast. The facility offers six rooms with little changes since 1890. The carved oak and brass-laced fireplace showcase the incredible beauty of the Victorian era. Despite the lack of updates, they have WiFi and air conditioning. You’ll remain cool and comfortable during your trip.

When here, you’re less than half a mile from the center of Emmetsburg and all it has to offer. You can walk to one of the local restaurants and work out at the on-site fitness center. However, it’s approximately 30 minutes from the Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption. 

Brookstone Lodge and Suites

If you want a more hotel-like environment, the Brookstone Lodge and Suites is the place to be. However, if you’re traveling with pets, you’ll have to make other arrangements. They offer room options and WiFi to help you remain connected and plan your next adventure.

Each morning their staff puts out a delicious breakfast that features pancakes, scrambled eggs, and sausage patties. But they also have yogurt, fresh fruit, and cereal if you want something lighter.

The location makes it convenient for exploring Emmetsburg, and you’re only a 30-minute drive from West Bend, Iowa.

Is a Road Trip to the Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption Worth It?

Visiting the Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption can be a humbling and unforgettable experience. If you’re religious or enjoy architectural wonders, this is a sight you’ll want to see.

The small town also gives you a taste of life in rural America. So pack your bags and head to the Hawkeye State to experience this one-of-a-kind creation!

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