Discover your Danish heritage at the Museum of Danish America

The Museum of Danish America is three floors of exhibits showcasing Danish American history. Two floors are permanent exhibits and the upper floor is dedicated to temporary exhibits.

I recently made my first trip to the annual Tivoli Fest in Elk Horn, Iowa. It’s a celebration of their Danish-American heritage. Elk Horn and nearby Kimballton are the largest rural Danish settlement in the United States. I’ve stopped at the museum before, but it was closed and I was only able to walk the grounds during that initial visit. During the Tivoli Fest (and during Julefest as well), the museum is not only open, it has free admission. During other times of the year, it’s just a small admission price. Please check their website for current hours and admission prices.

Address: 4210 Main Street, PO Box 249, Elk Horn, IA 51531


The interior of the Museum of Danish America.

Here’s what to expect at the Museum of Danish America:

Across Oceans, Across Time: A permanent exhibit dedicated to the immigration experience. I also like the exhibits that explain why Denmark is often named the “happiest country in the world”. There’s also information on famous Danes, including artists, musicians, actors, and scientists.

Other interesting notes on Denmark:

  • Is it the smallest or largest country? It is the smallest Scandinavian county (it’s about1/3 the size of Iowa). But if you count their territories like Greenland and Faroe Islands, they could be considered the largest nation in western Europe.
  • Dannebrog, the Danish flag, is the oldest national flag in the world. It dates back to 1219.

In the lower level, there’s a large visual storage area. They house thousands of Danish-American artifacts in an environmentally controlled room – however, it is completely encased in glass. This allows visitors to see the contents of their archive. The walls of the lower level are a massive timeline of danish history.

The archive is entirely encased in glass to allow you to see the items that have archived.
The walls of the lower level are a timeline of Danish-American history.

The third floor is known as the Kramme Gallery and houses its latest temporary exhibits. The current exhibit is on Tatoos.

Denmark’s most well-known export: Legos, which is short for leg godt, or play well. Of course, they have a great Lego play area for kids.

Victor Borge gifted his first ever piano to the museum when it opened.

The outdoor landscapes are designed after the work of Jens Jensen, a Danish-American landscape architect. You’ll kids will find the outdoor fitness equipment interesting, as they might think it’s a traditional playground as they first approach and discover that it’s unique exercise equipment. In fact, they have a free mobile app that explains the equipment and helps track your usage.

Aerial view of the Musem of Danish America.

Also, check out their reviews on Trip Advisor – it’s really well rated and you can see that folks really enjoyed this stop.

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