On my September 2020 road trip, I stopped in Grinnell, Iowa. I attended Grinnell College from 2008-2010 (transferred in) and fell in love with the charm of small-town Iowa. The college has been shut down owing to COVID19, which, along with a catastrophic August windstorm, has hammered the town’s economy. But the Hotel Grinnell remains open. While it does not enjoy close access to the interstate highway several miles to the south, which brings in a lot of truck traffic, construction workers, and more travelers, it is nestled just between the center of downtown and the college, making it an ideal destination for both. Unfortunately, though, the college being shut down means that this is a struggle for the relatively new hotel. It’s an amazing space, though.
My room offered tall ceilings and warm, hard maple floors, plus a clean, black-and-white decor that was crisp without being too austere. The Periodic Table, a restaurant and bar whose name is a nod to the building’s former history as a school, is slowly opening up again to include a temporarily-shuttered food service. There’s a bar space and a lounge, which features a great shuffleboard. There’s also an excellent patio, which is not something that is historically super prevalent in small-town Iowa, but is a quite welcome complement to the town’s several months per year of outdoor-friendly weather. The ballroom, located in the old gym, still has the original floors. When I was visiting, there was some sort of symposium of people wearing day-glo yellow vests and learning about trees.
The Hotel Grinnell is definitively worth a trip if you are passing through Central Iowa.