Five Unique Field Trips in Marshalltown

A day trip to Marshalltown offers your family lots of learning with lots of fun! Here are FIVE unique field trips to check out. 


Location #1

Place/Event: The Big Treehouse 
Location: 2370 Shady Oaks Rd, Marshalltown, IA 50158
Cost: $5 each
Grade/age range: Little ones can come along, but need to be under strict supervision. Best for attentive preschoolers and older. 
Group size: Small. If you have any group changes, please let them know immediately.
Hands-on: Limited. 
Stroller friendly: Limited. 
Bathrooms: Yes

Visiting The Big Treehouse has been on my list of fun-things-to-do for a long time! We weren’t alone in our desire for a tour. One woman on our tour had been trying to visit for over three years. Tours are during fair weather months only. If there has been any rain, tours are canceled because of the slippery wood decks. Tennis shoes are required and no flip-flops allowed. 

Several levels of The Big Treehouse in Marshalltown Iowa

The Big Treehouse is a labor of love from one special family, all starting with Grandma Mary. You’ll love hearing their story and sharing in their family traditions. Visiting The Big Treehouse is a sneak peak into their unique sense of humor and style. 

Judy, mother of Mick who is the brains and engineer behind The Big Treehouse, is a delight and leads the tours. She was very attentive to the children and helped them have a lot of fun!

Quirky garden characters and hidden treasures welcome guests as they wander through the entrance gate. Every part of the treehouse complex is valued and entertaining. Judy uses several remotes to control all the lights, sounds and water features. 

Our tour lasted just under an hour and was perfect for the kids. They really enjoyed it and were inspired. Upon arriving home, they set out to draw and design their own treehouse plans.

The Big Treehouse is located at Shady Oaks Campground in a beautiful rural setting close to all the amenities of Marshalltown, IowaShady Oaks trees at The Big Treehouse in Marshalltown Iowa


Location #2

Place/Event: Union Grove State Park and Waterfall 
Location: 1215 220th Street, Gladbrook, IA 50635
Cost: Free
Grade/age range: All
Group size: All
Hands-on: Yes
Stroller friendly: Yes
Bathrooms: Yes

Just 20 minutes north of The Big Treehouse is Union Grove State Park. We enjoyed a picnic along the lake and then visited the waterfall. The lake is part of a DNR restoration project and was recently drudged and updated.

Beautiful view looking up creek to the Union Grove State Park Waterfall in Iowa.

The waterfall is conveniently located near a parking lot and only a few minute walk across the little stream bridge to the viewing deck.  There is some type of metal grate where the water falls over onto sharp rocks below. I was told this was recently added.

Further up the path along the stream is the spillway. The kids had fun throwing rocks in the water and we found a bunch of baby snails. The sound of the waterfall creates a tranquil atmosphere. 

If the water quality is safe for swimming, children can wade in the shallow area above the falls. I would not recommend playing under the waterfall area. 

Location #3

Place/Event: Freedom Rock and Veterans Memorial
Location: W 8th Street, Gladbrook, IA 50635
Cost: Free
Grade/age range: All
Group size: All
Hands-on: No
Stroller friendly: Yes
Bathrooms: No

I always appreciate an opportunity to honor our vets. When we spotted this roadside memorial, I took a few minutes to stop and give the children a quick history lesson. We read some of the names on the plaques and talked about the ages of the men who died. 

Painted Freedom Rock in Glenbrook Iowa


Location #4

Place/Event: Matchstick Marvels
Location: 319 2nd Street, Gladbrook, IA 50635
Cost: Adults: $5.00, Ages 5-12: $3.00, Under 5 yrs: Free.
Grade/age range: All
Group size: Small
Hands-on: No
Stroller friendly: limited 
Bathrooms: Yes

Tucked away in the corner of an old building housing a movie theater and City Hall is the unique little Matchstick Marvels museum. But don’t let the small size of the room lower your expectations. 

Huge scale replicas of famous buildings are loaded with unimaginable detail. It truly is a wonder how one man can make such a grand model out of matchsticks and glue.  

US Captitol at Matchstick Marvels in Glenbrook Iowa

USS IOWA on display at Matchstick Marvels in Iowa

I wish I had done a little more research and prepped the kids better but I truly didn’t know what to expect. Inside the museum there is a small TV that runs a movie about the museum and process. Unfortunately it didn’t work out for us to watch it then. I was hoping to find it online and haven’t. This video does have a neat little segment on the museum at the 9:00 minute mark. 

Display case at Matchstick Marvels in Iowa

In addition to the large scale models, there are also many information posters and fun facts throughout the museum. During our half hour visit, the kids made a game out of reading how many matchsticks were used to make each model. 

Detailed section of Star Wars Millennium Falcon model at Matchstick Marvels

We were lucky to be able to view The Star Wars Millennium Falcon which was only on display until the end of July 2017. Artist Patrick Acton’s models are displayed in museums around the world, so keep an eye out when traveling! Who knows where you’ll spot a Matchstick Marvel! 

Location #5

Place/Event: Matt Edel Blacksmith Shop
Location: 214 1st St, Haverhill, IA 50120
Cost: Free
Grade/age range: Older students 
Group size: Small
Hands-on: No
Stroller friendly: Limited 
Bathrooms: No. There is a park near by that may have seasonal restrooms. 

Have you ever driven by an abandoned building and wondered what’s inside? Wondered if everything was left just as it was? Well, that’s what the Matt Edel Blacksmith Shop is!

The doors were closed in the 1950’s and reopened in the 80’s with pretty much everything left as it had been. Read all the fascinating details and history on the website! Mr. Edel was an inventor and many of his inventions can be see in the shop. 

Informational Sign at Matt Edel Blacksmith Shop in Iowa

Because this is a preservation site, nothing gets used or moved around. During certain special events like Haverhill Days, there are blacksmith demonstrations at an adjoining building to the west.

An extensive teacher guide is a available. Group tours should schedule in advance. The museum curator lives on site and offers tours from 12-4pm every day during the summer. 

Children learning at Matt Edel Blacksmith Shop in Iowa

We hope your family has a great day! There is plenty more to see in the area and we hope to come back another again!



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