I am still blown away.
My kids and I recently got back from a weekend stay at the New Day Dairy GuestBarn in Clarksville, Iowa. It’s about 3-1/2 hours south of the Twin Cities, so it’s a perfect distance for a little getaway. And we had the BEST time!
The New Day Dairy GuestBarn is owned by Dan & Lynn Bolin, and they live with their 3 kids on a house near the barn. They originally did live in the GuestBarn, and then renovated it a couple years ago when they moved out to their house. Since the beginning it was designed with the goal of being turned into a guest space, and for the past 2 years it has been becoming one of the most unique destinations for families and groups year-round.
Included with stays are tours of the barn, and other possible add-ons like the “Be a Dairy Farmer Challenge.” It’s designed to be a truly immersive dairy farm experience, and there are many ways to fill your time there.
We were invited to visit and write about our stay, and we were super excited to go so we headed down on a Friday in March for 2 nights!
Disclosure: We were provided with a complimentary stay in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are 100% mine.
We left Friday afternoon and arrived to the GuestBarn in the evening after dark. It’s on a gravel road in the quiet country, so we definitely felt like we were getting away from city life for a while (which by the way, I think is a very GOOD thing for my digitally-surrounded family!).
When we arrived we could smell some of the barn outside, and it was clear we were on a farm, but when we went in (they give you a code for the door) we were SO surprised, because it was big and modern and smelled completely new and fresh inside! No barn smell or any sign that we were even in a barn building! (Except for maybe the cute cow decorations everywhere…)
The GuestBarn is a 3-bedroom, 3-bathroom vacation rental with a fully stocked kitchen and cow gazing loft. It’s built adjacent to the dairy barn with 130+ cows, though as we experienced, it’s modern and clean, and you can’t hear or smell the barn. It is fully decorated with every cute cow and dairy-themed item you can imagine, and no detail is overlooked.
There was a welcome note for us, with an information folder and map of the property. There was food in the fridge and the cabinets, nice piano music playing on the CD player, and the whole place was ours!
Outside as we brought in our things, there were cats excited to greet us! My daughter couldn’t get enough of one that clearly loved the attention.
After touring the GuestBarn, of course we went upstairs to the cow-gazing loft to just check out the cows for a while. We saw Farmer Dan go in and wave at us as he checked on the cows, then we settled down for probably the most comfortable sleep we’ve had in a while.
Watch my video for a full walk-through of the New Day Dairy GuestBarn when we arrived!!!!
Morning & Breakfast
We had an introductory tour scheduled for 9:30am, so we got up and prepared breakfast from what was in the kitchen.
The fridge had milk, chocolate milk, eggs, mini bagels & cream cheese, yogurt, juices, fruit and much more. And of course – there was coffee, which I got busy brewing fast.
The cow-gazing loft was the perfect place to lazily enjoy breakfast.
I could tell we were going to learn a lot about cows pretty soon!
Our morning tour was led by Lynn. We put on rubber boots and boot covers (provided) and went in the barn.
We met many of the cows – who each DO have a name – and learned all about what they eat, how they get milked (by a robot!), and even how the poop gets cleaned up! (FYI – there’s a cow pooper scooper that cleans it up slowly on its own every 2 hours)
The cows each had their own personalities too. Some were more curious and friendly than others. I think this one was sticking its tongue out at me…
What better way to learn about cows than to meet some?
The milk is picked up every other day. We learned that milk never comes in contact with the air – it travels through tubes all the way from the cow to the truck to the gallon you pick up at the store. When you pour it into a glass, that’s the first time it’s in contact with the air!
Day Outing – Waterloo
After our tour, we decided what we were going to do that day. We had our “Be a Dairy Farmer Challenge” at 4:30pm, so either we could go for a little day trip somewhere, or spend the time playing games and watching the cows. We figured we’d do that later, so we drove to nearby Waterloo for lunch and to visit the John Deere Tractor Museum!
We found a good lunch spot called Newton’s Paradise Cafe. I enjoyed a BLT sandwich on a pretzel bun, and my kids had sandwiches too. They also had some yummy sweet potato salad and sweet potato chips, which were both homemade! (I love sweet potatoes so I had both.)
The John Deere Tractor Museum is a fun place to go with the kids or anyone interested in learning about tractors and farming. And admission is FREE!
We watched a short video about tractors and then learned about how tractors started and how they’ve evolved. There are so many different kinds! I think I found the biggest one (at least at the museum).
We got back just in time for the farmer challenge, led by Dan. First, he gave us all tractor rides!
Then we walked around the barn to find a good cow to milk by hand (which we did!), and we learned more about the milking machine.
Then we got to see the babies outside! The calves are outside in shelters, and are bottle fed milk so we got to bottle feed one. They are so cute!
The whole tour lasted about 1-1/2 hours and we got t-shirts afterward!
Rita the Robot
Here’s a glimpse of Rita the Robot:
Dining with the Cows, too!
There is so much you can do at the GuestBarn, and I realized we could dine with the cows too – ha! As they were being fed hay, we were having our dinner.
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Evening Family Fun at the GuestBarn
That evening we relaxed and made popcorn! Everything we needed was included including the popcorn maker, the popcorn, and the toppings.
Then my daughter and I did manicures while watching the cows!
There’s so much to do here – with all the activities provided you can’t easily be bored.
I should also note that there are outdoor activities including a gas firepit, gas grill, a garden and more. We didn’t use them because it was rainy and chilly, but they’re available, though of course most popular in spring and summer.
The next morning we had a farewell tour with Lynn, where we learned more about the calves. This was perfect because there was a calf born overnight! I saw it early through the window, and the farmer was there bright and early to make sure everyone was ok. Turns out calves are born all the time – so when you stay here, a calf may be born!
Then we relaxed a bit more and checked out, though we didn’t want to leave! I feel like we could have spent more time here, but honestly, 2 nights was perfect, because we experienced everything but also got to spend relaxing time together.
Since the day was fairly young, we decided to drive through Austin, Minnesota on the way back, and stop by the SPAM Museum! We had been there before, but since it’s free, and part of it was closed when we went before, we checked it out again. The kid area was open now (it was closed for a while due to COVID) and it was fun to explore again. If you haven’t been to Austin, it’s a great stop to make on the way back from New Day!
This place is so wonderful. It’s as nice and experiential as a place like this can be. We learned so much, and had everything we needed for a restful but memorable stay.
I recommend it for all families! I know couples have stayed here, and so have individuals and groups. It’s really great for everyone.
Because it’s a reasonable drive from the Twin Cities, and many other locations in Minnesota and the midwest, it is the perfect weekend getaway, or staycation. It’s frugal-friendly because it’s not far away, but it’s far enough to feel like it’s in a whole different world – or at least, state! And how many places can you go that give you comfort plus the hands-on experiences?
The price is to be expected for what you get – and you do get a lot. Regardless, see below for my money-saving tips!
If you’re wondering what else is nearby, there is a LOT on the New Day website!
But here are a few highlights that I know of too:
- Clarksville – Trains on the Farm
- Charles City – Floyd County Museum
- Rockford – Fossil & Prairie Park
- Waterloo – John Deere Tractor Museum, Grout Museum District and Imaginarium (plus a planetarium), Dan Gable Museum, Waterloo Center for the Arts and Phelps Children’s Museum, Lost Island Waterpark, and Lost Island Theme Park (coming soon)
Ways to Save Money
If you’re interested in staying at New Day but want to make it as affordable as possible, here are some tips!
- Bring your own food! The continental breakfast and some other foods are included, and you can pay to add more food like make your own pizzas, but you can bring your own food too. I suggest bringing food for your meals here and cooking together to save money (and maximize your time at the GuestBarn, too).
- Share your stay! The GuestBarn can fit up to 9 people plus an infant, so invite Grandma and Grandpa or another family! With 3 bedrooms, each with their own bathroom, everyone has plenty of privacy.
- Book just 1-2 of the bedrooms. You don’t have to pay for the whole place. You can book just one or two rooms if you want and pay less. The other rooms then would just be locked during your stay.
- Book your stay directly with the GuestBarn. Don’t book through AirBnB or another site, as then you’ll pay more with fees, etc.
- SPECIAL DISCOUNT! Tell them Twin Cities Frugal Mom sent you and you’ll get your Make Your Own Ice Cream FREE! You’ll get everything you need to make homemade ice cream while there. This is a $18 value!
Also, visit FREE attractions and sites in the area, including the Fossil Park, John Deere Museum, local nature centers, and Sunrise Children’s Zoo in Waterloo in the summer for some free attractions. And bring your bikes and other outdoor fun!
Learn more about the New Day Dairy GuestBarn here!
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