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  • Writer's pictureRuby's Winding Road

John Wayne Birthplace and Museum/Winterset, Iowa

At the corner of John Wayne Drive and Washington Street in Winterset, Iowa sits a museum dedicated to movie legend John Wayne. Wayne was an American actor who made dozens of movies during his career; most were war films or westerns. Wayne passed away in 1979 from Cancer, but his movies live on.

We've watched many of his films through the years and have discussed visiting the museum. We finally made it there this summer. Winterset is a town of about 5,300 people. It's a pretty town with hanging flower baskets lining John Wayne Drive. Along that road you'll find John Wayne Birthplace and Museum. You'll know you're there when you see the larger-than-life bronze statue of Wayne.

We parked on the street and looked around the property for a little bit. It's an attractive building. In addition to the bronze statue of Wayne near the entrance, there are plaques engraved with the names of his movies lining the sidewalk. Our pup wasn't allowed in the building, so one of us stayed with her and the other went inside; then we switched.

The museum is small, but nice. We were each warmly greeted by staff who explained we could visit the gift shop for no charge, but that there was a $20 museum admission fee. The museum had interesting pieces on display including a shirt, coat, pants and eye patch worn by Wayne in the movie "True Grit." It was his performance as U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn in that film that earned Wayne an Academy Award for Best Actor in 1970. A program from that event is displayed near those pieces of wardrobe. Another interesting item displayed was a 1948 signed contract for his work in the film, "She Wore A Yellow Ribbon." That document outlined the terms for Wayne's work in the film. It was hard to miss the Pontiac Grand Safari station wagon parked in the corner that once belonged to the actor. The roof had been modified to better accommodate the actor's height and desire to wear a cowboy hat. One can only describe the vehicle as big and green.

The admission fee also included a self-tour of Wayne's birthplace home located around the corner from the main museum. It's a tiny house; one bedroom, sitting room, kitchen.

Our visit at the John Wayne Birthplace and Museum didn't last long, but it was worth a stop if you're nearby or are a fan of Wayne. You can learn more at We bought a souvenir magnet from the gift shop that is now on our fridge. It says, "Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway." Yep.

While we were in town, we stayed at the Winterset City Park Campground. The campground is only a skip from John Wayne Birthplace and Museum and has full RV hookups, water/electric hookups, as well as an area for tent camping. They also have a dog park nearby to exercise your pup. You can reserve a campground spot by visiting and checking out their Parks and Recreation tab. The campground is very nice. Sites are somewhat close together, but still allow for a bit of elbow room between you and your neighbor. The only thing we didn't like was that the gravel sites and roadway through the park are pretty dusty.

Winterset City Park is worth walking around. It has some funky sculptures made from tree stumps and a small maze made from shrubbery. A monument to the Delicious Apple can be found while strolling the park. The park is also now home to the Cutler-Donahoe Covered Bridge built in 1870. It is one of the few remaining covered bridges of Madison County, Iowa.

After a couple of days in Winterset, we headed west to check out a few places in Nebraska. And, WOW! Nebraska had some really cool sites we didn't even know about until we wandered to them. We'll tell you more about that later. In the meantime, thanks for reading our blog. We'll continue to post about things we visit as we wander.

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