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Inspiring Detours

Mount Vernon and Lisbon Inspiring Detours!Pretty as a postcard, little changed from turn-of-the-century photographs...Mount Vernon and Lisbon inspire detours from life’s fast lane...a quick 20-minute journey from Cedar Rapids or 25 minutes from Iowa City, and you’re there!

A quick ride from Cedar Rapids or Iowa City and you're strolling between antique shops, boutiques and art galleries, amongst historic architecture, and refueling as needed inside remarkable restaurants.

Day trips to this place are bite-sized respites from the real world. Weekend getaways—with stays at hotels or one of the community’s three bed and breakfasts—allow more time to dig into the local scene. Hike at Palisades-Kepler State Park, catch a round of golf at Hillcrest Country Club, tour the Cornell College campus, check out a weekend festival, tour Abbe Hills Farm to see or-ganic farming in action, or catch a movie at the 100-seat Bijou, where all movies are kid-friendly and personally introduced by owner Jerry Sheehy, who leads the audience in song to get things warmed up.
 
Stroll along Main Street in Mount Vernon, where wrought iron baskets of purple and pink petu-nias hug street lights like puffy prom corsages. At your feet, traces of chalk drawings cover the sidewalks, souvenirs of the town’s Chalk the Walk art festival each May where 200 artists use over a half ton of chalk to paint the town.
 
Which brings us to the food. There are nearly two dozen places to eat from sun-up to sundown. Breakfast is legendary at Gwen’s in Lisbon. At The Skillet in Mount Vernon, Fran Guilliame’s omelets are the specialty, perfected long ago when Fran worked at the local car dealership, Lynch Ford, and cooked them up on customer appreciation days. Across Main Street on the cor-ner is Big Creek Market, an organic grocery and deli with homemade soups, drinks, wraps and sandwiches, and desserts.
 
There’s Tatyana’s Kitchen, tucked inside a Main Street house that’s 156 years old and now serves as restaurant, art gallery, antique shop and law office. The specialty: Russian-spiced lunch specials.
 
And then there’s the Lincoln Cafe. Here, the local farming community’s produce is transformed into cuisine that attracts national attention.
 
Feeling stuffed yet? Then head to the 100-year-old, family-owned Bauman’s, where big and tall men’s clothing sizes and personal service are the specialty, served up in a store interior un-changed, except in fashions, since its inception in an era long ago.

Mount Vernon and Lisbon carry a torch for the past, with reverent preservation of all things old. Unscathed by Urban Renewal of the 70s, the communities give history lovers great swaths of space for time traveling exploration. There are three registered national historic districts, includ-ing the entire Cornell College campus, with its iconic King Chapel, the downtown shopping dis-trict and an area of colorful Victorian homes.
 
See this history painstakingly interpreted at the History Center in neighboring Lisbon. Find it in sepia-tinted photos sprinkled throughout the town’s buildings, portraits of ancestors, homesteads, storefronts, tractors, and stone faced children. In Hills Bank’s Heritage Room a complete exhibit of photographs on loan from the Mount Vernon Historical Commission depicts Mount Vernon at the turn of the century.
 
Preservation of architecture is a passion, but so is cultivation of community. At the 125-year-old Mount Vernon Bank and Trust its core values depict dedication to a way of life: Local People, local decisions, local commitment, and local investment.

It’s a quaint community, yes, and rich with reasons to stop and savor its panoramic offerings.