This week is Spring Break: a much anticipated, much needed, extended mid-semester Sabbath. Lots of my classmates piled into 15 passenger vans last Friday and headed out for week-long, in-country, short-term mission trips through Dordt's PLIA (Putting Love Into Action) program. Those students are all over the country – from St. Louis to Atlanta New Orleans to Cincinnati to Denver – connecting with ministries that Dordt partners with annually, creating a long-standing sort of short-term ministry.
I wasn’t called to PLIA this year, though. So me? I’m home for break, and I’m loving every second of it.
When you’re in one city for an extended period of time (such as the first 18 years of life), it’s easy to be blinded to all the quirks that make that place special. It’s easy for the luster on that's town's unique gems to fade, and it's easy for what's special to become ordinary. But if you head away for a while (such as 4 years of college) and then return (such as Spring Break), you rediscover everything that makes the first location so special. The gems are "gemmy" again.
This week, all my hometown’s special spots are exciting to me again. And in re-experiencing home, I’m getting excited to return to Dordt and re-experience Sioux Center’s gems again. So here’s a list of my personal favorite spots in Sioux Center (and nearby). Here's a list - in no particular order - of the places off campus that I've been frequenting and will continue to frequent as long as I live in Sioux Center.
When I'm not feeling social, or when I just need somewhere off campus to escape to, I head to the HOME building. HOME stands for "House of Missions and Equipping," and it's a space behind the local Culver's for anyone and everyone to commune with God. They offer free classes, Bible studies, worship outlets, service projects, and private healing prayer services. Most notably, though, the HOME building is always unlocked (well, from 6:00 am to 10:00pm) and a livestream of the International House of Prayer in in Kansas City is always playing in the giant prayer room, so people are free to come and go and use the space as they need. It's beautiful, and I've been so blessed by HOME's resources.
The Fruited Plain
Often affectionately referred to as “The FP,” the Fruited Plain is the most popular coffee shop in town. Just as often as my friends and I go to study, we go for a study break. The FP regularly hosts concerts and poetry readings, as they have the perfect indoor space in their Backroom Bistro and the perfect outdoor space on their patio. Recently, The Ruralists (a band of Dordt professors) and The Aircraft (a band of Dordt students) have been playing a lot of concerts here, which has been so fun for the entire Northwestern Iowa community. If you want to be an original fan, I’d recommend checking them out on iTunes soon before they get too popular for you to claim true “og” status.
When we feel like we’ve been to the Fruited Plain too many times in one week, my friends and I head to the Old Factory in Orange City for a study session/study break. Personally, I prefer the Old Factory to the Fruited Plain because I’m a tea drinker, and Old Fac has a wide variety of loose-leaf teas to choose from, all of which have quirky names like “Grandad’s Pipe” or “Moose Knuckles.” I also really enjoy Old Fac’s atmosphere, as it’s housed in an abandoned Dutch clog factory (hence the name “Old Factory”). They won’t stay in this historic spot for long, though. They’ve grown too popular to adequately serve all their customers in such a small space, so they’ll be moving later this month – which is really exciting and really sad. Despite the new location, Old Fac will still feature the same quality drinks and the same quality management. Old Fac organizes concerts and poetry readings just like the FP does, but they also do Community Conversation nights periodically. People from all over the Northwest Iowa area come to talk about politics, philosophy, religion, pop culture, etc. I love Community Conversations, and I’m grateful that Old Fac creates such a comfortable space for meaningful interactions to happen.
And if I’m already over in Orange City, it’s worth my time to get dinner at P’s Pizza. The environment makes me feel like I’m in a big city, as the walls are lined with TV’s turned to various sports stations and the seats are all covered in black leather, which contrasts the sterling silver accents nicely. Their menu is really special too, as they pair toppings together in unexpected but tasty ways. One of my favorites is the Pork and Peach, which is exactly what it sounds like: pulled pork and peaches on pizza with white sauce. 10/10, I would recommend that. If I’m not in Orange City, though, the Pizza Ranch in Sioux Center’s mall is fun and affordable, since Dordt gives each student a book of coupons for local stores at the beginning of the year (and a significant portion of those coupons apply to Pizza Ranch – yay).
Sioux Center has a relatively high concentration of Hispanic families, which means the food here is authentic and wonderful. Los Tulipanes is the most well established Mexican restaurant in town, and their menu is crazy extensive. There are so many options to choose from, and they’re all delicious. Personally, I prefer the Taco Truck, though. They do all of their authentic, Mexican cooking in a food truck not far behind the Fruited Plain. They have an indoor space so that people can eat in-store during the winter, but I prefer to go on warm days and sit at the outdoor picnic tables. Tip: If you eat at the Taco Truck, do not forget cash, because they don’t accept cards or checks. Another tip: The owners are incredibly generous. One time, they let me take my meal for free because I forgot to bring cash along, and they trusted me to pay double the next time I came in. Perks of living in a small town, am I right? I also really love Olivia’s Bakery, which is an authentic Mexican bakery on Main Street. Picking out treats from their colorful display is one of my favorite study breaks.
All Season’s Center
If we want to do something more active than eating, my friends and I head to the All Season’s Center. With our Dordt IDs, we can do everything for free. Ice skating? That’s popular. Swimming and hot-tubbing? Equally as popular. There are also sand volleyball courts not too far from the All Season’s Center. When it’s nice enough, we start some friendly competitions on those.
Sandy Hollow & Oak Grove
If it’s nice enough to use the sand volleyball courts, it’s also nice enough to venture nature reserves. Sandy Hollow is about ten minutes away from campus, and it’s a perfect spot for hammocking, swimming, camping, etc. Oak Grove is about thirty minutes away from campus, so it’s a bit more secluded. There’s a river for kayaking, trails for hiking, sites for camping, and lots of clean air to breathe. I’m from Colorado, so I can’t say that it compares to the hiking I enjoy at home. Nonetheless, I can say that I genuinely enjoy afternoons spent in Oak Grove. And when spring comes around, all the trees in Oak Grove sprout teeny-tiny white blooms. It's gorgeous.
Local Friends' Homes
I’ve been lucky enough to befriend a lot of local people, which means I’ve been lucky enough to be invited into their homes. One of my friends decorated the hayloft in his family’s barn with beautiful twinkle lights, and he hosts movie nights in there using a projector and a giant sheet – which is just magical! I’m also grateful to these local friends for inviting me over for Sunday dinner, for family game nights, and for relaxing nights away from campus when needed.
And if all else fails, we go to 24-Hour Walmart and find as many absurd items as possible (such as adult-sized onesies). And when we've scoured the entire store, we play hide and go seek. And when we want to be extra creative, we use Snapchat to send each other clues as to where we're hidden. This keeps my friends and I entertained for hours…
I'm looking forward to enjoying the "gemminess" of these off-campus gems when I get back to campus next week, but for now, I'm going to continue to enjoy all the gems here at home.
Happy Spring Break, everyone!