Iowa has many great things to be proud. Iowa is the country’s largest corn producer, but it is best known for its Midwestern charm. Iowa welcomes all visitors, from the capital city of Des Moines, to the second-largest city Cedar Rapids.
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Iowa has many attractions to offer: the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium, which will enrich your knowledge, the Maquoketa Caves State Park, and numerous other state parks like Maquoketa Caverns for adventure, and the Bridges of Madison County to inspire your creative side. Iowans who have visited the state and those who live there agree that it has something special that draws them back.
National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium
The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium is operated by the Dubuque Historical Society. It features exhibits, collections, and live animals that highlight the cultural and geological importance of the Mississippi River and all other national rivers that make up the country.
The Mississippi River forms the eastern border of Iowa and is responsible for much of the livelihood in the surrounding communities. The National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium aims to show the importance of the river and its watershed on the environment and the people who live there.
The museum features permanent exhibits such as the Mississippi River Discovery Center, and an immersive 4D Theater. It also has rotating displays that will be sure to grab the attention of both adults and children.
The aquarium and museum also house several live animals which represent wildlife found around river banks such as alligators and otters. The museum also has a blacksmith shop and a stringray touch pool.
The historic Hotel Julien Dubuque can be rented for an overnight stay if you are looking to spend the night in Dubuque. You will also find some of the best resorts in Iowa.
Address: 350 E 3rd Street Dubuque, Iowa
Official site: http://www.rivermuseum.com
National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library
Cedar Rapids’ National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library is a large institution that shares the culture and stories of Czech & Slovaks. It also aims to educate the public about their freedoms and how they have been shaped by history.
These goals are met by the National Czech & Slovak Museum and Library through its permanent exhibits and educational travelling displays and many special events that can be enjoyed by all ages.
The 12 th Avenue bridge is where you will find the African American Museum of Iowa. This museum offers more cultural intrigue. To the north is Cedar Rapids’ downtown district. Here you will find other attractions such as the Paramount Theater. This makes for a great day trip. The best place to stay in the area for weekend trips is the Hotel at Kirkwood Center.
Address: 1400 Inspiration Place SW, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Official site: http://www.ncsml.org
The Iowa State Capitol building is more than a symbol of Des Moines. It’s also a gateway into Iowa’s past. The State Capitol is located on Grand Avenue, atop a hill. It offers a great view of downtown Des Moines. It houses the Iowa Senate, the Iowa House of Representatives, and the Iowa Supreme Court. There are also many offices of top elected officials in the state, including the governor.
The State Capitol is not only the center of Iowa’s government but also features an impressive display architecture and design. It houses many historic artifacts as well as interesting exhibits from Iowa that can be toured on a self-guided walk.
Address: 1007 E Grand Ave., Des Moines (Iowa).
Official site: https://www.legis.iowa.gov/resources/tourCapitol
Maquoketa Caves State Park
Maquoketa Caves State Park is a great place to see the natural Iowa side. The popular state park offers many hiking trails above ground that take you through woodlands and bluffs. It also contains an interesting natural wonder called Balanced rock. The caves are the main reason you should visit this park in Eastern Iowa.
The Dancehall Cave, a lighted cave that has high ceilings and a walkway, is for claustrophobes. Maquoketa Caves State Park offers access to over a dozen caves, which require a flashlight and possibly a change of clothes. The park has a large camping area for tents and RVs.
Address: 10970 98th Street, Maquoketa, Iowa
Seven villages make up the Amana Colonies in Eastern Iowa. They take you back to the past, away from the bustle and hustle. The Amana Colonies’ history dates back to the mid-century, when German Pietists arrived in this remote Iowa area. Their communal lifestyle was unaffected by outside influences for many years.
The Amana Colonies is listed today as a National Historical Landmark. This community encourages tourists and locals to enjoy a slower pace of life, such as visiting historical structures, shopping and dining at their local establishments. They also offer bike paths and walkways for exploring the beautiful surroundings.
Tourists from all over the state are invited to Amana Colonies’ annual festivals. It’s fun to discover the German traditions at Amana Colonies, from the Wurstfest sausage-making event to the springtime Maifest.
It’s worth staying a few nights to get the full Amana Colonies experience. Zuber’s Homestead Hotel, one of many bed-and breakfast options in the area.
Address: 622 46th Ave, Amana, Iowa
Official site: http://www.amanacolonies.com/
One of the most iconic things to do in Iowa is RAGBRAI, a week-long bicycle race that runs from east to west. It showcases Midwestern culture with friendly people, small towns and open spaces.
RAGBRAI stands for Register’s Annual Bike Race Across Iowa. This annual summer event draws thousands of riders , support vehicles drivers and racing enthusiasts each year.
RAGBRAI is not about competitiveness. It’s all about the journey and the celebrations along the route. Roadside attractions such as live music and fresh watermelon are a big draw for small towns. The event is also known for its costumes and custom-made bicycles.
Each year the route is changed and the small towns and cities that are chosen for overnight stops turn into major parties. RAGBRAI’s entire route and experience is fun for all ages. Younger children (and adults) will often choose to ride less than the 60 miles that the route covers each day.
Official site: http://ragbrai.com/
The Bridges of Madison County
You can enjoy a scenic adventure in Winterset (about 30 miles from Des Moines) with the bridges of Madison County. These bridges are the inspiration for many photographs and numerous visits.
Before The Bridges of Madison County was a hit, bridges were a normal part of daily life in the area in the late 19th-century. Sixteen of the 19 original covered bridges still stand today. Five of them are listed on the National Historic Register.
The 82-mile-plus Covered Bridges Scenic Byway offers a wonderful way to see the bridges and the beautiful natural scenery. Three bridges require you to travel on gravel roads.
The Madison County Chamber of Commerce offers personal and group tours of the covered bridges (by reservation only). Every October, the Madison County Covered Bridge Festival is a culminating cultural experience.
Madison County and Winterset are worth visiting even if you don’t want to see the beautiful covered bridges. It’s worth taking the time to visit Winterset’s Historic Town Square after you have spent an afternoon photographing and exploring the covered bridges.
Winterset also houses the birthplace John Wayne as well as an adjacent museum that is dedicated to America’s most famous cowboy, The Duke.
Des Moines Art Center
Since 1948, the Des Moines Art Center provides a place for visitors and locals to enjoy art. The museum features rotating artworks of painting, sculpture, photography, and sculpture. It also has permanent collections and mixed-media displays. These include works by Edward Hopper to Georgia O’Keefe. The Des Moines Art Center allows for free entry.
Des Moines Art Center also manages a striking collection of sculptures right in downtown. It is difficult to miss the John & Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Parkin Downtown. This well-maintained sculpture park is located between Grand and Locust near the Des Moines Public Library. It features rotating works as well as a few permanent installations which have become a symbol of the city.
Address: 4700 Grand Ave., Des Moines (Iowa).
Official site: http://www.desmoinesartcenter.org/
Herbert Hoover National Historic Site
Herbert Hoover, the 31st president of the United States, is currently the only one to have come from Iowa. A National Historic Site commemorating Herbert Hoover’s life, history and impact on the nation is located around his birthplace in West Branch.
It’s worth visiting West Branch to see his humble beginnings, the birthplace Herbert Hoover, and other preserved landscapes, buildings, and buildings that shaped the young president-to be.
It is also the home of Herbert Hoover’s gravesite and First Lady Lou Henry Hoover’s. It’s amazing to see these buildings seem stuck in time. However, the majority of your visit will be spent at the Presidential Library and Museum. The impressive collection includes rotating exhibits as well as a permanent exhibit that focuses on Hoover’s legacy and life.
Address: 210 Parkside Drive, West Branch, Iowa
Official site: https://www.nps.gov/heho/index.htm
American Gothic House
Grant Wood, a native Iowan, is undoubtedly one of the most culturally important artists of the 20 th century. His Midwest roots are the inspiration for many of his most important works.
Wood’s American Gothic is particularly notable. It depicts a farmer with his wife in their single-story white house. This image is instantly recognisable to almost every American and international art lover.
Anyone can see the house that is the backdrop to this magnificent work of art in person. Many visitors pose in front of this house as the frowning farmer and his wife.
The American Gothic House Center adjacent provides details about Grant Wood’s life and the history of his house.
Address: 300 American Gothic Street Eldon, Iowa
Official site: http://www.americangothichouse.net/
Field of Dreams Movie Website
Field of Dreams starring Kevin Costner was shot here in 1989. You might be asking yourself, “Is this heaven?” It’s Iowa. And, despite all the movie references, the Field of Dreams Movie Site in Dyersville is still a great place for film fans. It features interactive exhibits and plenty of photo opportunities.
The Field of Dreams hosts a Ghost Sunday show on select Sundays throughout year. These events feature historical baseball players who have stepped out of the cornstalks and put on a family-fun event.
Field of Dreams can be visited for a weekend. It is about 30 minutes from Dubuque. Other attractions such as the National Mississippi River Museum or Aquarium are nearby.
Address: 28995 Lansing Road Dyersville, Iowa
Official site: http://fieldofdreamsmoviesite.com/
Grotto of the Redemption
The Grotto of the Redemption is a truly unique attraction in Iowa. It is also known as the West Bend Grotto. It is made up of nine distinct grottos, each constructed from precious stones and gemstones. They are handcrafted by a pastor and some other helpers.
The West Bend Grotto, regardless of your religion or denomination, is a remarkable example of what one man can accomplish in a lifetime.
The grotto remains open to the public throughout the year.
Address: 300 N Broadway Ave., West Bend, Iowa
Official site: http://www.westbendgrotto.com/