Known mostly for corn fields and for being first in the nation once every four years during the presidential nomination races, it is incredibly easy to just write this state off as a place that one just charges through on their way to better known places like the Rocky Mountain states.
If you are an experienced traveler through, it is in places like this where attractions that can be found like hidden gems that others miss entirely or don’t see the value when evaluating whether they should see anything on their journey through Iowa.
There’s no question that farming occupies a large portion of this state’s DNA, and many of the events and points of interest listed below relates to that heritage. With America’s longest river defining this state’s eastern border though, the carving power of this massive body of water grants it more spectacular terrain that nobody would ever guess would exist here.
As always, seeing a state, city, country or any place with a slow travel mindset will allow you to extract more meaning that will make your American adventure far more meaningful.
What To Do – Culture & History
While many folks in rural Iowa derive a living from their farmland or by supporting/maintaining it, some of them stand out more from their contemporaries than others. The Amana Colonies are a group of formerly self-sufficient communities that cordoned themselves off from the rest of their neighbors upon moving here from Germany back in the 19th century.
Much like the Amish, they began by eschewing developments in technology, mostly living off their own land and the skills of the members in their society. They were forced to engage more with the outside world after the Great Depression, which inevitably led to them opening their community to tourists some time later.
At the Amana Colonies, restaurants, craft shops, and quaint bed and breakfasts complement the historic structures that shed light into the Amara way of life, making it a solid choice for those looking for a unique cultural experience.
Those that time their trip to Iowa in Early to Mid August will have the opportunity to attend the Iowa State Fair, which is one of the largest of its kind in the country. This fair only only offers midway rides and excellent food, but also a unique window into the present day agricultural life of this state. As far as oddities go, keep an eye out for the butter sculptures, which is exactly what you think it is: various subjects carved out of a massive block of butter.
If you aren’t around to catch the Iowa State Fair while it is running, you can visit Living History Farms in Urbandale to get an idea of what it meant in the past and what it means today to be a farm family in Iowa.
As the name suggests, live actors are trained in the cultural mores of the period that they represent (over three separate centuries), as it relates to how farms ran in those days.
Those that want to get in touch with the traditions of the native peoples in this part of America will want to drop by Effigy Mounds National Monument. This site preserves molded earthworks shaped in the form of various birds and most notably, bears, as the Great Bear mound measures 42 meters from end to end, and one meter high.
What To Do – Modern & Natural Attractions
Those that are avid movie fans have likely watched or at least of a movie that involved a farmer building a ball diamond in the midst of his cornfield because the voices in his head would tell them that “they” would come.
The main set for the 1990’s movie, Field of Dreams can be found just outside Dyersville in Dubuque County, where the field custom built for the movie has been lovingly maintained by the Lansing family since the movie made the site famous.
About once a month, a team called the Ghost Players take on all comers here, and the rest of the time, souvenirs stands allow you to take home keepsakes of your experience here.
Has the farm heavy focus of Iowa lulled you into a catatonic state of boredom? Then a trip to Adventureland should remedy that problem, as it offers a variety of exciting attractions that will thrill young and old alike.
Four roller coasters, three water flume rides, and a number of park sections that mimic Disneyland very closely will make for a day filled with laughs, adrenaline, and all-round fun.
Around Iowa, the juggernaut that is America’s longest river begins to get seriously big, so the placement of the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium in this state is particularly apt.
This complex is part museum relating to the role that this grand waterway has played throughout American history, and part aquarium, where tanks display the variety of aquatic life that lives in the river, from Minnesota to Louisiana.
Think that Iowa is as flat as a pancake from end to end? Spending time at Pikes Peak State Park dispels this motion, as this place sits atop a 500 foot bluff sitting above the place where the Mississippi meets the Wisconsin River. Hiking the trails and riding mountain bikes are a popular way to enjoy the park, and many also choose to camp here as well, as there are a number of sites available for tent and RV camping here.