Iowa is one of America’s most rural states, known for long stretches of beautiful fields and farmland, but don’t let that convince you that there’s not plenty to see and do in this Midwestern state. In the big city’s you’ll find interesting attractions both modern and old like the Blank Park Zoo or the fascinating original state capitol building in Iowa City.
For a glimpse into Iowa’s varied past and dramatic landscapes, load up the car and explore the country roads to visit sights as ancient as prehistoric times. You’ll also find a few unique gems in the rural expanses of Iowa.
Field of Dreams
This popular Iowa attraction was at one time a household name as the filming location of the iconic movie by the same name. The field was built originally for the movie just outside of Dyersville, Iowa.
Interestingly, the field was built on two separate properties to get the perfect sunset shot, so after the fields were abandoned; each family’s land was put to different use, one a tourist attraction, the other farm land. Over the years the field has hosted various events and baseball games and it continues to be one of Iowa’s biggest tourist attractions.
Blank Park Zoo
Des Moines 22 acre Blank Park Zoo is the state’s only zoo. The first exhibit that visitors encounter at the zoo is the Discovery Center which contains an alpine biodome, a cave with cave dwelling animals, and a free range aviary with both tropical and forest birds. The zoo also has an aquarium, African and Australian wildlife exhibits, several big cat exhibits, marine mammals, and a petting zoo.
Lost Island Water Park
For fun in the sun and a great way to entertain the kids, visit Iowa’s Lost Island Water Park with 12 water slides. Other attractions at the park are the Kailahi River, Blue Iguana Lagoon, and a water volleyball area. For entertainment outside the pool, there is a video arcade and a go-kart track.
Maquoketa Caves State Park
Maquoketa Caves State Park contains more caves than any other state park in Iowa. A trail system links the caves, formations, and overlooks while providing a scenic hiking experience. Many areas on these trails have seen new construction, making the journey to the caves safer.
Most of the caves may be entered by persons of average physical ability, but some are more advanced. The park’s caves, limestone formations and rugged bluffs represent a step back in geological time of thousands of years.
This unique community in Iowa is comprised of seven villages of German Pietists. The colonies call themselves the Ebenezer Society, or the Community of True Inspiration and they moved into this rural Iowa area in order to live out their religious beliefs in isolation, in 1856.
Today, Amana has become a major tourist attraction that is recognized for its craft shops, wine shops, brewery, and fine restaurants. The annual winter festival also brings in crowds to support the small community.
Top Things to Do In Iowa
Effigy Mounds National Monument
Iowa has several remarkably well-preserved prehistoric sites of mound-building ancient cultures; the Effigy Mounds are one example. The mounds are more than 200 prehistoric hills built by Native Americans. The mounds are uniquely shaped, taking the forms of animals like bears and birds.
Visitors to the mounds can learn about the archaeological and historical significance of the mounds at the visitor center, and spend time walking through the 14 miles of hiking trails to see the mounds.
Figge Art Museum
The Figge Art Museum is an art museum in Davenport, Iowa. The museum has over 4,000 works of art, ranging from the 16th century to the present, and is best known for its extensive collection of Haitian, Colonial Mexican and Midwestern art, particularly pieces by Thomas Hart Benton, Marvin Cone and Grant Wood, including the only self-portrait Wood ever painted. In 1990.
Herbert Hoover National Historic Site
The 31st president of the United States, Herbert Hoover, was born in the small town of West Branch Iowa and today the town is the location of the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site.
Attractions at this famous site include the small cottage where the president was born, a blacksmith shop similar to the one his father owned, the original schoolhouse and Quaker meetinghouse where Hoover went to school and worshipped, and the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum.
Living History Farms
One of Iowa’s favorite attractions is a 500-acre open air museum dedicated to preserving and sharing Iowa’s agricultural history. The museum teaches visitors about more than 300 years of farming history and allows visitors to tour re-creations of farms.
The 1875 Town of Walnut Hill is also an interesting attraction which features main town sites like a general store, schoolhouse, bank and other buildings. At each farm visitors have the chance to watch staff dressed in period attire perform tasks common to farm life during each time period.
Iowa Old Capitol Building
This National Historic Landmark was Iowa’s Capitol Building from 1842 until 1857 when the capitol was moved from Iowa City to Des Moines. From that time onward the building served various functions and has become a National Historic Landmark. After the capitol was moved the building housed almost the entire University of Iowa.
As the school grew, other buildings were added but the building remained the center of the university. The Old Capitol Building survived a fire in 2001 and the restored building was reopened to the public in 2006 as a museum and an important part of the university campus.
Things to Do In Iowa
This little state tucked into the middle of the country is often called the “American Heartland” and a journey to Iowa is sure to prove that the state represents many parts of the heart of American culture and history.