Bordered on two sides by the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, Iowa is a charming Midwestern agricultural state filled with unique small towns, numerous state parks, scenic landscapes, lakes, caves, resorts, and other roadside attractions. This state is the home to President Herbert Hoover, film icon John Wayne, and the birthplace of fictional character Captain James T. Kirk from Star Trek – Iowa offers its share of parks, monuments, and historical sites that can enrich your knowledge or inspire your creativity.
There are enough places in Iowa that can give you entertainment. Here’s what you can do on your next visit the Hawkeye State:
Visit the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium.
The National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium is dedicated to preserving American rivers’ culture and history. Operated the Dubuque Historical Society, this site features exhibits, collections, and live animals that show the cultural and geological importance of the Mississippi River.
The museum features some permanent exhibits like the immersive 4D Theater and the Mississippi River Discovery Center and some large outdoor exhibits that feature steam boilers, bald eagles, and river otters. It also features constantly rotating displays that are bound to catch the attention of children and adults alike.
You can also find several live animals that are found in the wildlife in and around the river banks, including otters, alligators, and sturgeons.
Tour the Iowa State Capitol.
While you can tour the Iowa State Capitol via photos online, it’s well worth a visit in person. The Capitol is hard to miss – it has a large 23-karat golden dome visible from anywhere near Des Moines, and it’s the only five-domed capitol in the US. The late 19th-century building houses the legislative and executive branches of government for the state of Iowa.
There are professional guided tours and self-guided tours available at no cost. But it’s better to schedule a tour so you can get the chance to climb up the winding stairs and the top of the dome so you can observe its beauty.
Explore the caves in Maquoketa Caves State Park.
One of the most popular state parks in Iowa, the Maquoketa Caves State Park offers a look into the world beneath your feet. Established in 1921, this park is famous for its many caves and above-ground hiking trails that explore woodlands, bluffs, and an interesting natural wonder known as the Balanced Rock.
Of course, the main reason to visit this park is to explore the caves. The top caves in the park include the Ice Cave, the Dancehall Cave, the Twin Arch Cave, and the Shinbone Cave. Each cave has unique characteristics and is accessible for everyone with handrails installed inside. If you don’t mind squeezing into tight spaces, the Maquoketa Caves State Park gives access to more than a dozen other caves that need a flashlight to explore. There’s also a large campsite at the park set up for tents and RVs.
Spend a day at the Amana Colonies.
The seven villages of Amana Colonies in Iowa can take visitors to the past and away from the hustle and bustle of their everyday life. The history of the Amana Colonies dates back to the mid-19th century when German Pietists first broke soil in Iowa. When you visit the places, you will enjoy local furniture, art, and food.
The Amana Colonies has a rich history that it’s no surprise that it’s listed as a National Historic Landmark. The community encourages tourists to experience a slower pace of life by visiting their historical structures, dining, shopping, and exploring the scenic surroundings on walkways and bike paths.
Take lots of pictures at the Field of Dreams.
The Field of Dreams is an actual baseball field and farm that appeared in the 1989 movie with the same name. The movie, which starred Kevin Costner, was filmed here in 1989. While visiting the movie site, you may find yourself asking, “Is this heaven?”
This pop-culture tourist attraction in Dubuque County is a fun location for those who love the movie, but it’s also attracted thousands of visitors for over 25 years. This site offers lots of interactive exhibits, photo opportunities, and a scenic backdrop. There’s also a store where you can purchase some film and baseball-related memorabilia.
Be inspired by the Grotto of the Redemption.
In West Bend, you can visit the Grotto of the Redemption, which is a truly unique attraction in the state. Also known as the West Bend Grotto, it has nine separate grottos built from precious stones and gems and is locally handcrafted.
The place encourages visitors to look upon and admire the scenes that tell the story of Jesus’ life. But no matter what your denomination or religion is, the Grotto is an impressive example of what a man with a mission can accomplish in a short lifetime.
Have fun at the rides in Adventureland Park.
Adventurous travelers who want to seek fun and thrill can visit Adventureland Park in Altoona, Iowa. It’s a family-friendly amusement park and resort complex that features more than 100 rides, shows, and attractions. It’s the largest park in Iowa, and its theme is the Wild West, with sub-themes across the park to host different rides. Even the youngest thrill-seekers won’t be left out here, as there are various kid-friendly rides to keep them entertained for hours.
The park’s water section is Adventure Bay, and it includes the largest wave pool and longest lazy river in Iowa. Family-friendly rides include the classic Tilt-A-Whirl, bumper cars, carousel, and more. If you want the biggest thrill, try riding The Storm Chaser and The Monster, which are sure to get the blood pumping.
Enjoy the beauty of nature at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden.
The Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden is another one of the top attractions in the capital city of Iowa. Located downtown, the botanical gardens give you a chance to escape with tropical and temperate garden displays.
The garden provides a space for visitors to learn and explore plants, gardening, flowers, and more. The location is also perfect for strolling, and the indoor gardens offer a piece of year-round paradise in the conservatory’s geodesic dome. The place also offers fun and educational events several times a week.
Take a hike at the Pikes Peak State Park.
The most commonly photographed place in the state is Pikes Peak State Park. A hiker’s delight, the site features a 500-foot bluff overlooking the Upper Mississippi River opposite the junction of the Wisconsin River. Hike to the top of the towering bluffs, and you’ll be delighted by the gorgeous wilderness of Iowa and the breathtaking views of where the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers meet.
There’s also a half-mile boardwalk that will take you to the Bridal Veil Falls, which was worth several minutes of observation.
Learn more about history at the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library.
The National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library is an institution dedicated to sharing the culture, art, and history of the Czech and Slovak people. The museum comes with permanent exhibits, educational traveling displays, and lots of special events that the whole family can enjoy.
Located in Cedar Rapids, which historically had a large community of Czech and Slovak Americans, the museum preserves the area’s rich heritage and introduces it to curious visitors. Czech and Slovak films and art pieces are also featured in this museum. Meanwhile, the library houses a non-circulating collection of books, periodicals, and archives in different languages.