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15 Best Things to Do in Iowa



Iowa is known as the nation’s third most productive agricultural state, but if you think you’d only find corn and soybeans here, you are hugely mistaken. The food, weather, people and attractions might even overwhelm you.

Pack your bags and plan a trip because here are the best things to do in Iowa:

1. Visit the Iowa 80 Trucking Museum

What was originally a dream of a man with a passion for collecting antiques has now turned into reality in the form of the Iowa 80 Trucking Museum. This museum provides a glimpse back in time with the many rare and one-of-a-kind trucks on display. You can learn all there is to learn about trucking history! Plus, enjoy the different exhibits and antique toy trucks available.

2. Learn About a Different Culture at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library

Be inspired to connect and learn about the Czech and Slovak history and culture by visiting the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library. The exhibits impart stories of freedom and identity to people of all ages. Before you leave, make sure to check out their theater and visit the immigrant house.

3. Go to the State Capitol With Your Friends

Iowa State Capitol
Source: Iowa State Capitol | Flickr/courthouselover

One of the best things to do in Iowa is to visit an amazing architectural masterpiece such as the Iowa State Capitol. It features a 275-foot dome, four smaller domes, as well as a grand staircase. You can also explore the Old Supreme Court chambers and the law library if you wish to do so. The State Capitol offers free public internet access.

4. Explore the Maquoketa Caves State Park

Here, you can explore the cave features of the park and experience a guided tour to complete your trip. There are artifacts as well as tools made of stone that have been found in the caves and surrounding area. These are proof of the park being popular hundreds of years ago.

5. See the Grotto of the Redemption

Grotto of the Redemption
Source: Grotto of the Redemption | Wikimedia Commons/Alejandro Pulido

The Grotto of the Redemption is not just a religious shrine. It is also considered as “the world’s most complete man-made collection of fossils, minerals, shells, and petrifications.” Some even believe that this is the largest grotto in the world.

The Grotto of the Redemption is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you want to check out items, you can go to the gift shop which is open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

6. Take a Haunted Trip to Villisca Axe Murder House

You might be wondering, “Why is visiting a murder house one of the best things to do in Iowa?” Well, some just have crazy ideas for an ideal trip. Check out this old white frame house which “warns” rather than “welcome” visitors. If you are not easily terrified, we dare you to find out the truth and see if this house is haunted.

7. Bike the High Trestle Trail Bridge at Night

High Trestle Trail Bridge
Source: High Trestle Trail Bridge | Iris 22 Productions

Get the feeling of entering a different dimension as you bike the High Trestle Trail Bridge at night. This place has become a popular destination for cyclists because of its six overlooks with interpretative panels.

What you should know: The bridge is lit from sunset until midnight from April to October, and the lights are turned off at 9 pm during its regular schedule from November to March.

8. Munch on the Delicious Food at Zombie Burger + Drink Lab

The unusual fast food servings of this post-apocalyptic chic setting have earned the hearts of many restaurant enthusiasts. The owners take pride in their “GORE”met eatery that evokes the familiar roadside burger stands of the 1970s. Make sure to try their burgers, meals, cocktails and spiked milkshakes.

9. Go to the ‘The Day the Music Died’ Memorial

The Day the Music Died' Memorial
Source: ‘The Day the Music Died’ Memorial | Wikimedia Commons/SuperDuty11

The grave memorial is where music artists Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, and pilot Roger Peterson lost their lives after a show in Clear Lake, Iowa. This memorial depicts a steel guitar and a set of three records with the names of the three artists.

10. Go to the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium

National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium
Source: National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium

You don’t have to be in different locations to see an aquarium, museum and a science center. Here at the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium, you can see it all at once. Check out the animals and exhibits as well as historical collections and archives that interpret the history of Dubuque, the Mississippi River, and the rivers of America.

11. Visit the Effigy Mounds National Monument

Effigy Mounds National Monument
Source: Effigy Mounds National Monument | YES Magazine

The Effigy Mounds National Monument is an American Indian ceremonial location located in northeastern Iowa with mounds that have the shape of animal effigies. Hiking to this scenic point is not only relaxing. It will also give you a perspective of the Woodland period American Indian mound-building culture.

12. Stay for the Iowa State Fair

Iowa State Fair
Source: Iowa State Fair | Saga Communications/Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Iowa State Fair is the state’s largest art show and a celebration of Iowa’s achievement, agriculture, and entertainment. It attracts more than a million people over the world thanks to its wonderful activities.

13. Check out the Interactive Exhibits at Blank Park Zoo

Blank Park Zoo
Source: Blank Park Zoo

Iowa’s wildest adventure also helps inspire a person’s appreciation of the natural world! The Blank Park Zoo isn’t a big place, but it’s where you can spend quality time with your family feeding a giraffe and viewing rhinos. The penguin display is another equally-loved spot!

14. Dress up During the Nordic Fest

Nordic Fest
Source: Nordic Fest | Travel Iowa

Over 10,000 visitors travel to Iowa each year for three days of feasting during the Nordic Fest! Want to know why visitors flock here during this event? Here are the highlights:

  • It is a time where you can try lots of sweet and savory food sold by vendors located up and down Water Street.
  • The main events (Opening Ceremony, Grand Parade & Fireworks Display) are a sight to behold.
  • Entertaining music groups will keep the crowd glued in.
  • You can observe artists at work during the fest.
  • You can dress up in a costume relevant to the fest.

The next Nordic Fest will be from July 23-25, 2020

15. Brush up on Your Gardening Skills at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Center

Greater Des Moines Botanical Center
Source: Greater Des Moines Botanical Center

Connect with the environment and visit the Geater Des Moines Botanical Center! It is a vibrant, seven-acre public garden that features lovely garden space galleries. If you want to brush up on your gardening skills, you can do so here! They have many classes and events that could help you with your gardening goals.

The Midwestern charm of Iowa will surely keep you coming back for more. Don’t you think?

A writer big on nature, travel, and dogs. If you can't find Suny with her furry pal, then she's probably out exploring, doing ninja training or Calisthenics.