Explore The Hawkeye State: Top Things to Do in Iowa

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If you’re looking for a fun and unique destination for your next vacation, Iowa might be just the place for you. This Midwestern state is full of hidden gems, from charming small towns to stunning natural landscapes. Whether you’re interested in outdoor activities, cultural experiences, or just relaxing and enjoying the scenery, there’s plenty of things to do in Iowa for everyone.

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One of the best things about Iowa is its abundance of state parks and natural areas. From the dramatic bluffs of Maquoketa Caves to the serene lakes of Pikes Peak, there are plenty of opportunities to explore the great outdoors.

Hiking, biking, fishing, and camping are all popular activities in Iowa’s parks, and many of them also offer educational programs and guided tours. If you’re looking for a unique adventure, consider trying out some of Iowa’s more unusual activities, like hot air balloon rides or zip lining through the treetops.

But Iowa isn’t just about nature – there’s also plenty of culture to explore. The state is home to several world-class museums, including the Des Moines Art Center and the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library. You can also learn about Iowa’s rich history at sites like the Amana Colonies or the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum.

And of course, no trip to Iowa would be complete without trying some of the state’s famous food, like sweet corn, Maid-Rites, and Dutch letters. So whether you’re a history buff, an art lover, or just a foodie, Iowa has something to offer.

Things To Do In Iowa Amana colonies

Historical Sites

If you’re a history buff, Iowa has plenty of places to satisfy your curiosity. Here are a few historical sites you won’t want to miss:

Amana Colonies

The Amana Colonies are seven historic villages founded by German immigrants in 1855. These villages were established as a religious communal society, and they have preserved their crafts and culture while offering a variety of experiences for visitors. Some of the things you can do in the Amana Colonies include:

  • Touring the historic buildings and museums
  • Shopping for handmade goods and antiques
  • Dining at traditional German restaurants
  • Attending festivals and events throughout the year

Herbert Hoover National Historic Site

If you’re interested in presidential history, you’ll want to visit the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site in West Branch. This site preserves the birthplace, childhood home, and burial place of the 31st president of the United States. Some of the things you can do at the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site include:

  • Touring the birthplace cottage and the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum
  • Hiking through the tallgrass prairie and woodland trails
  • Attending special events and programs throughout the year

Whether you’re interested in religious history, presidential history, or just want to learn more about Iowa’s past, these historical sites are sure to be a highlight of your trip.

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Outdoor Activities

If you’re looking for outdoor activities in Iowa, you’re in luck! The state is home to a diverse range of outdoor recreation opportunities, from hiking and biking to fishing and camping. Here are a couple of must-visit spots for outdoor enthusiasts:

Maquoketa Caves State Park

Located in eastern Iowa, Maquoketa Caves State Park is a popular destination for hikers and spelunkers alike. The park boasts more than a dozen caves, as well as hiking trails, picnic areas, and a campground. Whether you’re an experienced caver or just looking for a scenic hike, Maquoketa Caves State Park is definitely worth a visit.

High Trestle Trail

If you’re looking for a scenic bike ride, the High Trestle Trail is a must-visit. This 25-mile trail runs from Ankeny to Woodward, passing through several small towns along the way. The highlight of the trail is the High Trestle Bridge, a half-mile-long bridge that spans the Des Moines River Valley. The bridge is particularly stunning at night, when it is illuminated by a series of LED lights.

Whether you’re looking for a challenging hike or a leisurely bike ride, Iowa has plenty of outdoor activities to offer. So grab your gear and get outside!

Things to Do in Iowa state capitol

Cultural Experiences

If you’re looking for cultural experiences in Iowa, you won’t be disappointed. From art museums to historical landmarks, there’s plenty to see and do. Here are a few must-visit cultural attractions in Iowa:

Des Moines Art Center

The Des Moines Art Center is a must-visit for art enthusiasts. This museum boasts an impressive collection of modern and contemporary art, including works by artists like Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Andy Warhol. The museum also hosts temporary exhibits throughout the year, so there’s always something new to see. Admission to the museum is free, so it’s a great option for budget-conscious travelers.

Iowa State Capitol

The Iowa State Capitol is a beautiful building that’s worth a visit, even if you’re not interested in politics. The building was completed in 1886 and features stunning architecture, including a dome that’s covered in 23-karat gold leaf. Guided tours of the building are available, and they’re a great way to learn about the history of the state and the building itself. Be sure to check out the law library, which is one of the most beautiful rooms in the building.

Whether you’re interested in art or history, Iowa has plenty of cultural experiences to offer. These two attractions are just the tip of the iceberg, so be sure to do some research and find other museums and landmarks that interest you.

BreweryLocationMust-Try Beer
Toppling GoliathDecorahKing Sue IPA
Exile Brewing CompanyDes MoinesRuthie
Lion Bridge Brewing CompanyCedar RapidsCompensation

Food and Drink

When it comes to food and drink, Iowa has a lot to offer. From local breweries to classic diners, there’s something for everyone. Here are a couple of must-try experiences:

Iowa Craft Beer Tour

Iowa has a thriving craft beer scene, with dozens of breweries scattered throughout the state. If you’re a beer lover, consider taking a tour of some of the best breweries in the area. Many breweries offer tours and tastings, giving you a chance to learn about the brewing process and sample some of their most popular beers.

Some of the top breweries to check out include:

Classic Diner Experience

If you’re looking for a taste of classic Americana, head to one of Iowa’s many diners. These retro eateries serve up classic comfort food like burgers, fries, and milkshakes. Plus, many diners have a nostalgic atmosphere that will transport you back in time.

Some of the top diners to check out include:

No matter what kind of food or drink you’re in the mood for, Iowa has something to satisfy your cravings. So grab a fork (or a pint glass) and start exploring!

a giraffe standing next to a pile of hay

Family Fun

If you’re looking for family-friendly activities in Iowa, you won’t be disappointed. The state has plenty of attractions that will keep both kids and adults entertained. Here are a couple of options to consider:

Blank Park Zoo

Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines is a great place to take the family. The zoo has over 1,000 animals from around the world, and there are plenty of opportunities to get up close and personal with them. In addition to seeing the animals, you can also take part in a variety of activities, such as feeding giraffes or riding a camel.

The zoo also offers educational programs for kids, such as summer camps and classes. Check out their website for more information on what’s available.

Lost Island Waterpark

Lost Island Waterpark in Waterloo is another great option for family fun. The waterpark has a variety of attractions, including water slides, a lazy river, and a wave pool. There’s also a separate area for younger kids with smaller slides and water features.

In addition to the water attractions, the park also has mini-golf, go-karts, and an arcade. You can easily spend a whole day here with your family.

Keep in mind that both of these attractions have admission fees, so be sure to check their websites for pricing and hours of operation.

Things to Do in Iowa Hawkeye State

Sports Events

If you’re a sports enthusiast, Iowa has plenty of events to keep you entertained. From college football to racing, there’s something for everyone.

Iowa Hawkeyes Football

If you’re a fan of college football, you won’t want to miss the Iowa Hawkeyes football games. The team plays their home games at Kinnick Stadium, which has a seating capacity of over 69,000. The stadium is located in Iowa City and is known for its unique pink visitor’s locker room.

Before the game, be sure to catch the Iowa Hawkeye Marching Band playing at the UI Recreation Building northwest of the stadium. You can also watch the team exit the buses and enter Kinnick Stadium on the south side, with each player and coach touching a bronze helmet next to a 20-foot-tall Nike Kinnick statue.

Iowa Speedway

Located in Newton, Iowa Speedway is a 7/8 mile paved oval track that hosts a variety of races throughout the year. The track has a seating capacity of over 25,000 and has hosted events such as NASCAR, IndyCar, and ARCA.

In addition to the races, Iowa Speedway also offers a variety of experiences for fans. You can take a pace car ride around the track, go on a behind-the-scenes tour, or even drive your own car on the track during certain events.

Whether you’re a die-hard fan or just looking for a fun day out, Iowa’s sports events are sure to impress.


Music and Festivals

If you’re a music lover, Iowa is a great place to be. The state is home to a variety of music festivals that offer something for everyone. Here are a couple of the must-see festivals in Iowa:

Iowa State Fair

The Iowa State Fair is one of the largest and most popular state fairs in the country. It takes place in Des Moines every August and features a wide variety of attractions, including live music performances. The fair has hosted big-name acts like Blake Shelton, Keith Urban, and Florida Georgia Line in the past. In addition to the big-name performers, there are also plenty of local and regional acts that perform throughout the fairgrounds. Whether you’re a country music fan or not, the Iowa State Fair is definitely worth checking out.

80/35 Music Festival

The 80/35 Music Festival is an annual event that takes place in downtown Des Moines. The festival features a mix of national and local acts across multiple stages, with a focus on indie rock, hip-hop, and electronic music. Past performers have included The Flaming Lips, Wu-Tang Clan, and Modest Mouse. In addition to the music, the festival also features a variety of food vendors, craft beer, and local art vendors.

Other notable music festivals in Iowa include the Hinterland Music Festival in St. Charles, the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival in Davenport, and the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival in Bettendorf. No matter what your taste in music is, there is sure to be a festival in Iowa that you’ll enjoy.

Field of Flowers North Farm
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Frequently Asked Questions

What are some free things to do in Iowa?

Iowa offers a variety of free activities for visitors. You can explore the state’s natural beauty by hiking or biking its many trails. You can also visit its parks and wildlife areas, such as the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge or the Mines of Spain State Recreation Area. Additionally, many museums and attractions in Iowa offer free admission, including the State Historical Museum in Des Moines and the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch.

What are some outdoor attractions in Iowa?

Iowa has plenty of outdoor attractions for visitors to enjoy. You can explore the state’s many parks and nature reserves, such as the Maquoketa Caves State Park or the Effigy Mounds National Monument. You can also go fishing or boating on one of Iowa’s many lakes and rivers, or take a scenic drive through its rolling hills and farmland.

What is the number one attraction in Iowa?

The number one attraction in Iowa is the Amana Colonies, a group of seven historic villages that offer a glimpse into the state’s rich cultural heritage. Visitors can explore the colonies’ museums, shops, and restaurants, or take a guided tour to learn more about their history and traditions.

What attractions is Iowa known for?

Iowa is known for a variety of attractions, including its many parks and nature reserves, such as the Field of Dreams Movie Site or the Bridges of Madison County. It is also known for its cultural attractions, such as the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library in Cedar Rapids or the John Wayne Birthplace Museum in Winterset.

Why should you visit Iowa?

Iowa offers a unique blend of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and friendly hospitality that is sure to make any visitor feel welcome. Whether you’re interested in exploring its parks and wildlife areas, learning about its history and traditions, or simply relaxing in its charming towns and cities, Iowa has something for everyone.

What is the most scenic part of Iowa?

The most scenic part of Iowa is arguably its Driftless Area, a region of rolling hills and rugged bluffs that is home to some of the state’s most stunning natural scenery. Visitors can explore the area’s many parks and nature reserves, such as the Yellow River State Forest or the Pikes Peak State Park, or take a scenic drive along its winding country roads.


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