Best Places to Visit in Iowa (United States)

Are you searching for the Best Places to Visit in Iowa? Are you thinking of a trip to the South and wondering what to explore in Iowa? We’ve got you covered.

Iowa is located in the middle of the Midwest and boasts a wealth of agricultural and cultural bounty. Iowa is a land of agricultural yield, with wide open spaces, cornfields, and welcoming cities that exude Midwestern charm. It offers fresh air and friendly communities.

There’s so much more to see and do in the state. Many cultural treasures are worth exploring, including river museums and movie sites. Iowa also has several attractions, including historic German colonies and a vast network of caves.

Although there are many cities in Iowa to visit, most visitors choose the centrally located state capital of Des Moines. The State Capitol is a beacon for tourists and residents alike. It shines brightly with its gold dome. Des Moines is also a great place to launch day- or weekend trips throughout the rest of the state. Check out our Iowa Top Attractions List to find more places to see.

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State Capitol

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State Capitol is one of the best place to visit in Iowa. Grand Avenue is situated on top of a hill with great views of downtown Des Moines. It houses the Iowa House of Representatives, the Iowa Supreme Court, and many offices of top state elected officials, including the governor. It’s more than a symbol of the city with its gold dome. It’s also a gateway into Iowa’s past.

The State Capitol is not only the center of Iowa’s government but also a stunning display of architecture. On a self-guided sightseeing trip, you can also explore the State Capitol’s historical artifacts and interesting Iowa exhibits.

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Iowa City

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Iowa City, located east of the state on the banks of the same river, is a vibrant, young, and cool place. Iowa City is home to the University of Iowa. The bustling campus and large student population are the heart of the city’s life.

The Iowa Old Capitol Building is located at the center of the educational institution. It was once the state’s government’s home until it was transferred to Des Moines. There are many excellent museums of art and natural history, along with beautiful riverside parks and walks that visitors can visit near the National Historic Landmark.

The city is well-known for its excellent writing programs. It has an artsy vibe, with 17 Pulitzer Prizes won by Writer’s Workshop alumni. The town hosts an array of exceptional cultural events throughout the year, in addition to the performances and shows put on by its few theaters and music venues.

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Pikes Peak State Park

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Pikes Peak State Park can be found in the northeast corner of Iowa, near the border with Wisconsin, where the Mississippi River and Wisconsin rivers meet. It is a popular spot in Iowa for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts because of its outstanding natural beauty and stunning scenery.

It was established in 1936 and named after the towering peak that dominates the park. Visitors can take in breathtaking views of the Mississippi River from the top of this high peak. Verdant forests and wild water stretch as far as the eyes can see.

Beautiful hiking trails and quiet campsites are hidden among the wilderness and diverse landscapes of the park. Wandering its trails will take you through tranquil valleys and lush woods. The twinkling Bridal Veil Falls is one of the most photographed and excellent features.

Amana Colonies

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Seven villages make up the Amana Colonies in eastern Iowa. They take you back to the past, away from the bustle and hustle. The Amana Colonies’ history dates back to the mid-century when German Pietists arrived in this remote Iowa area. Their communal lifestyle was unaffected by outside influences for many years.

The Amana Colonies is a National Historic Landmark. This community encourages visitors to enjoy a slower pace of living. You can enjoy the Amana Colonies by visiting their historic structures, shopping, and dining at their local establishments. Also, you can explore the beautiful surroundings by biking and walking on the paths and walkways.

Tourists from all over the state are invited to Amana Colonies’ annual festivals. It’s fun to discover the German traditions at Amana Colonies, from the Wurstfest sausage-making event to the springtime Maifest.

It’s worth staying a few nights to get the whole Amana Colonies experience. Zuber’s Homestead Hotel is one of many bed-and-breakfast options in the area.

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The Bridges of Madison County

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The Bridges of Madison County is the one of the best place to visit in Iowa. The Bridges of Madison County offer a scenic adventure in Winterset, about 30 miles southwest of Des Moines. These bridges are the inspiration for many photographs and numerous visits.

Before The Bridges of Madison County were a hit, bridges were a regular part of daily life in the area in the late 19th century. Sixteen of the 19 original covered bridges are still standing today, and five are listed on the National Historic Register.

The 82-mile-plus Covered Bridges Scenic Byway offers an excellent way to see the bridges and the beautiful natural scenery. Three bridges require you to travel on gravel roads.

The Madison County Chamber of Commerce offers personal and group tours of the covered bridges (by reservation only). The Madison County, Covered Bridge Festival, is a culminating cultural experience every October.

Madison County and Winterset are worth visiting even if you don’t want to see the beautiful covered bridges. It’s worth spending an afternoon photographing and exploring the covered bridges. After a long day, you should visit Winterset’s historic town square.

Winterset also houses the birthplace of John Wayne and an adjacent museum dedicated to America’s most famous cowboy, The Duke.

Des Moines

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Iowa’s capital, Des Moines, is the largest city and the most popular state. It lies in the middle of Iowa on the banks of the river that it is named after. It is an exciting mix of country and urban, serving as a vital center for commerce and culture in the Midwest.

The city is home to many excellent arts and natural history museums, with several vibrant areas for tourists to explore. East Village and Valley Junction have fabulous boutiques and historic buildings. The state capitol building is the most prominent, with its stunning architecture and glowing gold leaf dome.

The city has many significant cultural events and festivals to offer visitors. The Des Moines’ Farmer market provides fresh produce, cheeses, and wines in summer, while the Iowa State Fair hosts many agricultural contests.

Okoboji

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Often referred to as Okoboji, the Iowa Great Lakes are a group of lovely natural lakes lying northwest of the state. Due to the stunning scenery and shorelines, the resort region is trendy, with innumerable outdoor recreation activities on offer.

Sprawling over a vast area, the three leading lakes of Big Spirit, West Okoboji, and East Okoboji are lined by beautiful beaches and scenic coves, with laidback settlements, tucked here and there. The largest is Arnolds Park, where visitors can find lakeside restaurants and resorts and a fantastic amusement park featuring fun rides and games.

Besides basking in the beauty of the lakes, guests can enjoy swimming, fishing, or watersports in their tranquil waters. Superb hiking and golfing are also available along the lakeshore. On top of this, the Okoboji Summer Theater puts on some great live music shows and theater performances in the sunny summer months.

Field of Dreams Movie Site

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Field of Dreams starring Kevin Costner, was shot here in 1989. You might ask yourself, “Is this heaven?” while visiting Dyersville’s Movie Site. It’s Iowa. And, despite all the movie references, the Field of Dreams Movie Site remains an excellent spot for film fans. It features interactive exhibits and plenty of photo opportunities.

The Field of Dreams hosts a Ghost Sunday show on select Sundays throughout the year. These events feature historical baseball players who have stepped out of the cornstalks and put on a family-fun event.

Field of Dreams can be visited for a weekend. It is about 30 minutes from Dubuque. Other attractions such as the National Mississippi River Museum or Aquarium are nearby.

Decorah

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The charming and small town of Decorah is located in northeast Iowa. It is most well-known for its Scandinavian heritage. The city lies in beautiful scenery with several parks and the Upper Iowa River close by.

Decorah was founded in 1840 by many Norwegian families. This led to the establishment of the illustrious Luther College. It continues to play a significant role in the life of the town. The Vesterheim Norwegian American Museum has an extensive collection of folk art and artifacts that will help you learn more about the fascinating history of the settlement. Nordic Fest, an annual celebration of the traditions and cultures of Scandinavia, is also held in the town.

Deborah offers a wealth of cultural and historical information. Visitors can also go cycling and hiking in the natural surroundings or kayaking along the river. The ice caves are also some of the most impressive in the Midwest. It is home to the charming Dunning’s Spring and Siewers Spring.

National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium

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The Dubuque Historical Society manages the National Mississippi River Museum. It can be found on the easternmost side of the state. The aquarium has exhibits, collections, and live animals that show the importance of the Mississippi River and other national rivers to the country.

The Mississippi River forms the eastern border of Iowa and is responsible for much of the livelihood in the surrounding communities. The National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium demonstrates the importance of the river and its watershed for the environment and the people who live there.

The museum features permanent exhibits such as the Mississippi River Discovery Center and an immersive 4D Theater. It also has rotating displays that will surely grab the attention of both adults and children.

The aquarium and museum also have several live animals representing wildlife that live along riverbanks, such as alligators and otters. The museum also has a blacksmith shop and a stingray touch pool.

The historic Hotel Julien Dubuque can be rented for an overnight stay if you want to spend the night in Dubuque. Grand Harbor Resort, Waterpark, and other top-rated resorts in Iowa are also located here.

Conclusion

All destinations are awesome! According to my opinion, Des Moines is the best to start. I hope you have enjoyed our list about Best Places to Visit in Iowa.

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