Iowa — Attractions
Most people are hard-pressed to think of a famous attraction in Iowa. This is farming country, but it’s also home to the Field of Dreams movie set, Amish communities and a handful of cities like Des Moines and Cedar Rapids that have respectable performing arts scenes. But it’s really the pastoral countryside that makes Iowa so pretty. Madison County’s covered bridges and Germanic Amana Colonies are just a couple of unique cultural wonders worth discovering, but you will definitely need your own wheels to see anything of interest in Iowa.
Few scenes are as picturesque and timeless as a rural covered bridge crossing a meandering river. Madison County is home to five of these beauties that all date back to the 1880’s and are protected as National Historic Landmarks. The town of Winterset is the best base for exploring the area, especially in October when the Covered Bridges Festival takes place. Fans of writer Robert James Waller’s novels will recognize much of the scenery from the aptly named, Bridges of Madison County.
Address: Madison County, US Route 92, Winterset, IA 50273
Cedar Rapids Museum of Art and Grant Wood Studio
The famous American painter Grant Wood was a native son of Iowa best known for his iconic work American Gothic. Cedar Rapids’ main art gallery has the world’s leading collection of Wood’s paintings along with plenty of other well-known artists from the Midwest such as Marvin Cone, Mauricio Lasansky and James Swann. The gallery’s location downtown along the river is reason enough to visit, as the park-like grounds are ideal for an afternoon stroll.
Address: Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, 410 Third Avenue SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401
Des Moines Art Center
Iowa’s most impressive repository of art is found in its main city Des Moines. The Des Moines Art Center was co-designed by I.M. Pei, Richard Meier, and Eliel Saarinen. The architectural masterpiece is arguably the highlight of the museum and the building accentuates the genius of Matisse, Rothko, Richter, and other great masters from around the world. The Pappajohn Sculpture Park outside and sculptures by Rodin inside are also big attractions.
Address: Des Moines Art Center, 4700 Grand Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50312
National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library
Iowa is home to one of America’s largest communities of Czech immigrants, and this fascinating attraction on the edge of Cedar Rapids. The museum is located within Czech Village, a scenic historic settlement right on the Cedar River, and is America’s leading institute of Czech and Slovak heritage and history. One of the museum’s highlights is a perfectly restored 19th-century immigrant home, but just the old-world ambiance of the village itself is worth a trip.
Address: National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, 1400 Inspiration Place SW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52404
One of America’s most unique religious groups, the Inspirationists, settled along the Iowa River in the 19th century. Similar to the Amish, this colony of freedom-seeking Germans has managed to preserve its entire 500-building community from the 1880’s. It’s like a time capsule of rural communal living from another era, and visitors are welcome to explore it. Begin at the Amana Colonies Welcome Center to get some background on the sect and then venture out into the seven villages to shop for exquisite crafts, art, and food products while savoring the unique atmosphere.
Address: Amana Colonies Welcome Center, 622 46th Avenue, Amana, IA 52203
Iowa State Capitol
The twin gold-covered domes of Iowa’s lovely State Capitol building are one of Des Moines’ top sights. Inside, visitors are encouraged to take the hour-long guided tour that includes odd attractions like the First Lady’s extensive doll collection. The grounds are also pleasant to explore and contain several monuments dedicated to fallen soldiers. Be sure and check out the State Historical Building, as well for a museum-like look at the surprisingly colorful history of Iowa.
Address: Iowa State Capital, East 12th Street, Des Moines, IA 50312
Field of Dreams
The original movie set of the Field of Dreams has been transformed into one of Iowa’s most popular tourist attractions. A pilgrimage for baseball fans, visitors are actually allowed to play on the field from April through November. Future developments will add training fields and there are plans to hold seasonal tournaments on the surrounding property. However, the original movie diamond will remained unchanged.
Address: Field of Dreams Movie Site, 28995 Lansing Road, Dyersville, IA 52040