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17 Beautiful Places to Visit in Iowa

Places to Visit in Iowa.

Iowa in the Midwest borders the Mississippi River in the east and the Missouri River in the west, and is a picturesque tourist destination. Composed of rolling hills, fertile fields and farmland, there is a number of beautiful places to visit in Iowa. It is home to quaint rural towns and villages, some of which showcase the rich Dutch, German and Scandinavian culture and heritage.

In this article we are going to share;

17 Beautiful Places to Visit in Iowa.

Amana Colonies

The Amana Colony was established by German settlers in 1855 and consists of seven beautiful and secluded small villages in eastern Iowa. Because they are well preserved and the residents still retain many rich cultural traditions, these villages are now top tourist attractions. In a small cycle, seven settlements were established by persecuted devout people who wanted to build a self-sufficient society. Therefore, they cultivate the land themselves and make their own handicrafts, household items and houses.

Today, visitors to the Amana colony can stay in comfortable bed and breakfasts and old farms while exploring charming traditional villages. In addition, there are many handicraft shops and workshops where visitors can buy local products, handicrafts and art.

Cedar Rapids

As the second largest city in Iowa, Cedar Rapids straddles the banks of the Cedar River and is located approximately 20 miles north of Iowa City. Although floods in 2008, 2016, and 2020 destroyed most of the city, the city has been greatly restored in recent years, and new businesses have continued to emerge. Once known primarily as an industrial city, it has since developed a thriving art and cultural scene, offering first-class museums and theaters.

One of its most popular attractions is the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library, which showcases the unique history, heritage and culture of many residents of the city. In addition, the Museum of African American History and the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art are also worth seeing: the latter has the largest collection of Grant Wood paintings in the world. The Xinbo City Market is not to be missed; it has many shops and cafes, and regularly hosts community events and cultural performances.

Decorah

Located in northeastern Iowa is the charming town of Decorah. It is famous for its Scandinavian heritage. It is located in beautiful landscapes with various parks and the Upper Iowa River nearby. After its establishment around 1840, many Norwegian families settled in Decorah and established the large-scale and prestigious Lutheran College, which has played an important role in the life of the town to this day. To learn more about the fascinating past of the settlement, visitors can peruse the vast collection of handicrafts and folk art in the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum.


In addition to gaining insights into its rich history and culture, visitors to Deborah can also hike and bike in the surrounding nature, or kayak along the swift river. It also has one of the largest ice caves in the Midwest, and the delightful Dunning’s Spring and Siewers Spring are two of its outstanding attractions.

Iowa City


Iowa City is a vibrant, cool and youthful place located in the eastern part of the state, straddling the river of the same name. Home to the famous University of Iowa, most of life in this city revolves around a bustling campus and a large student body. Located in the center of the educational institution is the beautiful and conspicuous old Iowa State Capitol, which used to be the seat of the state government before being transferred to Des Moines.

Notable National Historic Landmarks are nearby the excellent art and natural history museums for tourists to visit, as well as some lovely riverside parks and walking trails. The city has long been known for its superb writing projects, full of art, and the alumni of its writer’s studio have so far won 17 Pulitzer Prizes. In addition to regular performances and performances in a few theaters and music venues, the city also hosts many outstanding cultural events and festivals throughout the year.

Sioux City

Sioux City is located in northwestern Iowa, where it is famous for its art and history museums, the most famous of which are the Sioux City Art Center and the Sioux City Public Museum. Families can visit the Children’s Museum with many interactive attractions, or visit the Sergeant Floyd River Museum, which tells the town’s industrial history around the Missouri River. Visitors to Sioux City can also enjoy the Lewis and Clark Interpretation Center, a family-oriented museum that covered expeditions in the early 1800s and helped expand the early United States.

Okoboji

The Great Lakes of Iowa, often called Okoboji, are a group of lovely natural lakes located in the northwest of the state. Due to the stunning scenery and coastline, the resort is very popular and offers countless outdoor recreational activities.
The three main lakes, Big Spirit, West Okoboji, and East Okoboji, occupies a vast area, surrounded by beautiful beaches and scenic bays, and are full of leisurely settlements. The largest of these is Arnolds Park, where visitors can find lakeside restaurants and resorts, as well as a fantastic amusement park featuring interesting rides and games.


In addition to bathing in the beautiful lake, guests can also swim, fish or engage in water sports in the tranquil waters. There are also excellent hiking and golfing along the lake shore. Most importantly, in the sunny summer, Okoboji Summer Theater will host some wonderful live music performances and theater performances.

Madison County

About 30 miles (50 kilometers) southwest of Des Moines is the charming countryside of Madison County. It has long been a sleepy but scenic backwater, and became famous in 1995 after the wonderful film “Bridges in Madison County” based on the book of the same name.
Now, tourists flock to fertile fields and farmland, cruise along quaint country roads, and stop at picturesque towns and villages such as St. Charles and Winterset. The highlight is undoubtedly its delightful and unique covered bridges, of which six still exist.
Driving across its historic and beautiful wooden bridge is a treat, and Madison County also has some first-rate vineyards and breweries. Its gentle hills and charming scenery are ideal for various outdoor activities, especially hiking and cycling between parks and farms.

Pella

Since it is the home of scenic canals, windmills and tulips, tourists in Pella are forgiven for thinking that they are in Amsterdam or Utrecht instead of the United States. Founded in 1847 by a group of Dutch immigrants, this small town is proud of its rich history and heritage, and now attracts tourists from all directions.


Its historical village has more than 20 traditional buildings to visit. The church and blacksmith shop are located next to the fully functional Vermeer windmill, which is one of its main attractions. Although its charming buildings and town views look great, there are also some delicious Dutch pastry shops to try, as well as cheese, clogs and clothing to buy.
One of the best times to visit Pera is the annual Tulip Festival. Festival parades and performances are held, and everyone wears traditional costumes. At this time of year, its gorgeous gardens and parks are filled with thousands of beautiful tulips for visitors to admire.

Des Moines

The capital and most populous city of Iowa, Des Moines is located on the bank of the river in the center of the state, hence its name. The charming combination of city and countryside is a vibrant and laid-back place, and an important commercial and cultural center in the Midwest. The city has many excellent art and natural history museums, as well as some vibrant areas for visitors to explore, and the East Village and Valley Hub have splendid boutiques and historic buildings.

Its eye-catching landscape is undoubtedly the breathtaking State Capitol, which displays some stunning architecture and sparkling gold leaf domes. Although its beautiful botanical garden and the sensational Pappajohn Sculpture Park are well worth a visit, the city also has some great cultural events and festivals for visitors to enjoy. In summer, the farmers market in Des Moines has many fresh produce, cheese and wine for you to taste

Mason City

Speaking of Mason City, there are certain attractions that are sure to keep guests coming back again and again. The exhibition is home to a museum with more than 500 puppets and puppets, displaying most of the works of Bil Baird as a master puppeteer. After visiting the museum or Musician’s Square (a tribute to musician Meredith Willson), guests can head to Northwestern Steakhouse for an award-winning dinner, and then head to Birdsall’s Ice Cream for a delicious handmade ice cream dessert, a local favorite since 1930 It has been in Mason since the age.

Effigy Mounds National Monument

Located along the Mississippi and Yellow Rivers is one of Iowa’s most mysterious and fascinating sights-Statue Mound National Monument. Here, visitors can find more than 200 extraordinary prehistoric tombs, as well as wonderful woods and sweeping river valleys. These amazing earthworks were built by Native Americans and date back more than a thousand years. Many of these earthworks are in the shape of birds, mammals or reptiles.


In the visitor center of the park, guests can learn more about the importance and symbolism of archaeological sites, as well as the ecosystems of forests, grasslands and rivers on display. A great way to explore Statue Mound National Monument is to hike in the spectacular scenery while admiring the breathtaking burial mound.

Herbert Hoover National Historic Site

Herbert Hoover, the 31st President of the United States, is currently the only President from Iowa. Around his birthplace, West Branch, a monumental National Historic Site commemorates his life, history, and influence on the country and other regions.
During your visit to West Branch, it’s worth seeing his humble origins and the birthplace of Herbert Hoover, as well as other well-preserved landscapes and buildings that helped shape this young prospective president.

The park is also home to the graves of Herbert Hoover and First Lady Lou Henry Hoover. Although it may seem fascinating to see these buildings staying in time, most of your visit to the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site will be occupied by the Presidential Library and Museum. This impressive curated series includes rotating exhibits and a permanent exhibition focusing on Hoover’s life and legacy.

Pikes Peak State Park

Pikes Peak State Park is located at the confluence of the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers, in the northeastern part of the state, bordering Wisconsin. As a popular tourist destination in Iowa, it will please nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts with its charming scenery and outstanding natural beauty. It was founded in 1936 and named after the huge mountain that occupies the state park. From the top of its towering mountain, visitors can enjoy magnificent views of the Mississippi River, verdant forests and wild waters.


Hidden in the park’s diverse landscapes and wilderness are some magnificent hiking trails and scenic secluded campgrounds. While strolling along the trail, visitors will pass through dense woods and peaceful valleys, and the shimmering bridal veil waterfall is one of its most enjoyable and photographic features.

National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium


The National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium is operated by the Dubuque Historical Society, and its collections, exhibits, and live animals reflect the cultural and geological importance of the mighty Mississippi River and all the national rivers that define the country. The Mississippi River forms the eastern border of Iowa and determines most of the livelihoods of surrounding communities. The National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium is dedicated to showcasing the important role of this river and its basin to the environment and humans.


The museum features permanent exhibits such as the Mississippi River Discovery Center and an immersive 4D theater, as well as a rotating display that will surely attract the attention of adults and children. The museum and aquarium also house several live animals, representing wild animals found on and around the river bank, including alligators, otters, and sturgeons. Other exhibits in the museum include a blacksmith shop, a stingray touch pool and the historic Logsdon Sand & Gravel Barge.

Maquoketa Caves State Park

For the unique natural side of Iowa, Marquiquita Cave State Park allows you to see the world under your feet. This popular state park has many above-ground hiking trails to explore cliffs, woodlands, and interesting natural wonders known as balanced rocks. But the main reason to explore this park in eastern Iowa is the cave.


For claustrophobic patients, Dancehall Cave is a brightly lit cave with high ceilings and a walkway. For those who don’t mind squeezing into a small space, Marquiquita Caves State Park also offers more than a dozen other caves that require a flashlight to explore and may need to change clothes. There is a large campsite in the park for RVs and tents.

Clear Lake

For those who love water, Clear Lake in Iowa is a community built on 3,684 acres of natural lakes with an average depth of 10 feet, providing entertainment for tourists and locals throughout the year. When the weather is pleasant, fishing, swimming, sailing, boating/water sports and relaxing on the beach are all viable options, while in colder areas of the year, guests can shop in the retail area, attend local concerts or go fishing in history Movies in the theater. Clear Lake also hosts various special events throughout the year, so potential travelers are always encouraged to read the event calendar carefully before planning a trip.

Waterloo

For tourists looking for a unique cultural experience in Iowa, Waterloo should be their first choice, especially considering the city has many museums in the city center, all within 1 mile. The Igloo Museum was built in 1921 and was originally built to store ice cut from the Cedar River. It was later reused and filled with interactive displays that tell the story of how ice collection helped shape Waterloo. From a broader historical standpoint, the Grout Museum of History and Science tends to display exhibits from all over the world, allowing visitors to experience travel without leaving Waterloo.

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