We all need vacations. Taking time to get away and explore, relax, enjoy good food, and meet new people can do wonders for both our mental and physical health. And you don't even have to go far to enjoy all of this. Iowa provides small-town charm accompanied by big city lights, with plenty of things to fill your schedule. Here are five reasons to give Iowa a try for your next vacation.
1. Discover What Hollywood Already Knows
Remember the Academy award-winning movie Field of Dreams starring Kevin Costner? It was filmed right here in Iowa, located just thirty minutes outside of Dubuque. The baseball field is still here, maintained for visitors to enjoy along with interactive exhibits and a scenic background for photo opportunities. Fans of the film will feel as if they are right there in the center of the movie itself.
Maybe you're more familiar with the book The Bridges of Madison County and its movie adaptation starring Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep. If so, look no further than Iowa to immerse yourself in the beautiful scenery included in the movie. Start in Winterset, a town some thirty miles southeast of downtown Des Moines. Here you can take your time exploring the beautiful bridges before strolling around the historic downtown. If you arrive in October, you'll have the chance to enjoy the cultural experience of the Madison County Covered Bridge Festival as well.
Winterset is also known as the birthplace of actor John Wayne and contains a museum dedicated to America's top cowboy as well.
2. Travel a Distillery or Winery Trail
Despite what most people might think, there are several top-rated wineries and distilleries across the state. This means you will have numerous designated trails to follow, or you can go your own way.
Due to its proximity to Des Moines, consider taking a Templeton Rye distillery tour as you make your way through Carroll County. This home-grown distillery will take you through how they create The Good Stuff, along with pleasurable tastings. Be sure to pick up a few bottles of their 6-year old rye, available only at the distillery.
If you're ready to try the various wines made throughout the state, set out on one of the winery trails, each providing stops at five to eleven wineries. A few worth considering include the Heart of Iowa Wine Trail, the Western Iowa Wine Trail, or the Loess Hills District Wine Trail.
3. Enjoy Art
Artists tend to be drawn to serene settings, so it's no wonder that Iowa is full of art to enjoy. Stay in Des Moines and explore the Des Moines Art Center's rotating exhibits of sculpture, photography, and paintings. You'll also want to dedicate time to exploring their permanent collections, which include the art of Edward Hopper and Georgia O'Keefe.
Iowa can also claim one of the most significant cultural artists of the 20th century, Grant Wood. Incorporating his Midwest roots into his art, one of his most famous works is American Gothic, a painting depicting a farming couple standing in the front of their Midwest home. Take your picture outside this house in Eldon, then explore the American Gothic House Center next door and learn more about the artist.
4. A Touch of Scandinavia in Iowa
If you've never been to the Netherlands to see the windmills and tulip fields, there's a closer option. The town of Pella runs deep with Dutch ancestry. While the windmills may tip you off to this, the European architecture will convince you even more.
Downtown Pella also contains the tallest working windmill in North America and a historical village with its own Klokkenspel. The Klokkenspel, or Carillon clock, has over 140 bell chimes and eight, four-foot figures that perform several times a day. Enjoy Dutch restaurants and bakeries, and shop at the charming boutiques.
You can also visit Elk Horn or Kimballton, rural Danish settlements. Be sure to visit Decorah and enjoy their three-day Nordic Festival celebrating Scandinavia every year as well.
5. Outdoor Treasures to Explore
With lakes, springs, caves, and waterfalls to explore, Iowa is a nature lovers paradise. Check out the rolling hills, narrow ridges, and steep bluffs at Loess Hills, along with the glacier-formed quartz silt. Explore the Maquoketa Caves or Dunning's Spring Falls. Throughout the state, you will find breathtaking views and natural wonders to enjoy.
Now is a great time to explore the Hawkeye state. With so much to offer, shouldn't it be on your vacation list this year?