One of the most gorgeous states in the Midwest, Iowa is fraught with verdant forestry in the eastern parts of the state and grasslands and prairie plains in the western parts with the Mississippi River bordering much of the state.
The diversity of landscape in Iowa makes it a wonderful place to visit for outdoor recreation and nature observance.
The state’s three major cities, Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, and Davenport, are home to excellent entertainment, museums, restaurants, and interesting sights.
Accessible by road-tripping or travel by air, Iowa is an often underrated US state to visit.
However, Iowa has plenty to do and see.
As one of the states with the most farms, agriculture is a huge market in The Hawkeye State.
As a visitor, you have the opportunity to visit and patronize many of these beautiful places.
With active city life scattered around the state, the mix of suburban, rural, and urban communities is ever-present.
Whether you’re looking for a big city adventure or to become one with nature, Iowa has you covered.
Take a look at all of the amazing things you can see and do in IA.
Things To Do In Iowa
1. Maquoketa Caves State Park
Just northwest of the city of Maquoketa sits this 111-acre park that is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
If you are looking for outdoor entertainment and recreation in IA, make sure to visit this top attraction.
Of note, the park is perfect for hiking, exploring, learning, and enjoying the peacefulness of nature.
The park’s unique geology makes a visit to Maquoketa Caves State Park worthwhile.
With enormous, towering bluffs, a six-mile trail system, and beautiful geologic formations, the astounding experience of a visit to this park will surely wow you.
The park is home to many fabulous amenities as well.
During your visit, you are welcome to enjoy the campgrounds, picnic pavilions, restrooms, a playground, museum, and more.
One of the top vacation spots in all of Iowa, Maquoketa Caves State Park is worth a spot on your itinerary.
Address: 9688 Caves Rd, Maquoketa, IA 52060, United States
2. Iowa State Capitol
Centrally located in Des Moines Iowa, the Iowa State Capitol building is a beautiful historic site that visitors come from far and wide to see.
The gold-domed building, symbolic of the city’s rich history, is a lens into the state’s diverse past.
From the hill upon which the capitol building sits, you can enjoy magnificent views of downtown Des Moines.
Within the building, visitors are treated to glimpses of the Iowa State Senate, the Iowa House of Representatives, the Iowa Supreme Court, and other significant office spaces.
In addition to the important offices the Capitol houses, the building’s architecture is a sight to be seen.
It also houses many interesting historical artifacts specific to IA and many clever exhibits.
Tours of the Iowa State Capitol are self-guided, but reservations must be made.
Following your tour of the Capitol, it’s enjoyable to stroll downtown for a bite to eat and shopping.
We highly recommend visiting this historical pillar when visiting the Hawkeye State.
Address: 1007 E Grand Ave, Des Moines, IA 50319, United States
3. Herbert Hoover National Historic Site
Fun things to do in Iowa are not hard to come by as evidenced by the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site.
This unit of National Park systems includes buildings and grounds that commemorate the life of Herbert Hoover, the United States’s 31st president.
Established in 1965 and situated on more than 60 Acres of Iowa forestry, Herbert Hoover National Historic Site is a cool historical destination to see.
Significantly, the property includes historic buildings, exhibits, and natural attractions, all of which pay homage to the late Herbert Hoover.
Included in the park’s landscape are a visitor center, birthplace cottage, a Presidential Library and Museum, the gravesite of President and Mrs. Hoover, and more.
Notably, the park is open seven days a week during business hours, except for national holidays.
What’s more, Herbert Hoover National Historic Site is free to visit.
Of all the fun places to visit in Iowa, this is one of the best.
Address: 110 Parkside Dr, West Branch, IA 52358, United States
4. High Trestle Trail
This exciting attraction is a rail trail that runs between Ankeny and Woodward in central Iowa.
Running through five towns and four Iowa counties, the trail opened as a recreational attraction in early 2011.
Of note, the 25-mile, asphalt trail welcomes hikers, bikers, and horseback riders for year-round recreation.
Conveniently, there are a number of entry points along the trail with parking lots at most of those points.
The High Trestle Trail is a decommissioned railroad that’s been converted to a recreational trail.
The terrain is smooth, flat, and perfectly suitable for bike riders of all skill levels.
Some sections of the trail are tree-lined but all sections offer sweeping views of the breathtaking Iowan landscape.
But the most popular trail feature is the High Trestle Bridge which is home to six scenic overlooks with interpretive panels that explain the area’s cultural and natural history.
At night, the bridge illuminates beautiful blue lights that are a sight to see.
One of many interesting Iowa attractions, High Trestle Trail is a must see.
Address: Iowa, United States
5. The Columbus Junction Bridge
This frightening swinging bridge, located in Iowa Mill, is one of many awesome sights to see in Iowa.
Nicknamed the Lover’s Leap Bridge, the bridge was built in 1886 and reconstructed again in 1904.
In 1922, the bridge collapsed on two lovers and was rebuilt again.
Since that time, the bridge has become a much-loved, daring attraction.
Of note, the bridge is 262 feet long and suspended between two trees in the woods of Columbus Junction.
The site of the bridge is home to many local legends including that the area is haunted by ghosts, a lovesick Native American woman once threw herself from the bridge, and many others.
Even if you visit the bridge unaware of its history and the legends, the bridge is frightening in and of itself.
The bridge has been repeatedly condemned for safety reasons and the magnitude of its height is enough to scare off even the local ghosts.
If you’re looking for unusual places to visit in Iowa, be sure to check out The Columbus Junction Bridge.
Address: 303 Oak St, Columbus Junction, IA 52738, United States
6. National Hobo Museum
Interesting things to do in Iowa are certainly not hard to come by; the National Hobo Museum is proof of that.
Conceived by three former hoboes (homeless people) in the mid-1980s, the museum preserves and shares the history of the hobo lifestyle.
The three friends first established The Hobo Foundation in the 70s as a place concerned with sharing the hobo lifestyle; the museum’s establishment followed many years later.
With a single box of hobo artifacts in hand and the money gifted to them to purchase the property, the three friends bought the Chief Movie Theatre on Main Street in Britt, IA.
The museum remains at this location to this day.
Notably, the museum hosts artifacts and exhibits that tell the stories of the American hobo.
Additionally, the museum features short documentary showings, written documents, audio recordings, hobo crafts, and more.
Finally, the museum has an awesome souvenir shop where they sell merchandise like t-shirts, postcards, walking sticks, and hobo crafts.
If you’re looking for unique things to do in Iowa, the National Hobo Museum fits the bill.
Address: 51 Main Ave S, Britt, IA 50423, United States
7. Matchstick Marvels Museum
Situated in Gladbrook, IA, the Matchstick Marvels Museum displays unique things to see.
Specifically, the museum exhibits creations constructed entirely of wooden matchsticks.
The pieces are all works by local artist Pat Acton; some are as old as 44 years old.
Although the displays rotate, many of the incredible larger scale models are always on display.
Of note, the museum is open Spring through Fall in the afternoons seven days a week.
Concerning the amazing artistry of the matchstick models, Acton uses ordinary wooden matchsticks, tons of glue, and amazing artistry to construct magnificently scaled structures.
In addition to the awesome models on display at the museum, you can also see sketches, plans, and the equipment used by Acton to construct these mini wonders.
At any time during a visit, you may catch the artist working on some of his many ongoing projects.
Currently, he’s working on an awesome NASA Mars rover.
One of many extraordinary places of interest in Iowa, we highly recommend visiting Matchstick Marvels Museum.
Address: 319 2nd St, Gladbrook, IA 50635, United States
8. Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption
This awe-inspiring Catholic shrine situated in the heart of West Bend, IA is a bucket list item for many religious travelers.
Founded by German immigrant Father Paul Matthias Dobberstein, the shrine was inspired by a promise he made to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
As a child he came down with a debilitating case of pneumonia; from his sickbed, he prayed to Mother Mary for healing.
He promised that if he were to overcome the sickness, he’d build a shrine in Mary’s honor.
Thus the conception of the Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption.
In addition to being a devout and studied priest, Dobberstein was intrinsically artistic.
For over a decade he hoarded beautiful and precious stones.
It was with these materials that he began building the Grotto in 1912.
Set in a vast and verdant expanse of IA farmland, Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption invites Christians to be hearers of the Word and thinkers and doers of Christ.
Today, group and private tours are available throughout the year.
Tours take about three hours and are one of many amazing sites to see in Iowa.
Address: 208 1st Ave NW, West Bend, IA 50597, United States
9. Fenelon Place Elevator
Of unique places to go in Iowa, the Fenelon Place Elevator ranks pretty high.
Located in Dubuque, IA, this interesting attraction is a three-foot-wide funicular railway that is said to be both the shortest and steepest elevator in the world.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Landmarks, the Fenelon Place Elevator is 296 feet in length and lifts passengers from Fourth Street to Fenelon Place.
From Fenelon Place, passengers are treated to a majestic view of downtown Dubuque, the Mississippi River, and three surrounding states.
Of note, the elevator ascends and descends the bluff by way of a railway track pulled by counterbalanced cables to and from.
Open daily from early April through November, the Fenelon Place Elevator is a neat historical attraction that families can do on a budget.
Significantly, round-trip tickets aboard the elevator are only four dollars per adult while children under five ride for free.
If you’re looking for neat Iowa attractions to visit today or this weekend, the Fenelon Place Elevator is a good way to see the city.
Address: 512 Fenelon Pl, Dubuque, IA 52001, United States
10. American Gothic Barn
This barn hidden by trees with no indication of its existence is a roadside attraction on Route 30 in Mount Vernon, IA.
Parodied after Grant Wood’s famous “American Gothic,” the barn is completely painted in a copied image of the Wood painting.
The barn depicts a dreary farmer beside his insipid daughter, often mistaken for his wife.
The backdrop of the painting is the farmer’s home in the American Gothic style of architecture.
The entire exterior front wall of the barn features this parodied painting.
The other three walls of the barn feature full-color images of bison roaming the prairie and Iowa’s countryside.
The painted barn is private property but was painted by commissioned artist Mark Benesh.
Located on the south side of the highway, the American Gothic Barn, alluded to in so many works of literature, is a great place to stop and snap a few pictures.
One of many fun tourist attractions to see while driving through the state, you’ll enjoy seeing the barn in person.
Address: 1278 US-30, Mt Vernon, IA 52314, United States
11. Pottawattamie Squirrel Cage Jail
This old-time decommissioned jail, located in Council Bluffs, Iowa, was built in 1885.
Its unique revolving design is how it acquired its unusual name.
Today, the jail offers public tours to visitors to IA.
Technically the style of jail is called a rotary jail which speaks to its cylindrical floor-to-ceiling jail cells.
This design style is so unique in jails that Pottawattamie Squirrel Cage Jail is one of only three of its kind in the entire country.
The design pedagogy was to minimize prisoner to prisoner interaction.
If these kinds of tourist attractions interest you, the Historical Society of Pottawattamie County opens the doors of the jail seasonally for public tours.
During a visit, you’ll get to see and inspect the whirling hoosegow (the interesting name for the rotary-style cell).
Although the mechanical cell no longer moves, it’s still one of many cool things to see in IA.
Address: 226 Pearl St, Council Bluffs, IA 51503, United States
12. Zombie Burger + Drink Lab
A visit to this unique eatery is one of loads of delightful things to do in Iowa.
Known for its inventive flavor profiles and smashed Burgers in a post-apocalyptic setting, Zombie Burger + Drink Lab is both delicious and fun.
Reminiscent of old-timey burger wagons, Zombie Burger + Drink Lab combines a spooky zombie theme with amazing food and expert preparations.
In addition to the awesome burgers, this establishment also boasts amazing milkshakes and fries.
Come for the burgers, but leave having tasted a bit of everything.
Offering both full service and quick-service dining options, no matter how you patronize the restaurant you are sure to be delighted.
The drink lab features libations as creative as the unique burger recipes they serve.
Additionally, the restaurant offers patio seating for an alfresco experience.
Moreover, the restaurant serves delightful appetizers, an awesome kids’ menu, great desserts, and an overall cool experience.
With so many unique places to see in Iowa, be sure to not miss out on Zombie Burger + Drink Lab.
Address: 300 E Grand Ave, Des Moines, IA 50309, United States
13. Figge Art Museum
Notably, the mission of Figge Art Museum is to bring people and art together.
Through astounding exhibitions, inventive displays, educational opportunities, and the preservation of important artifacts, the museum is a premier institution for art in the Midwest.
The museum’s building itself, built entirely of glass, sits upon the banks of the Mississippi River.
As such, the landscape on which the museum is set is just as beautiful as the museum’s contents.
Founded in 1925, the museum is home to a plethora of European, American, and Spanish Vicegral artwork.
Moreover, the museum houses an awesome Grant Wood archive as well as the works of many regional artists.
There’s also an extensive collection of Haitian art as well as contemporary artwork.
Besides all of the enjoyable and cultural artwork you’ll experience during a tour of the museum, there are many welcome amenities as well.
The museum is home to the Figge Cafe which serves delightful lunches as well as an awesome gift shop wherein you can purchase unique souvenirs.
If you’re looking for awesome stuff to do in Iowa, make sure to visit Figge Art Museum.
Address: 225 W 2nd St, Davenport, IA 52801, United States
14. National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium
The riverfront campus of the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium is located in Dubuque, Iowa.
Part museum and part aquarium, this attraction marries marine science and local history for a wonderful and unique attraction to visit.
If you were looking for unique things to do in Iowa, we highly recommend this destination.
The main goal of this museum and aquarium is to educate visitors and bring history and the river to life.
Some of this attraction’s main features include a stingray touch exhibit, behind-the-scenes aquarium tours, stingray feedings, and a 4-D theater that features educational programming throughout each day; this is a great attraction for families with small children.
Two of the most popular showings include “Mississippi Journey” and “River of Dreams.”
Be sure to head over to the theater on the hour each day to check out one of these awesome showings.
One of many fascinating things to do in Iowa, the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium should take a top spot on your travel plan.
Address: 350 E 3rd St, Dubuque, IA 52001, United States
15. National Czech & Slovak Museum and Library
Located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the National Czech & Slovak Museum and Library is an institution dedicated to the preservation of Slovak and Czech history.
If you’re interested in educational places to visit while in IA, this destination should make your list.
Through hands-on and interactive exhibits, visitors get to know about the history of Slovak and Czech people.
Notably, the museum is home to both permanent and traveling exhibits.
Some of the permanent exhibits include immigrant homes, a Joyce Anderson Glass collection, and a Moravian exhibit.
Additionally, the library has magazines, articles, books, and literature by and about Slovak and Czech people.
Some of the library’s popular topics of interest include music, art, immigration, biographies, and food/cooking.
Finally, the National Czech & Slovak Museum and Library provides educational resources and workshops for visitors and locals alike.
If you are in the market for interesting things to do in Iowa, we highly recommend this destination.
Address: 1400 Inspiration Pl SW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52404, United States
16. Des Moines Art Center
One of the best things to do in Iowa, the Des Moines Art Center was established in 1948.
Collections at the Museum include paintings, sculptures, modern art, and media.
Through its unique collections, exhibits, and educational workshops, the center provides immersive art opportunities to the public.
Significantly, the center believes in “the power of art to inspire personal, political, and social transformation.”
Through contemporary art exhibits, the center is committed to representing diverse peoples and sharing diverse experiences.
Of the many awesome places to visit in Iowa, Des Moines Art Center’s current exhibits include one on Central American sculptures, Latin American art, and more.
The center’s permanent collections include print materials, photographs, work on paper, paintings, sculptures, decorative arts, manuscripts, books, videos, and textiles.
Of note, admission to the museum is free to all.
The museum has a lovely gift shop as well as a cafe-style restaurant with yummy lunch selections.
One of the best museums in all of Iowa, Des Moines Art Center should make it to the top of your itinerary.
Address: 4700 Grand Ave, Des Moines, IA 50312, United States
17. Amana Colonies
One of many interesting places to visit in Iowa, the Amana Colonies are a series of seven villages on more than 20,000 acres in east-central IA.
The villages were established by German-speaking settlers in the early 1700s.
With tons of things to see and do, sightseeing attractions out the wazoo, famous places, and vacation spots, the Amana Colonies have so much to offer.
Famous for its interest in history, the Amana Colonies are home to the Amana Heritage Museum which preserves and shares that history.
Furthermore, the villages are the site of several special events and festivals per year, all of which reflect the colonies’ unique culture and heritage.
If you are into shopping, the colonies have many wonderful small shops specializing in all sorts of crafts and industries.
Additionally, there is a delightful art scene that you will certainly enjoy in the Amana villages.
With loads of entertainment and tons of recreational activities, the Amana Colonies are a must do during a trip to IA.
Address: 622 46th Ave, Amana, IA 52203, United States
18. Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center
Lewis and Clark, famed leaders of a military expedition that explored the Louisiana Purchase and Pacific Northwest, are who this awesome center is named for.
If you are narrowing down unique Iowa attractions, be sure to add this to your list.
This interactive and animated Museum explores the famed expedition that took place in 1804.
Centrally located in Sioux City, IA, the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center has permanent and traveling exhibits that explore the death and burial of Sergeant Charles Floyd at its center.
Floyd, notably, was the first US soldier to lose his life west of the Mississippi River.
The story of Lewis and Clark is too big for the center to tell, so its main focus is on the duo’s exploration of the local area.
The tour includes films, a theater experience, tours for students and groups, and specialized tours.
The specialized tours focus on Lewis and Clark, the Marine Corps, and the famed Lewis and Clark expedition among other topics.
One of many fun tourist attractions in Iowa, we highly recommend the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.
Address: 900 Larsen Park Rd, Sioux City, IA 51103, United States
19. Iowa 80 Trucking Museum
The Iowa 80 Trucking Museum is one of the best free places to go in Iowa.
Located in Walcott, IA, this attraction offers free admission to its museum.
Significantly, the museum is home to a bevy of artifacts, antique models, and memorabilia that display trucking’s unique history.
Of note, the museum is dedicated to restoring and preserving antique trucks and trucking artifacts.
Through doing so, the museum keeps the history of trucking alive.
It’s easy to forget the role trucking plays in our everyday lives, but in fact, trucking hugely impacts every one of us.
On display at the Museum are amazing trucks, over 100 antique trucks, more than 300 gas station signs, and 24 vintage gas pumps.
Significantly, the museum also has an extensive collection of vintage toy trucks.
Finally, each month the museum features a truck of the month whose history is shared and about which fun facts are boasted.
Of so many unique Iowa attractions, Iowa 80 Trucking museum is super interesting.
Address: 505 Sterling Dr, Walcott, IA 52773, United States
20. Field of Dreams
One of a handful of famous things to see in Iowa, Field of Dreams was the site of the wildly popular movie of the same name.
Located in Dyersville, Iowa, Field of Dreams is the baseball field upon which much of the movie was filmed.
Released in 1989, this Best Picture of the Year Academy Award nominee is a place where traditional values and a simple lifestyle are valued above all else.
Iowa welcomes visitors to tour this iconic pop culture site.
If you plan to be in the area, the field is open daily most months of the year.
Guests are welcome to meander the field and hang out as long as they wish.
Admission, notably, is free for all.
One of the most popular spots on the field is “The Stretch” which is a traditional baseball concession stand.
There you can purchase beverages, popcorn, peanuts, ice cream, and more.
If you’re wondering what to do when you visit Iowa, consider checking out Field of Dreams.
Address: 28995 Lansing Rd, Dyersville, IA 52040, United States
21. Reiman Gardens
If you’re looking for the best places to see in Iowa, be sure to visit Reiman Gardens.
Situated on 17 acres of university-owned property, these Iowa State University gardens are a magnificent sight to see.
As part of the University’s mission to educate students in the science of horticulture, Reiman Gardens opened in the early 1900s.
Named for a University president whose interest was in horticulture, Reiman Gardens is a beautifully kept property that visitors are welcome to tour at their leisure.
During a visit to Reiman Gardens, you’ll enjoy an ever-changing and evolving living garden.
As the seasons change so do the themes of each garden.
You’ll have the opportunity to explore many varieties of plants, aromatic herbs, rose gardens, towering palm trees, species specific to prairie land, and much more.
The garden is also home to more than 800 beautiful and colorful butterflies who make their home in the garden’s tropical sanctuary.
One of the best places to go in all of Iowa, Reiman Gardens is a delightful place to see.
Address: 1407 University Blvd, Ames, IA 50011, United States
22. Des Moines Farmers Market
The Des Moines Farmers Market is a place where urbanity meets rurality.
If you are looking for beautiful places and unique things to do while visiting Iowa, be sure to check it out.
Of note, the market supports and hosts 300 local entrepreneurs.
Included among them are farmers, artists, bakers, crafters, and more.
The market is open from early May to late October and can be visited every weekend.
Whether you’re looking for local artwork or delicious produce, Des Moines Farmers Market is the place to be.
If you’re wondering what to see in Iowa during the winter months, Des Moines Farmers Market also hosts a drive-thru winter farmer’s market.
However, no matter the time of year you plan to visit, Des Moines Farmers Market is a great place to shop purveyors of fine, quality goods.
One of the top 10 points of interest in Iowa, we highly recommend visiting Des Moines Farmers Market.
Address: 300 Court Ave, Des Moines, IA 50309, United States
23. Brunnier Art Museum
Another one of Iowa State University’s interesting places includes the Brunnier Art Museum.
This museum has an awesome collection of decorative art.
A unique facet of the art industry, the museum is one of the best sightseeing destinations in IA.
Founded in 1975 and located within a performing arts complex, the museum is truly one of a kind.
Featuring decorative art exhibits like ceramics collections, doll collections, enameled metals, carpets, and more, Brunnier Art Museum is truly spectacular.
The university collection also includes paintings, sculptures, textiles, furniture, and other decorative art objects.
Visiting the museum is free, however, a donation is suggested.
The museum is open year-round except for one month in the summer.
If you’ll be passing through Iowa State University and are wondering what to do, we highly recommend checking out Brunnier Art Museum.
Address: Scheman Bldg, 295, 1800 Center Dr, Ames, IA 50011, United States
24. Adventureland Park
This family-owned amusement park is nestled in Altoona, IA, and is open from late April through September.
This family-fun destination is worth a visit as it features over 100 attractions like rides, shows, and games.
With rides for children and adults of all ages, roller coasters galore, kiddie rides, thrill rides, and even many water rides, Adventureland Park is sure to please your whole family.
In addition to the many awesome rides, the park hosts fabulous shows as well.
Some of the shows include an American Puppet show, a concert series, a comedy review, a juggling act, a circus show, and even local musical artists.
Additionally, the park is home to nearly two dozen eateries serving up awesome lunch and dinner selections, delectable confections, libations, and more.
Near to the park are a local inn and a campground for lodgements.
With so many fun activities in one place, visiting Adventureland Park is a no-brainer.
Address: 3200 Adventureland Dr, Altoona, IA 50009, United States
25. Pappajohn Sculpture Park
Situated within Western Gateway Park in Des Moines, IA, Pappajohn Sculpture Park is more than four acres of beautiful artistic craftsmanship.
The park opened in 2009 and is home to more than 24 amazing sculptures.
Of note, the park is located in a downtown city area making it a pedestrian-friendly attraction.
Designed with families in mind, Pappajohn Sculpture Park is a fun sightseeing attraction.
When visiting the park, it is recommended that you print your own visitors’ guide because they are not provided at the park.
The guides will direct you in your exploration of the park.
Additionally, all of the exhibits in the park are created on-site.
When visiting the park, you can experience the creative process as well as enjoy the beauty of the artwork.
Appreciating sculptures is different than visiting a museum; you can crouch, lie down, and observe the art from all angles.
Some of the unique pieces currently on display include a series of 12 faces that represent the months of the year, giant spiders, a pumpkin piece, and many others.
During your visit, you are welcome to enjoy a picnic and photography.
If you’re wondering what to do when visiting the city of Des Moines, this park is a great thing to see.
Address: 1330 Grand Ave, Des Moines, IA 50309, United States
Situated in the heart of Cedar Rapids, IA, this 26-acre estate is one of the best points of interest for travelers to the state.
The Brucemore, a mansion fashioned in the Queen-Anne style, sits on the park-like property.
Built in the late 1800s, Brucemore is a 19th-century mansion fraught with the history of three local families.
Of note, the mansion hosts daily property tours, concerts, theatrical productions, educational programs, and more, each of which celebrates the culture of the city, the property, and the families who resided there.
When visiting the property you are welcome to enjoy guided or self-guided tours.
Through a tour, you’ll learn about the three families credited with its current existence: the Sinclairs who built the mansion, the Douglasses who transformed it, and the Halls who donated it to their community.
The tour showcases the history of the families, the renovations of the property, as well as shares period-specific artifacts and documents.
One of many interesting activities you could check out this weekend, the Brucemore is a historical delight.
Address: 2160 Linden Dr SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52403, United States
27. Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden
This 14-acre botanical garden is one of the most lovely sites to visit in Des Moines, Iowa.
A surprising yet welcoming attraction in the middle of downtown Des Moines, the garden brings botanicals to life in an urban setting.
The botanical garden cultivates a wide variety of plants and in so doing brings people together.
With seven acres of outdoor gardens, there is so much beauty to see in one place.
Visitors to the garden will enjoy a storied Bonsai collection, tropical and exotic plants, interesting leaves and flowers, and everything in between.
With both indoor and outdoor gardens to explore you can enjoy new varieties with the changing of the seasons.
The indoor geodesic-domed conservatory has a gardeners’ show house and production greenhouses that are awe-inspiring.
The outdoor gardens showcase distinct Midwestern horticulture.
One of the top places to visit in Iowa, we highly recommend Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden.
Address: 909 Robert D. Ray Dr, Des Moines, IA 50309, United States
28. Villisca Axe Murder House
Calling all true crime fans!
The Villisca Axe Murder House was the site of the 1912 savage murder of eight individuals.
Also, the subject of a recent documentary, the murder remains unsolved to this day.
The story goes that on a dark evening in June of 1912, eight sleeping people were bludgeoned to death by an ax-wielding murderer.
The victims included six members of the Moore family and two family friends.
Nearly 110 years later, the murder remains a mystery.
If the spooky and morbid tickle your fancy, you may be interested in visiting this unsettling destination.
In the present day, visitors have the option of touring the property by daylight or through overnight tours.
The house is said to be haunted by the descendants so choose wisely.
A bucket list destination for true crime fans, this attraction is intended for adults only.
Address: 508 E 2nd St, Villisca, IA 50864, United States
29. Rathbun Lake Aquapark
If you’re researching things to do in Iowa during the summer months, be sure to check out Rathbun Lake Aquapark.
This outdoor water park resides on the same property as Honey Creek Resort.
The park is open during the summer season from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
If you are a guest at Honey Creek Resort, visiting the park is free with your stay.
However, if you are just passing through, you can purchase tickets individually as well.
Situated upon Rathbun Lake are many floating water apparatuses.
Suitable for children and adults alike, the aquapark features a water trampoline, an action tower, a mountain cliff obstacle, and a water slide among other fun attractions.
The park’s most popular attraction is called Zulu, which is a five-foot-high climbing wall that is dismounted by an exhilarating water slide.
The park has so many exciting water attractions that it’s no wonder families love Rathbun Lake Aquapark.
Address: 12633 Resort Dr, Moravia, IA 52571, United States
30. Surf Ballroom and Museum
This historic rock and roll landmark is situated in the heart of Clear Lake, Iowa.
Surf Ballroom is an Iowa institution in addition to being a historical landmark.
At its opening in 1934, guests could pay $1 to dance on a small hardwood dance floor.
Since then, the ballroom has evolved into a premier concert hall.
Named for the oceanic murals and sea-island theme, Surf Ballroom and Museum once hosted old-style dancing, but today is a more modern version of that.
Visitors can now tour the ballroom and its museum year-round, Monday through Friday.
Surf Ballroom offers a guided tour experience with narration, video presentations, and more.
Tours last for about an hour and a half during which you can also tour the Fox House, home of a long-time dance hall operator, that is situated directly across the street from the hall.
Your tour group will have a blast learning about Surf Club’s captivating history.
Address: 460 N Shore Dr, Clear Lake, IA 50428, United States
31. The Iowa Theatre
Built in 1899 and originally the site of a grocery store and meat market, The Iowa Theater opened its doors for movie showings in 1914.
After many changes to the establishment, The Iowa Theater reopened in 1928 as the venue it is today: a restored cinema with gorgeous balcony seating, huge oak doors to welcome guests, and a unique marquis sign.
In 1972, the theatre began hosting live performances with a production of The Mousetrap.
Today, audiences can enjoy both cinematic features and live performances.
Additionally, the theater hosts master classes and performance technique programs.
Essentially, the theater is all-encompassing theatrical experiences.
From cinema to live performances and workshops to audition venues, The Iowa Theater does it all.
If you plan to be in IA this weekend, we highly recommend visiting The Iowa Theater for something fun to do.
Address: 121 John Wayne Dr, Winterset, IA 50273, United States
32. John Wayne Birthplace and Museum
This museum and attraction is an American institution.
John Wayne was an American actor who embodied the brute cowboy image and personified patriotism.
The John Wayne Birthplace and Museum were established in 1982, three years after the legend’s death.
The 6,100 square foot museum pays homage to the late icon.
Of note the museum is adjacent to the home where the actor was born; both properties are available for tours.
With an excessively diverse exhibit of John Wayne artifacts, original movie posters, film costumes, important written documents, and artwork, there are tons to see for the John Wayne enthusiast in your group.
Additionally, you can even sneak a peek at one of John Wayne’s last customized cars.
The facility even includes a movie theatre wherein you can enjoy a short documentary on John Wayne’s life.
If you’re looking for historical, American activities to do in Iowa, be sure to pay John Wayne Birthplace and Museum a visit.
Address: 205 S John Wayne Dr, Winterset, IA 50273, United States
33. Living History Farms
This astounding attraction is a 500-acre open-air museum in Urbandale, IA.
Through their admirable mission of educating visitors about agricultural history, all are welcome to explore the farm.
Significantly, visitors to the farm will enjoy interactive displays and an outdoor museum that tells how Iowans changed the fertile prairies of the Midwest into productive farmland.
Through exploring walking trails and/or tractor-drawn cart rides, visitors can survey the vast expanse of verdant land.
With a series of unique farms on this huge property, you can visit a pioneer farm whereupon crops are harvested, a horse-powered farm that cultivates corn, oats, and hay, a recreated 1876 town, and more.
If you happen to work up an appetite during your tour of the farms, be sure to check out the snack shop at Flynn Mansion for a quick lunch of pre-packaged food and snack items.
Finally, souvenirs and memorabilia can be purchased from the Marketplace Museum Store.
This wonderful experience at Living History Farms is a must-see when you visit IA.
Address: 11121 Hickman Rd, Urbandale, IA 50322, United States
34. Iowa Aviation Museum
Located in the Greenville Municipal Airport in Greenville, IA, the Iowa Aviation Museum preserves and shares the state’s aviation history.
Within the museum is the Iowa Aviation Hall of Fame which pays tribute to and honors Iowans who have significantly impacted the field of aviation.
On display at the museum, there are an astounding series of vintage planes.
Included in the exhibitions are a 1941 Australian Tiger Moth, a 1946 Piper J-3 Cub, a 1928 Curtiss Robin, a 1946 Taylorcraft BC2, and many other amazing aircraft.
If you’re planning your visit to the Iowa Aviation Museum, be advised that the museum is only open from April through November.
The Museum also hosts special events each month so be sure to check out the events calendar before your visit.
Whether traveling with history or aviation buffs, Iowa Aviation Museum is a family-friendly attraction that doesn’t disappoint.
Address: 2251 Airport Rd, Greenfield, IA 50849, United States
35. Pikes Peak State Park
Pikes Peak State Park is a gorgeous outdoor space in McGregor, IA that draws visitors from near and far.
Featuring a 500-foot bluff that overlooks the Mississippi River, juxtaposed by the Wisconsin River, the park is full of natural resources and thousands of acres of outdoor recreational possibilities.
Famous for its magnificent views, visitors to the park enjoy miles of natural scenery, hiking trails, Bridal Veil Falls, scenic overlooks, and breathtaking views of the state.
When planning a trip to Pikes Peak State Park, you may choose beginner, moderate, or expert hiking trails, you might stay at one of several campsites available in the park, you could reserve a shelter for rustic stone picnics, you could explore Effigy Mounds National Monument, and many other fun activities.
Finally, the park has many convenient amenities, like playgrounds, concessions, modern restrooms, and a dump station.
Whether planning to visit for the day or many consecutive days, Pikes Peak State Park is a beautiful travel destination.
Address: 32264 Pikes Peak Rd, McGregor, IA 52157, United States
36. Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad
This Heritage railroad operates out of Boone County in Iowa and provides freight and passenger excursions.
With a serious focus on preserving the history of Iowa’s railroads, Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad provides steam locomotive tours that bring you on a beautiful journey through the Iowa countryside.
The railroad is home to many vintage trains that still run today.
When visiting this well-loved attraction you can choose from a few different excursions.
The Frasier Train Classic Excursion will find you aboard a 1920s coach that will give amazing views of the river valley.
You might also enjoy the climate-controlled comfort of the train’s bi-level commuter coach.
Additionally, there are lunch, dinner, and picnic train rides.
These rides perfectly marry old-timey train experiences with delightful mealtime experiences.
Finally, you may also elect to ride the electric trolley, motor car rides, or even charter a train.
Occasionally, the railroad also hosts children’s events like a ride upon Thomas the Train.
This family fun attraction is highly recommended, especially for train enthusiasts.
Address: 225 10th St, Boone, IA 50036, United States
37. Arnolds Park Amusement Park
This awesome park is great for family fun in or around the Arnolds Park area of IA.
Home to thrilling amusements like family rides and kiddie rides, Arnolds Park Amusement Park is fun for all.
Additionally, the park has a raceway where adults and kids alike can get behind the wheel on a simulated race track.
The park is also home to the Maritime Museum and Arnolds Park Museum, visits to which are included with your admission to the park.
Moreover, there are tons of fun things to do around the park besides the rides and museums.
There are many fun eateries like concession stands, cafes, ice cream shops, and more.
The park’s Midway Games will allow you and your friends to play exciting games and win big prizes.
Finally, Arnolds Park Amusement Park hosts many special events throughout the year.
One of the most popular events is Movies at the Park which are free lakeside presentations.
With so many fun amusements in one place, it’s no wonder visitors have been patronizing the park for so long.
Address: 37 Lake St, Arnolds Park, IA 51331, United States
38. The Bridges of Madison County
The famed series of covered bridges in Madison County, IA, are the bridges for which the famous movie is also named.
Starring big-screen icon, Clint Eastwood, “The Bridges of Madison County” is a romantic drama set in 1965 Iowa.
Today, visitors come from all over to visit the bridges.
Half of the six bridges are accessed by dirt and gravel roads, so use caution as you pass through.
Some of the bridges are as old as the late eighteen hundreds and some are rather long while others are quite short.
The charm of the covered bridges is, however, delightful.
They are like something out of a Thomas Kincaid painting.
One of the lovely ways to enjoy a tour of the bridges is by way of the Covered Bridges Scenic Byway which offers visitors a mapped journey through each of the six bridges.
Whether out for a scenic drive or looking for a site for some amazing pictures, anytime is a great time to visit the famous Bridges of Madison County.
Address: Iowa, United States
39. Castles of Ida Grove
Like a scene from Medieval times, but set in the grassy plains of Iowa, are the Castles of Ida Grove.
Built by a local multimillionaire whose riches were earned through an illustrious career as an inventor and industrialist, the castles are a most unique scene.
Situated along Highway 175 in Ida Grove, IA, the Castles of Ida Grove is a most unexpected sight.
These unusually placed buildings were built to inspire Iowan tourism and that they do.
Essentially, the castles are authentic-looking stone structures with battlements, curtain walls, towers, and gatehouses.
In total, seven different castles, all home to different establishments, are dispersed throughout Ida Grove.
Some can be seen from the outside only, as an office space, while others can be entirely visited.
For instance, Golf Course Bridge and Skate Palace are true castles from the outside but sporting venues within.
These truly unique castles are an awesome sight to see in Iowa.
Address: Highway 175, Ida Grove, IA, United States
40. Better Homes & Gardens Test Garden
Notably, the fourth best-selling magazine in the US, “Better Homes & Gardens” focuses on topics related to homes, cooking, gardening, healthy living, and other germane subjects.
Situated in the heart of Des Moines, IA is the Better Homes & Gardens Test Garden.
This cool attraction allows readers and gardening enthusiasts to step into the pages of their favorite magazine.
A test garden is a place where visitors can enjoy gorgeous display gardens and witness the testing grounds for featured plant varieties as well as magazine photography sites.
During a visit to the Test Garden, you are welcome to meander lovely paved walking paths while enjoying the lush plant life.
The popular focal point of the garden is a magnificent glass and steel fountain that you have to see for yourself.
The garden has delightful patio tables and benches throughout the garden for observing and lounging.
Whether a fan of the famous magazine or just really into the art of gardening, you’re sure to enjoy this IA hotspot.
Address: 1716 Locust St, Des Moines, IA 50309, United States
41. Grant Wood Murals
Famed Iowa artist, Grant Wood, who lived from 1892-1942, is the man for whom this amazing attraction is named.
Best known for his paintings which depicted American Gothic themes, Wood’s largest and most popular paintings are on display at the Iowa State University Parks Library.
Several walls of the library proudly display Wood’s murals, many in the “When Tillage Begins” foyer.
Wood’s work primarily depicts agrarian-themed art, regional in nature, that reveals Iowan people doing the things they naturally do.
For instance, Wood’s murals show farmhands hard at work, veterinarians tending to animals, civil engineers in their zone, and other Iowan people and industries.
Wood’s work is blue-collar and relatable.
As such, anyone can happily enjoy and appreciate Grant Wood Murals.
The unique opportunity to see Wood’s work up close and personal in a university setting rather than at a museum is a testament to its relatability.
Best of all, visitors are welcome to tour the library and Wood’s Murals free of charge.
Address: Iowa State University, 701 Morrill Road, Ames, IA, United States
42. Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum
This museum, also known as The National Norwegian-American Museum and Folk Art School, contains nearly 35,000 historical artifacts, 12 buildings, and a library.
Notably, the museum houses the most extensive collection of Norwegian-American artifacts worldwide.
In essence, the museum explores the American experience through the eyes of Norwegian-Americans.
With an epic collection of contemporary Norwegian folk and fine arts, visitors to the museum get to reflect on this unique facet of American history.
Open seven days a week, anytime is a good time to visit the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum.
Some of the thought-provoking exhibits you’ll see during a tour of the museum include a ship gallery, a wood gallery, artifacts from 19th century Norway, decorative paintings, and more, all while immersively learning about Norwegian traditions and customs.
Notably, the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum’s collections include thousands of contemporary art, folk art, furnishings, tools, fine art, historic structures, clothing, accessories, and library archives.
This world-class historical museum is a must-see when visiting IA.
Address: 520 W Water St, Decorah, IA 52101, United States
43. National Farm Toy Museum
This unique Iowa attraction is a place the whole family can enjoy.
Located in Dyersville, IA, National Farm Toy Museum is home to scaled models, replicas, and toys modeled after farm equipment.
With two jam-packed floors filled with displays based on agricultural equipment, the museum shares a unique and underrated facet of Iowan life.
Open every day of the week, you can stop by no matter what day you’ll be passing through town.
Current exhibits at the Museum include displays on tractor law, a handmade wooden collection, a manufacturing showcase, and John Deere tractors, among others.
Additionally, the museum has a collection of hundreds of toy tractors.
Finally, the Museum’s Hall of Fame recognizes leaders in the agricultural industry.
The museum often hosts special events like an annual farm toy show and a national farm toy show.
The establishment also has a great gift shop where you can purchase souvenirs and clothing to remember your visit with.
This unique niche of art is worth a visit when you’re in IA.
Address: 1110 16th Ave SE, Dyersville, IA 52040, United States
44. King’s Pointe Outdoor Water Park Resort
Kings Pointe Outdoor Water Park is the place to be during hot Iowa summers.
Perfect for adults and children alike, this place is a good time for all.
Of note, this attraction has both an outdoor and indoor water park.
Between the two, there are tube slides, speed slides, a lazy river, a wave pool, kiddie rides, and so much more.
Other park amenities include a miniature golf course and a full 18-hole golf course.
The resort is home to world-class accommodations like sunrise cottages, traditional hotel rooms, and suites.
The resort is also home to many dining options as well.
With restaurants serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you can find quick-serve options as well as fine dining options and everything in between.
At King’s Pointe Outdoor Waterpark Resort, you can make a day of it or an entire vacation of your visit.
Either way, this awesome attraction is sure to delight your whole family.
Address: 1520 E Lakeshore Dr, Storm Lake, IA 50588, United States
Start Planning Your Trip To Iowa
One of the most beautiful places to visit in the Midwest, Iowa is full of lively entertainment, beautiful scenery, historical landmarks, excellent restaurants, thrilling attractions, and so much more.
Moreover, the only state bordered by two major rivers, Iowa is fraught with natural resources, beautiful nature, and outdoor recreation.
The many awesome state parks serve as a muse for abundant outdoor activities like hiking, biking, kayaking, camping, and more.
Furthermore, this relatively small state is big on places for merrymaking, amusement, and respite.
One of the top places to visit in the Midwest, IA has so much to do.
If you’re planning a trip to the Hawkeye State, strongly consider some of the amazing destinations listed herein.