The Things to Do in Iowa – Specific activities and locations

DES MOINES, IA - NOVEMBER 06: The State Capital of Iowa reflects the sunset on November 6, 2018 in Des Moines, Iowa. Democratic challenger Fred Hubbell and Republican incumbent Gov. Kim Reynolds, as well as Libertarian Jake Porter and Independent Gary Siegwarth, are facing off in the state's gubernatorial race. (Photo by David Greedy/Getty Images)

Yes, there actually are things to do in Iowa. Yes, we do grow “some” potatoes, but no, we aren’t Idaho. Yes, you might call us located near Chicago, but no, we aren’t on the side door, Ohio, to the eastern states.

We do have many farms in Iowa. You would probably be shocked to see up-close the equipment used by most farmers these days. It’s not that little red or gray tractor you often see on TV or elsewhere.

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There are many farms in Iowa – image by

No, our tractors today must be huge to pull the combines and planters and other equipment needed to be a successful and up-to-date farmer. Each machine costs several hundred thousand dollars and one trip across a field covers much territory. You may want to stop in and visit with an Iowa farmer, but don’t stop him when he’s rushing to get the field crops in or during harvest time.

Harvest time in Iowa farms

A few farms may have some chickens and some other livestock. More farmers are growing vegetable and flower crops for Iowa Farmer’s Markets. If you’re from out of state, a must stop is the Farmer’s market located on Court Avenue in Downtown Des Moines. Des Moines is the capitol of Iowa, located in the center of Iowa criss-crossed by Interstates 35 going north and south and 80 headed east and west.

Iowa Farmer’s Markets – image by

Come early [7:00] on Saturday morning to be assured of a good parking space and very fresh produce and home-made goodies. Smells are mixed, but the hot coffee and huge cinnamon rolls will lead your nose directly to that vendor.

Iowa’s small towns have suffered because of closing of schools and fewer children. Many young people attend Iowa’s excellent area community colleges to help hold down expenses for a 4 year college education. They may transfer to Iowa State at Ames, The University of Iowa at Iowa City, or Northern Iowa University in Cedar Falls.

The University of Iowa at Iowa City – image by

Each school is well known for exceptional learning opportunities. Iowa also has many excellent private schools. Students attend from Iowa, other parts of the US and from around the world.

Small towns have great annual celebrations which are supported by their communities. You’ll find sauerkraut, watermelon and sweet corn days – just to name a few. The town’s oldest residents will lead the parade in a shiny convertible and the Veteran’s will proudly carry the flag they fought for.

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Sweet Corn Festival in Iowa – image by

You’ll find baseball, hockey, football, soccer, dance, farm shows, musical shows and venues from classic to country easily throughout Iowa. Des Moines encourages you to visit their very beautiful golden-domed capitol building and spacious green grounds filled with statues and benches and walls.

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Golden Dome of Iowa – image by

The Botanical Center is going to re-build itself, the Science Center makes a grand Divinci art show within the reach of all. Visit the Blank Park Zoo. The monkeys and lions are my very favorites. Yes, one of those monkeys acts just like my brother!

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Do not forget to visit Blank Park Zoo – image by

Insurance seems to be the industry of choice around Iowa. Many Iowans receive their paycheck from one of these long-time Iowa companies. You’ll also find many small businesses and corporations.

People of all ages and all walks of life serve those in need of services or goods. These people take great risks and work hard to help provide others with needed products both locally and throughout the world.

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Theaters and the Des Moines Symphony are well attended and great shows come to our doors. Housing seems quite inexpensive to many coming here from the coasts and other large US cities. They love the 20 minute drive to work that is the average Des Moines drive time.

Des Moines Symphony – image by

Our winters can be cold and our summers the opposite. That’s part of our changing four seasons and we have great year around activities. We congregate at the Iowa State Fair – The Great State Fair – in August. You’ll find anything you want and some you don’t. People watching can be delightful, as can sampling the many tasty treats.

Iowa State Fair
Iowa State Fair – image by

You can see baby pigs being born, pet the animals and ask the 4-H kids questions about their animals or things they’ve made. You can eat most anything on a stick – including a pork chop.

Travel in northwestern Iowa to West Bend and you’ll find a world famous grotto. Two great vacation spots are Okoboji and Clear Lake.

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Clear Lake Iowa – image by

Take a trip through the Amana Colonies and Kalona for old-world type scenarios. You’ll find furniture, baskets, other wooden products, fine wines, baked goods, excellent cheeses, noodles and candies being freshly made.

Amana Colonies have vintage view – image by

Visit the Czech Village in Cedar Rapids that is just beginning to move forward after the Great Flood of 1998 that almost ruined the city. Valley Junction in West Des Moines has overcome the terrible flooding in its downtown district by careful rebuilding and updating after the floods of ’93.

Czech Village in Cedar Rapids
Czech Village in Cedar Rapids – image by

Take a day to visit those proprietors and enjoy lunch with friends. Stop in at Parkersburg, a small town that was virtually destroyed by a tornado. You’ll be able to visit with the people and see how they joined together to move their communities forward.

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Parkersburg – image by

If you enjoy casinos, Iowa has several small, but fun places to stop. Most have small hotels nearby so you could spend the night and celebrate your winnings.

Northeastern Iowa is hilly and provides fall color equal to none. The western central area of Iowa seems like one huge farm with only a few small towns dotting landscapes every 10 miles or so. You’ll notice new wind turbine farms and many farm cooperatives that provide services for farms in their areas.

The Things to Do in Iowa - Specific activities and locations
Wind turbine farm – image by

Farm and city folk alike open their homes for great bed and breakfasts. Check ahead and spend the night. You’ll enjoy the visit and learn so much.

During a late summer or fall visit, stop at Muskatine in southeastern Iowa. Muskatine melons are wonderful and the basic original type of melon grows so well in that small section of sandy soil in that area of the state. The sweet juice will drip down your chin and you’ll be asking for more.

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Muskatine is nice when visiting in fall – image by

Of course, you’ll also want some Iowa sweet corn, probably the yellow and white mix of peaches and cream, during the hot summer months. It’s not hard to find as vendors pull their pickups under a shade tree and pull out their “sweet corn for sale” sign.

It’s true, we don’t have mountains and oceans, but we do have lakes and water parks and some fun ski hills for winter events.

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Our people try to be friendly and will easily start up a conversation with you. Stop at a small town restaurant or sample the big city – for big bucks dining.

Don’t be afraid to ask for directions or whatever you need. Someone will soon be able to help you. Come visit Iowa and then come back again. We’ll come see your oceans and mountains in trade.

The State of Iowa – A Brief introduction

Some other recommended places

Explore Downtown Iowa City

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Downtown Sioux City Iowa – image by

Free entertainment is plentiful in downtown Iowa City. Consider a stroll through the pedestrian plaza in downtown city. Watch or play a game of chess on the life size outdoor chess board. Children can play in the water play area or burn off energy playing on the large play equipment. Throughout the summer, the Summer of the Arts program offers a variety of free, family fun entertainment.

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the Summer of the Arts Festival in Iowa – image by

Music lovers can delight in several free concerts held downtown Iowa City. From the Friday Night Concert Series to Saturday Night Movies, Iowa City offers affordable entertainment for all ages.

Another delight to explore near downtown Iowa City is the Iowa Avenue Literary Walk. The Literary Walk features bronze relief panels set in the sidewalk and contain quotations about books and writing from 49 writers with connections to Iowa.

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You might want to explore Iowa Avenue Literary Walk – image by

To guide you through the Iowa Avenue Literary Walk, booklets are available at Prairie Lights Bookstore or Iowa Book and Supply for a nominal fee.

Discover Iowa City Culture and Museums for Free

With free admission, the Museum of Natural History provides hours of entertainment at no cost.

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The Museum of Natural History – image by

Visitors can stroll through Mammal Hall and discover a variety of animals from every continent. Iowa Hall showcases over 500 years of Iowa’s geology and ecological history. Or explore over 1,000 birds found in Hageboeck Hall of Birds.

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Iowa Hall – image by

Another free thing to do in Iowa City is to visit the Old Capitol Museum. The Old Capitol served as the first Iowa state capitol from 1846 to 1857. Today, the Old Capitol Museum is owned by the University of Iowa and continues to serve the University and houses several offices.

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Old Capitol Museum – image by

The Old Capitol Museum also hosts free piano concerts held on Sundays throughout the year. Exhibits change throughout the year to give visitors something new to discover each time they visit.

Get Some Exercise at Iowa City Parks

Outdoor lovers will find plenty of parks to explore in Iowa City. With over 40 city parks to hike, bike, jog or play, individuals can find a park to stretch out and relax without spending a dime.

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Lower city park – image by

From Benton Hill Park with unique outdoor play areas, trails and a preschool playground to the hiking and jogging paths along the Iowa River at Ned Ashton Park, Iowa City parks let you take in scenic views or urban scenes.

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Benton Hill Park – image by

Recognized by numerous national publications as a great place to visit or live, Iowa City serves as an educational and cultural center in Eastern Iowa. This culturally-rich and diverse city provides plenty for people to explore at no cost.


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