Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Iowa
Iowa may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of a travel destination, but this charming Midwestern state has a lot to offer. From rolling hills to captivating landscapes, Iowa has something for everyone. The state is home to many hidden gems that are waiting to be discovered.
In this article, we will take you on a journey through the enchanting charm of Iowa and highlight the top 10 tourist attractions that you must visit. Whether you’re a nature lover, a history buff, or just looking for a fun family vacation, Iowa has something for everyone. So pack your bags, and let’s explore the top 10 must-visit tourist attractions in Iowa!
10. Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption
208 1st Ave NW, West Bend, IA 50597
The Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption is located in West Bend, Iowa, and is one of the most spectacular religious sites in the entire United States. Built over the span of 38 years by Father Paul Dobberstein beginning in 1912, this massive monument encompasses nine different grottos with hundreds of thousands of cut stones imported from around the world.
Every area of the shrine has a unique design, representing a moment in the life of Jesus Christ or a part of Christian theology. This holy site is visited annually by thousands of pilgrims from every corner of the globe, all seeking a closer connection to their faith. With majestic displays of vibrant colors, intricate designs, and ancient artifacts, the Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption is an awe-inspiring sight not to be missed on any tour of Iowa.
9. Amana Colonies
This picturesque destination is a collection of seven historic villages that were originally established by German immigrants in the mid-19th century. Stepping into the Amana Colonies feels like entering a different world, where old-world charm and traditional craftsmanship still thrive.
The Amana Colonies are known for their beautifully preserved architecture, with well-maintained buildings showcasing the distinctive German-inspired style. As you stroll through the streets, you’ll be greeted by quaint shops, inviting restaurants, and charming bed and breakfasts, all exuding a sense of warmth and hospitality.
The Amana Heritage Museum provides a fascinating glimpse into the past. Housed in a former communal kitchen, the museum showcases artifacts, photographs, and exhibits that depict the communal lifestyle of the Amana Colonies. Learn about their agricultural practices, communal living arrangements, and the challenges they faced as a community.
8. Pappajohn Sculpture Park
1330 Grand Ave, Des Moines, IA 50309
At number ten on our list of the top ten tourist attractions in Iowa, we have the Pappajohn Sculpture Park. Located in Des Moines, this art park consists of over twenty-five outdoor sculptures and installations made by a variety of international artists.
The collection is curated to reflect the contemporary culture of Iowa and features works from renowned sculptors such as Mark di Suvero, Dennis Oppenheim, and Beverly Pepper. The park’s unique setting also provides visitors with spectacular views of downtown Des Moines and the surrounding area. If you’re looking for an inspiring and thought-provoking destination, look no further than the Pappajohn Sculpture Park.
7. Iowa State Capitol
Des Moines, IA
No visit to Iowa is complete without a stop at the State Capitol in Des Moines. This beautiful building has been the seat of government in the state since 1857, and it has been lovingly restored over the years to retain its grandeur and historic character. With its towering granite columns, grand archways, and soaring dome, the State Capitol is a sight to behold.
Inside, visitors can explore dozens of ornate rooms filled with artifacts from Iowa’s storied past. Guided tours are available to take you through the history of Iowa’s government or just soak in the atmosphere of this majestic building. From the classical sculptures on the grounds to the bell tower whose reverberations can be heard throughout the city, you won’t want to miss this exquisite landmark when visiting Des Moines.
6. Iowa Great Lakes
The Iowa Great Lakes is undoubtedly one of the most enchanting destinations to explore. Stretching across several counties, this picturesque region is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and those seeking solace amid nature’s breathtaking beauty.
Comprising a chain of glacial lakes, the Iowa Great Lakes boasts crystal-clear waters, sandy beaches, and lush green landscapes that are bound to captivate visitors from the moment they set foot in this idyllic paradise. Whether you’re a fan of water sports, fishing, hiking, or simply yearning for a peaceful getaway, this stunning destination has something for everyone.
With a total of five interconnected lakes – Spirit Lake, West Okoboji Lake, East Okoboji Lake, Upper Gar Lake, and Lower Gar Lake – there are endless opportunities for exploration and recreation. Boasting over 15,000 acres of water, these lakes offer ample space for boating, kayaking, and paddleboarding, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the tranquil ambiance while marveling at the surrounding natural wonders.
For fishing enthusiasts, the Iowa Great Lakes are a dream come true. The lakes are teeming with a variety of fish species, including walleye, bass, northern pike, and panfish, providing ample opportunities for a memorable angling experience. Cast your line and feel the thrill as you reel in your prized catch, creating memories that will last a lifetime.
5. Historic East Village in Des Moines
Des Moines, IA
History comes alive as you meander through the streets of the Historic East Village, where beautiful architecture and timeless landmarks tell the stories of the city’s rich heritage. From the elegant Victorian-style buildings to the quaint storefronts, every corner exudes a sense of nostalgia and invites exploration.
One of the highlights is the Historic Court Avenue District, where you can immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere of local shops, boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants. Here, you can savor the flavors of Iowa’s culinary delights, discover unique handmade crafts, or simply indulge in a leisurely stroll while taking in the vibrant ambiance.
4. Field of Dreams Movie Site
The Field of Dreams Movie Site in Dyersville, Iowa is an iconic destination for movie fans and a popular tourist attraction. Located on a 180-acre farm property owned by the Lansing family, the site consists of the house featured in the 1989 movie Field of Dreams as well as a replica baseball diamond that was built for the movie and can still be used today.
Visitors to the site can partake in a variety of activities such as attending the annual movie festival or taking part in a game of catch on the field. In addition, visitors can take guided tours of the site, which include a history of the area and information about the film.
The popularity of this central Iowa attraction is evident in its numerous awards, including being recognized as one of the top tourist attractions in America by USA Today. There’s no better place to experience the magic of the silver screen than at the Field of Dreams Movie Site.
3. Bridges of Madison County
Madison County, Iowa
Made famous by Robert James Waller’s novel and subsequent film adaptation, these historic covered bridges have become an iconic symbol of romance and nostalgia.
As you ride along the winding country roads, you’ll be captivated by the rustic beauty of these wooden structures, each with its own unique character and story. The bridges, originally built in the 19th century, have stood the test of time, serving as a testament to Iowa’s rich history and architectural heritage.
Immerse yourself in the peaceful ambiance as you stroll across the weathered planks, feeling the echoes of countless footsteps that have crossed these bridges throughout the years. The surrounding landscapes, adorned with vibrant foliage or blanketed in a layer of snow, provide a breathtaking backdrop that adds to the allure of these structures.
The Bridges of Madison County offer more than just visual appeal; they evoke a sense of romance and adventure. Channel your inner Francesca Johnson or Robert Kincaid as you embark on a journey to discover these hidden gems. Whether you’re an avid photographer, a history enthusiast, or simply a lover of beauty, these bridges will leave an indelible mark on your heart.
2. Maquoketa Caves State Park
9688 Caves Rd, Maquoketa, IA 52060
Nestled in the picturesque landscape of eastern Iowa, Maquoketa Caves State Park offers an enchanting adventure for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike.
One of the highlights of Maquoketa Caves State Park is its fascinating array of caves, each offering a distinct atmosphere and geological formations. From the dramatic Dancehall Cave with its stunning stalactites and stalagmites to the intricate formations of the dramatic Wye Cave, every cave has its own story to tell.
For the intrepid explorers, the park offers opportunities for spelunking and guided cave tours, allowing you to delve deeper into the mysterious underground world. As you navigate through narrow passages and crawl through tight spaces, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking sights and a sense of awe-inspiring wonder.
The park also offers a range of recreational activities for visitors to enjoy. You can hike along the scenic trails, go camping in the designated camping areas, or have a picnic amidst the tranquility of nature. With its abundance of flora and fauna, Maquoketa Caves State Park is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts and birdwatchers.
1. Reiman Gardens
Nestled in the picturesque city of Ames, Iowa, lies a hidden gem that will transport you into a world of natural beauty and tranquility – the enchanting Reiman Gardens. This botanical wonderland spans 17 acres, captivating visitors with its stunning landscapes and diverse collection of plants.
The carefully curated displays showcase a wide array of flora, from vibrant flowers to towering trees, each contributing to the overall enchantment of the surroundings. The meticulously manicured gardens offer a feast for the senses, with the fragrant scents of blooming flowers and the gentle rustling of leaves in the breeze.
One of the highlights of Reiman Gardens is the breathtaking Butterfly Wing, a captivating space dedicated to these delicate creatures. Step inside and be greeted by a kaleidoscope of colorful butterflies fluttering around you, creating a truly immersive and unforgettable experience.
We hope you enjoyed our blog post highlighting the top 10 must-visit tourist attractions in Iowa. From picturesque landscapes to captivating historical sites, Iowa has so much to offer. Whether you’re a nature lover, a history buff, or simply seeking new experiences, this enchanting state has something for everyone. We encourage you to explore these attractions and immerse yourself in the charm and beauty that Iowa has to offer. Pack your bags, grab your camera, and get ready for an unforgettable adventure in the heartland of America. Happy travels!
- Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Iowa