13 Incredible Places to Visit in Iowa

Picture this: you, rolling hills, vibrant cities, and a sense of American heartland tradition that makes you feel right at home.

No, we’re not making this up. We’re talking about Iowa.

Sure, it might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of tourism.

But boy, does it surprise you.

From its dynamic cities to its natural wonders, Iowa is a treasure trove of underrated gems. So, buckle up and join us as we traverse through 13 of Iowa’s must-visit spots.

Des Moines

First off, Des Moines, the heart and soul of Iowa. It’s more than just the state capital; it’s a hub of culture, history, and an impressive food scene that’ll leave your taste buds dancing.

Check out the Des Moines Art Center, pay a visit to the State Capitol, or catch a performance at the Des Moines Performing Arts.

And let’s not even get started on the Des Moines Farmers Market – it’s a treat you wouldn’t want to miss.

Iowa City

Next up, Iowa City, a haven for literature and arts enthusiasts. Known as one of UNESCO’s Cities of Literature, Iowa City is where words come to life.

Visit the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, take a literary walk, or simply enjoy the artsy vibe of the downtown area.

Oh, and the food? A medley of mouthwatering cuisines that’ll make you wonder why you hadn’t come here sooner.


Dubuque, Iowa’s oldest city, brings you the charm of a river city with a dash of history and culture.

Ride the Fenelon Place Elevator, stroll through the historic Millwork District, or get lost in the beauty of the Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.

The Mississippi Riverwalk? Pure bliss.


Home to the Iowa State University, Ames is a city that buzzes with youthful energy and Cyclone spirit.

Visit the Reiman Gardens, catch a game at the Jack Trice Stadium, or immerse yourself in the vibrant nightlife of Campustown.

And the ISU campus itself? A picturesque spot that’s worth a visit.

Cedar Rapids

Next, we move on to Cedar Rapids, a city that beautifully merges urban sophistication with small-town charm.

Visit the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, explore the Indian Creek Nature Center, or indulge in some shopping at the NewBo City Market.

And if you’re a fan of Grant Wood, don’t miss the American Gothic House.


Welcome to Davenport, a Quad City that offers a blend of culture, history, and natural beauty.

Spend a day at the Figge Art Museum, step back in time at the Village of East Davenport, or simply enjoy a relaxing riverboat cruise along the Mississippi River.

And the Davenport Skybridge? An absolute must-see.

Amana Colonies

Our next stop is the Amana Colonies, a group of seven villages that transport you to a different era.

Soak up the German heritage, savor traditional food, and don’t forget to check out the local crafts.

And if you’re visiting in the warmer months, the Maifest and Oktoberfest are festivals you wouldn’t want to miss.


Say hello to Pella, a little slice of the Netherlands in the heart of Iowa.

Walk around the Molengracht Canal, visit the Vermeer Mill, and take in the Dutch architecture around town.

And if you’re there in May, get ready to be a part of the Tulip Time Festival, a colorful celebration that lights up the town.

Council Bluffs

Council Bluffs, located on the eastern bank of the Missouri River, is steeped in history and natural beauty.

Visit the Union Pacific Railroad Museum, take a walk on the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, or try your luck at one of the many casinos.

Don’t forget to explore the Hitchcock Nature Center for a taste of the stunning Loess Hills.


Decorah, nestled in the northeast corner of Iowa, is a charming city with a rich Scandinavian heritage.

The Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum is a must-visit, as is the beautiful Dunning’s Spring Park.

If you’re a beer enthusiast, don’t miss a tour of the Toppling Goliath Brewery, recognized worldwide for its craft beers.

Maquoketa Caves State Park

If you’re a nature lover, Maquoketa Caves State Park is the place for you.

With its stunning caves, limestone formations, and hiking trails, this park is a testament to Iowa’s natural beauty.

Explore the caves, enjoy a picnic, or simply bask in the serenity of the park. Remember, adventure awaits!

Loess Hills

Loess Hills, unique wind-deposited hills stretching along western Iowa, offer an unparalleled outdoor experience.

Hiking, biking, birdwatching, or simply driving along the Loess Hills National Scenic Byway, the opportunities for adventure are endless.

And the views? Absolutely breathtaking.

Effigy Mounds National Monument

Last but certainly not least, the Effigy Mounds National Monument.

These ancient Native American mounds shaped like animals are a sight to behold and provide a unique insight into the region’s history.

The monument’s hiking trails also offer scenic views of the Mississippi River.


So, there you have it – 13 must-visit spots in Iowa that guarantee an unforgettable experience. From its bustling cities to its scenic parks, Iowa truly is a hidden gem waiting to be explored. So pack your bags, buckle up, and get ready for a journey of a lifetime through the heart of America.


1. What is the best time to visit Iowa?

Spring and fall often offer the most pleasant weather in Iowa.

2. Is Iowa a good place for outdoor activities?

Absolutely! With its numerous state parks, hiking trails, and scenic byways, Iowa is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts.

3. What food is Iowa known for?

Iowa is famous for its sweet corn, pork products, and loose meat sandwiches. Don’t miss the chance to try them!

4. What are the top attractions for history lovers in Iowa?

The Amana Colonies, Effigy Mounds National Monument, and numerous museums across the state cater to history buffs.

5. Is Iowa a family-friendly destination?

Yes, Iowa offers a wide range of attractions suitable for all ages, making it a great choice for family vacations.

David Kingston

Leave a Comment