Fun things to do in Iowa

  • Iowa City Mansion near College Green Park
    Iowa City Mansion near College Green...
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  • Old Downtown Iowa City, IA
    Old Downtown Iowa City, IA
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  • Johnson County Courthouse, Iowa City, IA
    Johnson County Courthouse, Iowa City, IA
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Most Viewed Things to Do in Iowa

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    Caucus Rally in December: Running for President IA

    by ljtheraingirl Updated Feb 4, 2008

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    The presidential selection process begins in Iowa.

    Presidential hopefuls descend upon the state and begin campaigning heavily in December before the Iowa caucuses are held in January. On December 27, 2007, I heard Bill Clinton speak on behalf of his wife Hillary.

    This is an amazing time of year to hear the next president of the United States speak in my own Iowa backyard.

    We do have a rather odd election process in the United States, and sometimes it feels as if the presidential campaigning drags on for much too long, but it is quite the event in Iowa.

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    MASON HOUSE INN

    by mtncorg Updated Jan 24, 2008

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    Built in 1846 by Mormon craftsmen who were en route to Utah from nearby Nauvoo, Illinois - they were earning money to buy needed supplies for the large Mormon emigrant wagon trains that rolled through the area between 1846-1851. The Inn was built to serve steamboat passengers on the Des Moines River, the Mason House was purchased by the Mason family in 1857. That family ran the inn for 88 years and it is the oldest steamboat hotel along the Des Moines in continuous operation. There are 5 guest rooms furnished with 19th century antiques.

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
    • Architecture

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    Pres. Hoovers Birthplace

    by Toughluck Written Oct 19, 2007

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    This is not the home of the vacuum carpet company, that's Canton, Ohio [see History of Hoover Vacuums. President Herbert Hoover was the 31st President of the United States. He lead the nation from 1929 to 1933. Rising from a poor family, he was an example that old American adage, "anyone can grow up to be the President of the United States".

    My Herbert Hoover page
    National Park Services' Herbert Hoover NHS page
    Presidential biography
    Wikipedia Herbert Hoover biography

    Related to:
    • National/State Park
    • Historical Travel

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    Adventure Land

    by ArenJo Written Oct 8, 2007

    This is an amusement park. Although it isn't famous and doesn't have any unique rides, there are a lot of rides here and you could easily spend a whole day in the park. Plus, it is way cheaper than any of the famous parks!

    Related to:
    • Family Travel
    • Theme Park Trips

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    The Dubuque County Courthouse

    by deecat Updated Jun 4, 2007

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    Each time that Jill and I would cross the Mississippi River into Iowa [Dubuque], I would comment on how beautiful the Courthouse looked as the sun reflected off the golden dome. {The only golden dome in Iowa.] So, it was absolutely imperative that we see it up close.

    It's located in the downtown business district and is next to the Old Jail Museum. It's not the first courthouse in Dubuque; it is the second one and was completed in 1891. This stately Victorian/Edwardian/Richardsonian Romanesque structure[Beaux-Arts architecture] was put on the National Register of Historic Places. It has a grand style, a large amount of detail, elaborate moldings, & large columns. Incidentally, it was built as Dubuque's first combination courthouse and jail.

    I especially love the 14-foot statue of Lady Liberty that tops the golden dome. I also love the details of the columns in the front.

    This might be a good time to mention that Dubuque is one of the oldest settlements in all of Iowa. It has the state's first church [1834], first band, and first newspaper. The city is named after the French-Canadian, Julien Dubuque who began mining lead on the west band of the Mississippi.

    Even though tours of the courthouse and jail are given on a reservation basis, it is really just a working courthouse and not meant to be for tourists. But, hey, getting up close and personal on a Saturday in May to take photographs was well worth the effort.

    Open:
    Monday through Friday from 8:00 am until 4:30 p.m.

    Related to:
    • Architecture
    • Historical Travel
    • Museum Visits

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    Amana Colonies

    by deecat Updated Jun 4, 2007

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    Amana Colonies, one of Iowa's most popular destinations, are actually seven historic German villages founded as a religious commune in the mid-1800's. As a collection of seven, they have been named a National Historic Landmark. Their goal is to preserve their crafts and culture while offering tourist a variety of activities. The Seven are:

    a. Homestead
    b. South Amana
    c. West Amana
    d. High Amana
    e. Middle Amana
    f. Amana
    g. East Amana


    Here in the Amana Colonies there are many things to do such as:

    Take a three-mile trail, play golf on a scenic course, eat a hearty family-style meal, purchase antiques, check out the hand-woven baskets, furniture and clocks, taste and perhaps purchase the locally made wine and beer, bring home some home-made jams, jellies, and preserves, or just unwind in one of the many quaint bed-and-breakfasts.

    But, the very first thing to do is to go to the Amana Colonies Convention and Visitors Bureau that is located in a newly-restored corn crib on the Main "drag" in Amana, Iowa, 52203. It's one of the best organized information centers that I've seen. I was impressed with the board that displayed all the different Bed & Breakfasts with photographs, telephone #'s and addresses. They also had a wall with all the restaurants and their menus, which was quite helpful for us.
    Open: 10-5 Monday through Saturday
    11-4 Sunday

    We spent most of our time in the colony of Amana. We shopped, ate lunch, and had a mid-afternoon snack there. We drove to all the other colonies, and stopped at a few places; however, the bulk of our time and interest was at Amana.

    Related to:
    • Architecture
    • Religious Travel
    • Historical Travel

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    Amana Heritage Museum in Main Amana

    by deecat Written Jun 3, 2007

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    Jill and I thoroughly enjoyed the Amana Heritage Museum in Main Amana. I think it is a good idea to go here, see the short media presentation first and then peruse the rest of the museum and the book store. It explains a good deal about the history and the religion of the Amana Colonies.

    This museum is located in an ancient Colony home; the cost is $8.00 at the door or $7.00 if you purchase it at the Welcome Center as we did. The good thing is that the ticket is also good at the other Heritage museums [Church, Communal Kitchen, Cooper Shop, Communal Agricultural, and the Homestead Store].

    Both Jill and I are retired high school English teachers, and we really enjoyed the Colony school classroom. [see photo # 2].

    They also offered books and other items in the bookstore that pertained to the religion and communal living of the Amana Colonies.

    Related to:
    • Architecture
    • Religious Travel
    • Historical Travel

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    Another Mississippi River Town: Muscatine

    by deecat Written Jun 2, 2007

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    Muscatine, Iowa, is a "must see" river town. Muscatine has about 24,000 people who live between 2 river bluffs along the Mississippi. The area is spread out; however, we concentrated on the historic downtown district.

    While in this lovely community, we discovered that Mark Twain was a one-time Muscatine resident, & he wrote, "I remember Muscatine for its sunsets. I have never seen any on either side of the ocean that equaled them."

    No other place has the name of Muscatine. Most people believe that the town was named after a small band of Indians who lived in the area during the early 1800's, the Mascoutins.

    Muscatine has been a center for the European fur-trading industry; then the lumber industry, &, of course, the button industry (made from the mussel shells fished from the Mississippi River.

    Companies of note that still make Muscatine their home are: H.J. Heinz Company {vinegar, gravy, & ketchup]; IPSCO [leading producer of steel plate & pipe}; Monsanto [Herbicides]; & Musco {sports-lighting technology]' among many others.

    While in the town & surrounding area, I would suggest that you see:
    1. Muscatine Art Center {Laura Musser Mansion & Stanley Art Gallery]
    2. Muscatine History & Industry Center , formerly the Button Museum{it preserves the button industry history]
    3. Pine Creek Grist Mill/Melpine Schoolhouse/Wildcat Den State Park [see tips about these on my Muscatine pages}
    4. Musser Public Library/Oscar Grossheim Collection [50,000 glass plate negatives from turn of the century]
    5. Great River Road [Charles Young, a native of Muscatine, devoted much of his life to the creation of the Great River Road & it was his design for the Great River Road's green & white signs which bear the pilot's wheel ]
    6. Pearl Plaza [shopping & restaurants right in the heart of this historic district]
    7. Lock & Dam 16
    8. Muscatine County Courthouse
    9. Mississippi Harvest Sculpture

    Muscatine is a River City you won't soon forget.

    Related to:
    • Architecture
    • Historical Travel
    • Museum Visits

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    Bellevue on the Mississippi River

    by deecat Updated Jun 2, 2007

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    Bellevue is bordered by the mighty Mississippi, & its name means "Beautiful View", which is literally true. It certainly has natural beauty with the Mississippi River as its front door & several State Parks & Reserves that surround it.

    Bellevue was the first settlement in Jackson County, & it is the oldest city in this county as well as one of the five oldest cities in Iowa. Such historic attractions as The George Dyas House & William Dyas Barn, Dyas Hexagonal Barn on 362nd Avenue are places to see.

    Although we did not see it on this trip, we were told not to miss Mont Rest [1893], a beautiful home "nestled halfway up a 9 acre wooded bluff overlooking one of the most panoramic views of the mighty Mississippi River." (300 Spring Street; (563) 872-4220).

    The Grant Wood Scenic Byway [East End} goes through Bellevue to & through several other small towns, including Maquoketa, Anamosa, & Stone City.

    Bellevue has a golf course north of town, & the county has over 8,000 acres of federal, state, & county parks. We stopped in to see the best known of their parks: Bellevue State Park, which has overlooks, bluffs, & an old Indian Mound. It also has a butterfly garden. It was designed specifically to attract butterflies by providing necta plants. It's used as a teaching & research resource.

    Iowa's oldest standing frame flour mill is located here on the southerbn border, & we visited it. (see individual tip).

    Photographs:

    1. A Riverfront Park that we enjoyed visiting.
    2. A Memorial dedicated to the armed forces of our county that was done by the American Legion. One of the quotes on it reads, "Day is done, gone the sun. From the lake, from the hill, from the sky, all is well. Safely rest, God is nigh".
    3. Bellevue's Lock and Dam #12. We saw a huge tug boat & barge pass through the locks.
    4. We visited the Butterfly Garden in the State Park.
    5. Photo of one of the corner buildings in the town of Bellevue to show the architecture.

    Related to:
    • Architecture
    • Road Trip
    • Historical Travel

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    Visit Kalona to Explore the Past

    by deecat Updated May 31, 2007

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    We wanted to learn more about The Old Order Amish & the Mennonites as well as explore the Kalona Historical Village, so off we drove to this small town that is just 15 miles southwest of Iowa City.

    Don't miss the Kalona Historical Village on Highway 22. It's a great example of how united this community really is. It started with the Historical Society's push to save the town's Depot & grew into a 2-block-long area. By 1973, the former Rock Island Railroad Depot was entirely restored & 2 other historic buildings & 2 museums were opened to the public.

    It then became a joint effort of the Kalona Historical Society & the much older Mennonite Historical Society. The Mennonite Museum & Historical Archives were erected. The Historical Society opened the Wahl Museum with the Kalona Quilt & Textile Museum & the Reif Mineral Museum & gift shop.. Jill & I visited all of these, & you can learn more when I do my Kalona pages.

    By the middle 1980s, the Society obtained the Grout Church, a line shaft mill, the Richmond Post Office, a one-room schoolhouse, & a pioneer log house.

    Today, the Kalona area is home to one of the largest Old Order Amish-Mennonite settlements west of the Mississippi River.

    What is obvious in Kalona is that the presence of the Amish-Mennonite traditions has been partly responsible for much of this town's conservatism & stability.

    Don't confuse the Kalona Amish with the residents of Amana Colonies. "There is no connection between the two" say the tour guides. Both have German ancestry & are quite religious. Do not take photographs of the Kalona Amish because personal photographs have been "interpreted as a form of idolatry"...

    There's more to Kalona than the Amish-Mennonites such as great places to eat, shop, & view the beautiful countryside.

    Photographs:
    1. Street scene of quaint Kalona.
    2. Kalona Chamber of Commerse
    3. Kalona Cheese Factory
    4. Famous Kalona Quilts
    5. Kalona Historical Village Sign

    Related to:
    • Arts and Culture
    • Historical Travel
    • Architecture

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    Dubuque Convention & Visitors Bureau

    by deecat Updated May 31, 2007

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    The very first thing that Jill and I did when we went to Dubuque was to find and visit the Dubuque Convention and Visitors Bureau. Boy, were we glad that we did!

    Besides receiving a free Spy map of Dubuque [a map with pictures as well as street markings of all the important places to visit], we also gained valuable knowledge about the Dubuque Fest, places to eat, musical events, art activities, and the Old House Enthusiasts Tour location. We also purchased our ticket [$10.00] to tour six preservation homes.

    We were also given a discount book that contained several useful discounts for what we had planned to do while in Dubuque.

    The woman who assisted us [As seen in the photograph]was very friendly, quite informative, and very patient concerning our multitude of questions. She marked our map step-by-step to make it easier to find our many destinations.

    Thus, my suggestion is to be sure to visit the Dubuque Convention & Visitors Bureau before you begin your exploration of Dubuque.

    Related to:
    • Women's Travel
    • Historical Travel
    • Architecture

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    Cathedral Square, St. Raphael's, & Rectory

    by deecat Updated May 30, 2007

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    While on Bluff and Second Streets, Jill and I visited the Cathedral Square and its sculpture called "Five Figures for Five Flags". It's an impressive sculpture that is welded copper of a lead miner, a missionary priest, a steamboat pilot,a farmer and his wife. It was done by Ann Opgenorth and Donna Marihar of Bellevue, Iowa. It stands in front of St. Raphael's Cathedral.

    This square celebrates the history of the cathedral and the rectory. I could only take photographs of the outside of the Cathedral of Saint Raphael because it was locked. A sign indicated that you could go to the Rectory next door to make an appointment. However, since we were only here one day, that was impossible. But we did enjoy the GOTHIC ARCHITECTURE.

    Shop keepers nearby told us that St. Raphael's is the oldest Christian church in Iowa. Just as impressive as the church is the Rectory. It is so huge, and the grounds around it are quite beautiful. A gardener was manicuring bushes as we walked by it.

    Photographs:
    1. St. Raphael's Cathedral.
    2. Sign of the Cathedral Historic District [Cathedral Square].
    3. Sculpture in front of Cathedral called "5 Figures for 5 Flags".
    4. St. Raphael's Cathedral Rectory
    5. St Raphael's Cathedral Rectory grounds with religious statue.

    Related to:
    • Architecture
    • Arts and Culture
    • Religious Travel

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    National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium

    by deecat Updated May 30, 2007

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    Jill and I decided after visiting the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium that we would have enjoyed it more if we had been with children.

    You are able to experience a trip down the Mississippi River via wide screen in the Journey Theater. The film is called "Mississippi Journey".

    There are artifacts about the Native American cultures, a simulated piloting of a towboat [National Rivers Hall of Fame), five big river aquariums, see "critters" that inhabit the Mississippi and its areas, and many living history demonstrations.

    My favorite inside the museum was called Catfish Planet [which was new in 2006]. There were over 100 species of catfishes. We walked through a 22 foot long catfish and learned about its insides as well as its outside. There are also interactive exhibits and a multi-media presentation.

    In the Wetland, there is a Native American wikiup, a working boatshop, and a trader's cabin. There are suposed to be bald eagles and blue heron, but we did not see them.

    You can also tour the steamboat William M. Black and the towboat Logsdon

    There is a Depot Cafe, but it does not open until Memorial Day; thus, we could not visit it.

    Prices:

    Adults......................................$9.95
    Seniors [65+]..........................$8.95
    Youth [7-17]............................$7.50
    Children [3-6]..........................$4.00

    Hours:
    Memorial Day Weekend-Labor Day..........10:00am-6:00pm Daily

    Labor Day-Memorial Day Weekend..........10:00am-5:00pm Daily

    Related to:
    • Family Travel
    • Museum Visits
    • Road Trip

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    Victorian House Tour/Progressive Dinner

    by deecat Updated May 30, 2007

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    One of the great experiences that Dubuque has to offer is called Victorian House Tour and Progressive Dinner. This experience includes a gourmet dining while touring several Dubuque historic sites.

    The way this works is you make a reservation for the tour and you will then have a five-course meal while you progress through the city. In addition, you will hear many interesting tales about events and families in the 19th century.

    This tour includes stops at the Mathias Ham House Historic Site, the Redstone Inn, the Ryan House, and Mandolin Inn. They also usually make another stop at the Old Jail Museum of Dubuque. At one stop, you will have wines; then you will move on for appetizers; at another stop, you will experience the main course meal; at the last stop, you will have dessert.

    The tour includes what they call Themed Entertainment It's really like a play where William "Hog" Ryan and his wife Catherine serve up "a slice of Victorian life" in the form of a vignette called "For C' Ryan Out Loud."

    To make either individual or group reservations, you must contact:

    Dubuque Guide Service
    National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium
    350 East 3rd Street
    Dubuque, Iowa 52001
    See phone number below

    "The profit from this tour is used to support the restoration of the properties and the educational mission of the Dubuque County Historical Society."

    Related to:
    • Food and Dining
    • Historical Travel
    • Archeology

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    Wonderful Cable Car Square

    by deecat Updated May 30, 2007

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    One of the most delightful places [for Jill and I] in Dubuque is the Cable Car Square.
    It is filled with darling little one-of-a-kind shops, the Fenelon Place Elevator, and The Cotton Cabin Quilt Shop.

    As the previous tip indicates, we did ride on the Fenelon Place Elevator, which was great fun and historic as well. In addition, we visited many of the shops and marveled at the wonderful architecture.

    Cable Car Square is quite well known, enough for tour buses to visit! Bus parking is on the south side of 4th street between Bluff and Locust. Public parking is located on 5th and Bluff

    There are many annual events that take place here:

    Christmas Candle Walk [Friday evening after Thanksgiving]
    Cable Car Square Open House [1st weekend in November]
    Tri-states Largest Chili Cookoff [1st weekend in October]
    Riverfest [2nd week in September]
    Cable Car Flag Day Celebration Sale [4th weekend in July]
    Dubuquefest [3rd week in May] And this is the one that we attended

    I have done individual tips about these places in Cable Car Square:

    Fenelon Place Elevator [512 Fenelon Place]

    Gotta Have It Store [315 Bluff Street]

    Pixie Stix Children's Store [425 Bluff Street]

    Willows Store [471 West 4th Street]

    There are 18 more places in the square to visit.

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Women's Travel
    • Architecture

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