The Iowa Group Travel Association has loads of sample tour itineraries that will aid planners in crafting the best trip possible. The following five circuits are representative of trips that will wow your travelers.
Savor the Flavors
Western Iowa – 2 days Corning – Stanton – Elk Horn – Manning
Get a taste of Iowa’s ethnic heritage starting with Corning’s French Icarian Village in what remains of a 19th century utopian settlement. After a French-style picnic and visit to a Corning winery, hop over to the Swedish Heritage & Cultural Center in Stanton to sample history and Swedish delicacies. Then enjoy touring and cheese tasting at the Danish windmill in Elk Horn, followed by a dinner of authentic Danish cuisine.
The next day features the German Hausbarn in Manning, where the church ladies serve a lunch of ethnic favorites, including sandwiches, sauerkraut salad, pickled beets and German chocolate cake or fudge cupcakes with beer frosting. Finally, visit a farmstead with a 100-year-old history.
A Patriotic Tour
Western Iowa – 3 days Council Bluffs – Clarinda – Atlantic
In Council Bluffs, learn about historic combat aircraft at a national military museum, visit the home of a Civil War general, view a beautiful Civil War monument and tour a nationally renowned railroad museum.
The next day swing into Clarinda and sway to the Big Band beat at the Glenn Miller Birthplace Museum. At a Clarinda museum, experience the WWII prisoner of war camp housing German and Japanese prisoners and enjoy an authentic German dinner with all the trimmings. Spend the third day in Atlantic, home to a Coca-Cola memorabilia exhibit, an old-fashioned five & dime store and a restaurant serving one of Iowa’s top five burgers, farmer fries and national blue-ribbon peanut butter pie.
Experience Historic Northeast Iowa
Eastern Iowa – 5 days Dubuque – Dyersville – Balltown – Elkader – Decorah
Spend the first day in Dubuque, where highlights include the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium, a riverboat lunch and a ride on the world’s shortest, steepest railway. Day 2 features the Field of Dreams Movie Site and National Farm Toy Museum in Dyersville; a buffet meal at Breitbach’s Country Dining in Balltown, Iowa’s oldest bar and restaurant; and Stone Cliff Winery back in Dubuque.
Continue on to the delightful town of Elkader and then settle in for two nights in Decorah, home to the nation’s most comprehensive museum dedicated to a single immigrant group – the Norwegians. On the morning of Day 5, stop at a farm that grows 6,200 varieties of tomatoes – it merited a visit from Martha Stewart.
History at its Finest – From Bluffs to Barns
Eastern Iowa – 3 days Burlington – Villages of Van Buren
This tour is based in the Mississippi River town of Burlington and starts in the downtown historic district, a treasure trove of nearly 160 structures reflecting many architectural styles. Enjoy a breathtaking view of the river from bluff-top Mosquito Park, visit a house museum filled with antiques and amble down the “crookedest street in the world” as designated by Ripley’s Believe It or Not. Stop for dessert, coffee and a tour at one of Burlington’s premier bed and breakfasts, built by a lumber baron in 1877. Catch a minor league baseball game at night.
Day 2 features the Villages of Van Buren, where favorite pastimes include gift and antique shopping. Visit Mennonite-owned businesses, an old-time general store and a cheese factory. Other highlights in the Villages include a winery visit and tour of a historic pottery where guests can make their very own piece.
Dine in the home of an Amish family or perhaps in a restored grist mill or woolen mill. Back in Burlington on Day 3, tour a private garden with dozens of varieties of flowers and its antique tractor display. Then visit an elk farm and sample some of the meat before visiting a river terminal to learn about the unloading of barges and rail cars.
Feeding the Spirit
Western Iowa – 5 days West Bend – Carroll – Sioux City
Start at the Grotto of Redemption in West Bend, then visit a winery in Carroll before traveling to Trinity Heights, an ecumenical attraction in Sioux City. Stop for a treat at the famous Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor in Le Mars. Enjoy more treats in Sioux City along with some original Milwaukee wieners, a scenic train ride and a trolley tour.
Also in Sioux City you’ll see aviation memorabilia, marvel at the works of world-renowned artists, attend a performance by a Nashville songwriter and try your luck at the riverboat casino. Another highlight is Sioux City’s Orpheum Theatre, where you can attend a show or take a behind-the-scenes tour. For other sample itineraries throughout the state, visit the Iowa Group Travel Association’s website, iowagrouptravel.org.