Iowa’s Capital Country has everything from the famed Bridges of Madison County and the historic capital city of Des Moines to race car heritage and Dutch Culture

By Heather Dale

Central Iowa touts a cornucopia of adventures to experience, including a scenic trip to the iconic Bridges of Madison County and John Wayne’s Birthplace in Winterset. Not only can you explore Des Moines and the Capitol Building, but Pella offers Dutch heritage and Tulip Time while fans can cheer at a Cyclones game in Ames.


Along with celebrating Iowa State University Cyclones sporting events, Ames also hosts the Octagon Art Festival, the summer Iowa Games, and the Farm Progress Show. Take in a robust tour of the Iowa State University campus. At Reiman Gardens, guests can view the award-winning 7-acre botanical garden and butterfly house. Peruse over 50 locally owned shops for souvenirs and tasty treats along Ames Main Street. Absorb the area’s rich history at cultural venues like the Brunnier Art Museum and the Ames History Museum.

Marion County Iowa

Steeped in Dutch heritage and floral landscapes, Pella comes alive in springtime with the annual Tulip Time festival. Discover Dutch culture with costumed residents, authentic food and blossoming tulips. A new hot spot for after 5 p.m. is the de Kelder Speakeasy near the Klokkenspel in downtown Pella. Traveling during the holiday time provides a chance to take in Kerstmarket, which is inspired by outdoor markets in the Netherlands. If you’re looking for exciting entertainment, head to the Knoxville Raceway just south of Pella, “The Sprint Car Capital of the World,” hosting the Knoxville Nationals. The original award-winning brewery and tap room of Peace Tree Brewing is located in downtown Knoxville, just miles from beautiful Lake Red Rock.

Covered bridge of Madison County

Covered bridge of Madison County

Madison County

Discover the famed Bridges of Madison County on a tour of the six remaining covered bridges, offering epic photo opportunities of the iconic scenery. The historic Iowa Theater in Winterset presents numerous shows and performances and hosts weekly movie nights. Marvel at the intricate patchwork at the Iowa Quilt Museum, displaying colorful contemporary quilts that preserve American quilt heritage. Explore the only museum dedicated to the Duke at the John Wayne Birthplace Museum, showcasing relics from his childhood inside his first home. Sip on Iowa-made award-winning vintages at the Covered Bridges Winery or taste mouthwatering cider at the Winterset Cidery.

Iowa’s Newton

Newton is home to  the founder of the Maytag Washing Machine Company. History of the company and their family can be found everywhere you turn. Experience the Maytag Dairy Farms legacy by visiting their new store at Nostalgia Wine & Spirits. Tour the Iowa Speedway, “The Fastest Short Track on the Planet.” Afterward, enjoy tasty meals at several restaurants, including casual fare from Giovanni’s Pizzeria or First Street Bistro. Or delve into the cultural flavors of Sombrero or Viet-Thai Taste for an adventurous culinary experience. Stroll through the Newton Arboretum and Botanical Garden or go on a Newton Sculpture/Mural Tour featuring over 90 art and sculpture installations.

Iowa Gold Star Military Museum

Iowa Gold Star Military Museum

Des Moines

Start your trip to Des Moines with a tour of the Capitol Building and the awe-inspiring Terrace Hill governor’s mansion for an intricate history lesson. No matter how far you travel you’ll never forget the experience West End Architectural Salvage has to offer. Browse four floors of treasures and take in a group scavenger hunt. Catch historical artifacts from the Civil War through the present day at the Iowa Gold Star Military Museum, located on the military base of Camp Dodge. Situated along the Principal Riverwalk in downtown Des Moines, the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates serves as a museum to recognize the importance of food sustainability and the fight against hunger. Smell the roses at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden and immerse in antebellum history at the Jordan House, a known Underground Railroad respite.

Indianola Iowa

Indianola is among a few places to remember the first transcontinental highway in the United States. Drive the north-south, two-lane country roads of the Lincoln Highway through Iowa farmland to experience what early car travel from town to town was like before interstate highways. Have you ever looked up in the sky to see it filled with colorful hot air balloons and wondered what they really looked like up close? Experience the National Balloon Classic in Indianola in late July and include a stop at the National Balloon Museum. For over 70 years people have grabbed a straw and slurped an old-fashioned phosphate, cherry Coke or other fountain drink at the Corner Sundry in Downtown Indianola.

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