Delicious food, iconic art, historic earthen mounds and famous celebrities that trace their origins to Iowa
A state can have many home-grown treasures hidden among the highways and cities to explore and visit. Iowa offers an exciting variety of experiences in local history such as tasting classic Blue Bunny ice cream, photographs with the house from the famous painting American Gothic, historical furniture and even hundreds of Native mounds shaped as animals. Take a group trip to see the art, history and innovations developed and remembered in Iowa.
More than 1,000 years ago, Eastern Woodland people built thousands of earthen mounds spanning the states of Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Now protected as a national monument, these sacred mounds can be explored along hiking trails at Effigy Mounds National Monument. Over 200 mounds, some shaped as animals, can be seen in addition to forests, tallgrass prairies, wetlands and rivers.
Traverse the Seven Villages built in 1855, which were established by German immigrants seeking religious freedom for their communal society. Lively events include Winterfest, Maifest, Wurst Festival, Oktoberfest, Tannenbaum Forest and Prelude Christmas. The Amana Colonies offer different types of accommodations, including hotels, inns, bed & breakfasts, RV parks and campgrounds. They have a series of shops with food, antiques, locally made goods, quilting and needlework, furniture and fashion.
Iowa Quilt Museum
With rotating exhibits featuring American artists and their amazing blankets, this Winterset museum follows the history and creation of a unique and practical art form in a storefront that used to be a JC Penney. The exhibits are exchanged through the year, with the current one focused on male artists and their quilt creations. Upcoming exhibits include ”Out of Control,” a feature of wild quilts from two Kansas quilt collectors with out-of-the ordinary quilts.
John Wayne Birthplace
Just down the road from the Iowa Quilt Museum in Winterset, discover the history and impact of American legend John Wayne in his Iowa birthplace. In the only museum in the world dedicated to John Wayne, enjoy a movie theater with a documentary of his film career. The facility also houses artifacts from John Wayne’s career including movie posters, costumes, scripts, handwritten letters, artwork, sculptures and one of the Oscar winner’s customized automobiles. Tours of the museum and birthplace house are self-guided and handicap accessible.
Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum
This prestigious library in West Branch honors America’s 31st president and is just one of 14 presidential libraries that is run by the National Archives and Records Administration. The Research Room holds copies of selected records from the National Archives from agencies and individuals that corresponded with Herbert Hoover, along with the personal letters of the former president.
Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor
Travel to Le Mars to discover the ”Ice Cream Capital of the World.” The Wells Visitor Center & Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor offers much more than sweet treats and over 40 flavors of ice cream. The virtual soda fountain allows you to create a personalized sundae. The second floor holds a virtual production line so you can see how they produce more than 150 million gallons of ice cream per year. Become an ice cream expert as you enjoy the ice cream photo booth and an interactive flavor personality quiz.
American Gothic House Museum
In a place that inspired a famous art piece, witness the same building featured in Grant Wood’s American Gothic. This painting was finished 90 years ago, yet the iconic house behind the farmer and his wife still stands in Eldon as an excellent photo opportunity. The house offers unique experiences for groups, including tours through the museum and nearby prairie gardens. Along with the tour, there are educational films available on the legacy of Grant Wood.
Grant Wood not only created amazing art in American Gothic, he also created a space that inspired others to create. The Stone City Art Colony might have only lasted two summers, but it greatly influenced an artist named Isabel Bloom. Once she perfected her technique to create amazing sculptures, her company Isabel Bloom emerged. Now, in the name of her legacy, the Davenport-based company creates hand-crafted creations with many whimsical designs. The studio offers free tours for a behind-the-scenes look at the iconic Isabel Bloom sculptures, with an exclusive souvenir purchase opportunity.
Kinze Innovation Center
Take an opportunity for a unique tour of one of the largest privately owned farm equipment centers in America. Formed back in 1965 by Jon Kinzenbaw, a small welding shop grew as he began to patent his inventions. One of his most advantageous innovations came in the form of the first single axle low-profile grain cart in 1971, which revolutionized grain handling. At the Innovation Center in Williamsburg, explore the technological advancements of the company along with towering farm equipment with educational programming for adults and children.
John Deere Tractor & Engine Museum
The first John Deere factory features wonderful displays and interactive exhibits for kids and adults. From a horse-drawn plow to modern working machines, groups can discover how innovations through the company powered the development of the farming industry. Admission to this Waterloo attraction offers free guided tours. Combine farming equipment with fun at the John Deere Tractor & Engine Museum.
Step back into history in this Jefferson workshop and museum. This attraction showcases historically built furniture using tools available to furniture craftsmen in 1875, including large equipment from the 1800s. The owner, Robby Pederson, has created over 800 pieces of historical furniture, and has a unique story to share about each of the pieces displayed in the RVP 1875 showroom. The large workshop can accommodate large groups, and offer tours and experiences with meal options.
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