Centennial celebrations, specialized museums and ethnic heritage events allow visitors to become part of Iowa history
Iowa’s Native American heritage crucial role in 19th century pioneer life and continued impact on modern pop culture make it an excellent state for history buffs and anyone interested in America’s past and Iowa history. The state is home to 27 National Historic Landmarks that include Victorian mansions to iconic rock ’n’ roll venues, and sites range from the Mines of Spain Recreation Area near the Mississippi River to the Historic General Dodge House in Council Bluffs. These engaging and group-friendly historic sites can also schedule customized tours with advance notice, so be sure to add them to your Iowa itinerary.
Iowa’s Amana Colonies
Step into a world of authentic German ambiance that was created by our ancestors and preserved today in the Amana Colonies. Experience the unique culture that has its roots in Germany and flourished in the U.S. during a communal era for over 90 years. The scenic seven villages feature authentic, amazing food and homemade wines and beers. The quality handcrafted products, art and variety of quaint shops that line the streets are sure to be a delight. The ambiance shines in the light of the architecture, and the numerous festivals that take place in each season bring the German heritage to life.
Ice House Museum
The Ice House Museum, the only museum in the United States dedicated to the story of ice harvesting, celebrated its centennial in 2022. This circular structure once housed a thriving ice business that utilized fresh water from the nearby Cedar River for ice and cold storage throughout the year. Today, your group can learn about how this important business brought fresh food to the region, and you can admire a collection of tools and interactive displays to learn how technology rapidly impacted early 20th century Iowa life. An in-depth exhibit on the history of the Ice House and industrial development along the Cedar River is on display at the Victorian House Museum through mid-December, and the house also welcomes group tours to admire the brilliantly preserved Italianate architecture.
Kalona Historical Village
Travel the scenic back roads of Kalona to learn the simple life of Iowa’s pioneers and Amish and Mennonite communities. Iowa’s oldest town was established in 1846 and remains one of the largest Amish settlements west of the Mississippi River, with over 1,200 permanent residents. View farming from a horse and buggy, appreciate the dairy goat industry, discover what goes into the construction of a custom created Amish buggy, and relive the 1800’s when you visit 13 authentically restored buildings. Be sure to leave additional time to shop in the shops and businesses of the locals.
Midwest Old Threshers Reunion & Museums
Step back into the past of our deep agricultural heritage — a time spent on steam engines, whether tractor or train. Climb aboard one of the many traction steam engines, including the largest steam engine. Sit behind the wheel of an antique tractor or take a look at the Stationary Steam Engines display. Each year during the week leading up to Labor Day soak in the memories – from steam engines, antique cars and trucks, tractors, gas engines, and horses. Or stop in and view the museums year round.
Gridiron Champs: George Halas & the Chicago Bears at the National Czech & Slovak Museum
If you are visiting Cedar Rapids’ Czech Village neighborhood, spend some time in the National Czech and Slovak Museum & Library. A Smithsonian affiliate, it features videos, oral histories, artwork and artifacts pertaining to Czech and Slovak culture, with a strong focus on the lives of immigrants who journeyed from the Old World to mid-America at the turn of the 20th century. Exhibits also showcase the Velvet Revolution, the 1989 popular uprising that ended Communist Party rule in Czechoslovakia. For a taste of Central Europe, the museum can arrange a buffet-style Czech lunch or a coffee with kolaches. George Halas, the legendary Chicago Bears coach and founder of the modern NFL, was a proud child of Bohemian immigrants. The museum’s film spotlights his vast impact on football and will run until November 6.
Historic Iowa Hotels
Do you and your guests like to sleep within the history? Both the Warrior Hotel and Hotel Millwright opened their Iowan doors in 2020. True to the spirit of the community-focused settlers of the Amana Colonies, Hotel Millwright is designed as a one-stop destination with everything you need on-site. Make plans to order a picnic lunch in their secluded outdoor space, stroll through the historically rich community, or take a break at the whiskey bar.
Constructed during the “the new era,” The Warrior Hotel has been a fixture in the skyline of Sioux City, Iowa for well over ninety years. After a complete renovation, this architectural landmark reimagines its luxurious Art Deco history. A grand staircase and ornate architectural elements have been restored to their original glory and complement the consciously modern design. The hotel also houses an upscale steakhouse, deluxe spa and retro chic bowling alley War Eagle Lanes on the lower level.
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