Top Iowa Events Happening Annually for Unique Group Activities

Activities, Iowa Tour Guide

Check Iowa’s calendar of major annual events and include a local festival in your group tour itinerary.

Float in a hot air balloon or celebrate Nordic culture at local events throughout Iowa that make ideal additions to any group itinerary


Tulip Time Festival, Pella

First Thursday, Friday and Saturday in May

Tulip Time in Pella. Photo by local journalist Andrew Schneider

Proud of its Dutch heritage and tourist attractions, Pella throws a big party that includes two parades with one of them lighted. This local event features the afternoon Grandstand Show full of Dutch dancing and singing, Parade of Provinces (Dutch costume style show), cheese market demonstration, presentation of the queen and her court, and the famous street scrubbing. Festival-goers also enjoy brilliant tulip gardens, craft markets, dancing and musical performances. Groups can arrange a Dutch chocolate demonstration, costume show, tulip tips talk and Dutch meal with costumed servers. Craft demonstrations at Pella Historical Village include yoke carving, wooden shoe-making and Dutch letter baking. (

John Wayne Birthday Celebration, Winterset


John Wayne Birthplace

John Wayne Birthplace Museum in Winterset, Iowa

The annual John Wayne Birthday Celebration honors the actor who was born in Winterset in 1907. Located near the John Wayne Birthplace home itself, it’s the only museum in the world dedicated to the iconic American actor, with over $2 million of Wayne artifacts in the collection. Each year, folks from all over come to Winterset to celebrate Wayne’s May 26, 1907 birthday with a Benefit Dinner & Auction, Wayne’s classic films at the Iowa Theater, performances and more. (

Glenn Miller Festival, Clarinda

Every second weekend in June

Glenn Miller Birthplace Museum

Glenn Miller Birthplace Museum

On the second weekend in June, visitors and entertainers from around the world converge in Clarinda, home of the Glenn Miller Museum and Birthplace Home. Celebrate with a local event showcasing the music of Alton Glenn Miller, the top bandleader during the Big Band era. Hear bands from around the world and the World Famous Glenn Miller Orchestra honoring the iconic Iowa native. (

Nordic Fest, Decorah


Decorah, Iowa celebrates its Scandinavian heritage with the Nordic Fest held annually in the quaint town. A vibrant parade, dancers in authentic costumes, fireworks and sporting events are all parts of the celebration. Since 1974, over a million visitors have come to the festivities each year. Opening ceremonies kick off the local event with singing and live entertainment. The Arts & Crafts Center is a prized feature of the event showcasing Scandinavian art, Norwegian needle crafts, artisanal goods and more. Visitors chow down on traditional fare like Swedish meatballs, and Norwegian soft butter cookies and lingonberry ice cream. A Grand Parade through downtown features firetrucks, old-fashioned Nordic floats, music and treats. The celebration ends with a finale of fireworks for a vibrant close. (

National Balloon Classic, Indianola

July into August

balloon. Credit

National Balloon Classic. Credit

More than 100 hot-air balloons, including special shapes, paint the sky over Indianola, home of the National Balloon Museum. Visitors enjoy musical entertainment, open-air markets and the Fire in the Sky Nite-Glow Extravaganza at Iowa’s largest ballooning event. Experience incredible sights and sounds with night flights, competition flying and epic balloon flights where you can become the passenger. (

Iowa State Fair, Des Moines


Iowa State Fair. Photo credit Phil Roeder

Considered America’s classic state fair, this ag-extravaganza annually attracts more than a million fun lovers from around the world. Featured are one of the world’s largest livestock shows, the country’s most diverse state fair foods department (about 900 classes), the state’s biggest arts show, hundreds of competitive events and wacky contests, and a carnival midway. Nearly 200 food stands offer more than 60 items on-a-stick, from corndogs to deep-fried butter. Grandstand shows feature well-known music artists and performers.  (


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