While we don’t boast sky high mountains or ocean views, Iowa is a place with many fascinating destinations and its own unique and stunning beauty. Whether you’re in the mood for a long hike with an epic view, a leisurely drive along the river or a day looking at fascinating sculptures, Iowa’s got you covered with these 10 stunning places.
1. The "Iowa Great Lakes"
This string of glacial lakes is a favorite Iowa destination. Enjoy beaches, water sports, fishing, tons of restaurants and shops and even a theme park (Arnolds Park) that features rides, games, boat tours and a maritime museum.
2. John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park, Des Moines
In downtown Des Moines, this unique collection of more than two dozen sculptures is a must visit. And if you visit at night, you can see the sculptures illuminated next to the backdrop of the downtown lights.
3. Great River Road National Scenic Byway
One of the most beautiful drives in the country, this scenic byway follows the course of the Mississippi river and stretches for 325 miles in Iowa and 3000 miles and 10 states in its entirety.
4. Grotto of the Redemption, West Bend
Sometimes considered the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” the Grotto of the Redemption is the largest manmade grotto in the world and houses a truly impressive collection of precious stones and gems. Get lost in the meticulous designs of nine separate grottos portraying scenes in the life of Christ. This is a place of stunning and intricate beauty.
5. The bridges of Madison County
Yes, they’re the picturesque bridges that inspired a best-selling novel and movie, and yes, they are definitely worth a visit if you haven’t been yet. Plus, if you come during the covered bridge festival in October, you can take a guided bus tour of the bridges and enjoy music, a quilt show, local artists, and even a parade.
6. Maquoketa Caves State Park
A must visit for cave lovers and hikers alike, this breathtaking spot is surrounded by lush greenery and features 16 caves and crawl spaces for people to explore.
7. Field of Dreams Movie Set, Dyersville
This well-known and popular tourist destination was the set for the academy nominated movie, Field of Dreams. It was built on a hundred-year-old farm and is surrounded by iconic Iowa cornfields and expansive skylines.
8. Effigy Mounds National Monument, Harpers Ferry
This fascinating place is the home of over 200 American Indian mounds in the shape of mammals, birds and reptiles. Great Bear Mound is the largest, measuring over one meter high and 42 meters from head to tail. There are 20 American Indian tribes associated with these mounds, and they are considered sacred.
9. DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge
This incredible wildlife refuge is in the migratory bird corridor of the Missouri River floodplain. It is a natural habitat for resident, migratory, and endangered species. If you’re interested in exploring the habitats and wildlife of the region, this is the place to go.
10. Pikes Peak State Park, McGregor
Pikes Peak State Park offers some of the most spectacular views available in the Midwest overlooking the Mississippi river. Here, you can absorb the natural beauty, hike the trails and take in the panoramic view from many scenic overlooks and viewing platforms.