As a state, Iowa is pretty underrated. People unfamiliar with our state think that Iowa is all cornfields and cow pies, but we have so much more to offer! This includes some really awesome, and very underrated attractions like these 12 places!
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. The Loess Hills
The Loess Hills of Western Iowa are definitely one of the most underrated attractions in the state, and they're just too good to miss! You can take a drive on the Loess Hills Scenic Byway, or you can hike up Preparation Canyon, but either way you're sure to have an unforgettable time.
2. Grotto of the Redemption
Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend is the largest man-made Grotto in the world, and contains the largest collection of precious stones and gems found anywhere in one location. This place is so amazing, it's been called the eighth wonder of the world!
3. The Grant Wood Scenic Byway
There's nothing like taking a nice back roads drive across the Iowa countryside, and what better place to do that than one of Iowa's many beautiful and underrated scenic byways?
4. The Bridges of Madison County
The famous Bridges of Madison County may have had a movie made about them, but they still remain an underrated attraction here in Iowa. Spend a day in the area checking out all the bridges, then head over to the nearby town of Winterset to see John Wayne's birthplace!
Pella is easily one of the cutest towns in the state, even the country. Spend your day here eating a Dutch letter from Jaarsma Bakery, taking a tour of the Vermeer Windmill, and going for a walk by the Molengracht Canal.
6. The Amana Colonies
You can find many neat things in the little German villages of the Amana Colonies, which are known for their handmade items, arts and crafts, and cuisine. When you're there, check out the Woolen Mill, grab a bite to eat at the Ox Yoke Inn, and drink some dandelion wine from Ackerman Winery.
7. The Villages of Van Buren
Bentonsport is one of the Villages of Van Buren, which are highly underrated and a real hidden gem in Iowa. There are 12 tiny villages, including Bonaparte, Keosauqua, and Farmington. On your visit, make sure to have some fudge, check out the local shops, and stay in the Mason House Inn, a famously haunted location.
8. Storm Lake
Storm Lake is easily one of the most underrated cities in the state, and a true hidden gem! On your next visit, go for a stroll on the boardwalk, have some fun in the sun at the water park, and do some shopping in the unique downtown district.
9. Maquoketa Caves State Park
The gorgeous Maquoketa Caves State Park offers some of the most beautiful caves in the country, maybe even the world. Spend your day exploring these underrated caverns and discovering a part of Iowa you never knew existed.
Decorah is a little taste of Norway in Iowa. Decorah is home to the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, which was named one of 15 Best Small-Town Museums in the U.S. by the world-respected travel guide, Fodor’s. When you're done at the museum, go explore the Ice Cave, check out the trout hatchery, and have a glass of wine at the Winneshiek Wildberry Winery.
11. Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad
Boone & Scenic Valley offers leisurely train rides in the Boone area, and the experience is truly wonderful, but so underrated! Board one of these trains for a fun trip around the Des Moines River Valley, and enjoy a nice dinner during one of their dinner rides!
12. The Surf Ballroom
The Surf Ballroom and Museum in Clear Lake is one of Iowa's coolest and most unique venues. It's absolutely filled with history, but so many people haven't been there or don't know it exists! The Surf Ballroom has seen countless famous musicians put on shows in the venue, most famously hosting Buddy Holly's last performance before his tragic death. In 2009, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame dedicated the ballroom as a rock and roll landmark, and it's truly something worth seeing at least once in your life.
What are some more underrated attractions you would add to this list? Share them with us!