One of the best things about Iowa is the abundance of small towns. But just because a town is small doesn’t mean it’s boring. In fact, many of these towns are filled with history, mystery and more than a little excitement. These 15 small towns in Iowa with big attractions are the perfect example.
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. Clear Lake - Surf Ballroom and Museum
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.
2. Le Mars - The Ice Cream Capital of the World
Le Mars, the Ice Cream Capital of the World, is home to Wells Dairy, which is most famous for its line of Blue Bunny ice cream. The Blue Bunny ice cream barn is a big attraction that brings many people to the small town of Le Mars.
3. Dyersville - The Field of Dreams Film Site
Located in the small town of Dyersville, the famous movie "Field of Dreams" was filmed here. Nowadays, the film site is a popular spot for visitors from in-state and out-of-state alike.
4. West Bend - Grotto of the Redemption
The Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend is considered the Eighth Wonder of the World. The Grotto is a religious shrine that was painstakingly created by a priest back in 1912, in a construction that lasted 42 years. It's the largest grotto in the world, and it's also the largest collection of gemstones in one place.
5. Eldon - The American Gothic House
Grant Wood, one of the most well-known artists of our time, was from none other than Anamosa, Iowa. His most famous work,"American Gothic" featured the house shown above, forever making it an iconic image for people across the world.
6. Winterset - The John Wayne Birthplace Museum
On May 26, 1907, a legend was born in the tiny town of Winterset, Iowa. John Wayne, born Marion Robert Morrison, got his beginnings here before moving on to become one of the most iconic Western film stars of all time.
7. West Branch - The Herbert Hoover National Historic Landmark
The 31st president of the United States got his humble beginnings in the tiny town of West Branch, Iowa, where he was born in August of 1874.
8. Clarinda - The Birthplace of Glenn Miller
The famous musician, Glenn Miller, was born in this house on March 1, 1904. Since then, the house has been turned into a museum, where visitors can check out what the house looked like when Glenn was born in 1904.
9. Riverside - The Future Birthplace of Captain Kirk
In March of 2228, our favorite Star Trek character, Captain Kirk, will be born in Riverside, Iowa. Iowa isn't just making history, we're making the future, too.
10. Arnold's Park - Arnold's Park
Arnold's Park, built in 1889, is one of the country's oldest amusement parks, and a longtime favorite of all who visit it. The park is known especially for its old wooden rollercoaster, The Legend.
11. Walcott - The World's Largest Truckstop
What road trip would ever be complete without making an honorary stop at the worlds largest truck stop: Iowa 80 in Walcott. You could practically live here. There’s a dentist!
12. Sac City - The World's Largest Popcorn Ball
Sac City, Iowa is home to the world's largest popcorn ball, which weighs 3,100 pounds. This record-breaking ball of popcorn is worth the visit if you're ever in the area.
13. Strawberry Point - The World's Largest Strawberry
The worlds largest strawberry, in Strawberry Point, weighs 1,430 pounds and stands 15 feet high, 12 feet across.
14. Crystal Lake - The World's Largest Bullhead
The world's largest bullhead is 12 feet long and elevated atop a pile of rocks in Crystal Lake. This gigantic fish was built in 1958 by Carl Frick and Rush Gabrilson, and restored in 2007.
15. Brandon - The World's Largest Frying Pan
The world's largest frying pan, in Brandon, weighs half a ton and can hold 44 dozen eggs. It is actually debated whether this frying pan or the frying pan in Long Beach, Washington, is the world's largest, but many agree that the title belongs to Iowa's pan.
Have any more small towns with big attractions you would add to the list? Share them with us in the comments section below!