The Hawkeye State is a pretty fascinating place to live. If you’ve ever thought it was boring, think again! Add these underrated Iowa wonders to your bucket list and you’ll end up with a deeper appreciation for the best state in the Midwest.
1. Reiman Gardens
Visit the breathtaking Reiman Gardens and let your senses run wild. This bright and colorful botanical garden is sure to capture your heart. See if you can find their resident gnome - he's pretty hard to miss.
Address: 1407 S University Boulevard, Ames, IA, 50011
2. Waubonsie State Park
Iowa's Loess Hills are absolutely stunning, and there's no better place to catch a sunset in Iowa than from Waubonsie State Park. There's even a trail - Sunset Ridge - established for that purpose!
Address: 2585 Waubonsie Park Road, Hamburg, IA, 51640
3. Pappajohn Sculpture Park
The playful Pappajohn Sculpture Park is an underrated Iowa art installation that's an absolute blast to explore. Bring your camera for endless photo opportunities.
Address: 1330 Grand Avenue, Des Moines, IA, 50309
4. Maquoketa Caves
The stunning Maquoketa Caves are preserved in a state park, and you can visit them most of the year. Be sure to walk through Upper and Lower Dance Hall Cave - the towering ceilings will take your breath away.
Address: 9688 Caves Road, Maquoketa, IA, 52060
5. Fenelon Place Elevator
Take a ride on the Fenelon Place Elevator to experience the world's steepest and shortest scenic railway! This one-of-a-kind railcar is located in Dubuque.
Address: 512 Fenelon Place, Dubuque, IA, 52001
6. Upper Iowa River, Decorah
The cliffs and bluffs of the Upper Iowa River make it a truly unique place to paddle and raft. It's part of the Driftless region of Iowa, where no glaciers formed during the last ice age.
7. High Trestle Trail Bridge
The beautiful High Trestle Trail Bridge was designed as a monument to the area's miners. The entire trail is 25 miles long and is a popular bike route, but you can park near the bridge to see it alone. Visit at night for a brilliantly illuminated sight.
Address: 2335 QF Lane, Madrid, IA, 50156
8. Effigy Mounds National Monument
The historic Effigy Mounds National Monument was established to protect the Native burial mounds found at this site. Today, you can walk the trails and see some of the 200+ burial mounds discovered by researchers and park staff.
Address: 151 IA-76, Harpers Ferry, IA, 52146
9. Castles of Ida Grove
The entire town of Ida Grove is full of castles, thanks to the hard work of Iowan Byron Godbersen. As the founder of Midwest Industries, Mr. Godberson dedicated much of his time to building and designing castles throughout the town. Take a drive around and you'll feel like you're in another world.
10. Crystal Lake Cave
Crystal Lake Cave has been a Dubuque tourist attraction since the 1930s. Take a boat tour to see it up close. Hope you're not afraid of the dark!
Address: 6684 Crystal Lake Cave Road, Dubuque, IA, 52003
11. Archie's Waeside
Typically, a small town steakhouse wouldn't make a list of underrated Iowa wonders, but Archie's isn't your ordinary small town steakhouse! This family-owned restaurant earned national recognition when it was the recipient of a well-deserved James Beard award.
Address: 224 4th Avenue NE, Le Mars, IA, 51031