Making travel arrangements to visit Iowa? Look at our carefully selected list of top Iowa attractions below on the best thing to do in Iowa and places to go in Iowa. Wondrous Drifter is a Web 3.0 travel startup with ambitious goals to change the world.
With its verdant woods in the east and grasslands and prairie plains in the west, Iowa is one of the Midwest’s most attractive states.
In Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, and Davenport, Iowa’s three major cities, museums, restaurants, and interesting landmarks.
If you’re looking for a state that’s easily accessible by road or air, Iowa should be on your list!
On the other hand, the state of Iowa offers a wide variety of attractions and things to do.
Because of the state’s diverse landscapes, visitors to Iowa may engage in outdoor recreation and animal observation.
Many of these fascinating places are open to tourists, who may come and spend money there.
This state has a mix of rural, suburban, and urban communities due to its proximity to a thriving metropolis.
Whether you’re looking for a taste of big city life or a chance to reconnect with nature, the state of Iowa has something to offer you.
Make sure to check out all of Iowa’s incredible sights and activities.
It’s worth every trip you’ll ever make in Iowa.
We’ve put together a list of activities to do and places to see in Iowa to help you plan your vacation.
Table of Contents
- American Gothic Barn (Eldon)
- Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad (Boone)
- Castles of Ida Grove (Ida Grove)
- Des Moines
- Elk Horn (Iowa)
- Fenelon Place Elevator (Dubuque)
- Grotto of the Redemption (West Bend)
- Herbert Hoover National Historic Site (West Branch)
- Iowa 80 Trucking Museum (Walcott)
- John Wayne Birthplace and Museum (Winterset)
- King’s Pointe Outdoor Water Park Resort (Storm Lake)
- Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center (Sioux)
- Maquoketa Caves State Park (Maquoketa)
- National Hobo Museum (Britt)
- Orange City, Iowa
- Pottawattamie Squirrel Cage Jail (Bluffs)
- Reiman Gardens (Ames)
- Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption (West Bend)
- The Iowa Theatre (Winterset)
- Villisca Axe Murder House (Villisca)
- Winterset, Iowa
American Gothic Barn (Eldon)
A stunningly painted American Gothic Barn awaits your arrival, tucked away in the woods.
On Route 30 near Mount Vernon, Iowa, you’ll find this roadside attraction.
Artist Mark Benesh was hired to paint the barn on private land. Hence it’s so unique.
It is a well-known artwork depicting a farmer and his daughter or wife, both dressed in 19th century Americana colonial patterned clothing, standing in front of the American Gothic House.
The barn’s wooden exterior is painted on all four sides.
American Gothic-style farmhouse serves as the painting’s backdrop.
This parodic artwork covers the entire outer front wall of the barn.
Full-color bison wander Iowa’s prairies and countryside on the other three barn walls.
When the last owner, Carl Smith, died in 1991, he gave the house to the State Historical Society of Iowa.
It’s a great place to stop for a while, with many beautiful landscapes and classic art to appreciate!
Address: 1278 US-30, Mt Vernon, IA 52314, United States
Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad (Boone)
Located in Boone County, Iowa, the Heritage Railroad provides freight and passenger operations.
An Iowa Railroad Historical Society subsidiary, the Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad and Museum travel through the gorgeous Des Moines River Valley, passing through some of the most stunning landscapes in the Midwest.
Dedicated to preserving Iowa’s railroad heritage, the organization offers steam locomotive tours that take visitors on a picturesque ride across the countryside.
Some of the old trains that used to travel on this railroad are still in operation today.
The Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad and Museum is one of the few museums in the world where you can see steam, diesel, and electric locomotives in action.
There are a variety of activities available for visitors to this well-liked destination.
A trip on Thomas the Train, for example, is offered on occasion by the railroad as part of a unique family event.
Moreover, comfortable bi-level commuter coaches are also available on the line.
There are also train journeys for lunch, supper, and a picnic.
It’s not just adults that may appreciate this museum; it’s also great for youngsters! A must-see location in Iowa!
Address: 225 10th St, Boone, IA 50036, United States
With 50 states in the US, it can be difficult to decide which state to visit next. Check out our USA travel guide and explore each state!
Castles of Ida Grove (Ida Grove)
The Castles of Ida Grove look like a scene from medieval times, yet they’re located on Iowa’s rolling plains.
The Castles of Ida Grove, near Ida Grove, Iowa, are a unique sight to see.
It is a remarkable sight to see the castles by Byron LeRoy Godberson, a local multimillionaire who built his fortune as an inventor and businessman.
Godberson has an apparent fondness for castles.
Thanks to his vision, his company’s buildings were constructed in a medieval style that resembles something out of Europe in the 12th century.
It was intended for these oddly positioned structures to stimulate tourism in Iowa, and they have succeeded in doing so.
The castles are replicas of real-world stone constructions, complete with battlements, curtain walls, towers, and gatehouses.
Ida Grove is home to seven different castles. Some can only be seen outside, like a typical workplace, while others are open to the public.
Although they seem like castles outside, such as the Golf Course Bridge and Skate Palace, they are athletic facilities.
Godberson was also responsible for creating an eight-acre artificial lake, which he named after his wife, LaJune.
HMS Bounty’s half-scale model is housed in the lake that used to be a cornfield. The Mutiny on the Bounty inspired the design of this ship.
From a man’s vision to reality, make this tourist destination a dream destination to visit!
Address: Highway 175, Ida Grove, IA, United States
When you explore Iowa on your road trip, do not forget to add Cedar Rapids and Davenport to your travel bucket list, check out the best things to do in Cedar Rapids and the best things to do in Davenport!
Visiting this city is a great way to have a lot of fun and learn something new.
In Des Moines, Iowa, Polk County is located and the state capital and the county seat.
The city’s more than 215,000 residents live in 52 separate neighborhoods and have access to more than 4,000 acres of parkland and 81 miles of trails.
It also has a solid financial foundation and offers its residents first-rate city services that encourage civic participation and foster a friendly community.
It’s easy to see why Des Moines, Iowa, is one of the Midwest’s fastest-growing metro areas.
Des Moines has one of the best commute times in the country for a city of its size, with an average of 19.2 minutes.
The Iowa State Fairgrounds and the Capitol Building are must-see attractions in Des Moines for any visitor.
The Blank Park Zoo and the Pappajohn Sculpture Park are also noteworthy stops.
The State of Iowa Historical Museum should be added to the list of things to do in Des Moines.
Make sure to see some of Des Moines’ most famous tourist attractions while you’re in town.
Address: Des Moines, Iowa, USA
Elk Horn (Iowa)
The Elk Horn is home to the only authentic, working Danish windmill in the United States.
Shelby County is home to Elk Horn.
The town’s name is derived from Elkhorn Creek, which runs through it and was formed in 1901.
In the city, you can go to the Museum of Danish America!
Iowa’s Elk Horn and Kimballton Danish Villages are the country’s biggest rural Danish communities.
A mill has been at the Danish Villages in Iowa for the last 40 years.
It has become one of the state’s most popular places for tourists to visit.
After seeing the Museum of Danish America and wandering around downtown, take a tour of the Danish Windmill Museum.
For a pint and some hearty fare, stop into Larsen’s Pub.
Tivoli Inn & Suites is a great place to stay if you want to get away from it all for a few days.
There is a lot to see and do here at Elk Korn. Add it to your list of places to visit next!
Address: Elk Horn Iowa 51531, USA
When you travel to Iowa for vacation, do not miss out on what Des Moines has to offer. Visit our travel guide – the best things to do in Des Moines, Iowa.
Fenelon Place Elevator (Dubuque)
A self-proclaimed “shortest, steepest, and most picturesque train globally!
The Fenelon Place Elevator in Dubuque, Iowa, is a three-foot-wide funicular train reputed to be the world’s shortest and steepest elevator.
Originally constructed in 1882 by the rich industrialist J.K. Graves, the elevator is a vintage cable vehicle with a short railway.
At 296 feet long, it elevates people from Fourth Street to Fenelon Place on the National Register of Historic Landmarks.
It’s a breathtaking view from Fenelon Place in downtown Dubuque, along with the Mississippi River and three more states in the area.
On the other hand, partially mitigated cables are used to move a train up and down the cliff.
Locals would gather to play cards in a tiny apartment built on top of the operator’s house as the location grew in popularity over time.
If you’re in the mood to explore the state today or over the weekend, the Fenelon Place Elevator is a fun way to view Iowa City.
When you ride in the elevator, you might imagine yourself as an 18th-century socialite who travels back and forth across time.
This is an excellent place to make a quick stop in Iowa for tourists!
Address: 512 Fenelon Pl, Dubuque, IA 52001, United States
Grotto of the Redemption (West Bend)
One of the world’s largest man-made grottos, it is a must-see for anybody visiting Iowa.
The phrase “eighth wonder of the world” is frequently used to refer to this sequence of nine grottos depicting scenes from Jesus’ life.
To this day, the grotto exists as a testament in stone, a priceless piece of art.
A total of nine distinct grottoes were created, and the collection of valuable stones and jewels inside is the world’s greatest.
As a matter of fact, in 2001, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places and has since appeared in films including Roadside America and Disney’s The Straight Story.
Minerals and rocks totaling $4 million were used to build this beautiful attraction, which draws more than 100,000 people each year.
The Grotto of Redemption is a man-made wonder that few would expect to encounter in rural Iowa, regardless of their religious views.
In addition, there is a gift store where you may purchase mementos, as well as camping facilities with 55 RV sites and 20 tent sites.
The museum is open all year round, so feel free to stop by whenever you like!
When you visit, discover why the Grotto of the Redemption is referred to as the eighth wonder of the world.
Address: 208 1st Ave NW, West Bend, IA 50597, United States
Herbert Hoover National Historic Site (West Branch)
This national historic site, Herbert Hoover’s birthplace, inspired him to give back to the community through acts of charity and empathy.
As the country’s 31st president, he will be recognized for bringing about the Great Depression.
Established in 1965, the property is set on 60 acres of Iowa forest.
Herbert Hoover’s legacy is celebrated in a beautiful setting of old buildings, museums, and nature.
The grounds of the park include a visitor center, a recreation of President Hoover’s childhood home, a presidential library and museum, and the resting place of the former president and his wife.
As part of the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site, the Birthplace Cottage provides a focus for visitors to the West Branch area.
The location is just next to West Branch’s historic downtown.
As a bonus, as part of the program known as the “Artists-in-Residence Program,” local artists interpret the historic location by showcasing their own creative processes and inspirations.
You may also rent picnic shelters and schedule field trips at this site and all of the other attractions.
If you’re planning a trip to Iowa and want to see a historical landmark, this is the place to go!
Address: 110 Parkside Dr, West Branch, IA 52358, United States
Iowa 80 Trucking Museum (Walcott)
The man behind the Iowa 80 Truckstop, Bill Moon had a vision for a trucking museum in his home state.
The Iowa 80 Trucking Museum, in the current day, displays trucks that tell a narrative and provide a look into the former lives of the trucks.
Bill has always loved antique trucks and vintage cars, and he has a lot of them.
The museum has over 100 antique trucks, more than 300 gas station signage, and 24 historic gas pumps on exhibit.
For those interested in vintage toy trucks, the museum has a sizable collection on hand as well.
Visitors can see short films on trucking history in a repertory theater.
As a result, this might be an excellent opportunity to learn more about the vehicles at this museum.
In addition, each month, the museum exhibits a truck of the month whose history is recounted and about which amusing tidbits are bragged about.
A visit to the Iowa 80 Trucking Museum is an excellent choice for anyone who enjoys interesting attractions.
Address: 505 Sterling Dr, Walcott, IA 52773, United States
John Wayne Birthplace and Museum (Winterset)
This is a museum dedicated to one of the greatest American actors of all time.
In 1982, three years after John Wayne’s death, the John Wayne Birthplace and Museum were built.
John Wayne was an American actor best known for portraying a rugged, patriotic cowboy.
His legacy lives on in the 6,100 square foot memorial dedicated to his memory.
Also, his house is just next door to the museum.
Visitors can view the most comprehensive collection of John Wayne memorabilia, including original movie posters, costumes, screenplays, contracts, letters, and sculptures.
In addition, you can even catch a glimpse of one of John Wayne’s final bespoke automobiles.
Even a short documentary about John Wayne’s life is available for viewing in the facility’s cinema theater.
Remember to check out their gift shop’s extensive selection of John Wayne products, ideal for souvenirs or new additions to your collection.
Whether or not you’re a fan of John Wayne, this museum is a fitting tribute to his career and a joy to explore in Iowa.
Address: 205 S John Wayne Dr, Winterset, IA 50273, United States
King’s Pointe Outdoor Water Park Resort (Storm Lake)
It’s hot outside, so are you planning to go swimming or sunbathing beneath an umbrella?
You can cool down at Kings Pointe Outdoor Water Park throughout the Iowa summer.
Sunrise cottages, hotel rooms, and suites are just some of the world-class lodging options available at the resort.
In addition to the Sunrise Pointe Golf Course and Pirates’ Pointe Mini Golf, there are plenty more things to see and do here.
Keep in mind that many of their attractions are suitable for both adults and children!
Guests may also look forward to the resort’s indoor and outdoor water parks.
You’ll find tube slides, a lazy river, a wave pool, kid-friendly attractions, and more.
Among the many restaurants that provide breakfast, lunch, and supper, you can find everything from fast food to fine dining establishments.
Are you planning an event of any kind? The 2,750-square-foot function room at their hotel is perfect for it.
A whole day of uninterrupted activity, excitement, and recreation awaits you at King’s Pointe Outdoor Waterpark Resort!
Address: 1520 E Lakeshore Dr, Storm Lake, IA 50588, United States
Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center (Sioux)
This location has a unique place in history because two renowned explorers founded it.
The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center is named after the illustrious explorers Lewis and Clark, who led a military expedition to the Louisiana Purchase and the Pacific Northwest.
The famous 1804 voyage is the subject of this interactive and animated museum.
The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Sioux City, Iowa, houses permanent and temporary displays about Sergeant Charles Floyd’s death and burial.
Because the narrative of Lewis and Clark is too broad to be told in its entirety, the museum chose to concentrate on their explorations of the nearby region.
Among the exhibits at the Interpretive Center is a unique keelboat theater, where you can watch the 15-minute video “A Visit with William Clark.”
To top it all off, visitors to the center may interact with lifelike animatronics of Thomas Jefferson, the two Lewis and Clarks, Sergeant Charles Floyd, and Seaman and his prairie dog pal.
There are also free picture and art exhibitions, educational programs, and activities about the region’s land, rivers, and people to round out the center’s offerings.
The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center is a must-see among the state’s numerous exciting attractions in Iowa.
If you’re planning a trip, this is the ideal way to take advantage of all the center has to offer.
Address: 900 Larsen Park Rd, Sioux City, IA 51103, United States
Maquoketa Caves State Park (Maquoketa)
In Iowa, Maquoketa Caves State Park stands out as one of the state’s most interesting attractions.
Maquoketa Caverns State Park is one of Iowa’s most popular tourist attractions because it has more caves than any other state park in the country.
One of the first state parks in Iowa, Maquoketa Caves, has been a favorite picnic and hiking site since the early 1800s.
This 111-acre park, located northwest of Maquoketa, is officially recognized as a historic landmark and is on the National Register of Historic Places list.
The park’s cliffs rise above the six-mile trail system, which runs through geological formations and woodlands teeming with wildlife.
You could enjoy activities such as camping at the recently refurbished campsite, or you can take one of the rustic trekking spots.
With this in mind, the park is ideal for walking, sightseeing, discovering, and embracing nature’s tranquillity.
You are welcome to access the campsites, picnic pavilions, bathrooms, a playground, and the park’s museum throughout your stay.
Thanks to its excellent features, a trip to this park is sure to be a blast.
Address: 9688 Caves Rd, Maquoketa, IA 52060, United States
National Hobo Museum (Britt)
For three long-time hobos and past Hobo Kings, the National Hobo Museum was a goal they had worked on for years.
The Hobo Foundation was founded in the 1970s by three former hoboes (homeless people) who wanted to protect the heritage of the American Hobo.
When the National Hobo Convention started in 1900, it was started by hobos and people who lived in the area. Since then, the convention has been held in Britt, Iowa.
As part of their responsibilities, they vowed to preserve the history of the American Hobo and Britt Hobo Days.
The three friends purchased the Chief Movie Theater in Britt, Iowa, with the help of a single box of hobo antiques and the money they had received as a present.
In addition, the museum has short documentaries, texts, audio recordings, hobo crafts, and more on show.
The National Hobo Convention’s century-long history and the personal collections of many renowned American hobos are included in the collections.
To learn more about the life of a hobo, the museum has a small cinema where visitors can see documentaries, a massive library of written materials, and an extensive souvenir store.
You may buy t-shirts, postcards, walking sticks, and other hobo crafts in the museum’s store.
To find out more about Iowa’s hobo culture, the National Hobo Museum is the place to go.
Address: 51 Main Ave S, Britt, IA 50423, United States
Orange City, Iowa
It’s no surprise that Orange City, Iowa, is among the best places to visit in the state.
Orange City, Iowa, is located in Sioux County and was named after William of Orange, a Dutch explorer, and colonist.
A group of Dutch settlers from Pella, Iowa, searching for a decent and more affordable place to settle, built Orange City.
Before it was renamed in honor of Dutch nobility, the town was formerly known as Holland.
The Dutch Bakery and De Koffiehoek & Bistro are two excellent places to eat when exploring a new city.
In addition, the Woudstra Meat Market and the Stitch Studio are worth a visit.
On the other hand, Orange City’s annual Tulip Festival attracts thousands of tourists worldwide.
While you’re there, reminisce about the good old days and learn about some of the ancient Dutch customs.
The event, well-known worldwide, involves performances by children and adults dressed in traditional Dutch costumes, two daily parades, nighttime musical theater, a carnival midway, authentic Dutch specialties, excellent cuisine, and tens of thousands of tulips scattered around the picturesque hamlet.
Take a stroll around the Dutch-style architecture of Orange City on your trip!
Address: Orange City, Plymouth County, Iowa
Pottawattamie Squirrel Cage Jail (Bluffs)
You’ll be in awe of this tourist attraction the entire time you’re here.
The Pottawattamie Squirrel Cage Jail, situated in Council Bluffs, Iowa, was established in 1885 and is worth a trip.
When William H. Brown came up with the idea of using rotating prisons in the 19th century, it was a design for prison cells that operated like a carousel, only allowing access to one cell at a time.
The Pottawattamie Squirrel Cage Jail is one of only three prisons globally that have this type of prison architecture.
The jail was in operation until 1969.
The Pottawattamie County Jail was taken over by the Pottawattamie County Historical Society and designated as a museum site after its closure.
Visitors may take a tour of the Pottawattamie Squirrel Cage Jail.
You’ll be able to view the cells throughout your tour, but unfortunately, the cage no longer rotates.
Nevertheless, the cells provide an interesting look at one of the most outlandish aspects of modern jail architecture.
This is a must-see destination in Iowa, and you must make plans to see it!
Address: 226 Pearl St, Council Bluffs, IA 51503, United States
Reiman Gardens (Ames)
Visiting the Reiman Gardens in Iowa is a must-do for visitors.
Reiman Gardens, named for a university president who had a passion for gardening, is a well-kept area open to the public.
Located on 17 acres of campus land, the Reiman Gardens at Iowa State University offer a magnificent view.
The garden was established in the early 1900s as part of the university’s objective to educate students in horticulture.
Reiman Gardens is one of the best and most unusual gardens in the country for students, teachers, and staff to explore, investigate, and learn.
In addition, you’ll get to see a broad range of flora, including fragrant herbs, rose gardens, towering palm trees, species unique to the prairie area, and much more.
The interior tropical paradise of the garden is also home to over 800 lovely and colorful butterflies.
The garden has been a sanctuary of natural beauty and instruction for generations of students and visitors.
Importantly, the garden is accessible to people with disabilities.
There is no better tourist destination than Reiman Gardens, which is free to enter!
Address: 1407 University Blvd, Ames, IA 50011, United States
Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption (West Bend)
If you haven’t taken the trip to the Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption, you’re losing out on a national treasure!
There are nine unique grottos, each reflecting a different aspect of Jesus’ life.
The Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption is the world’s largest man-made grotto. It also has one of the world’s best collections of semi-precious stones and jewels, which are found there.
A commitment he made to the Blessed Virgin Mary led Father Paul Matthias Dobberstein to create the shrine dedicated to the German immigrant’s memory.
He vowed to construct a shrine in Mary’s honor if he were to recover from his illness. Thus, the Grotto of the Redemption Shrine was created.
Dobberstein was also a gifted artist, in addition to being a dedicated and well-educated priest. He kept exquisite and priceless gems in his safe for more than a decade.
It is still in the care of Deacon Gerald Streit that this four-story, nine-grotto marvel continues to expand.
Today, group and private visits are available all year-round.
Take your tour to this attraction and explore some of Iowa’s most beautiful landscapes.
Address: 208 1st Ave NW, West Bend, IA 50597, United States
The Iowa Theatre (Winterset)
An old supermarket and butcher shop stood where it stands today.
The Iowa Theater was opened to the public in 1914.
It is a non-profit, multi-purpose movie theater and entertainment venue called Iowa Theater.
As the Madisonian highlighted, “a first-class cinema show” was now possible thanks to the renovated front and raised theater floor.
The current attraction is a refurbished movie theater with beautiful balcony seats, huge oak doors to welcome guests, and a beautiful marquee sign.
In addition, the theater offers master seminars and training programs for actors and dancers.
All-inclusive theatrical experiences are what the theater is all about.
The Iowa Theater is a one-stop shop for movies, live performances, seminars, and auditions.
In addition, this museum tells the story of Iowa’s cinema history as a legendary movie theater that has lasted for a long time, changed to keep up with new technology, and changed to meet the needs of its audience.
If you’re looking for historical sites, look no farther than the Iowa Theater, one of the most enjoyable places to visit in Iowa.
Address: 121 John Wayne Dr, Winterset, IA 50273, United States
Villisca Axe Murder House (Villisca)
There is no better venue to put your detective abilities to the test than the Villisca Axe Murder House!
For anyone unfamiliar with the mansion’s bloody past, eight people were slaughtered here in 1912.
According to its’ past, an ax-wielding assassin allegedly murdered eight people in their sleep in June 1912.
The incident claimed the lives of six members of the Moore family and two of their friends.
The Villisca Axe Murder House continues to captivate true-crime fans worldwide, although the assassin was never caught.
An unsolved murder has haunted this mansion for almost 100 years.
If you’re in the mood for something a little spooky, you might enjoy this.
Depending on their schedule, tourists can now choose whether they want to visit on a weekday or a weekend.
An adult-only destination like this should be on everyone’s bucket list.
If you’re up for the challenge, you can pay an additional fee to stay the night in the house.
Villisca Axe Murder House should be on your bucket list if you’re not afraid of ghosts and want the best possible haunting experience.
Address: 508 E 2nd St, Villisca, IA 50864, United States
The city was formed in 1849 and is best known as the hometown of actor John Wayne.
Best of all, Winterset is home to six covered bridges!
You can take in a show at the Winterset Stage for their annual Covered Bridge Festival.
Northside Cafe is a great place to have a coffee and learn more about John Wayne.
Winterset City Park is also a great place to go for a walk and look at Clark Tower, which has excellent views of the Middle River Valley.
Likewise, if you’re looking for a place to get away from it all, look no further than Heavenly Habitat B&B.
There’s something for everyone in Madison County, whether you want to explore by foot, boat, bike, or automobile.
It is possible to work with groups that specialize in tailor-made itineraries and guided tours of covered bridges, either for yourself or with a group.
Consider taking a quick detour to Winterset, where you’ll find a range of exciting opportunities for entertainment and recreation!
Is there anything else holding you back from making Iowa your next vacation destination? Visit reasons to visit Iowa at least once in your lifetime here.
Address: Winterset, Iowa 50273, USA