Iowa may be off your flight path, but when you head out Io-o-way, you'll find the trails of Lewis & Clark, Herbert Hoover, Blue Bell ice cream and that Field of Dreams.
Iowa Tourism has a great website at www.traveliowa.com to help you figure out attractions and events in different cities around the state. Here are some of the best we’ve found for traveling families.
Great Fun for the Kids
(Toddlers to age 8)
Sergeant Floyd River Museum and Welcome Center
1000 Larsen Park Road/Exit 149 on I-29
Sioux City, IA 51103
Visitors can explore one of America’s largest displays of Missouri River steamboat and keelboat models. Visitors can explore a variety of exhibits: The “hands-on” cabin of Pioneer Hall, From River Town to Boom Town, A New Century, a New Beginning, and the Native American Hall. This attraction focuses on the 1804 Lewis & Clark Expedition.
Jefferson Telephone Museum
105 West Harrison
Jefferson, IA 50129
With displays of early telephones and switchboards, this is one of the few American telephone museums. Bet your kids have never seen a rotary dial! Admission is free.
Lewis & Clark Keelboat Display
613 5th Street
Onawa, IA 51040
800/262-8204 or 712/423-1988
Visit the full-size replica of Lewis & Clark Expedition’s keelboat at the weekend festival held each June to celebrate their expedition. Activities include boating, fishing, swimming, and camping in the park.
Fun for Older Children
(Up to age 18)
Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center
900 Larsen Park Road
Sioux City, IA 51103
This center allows visitors to explore the historic context and perspective on the lifestyles and adventures of Lewis and Clark. Admission is free. While you’re in Sioux City, stop by the Sergeant Floyd Monument, the site of a 100-foot-tall white stone obelisk next to the Missouri River. This monument that marks the burial place of Sergeant Floyd, the only fatality of the 1804 Lewis & Clark Expedition was the nation’s first registered National Historic Landmark.
Lewis & Clark: An American Adventure
440 Sergeant Road, Hwy. 20 to Lakeport Road
Sioux City, IA 51106
Located at Southern Hills Mall, this site holds an exhibit of original Lewis & Clark mural paintings, including 38 mural scenes stretching 296 feet in length. These depict scenes from start to finish along Lewis and Clark’s trail. No admission charges.
Field of Dreams Movie Location
28963 Lansing Road
Dyersville, IA 52040
This part of eastern Iowa is where the Academy-Award-nominated 1988 film, “Field of Dreams” was made, and Dyersville is the place that has profited most from the line, “If you build it, they will come.” It may boast about its Gothic Basilica of St. Francis Xavier, but it’s the baseball field cut from a corn patch by Kevin Costner that attracts tourists today. The field is “open” daily from April to November. You’ll have to share the video with the kids before you arrive, and bring your own baseball gear, but there are snacks and souvenirs available. You won’t be far from Dubuque, with its picturesque setting along the Mississippi River. The city is undergoing a multi-million-dollar waterfront renovation and offers casino gaming, Victorian mansions, towering river bluffs and a ride aboard the world’s shortest, steepest scenic railway to visitors.
Town of Fairfield
Visitor’s Bureau: 200 North Main Street
Fairfield, IA 52556
The town of Fairfield likes to bill itself as “Silicorn Valley” in efforts to lure new settlers, but in fact it has a small town charm built around historic homes and a large town square hosting a weekly Farmers’ Market and several free cultural events. Check their website for free concerts during summer evenings. The town is also known for the Maharishi University of Management, founded by the late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, which promotes spiritual growth in its curriculum.
Fun for the Whole Family
Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum
210 Parkside Drive
West Branch, IA 52358
Museum visitors pay one fee, which admits them to President Hoover’s Birthplace, his father’s blacksmith shop, a Quaker meetinghouse, a pioneer schoolhouse and the President’s gravesite. These attractions are a part of the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site.
Wells Blue Bunny Ice Cream
16 5th Ave NW
Le Mars, IA 51031
This corner of Northwestern Iowa is the home of Wells’ Blue Bunny Ice Cream headquarters, and the town was named the Ice Cream Capitol of the World in 1994. Explore the Ice Cream Capitol of the World Visitor Center open year-round. Or, visit the cute town of Le Mars during the annual Ice Cream Days each June.
600 block of Washington Street
Burlington, IA 52601
Located in the historic Heritage Hill neighborhood of downtown Burlington, “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not” has called this alley the world’s “Crookedest Street.” It truly is a historic and quaint winding road that competes with San Francisco’s Lombard Street for the same title.
Visitor’s Bureau: 709 9th Street
Ft. Madison, IA 52627
800/210-TOUR or 319/372-5472
Established in 1808 as a government “factory” or trading post, historic Fort Madison boasts a reproduction of the first military fort on the upper Mississippi River, staffed by costumed interpreters who recreate the lives of the military and families stationed there. Part of the Great River Road Interpretive Center, it’s open Wednesday through Sunday from Memorial to Labor Day, and each weekend in May and September. As a prosperous 19th-century town, the area also features restored Victorian architecture, easily seen in the large homes, public buildings and train lines. The Old Santa Fe Depot Historic Center (open May to September only) honors the legacy of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, which opened their first line in 1869. After the Sante Fe Railroad arrived in 1887, the town’s future in trade was assured. Today, visitors can bicycle across the 525-foot swingspan rail bridge and watch the 60-70 trains that pass through town daily, on what is now known as the Mainline of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad.
Check out Hotels in Iowa for some suggestions on where to stay in the area.
This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.