There's so much to see and do in Iowa. View this listing of the places Dan Kaercher visited during his road trips across Iowa during the production of Iowa Public Television’s Best of Iowa program. Web sites and phone numbers make it easy for you to discover Iowa's treasures on your own.
Iowa’s Natural Treasures
Dubuque is a river town experiencing a renaissance. The riverfront is home to the spectacular National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium. Dubuque is also home to the historic Fenelon Place Elevator, the world’s steepest, shortest scenic railway. Visitors will find lots to see and do in this historic town.
Yellow River State Forest
At just over 8500 acres, Yellow River State Forest is the smallest of Iowa’s four primary state forests. And it’s definitely the wildest. The steep-walled slopes, deep river valleys and rocky outcrops make for interesting hiking, biking and backpacking. This tree-blanketed forest is a hidden escape in scenic northeast Iowa.
These rare hills extend 200 miles north to south along Iowa’s western border. Over 3000 plant species are found thriving in the fine loess soil. The Loess Hills State Forest, Hitchcock Nature Center, and the Loess Hills Scenic Byway are just a few of the great places to take in the wonders of the Loess Hills.
Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge
As a tribute to Iowa’s natural past, this remnant of beautiful tall grass prairie offers visitors a look at native plant and animal communities. A network of trails make hiking, birding and biking a pure pleasure in central Iowa.
Iowa Great Lakes
As one of the state’s top water playgrounds, the great lakes offer fishing, swimming, boating and lots of other wonderful recreational opportunities. The natural glacier lakes are known for their beauty and diversity and make the great lakes area a shining example of Iowa’s natural treasures.
Food and Celebrations
Christy Creme – Council Bluffs
Started in 1954, this family-owned eatery is best known for its soft serve ice cream and sherbet.
Dayton House Café – Decorah
Authentic Scandinavian foods are served at this café located at Vesterheim Museum complex.
The Family Diner – Spirit Lake
Comfort food is the order of the day at this popular diner.
Iowa 80 Truck Stop – Walcott
As the world’s largest truck stop, this place is big on food – especially their famous apple dumpling.
Lincoln Café – Mount Vernon
The owners like to call the elegant dishes here “honest food.” Local produce and meats are used whenever possible and much of it is organically grown. The meals served here are fit for any presidential dining room.
Dutchman’s Store – Cantril
This is an old-fashioned country store that serves the Amish population in southeast Iowa – as well as the general public.
Milton Creamery – Milton
As a small roadside enterprise with no frills, Milton Creamery is know for its great cheeses.
Maytag Dairy Farms – Newton
Since 1941, America’s finest blue cheese has been produced at Maytag Dairy Farms. Cheese is made the old-fashioned way here – by hand.
Jaarsma Bakery – Pella
Family-owned and operated, this bakery makes delicious Dutch pastries, breads, cakes and cookies. They’re known for their famous Dutch letters.
Breitbach’s Country Dining – Balltown
Opened in 1852 and housed in an old stagecoach stop, this is the oldest continually-operating restaurant and bar in Iowa.
Iowa State Fair – Des Moines
The modern-day state fair food phenomenon, food on a stick, is showcased at the Iowa State Fair. Over a million people visit the Fair every year.
Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum –Decorah
Costumes, furniture and folk art fill the rooms of this museum dedicated to Iowans’ Norwegian heritage.
Effigy Mounds National Monument – Marquette
Native Americans created these earthen burial mounds in the shapes of animals. It’s the largest known collection of these mounds in the United States.
National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library - Cedar Rapids
Founded in 1974, this museum and library are considered two of the nation’s foremost institutions dedicated to interpreting and preserving Czech and Slovak culture.
American Gothic House – Eldon
On the National Register of Historic Places, this small white house and its unusual Gothic window were the inspirations for one of artist Grant Wood’s most famous paintings, American Gothic.
Living History Farms – Urbandale
This 600-acre open-air museum showcases an 1875 town and farms from various historical periods tracing the development of Iowa agriculture. Costumed interpreters educate visitors.
Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad – Boone
This is one of the few railroad museums in the world operating diesel, electric and steam equipment. Vintage railroad cars carry visitors on a round trip through the Des Moines River valley.
Union Pacific Railroad Museum - Council Bluffs
This museum houses all of Union Pacific’s historic collections. Artifacts and exhibits trace the development of both the railroad and the American West.
Railswest History Center - Council Bluffs
Housed in and around the 1899 Rock Island Depot, this museum features a scale model railroad, artifacts, a ticket office, a telegraph and an impressive collection of historic engines and rail cars.
Historic Dodge House - Council Bluffs
Built in 1869 by General Grenville Dodge, a former Union Army officer and the chief construction engineer for the Union Pacific Railroad, this elegant 14-room mansion is open for tours.
Amana Colonies – Amana
The seven villages of the Amana Colonies offer a glimpse into a religious communal society dating back to the mid-1800s. Visitors can shop for exceptional handmade goods and foods.
Bonaparte - Villages of Van Buren County Bentonsport - Villages of Van Buren County Keosauqua - Villages of Van Buren County
Hidden away in southeast Iowa, these sleepy little towns allow visitors to bask in the pleasures of Iowa small town life.