Although it lacks the show-stopping attractions that some of the glitzier US states offer, the Midwestern state more than makes up for with acre upon acre of beautiful landscapes, picture-perfect rural towns, undulating hills, big blue skies, and the wonderful friendliness of the locals. The Midwestern state that every 4 years serves as a make-or-break state for presidential hopefuls is home to some truly gorgeous gems, here are the best and most beautiful places to visit in Iowa…
State Capitol Building – one of the most beautiful buildings to visit in Iowa
Commonly called the Iowa Statehouse, the 23-karat towering golden dome is a sight to behold for visitors to the state. Designed by John C. Cochrane and Alfred H. Piquenard, this historical state capital building was established in 1886. Made up of sandstone and brick, the Iowa state building is the only five-domed capitol in the country. Housing the legislative houses and other Government offices, there is so much history on every floor.
Ranked amongst the magnificent state buildings of the USA, this alluring building with intricate details makes it a great place to visit in Iowa. The lofty corridors gold leaf gilding and grand spiral staircase set a beautiful example from 19th-century architecture.
Dunning’s Spring Park – a wooded park with a pretty waterfall, and great walking trails
A beautiful wonder hidden along Iowa’s forest is the Dunning’s Spring. The charming 200-foot cascading waterfall is located just a few minutes from downtown Decorah. The radiant spring feeds into the Iowa River with a 200ft impressive waterfall. Get greeted by the stone arch bridge as you enter the park and witness the falls from a distance.
Take the boardwalk trail to get a panoramic view of the Decorah downtown. Trail along or picnic in the shade of forests along the roaring falls, this geological wonder is the perfect place for a quick getaway.
Effigy Mounds National Monument – one of the most stunning places to explore in Iowa
Along the banks of the captivating Mississippi River is the ancient Native American burial and ceremonial mounds in northeastern Iowa. Located a few miles from McGregor, the Effigy Mounds National Monument was established in 1949. On the bluffs overlooking the river, you’ll find more than 200 mounds mostly in the shape of birds and bears.
The national monument preserve provides remarkable evidence of the Woodland Indians and their culture. Hike along with the deciduous forests or tour the museum with ancient Indian artifacts, this national heritage offers visitors a beautiful setting for visitors.
Dubuque – the oldest city in Iowa located on the banks of the beautiful Mississippi River
Iowa’s oldest city Dubuque also known as the Tri-State Area lies at the junction of Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin. Started as a small lead mining town, today, Dubuque has grown into a modern port city with fantastic outdoor spaces and recreational trails. Take the world’s steepest cable ride in the Fenelon Place Elevator, the tri-state provides easy access to the beautiful countryside around the river.
Trail the Julian Dubuque Monument or explore the rugged landscape of the Mines of Spain Recreation Area, Dubuque is a center of culture and learning.
The Loess Hills Trail Road – one of the best places to visit and hike in Iowa
Paving its way from north of Sioux City to St. Joseph, Missouri, the Loess Hills National Scenic Byway is a unique land 200 miles long stretching through seven counties. The captivating landscape made up of windblown soil that formed dunes constitutes most of the Loess Hills landform.
With a height of as much as 60 feet, this uniquely American treasure is found only in western Iowa and the Yellow River valley of China. Drive or hike, this byway unfolds the restful pastures, small town to urban centers unraveling Iowa’s rich beauty. With vast prairies, woodlands, rolling hills, and forest-covered bluffs, this landscape keeps the travelers intrigued.
Pikes Peak State Park – one of the most photographed places in Iowa
A majestic state park featuring a 500foot bluff overlooking the Mississippi River, the Pikes Peak State Park is located near the city of McGregor. Established in 1936, the state park is the most photogenic place in Iowa. Stand atop and witness the breathtaking confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers or let the boardwalk guide you to the picturesque Bridal Veil, the park offers beautiful valleys and bluffs.
Hike along the trails amongst beautiful bluffs and valleys or camp around, the park offers the best leisurely place for picnicking.
Amana Colonies – home to America’s longest-lived communal societies and an interesting attraction in Iowa
Comprising of seven villages in the Iowa County, the Amana Colonies or simply the Amanas was built and settled by the Germans in 1855. Spread across 26,000 acres, today this National Historic Landmark is a known tourist destination and clings to the German roots. Positioned between the mighty Mississippi and Missouri River valleys the seven villages of Amanas have a lot of fascinating sites to explore.
Tour around the Amana Heritage Society Museum or savor the traditional foods and handicrafts, this visit will take you a step back in time. The thriving and hospitable community, quaint countryside, clapboard homes, and lantern walkways set a perfect example of the country’s community spirit.
Lake Okoboji – one of the most stunning lakes to visit in Iowa
Also referred to by the name West Lake Okoboji, the lake is part of the charming Iowa Great Lakes. Deriving its name from the Dakota name for the lake, the Okoboji Lake is the deepest in Iowa. Tucked away in northwest Iowa, this enchanted lake has become a popular spot for vacationers.
Formed by the glacial movements retreating north, Lake Okoboji is spring-fed and 136 feet deep. The clean blue waters make it a popular destination for endless water recreational activities including swimming, boating, sailing, and much more. Definitely one of the most beautiful places to visit in Iowa!
Herbert Hoover National Historic Site – a great must-see historical attraction in Iowa
One of the places to visit in Iowa for history lovers, this cute little place is where Herbert Hoover, the 31st President of the United States was born.
Today the two-room cottage dating from 1874 (and located in West Branch), is open to the public and here you can visit the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site, and visit his birthplace and other historic buildings such as his school, church, and grave, and the Presidential Library and Museum.
River Bluffs Scenic Byway – a 109-mile scenic driving route through beautiful Iowa countryside and lovely hiking trails
Indulge in a loopy tour with a 109-mile scenic drive across Fayette and Clayton counties of Northeast Iowa. The towering bluffs, wooded hilltops, rolling valleys with unique geology makes this route a sought destination for visitors.
Designated as a state Byway, the historic towns, limestone structures, green pastures, and recreational parks provide wonderful opportunities to experience the diversity of nature. Gaze the quaint countryside or trail along forested streams, cruising along this scenic byway will captivate your interest in the rich cultural history of the area.
Beulah Falls – a magical mossy waterfall in northeast Iowa
While Iowa may not be known for rugged terrains, you’ll be surprised to know about the hidden wonders of Iowa scattered across near caves, rivers, springs, and cliffs.
Nestled in Clayton County, the Beulah Falls is a run over 20 feet of moss-covered rock near the Spook Cave Campground. Tour around this enchanted waterfall which is more impressive and wider during rainfall or snow.
Ledges state park – one of Iowa’s earliest and most visited state park
The distinctive geological features, vibrant history, and scenic overlooks make the Ledges state park Iowa’s popular park. Established as early as 1924, the beauty of the canyons, bluffs, and steep slopes provide spectacular vistas of this captivating land.
On the west edge of the park is the gushing Des Moines River offering excellent canoeing, and kayaking opportunities for water lovers. Ride through the winding road along Pea’s Creek or hike the steep trails along the Lost Lake, the Ledges state park is every nature lover’s paradise.
Crystal Lake Cave – a well-lit cave complex which is a great place to explore in Iowa
Craved by nature millions of years ago, the Crystal Lake Cave is a constantly evolving natural wonder. Located near Dubuque, this underground labyrinth was discovered by James Rice in 1868. Walk among the limestone formations that continuously erode and shape, creating a spellbinding environment.
Explore this mineral-rich area with incredible crystalline patterns, hanging stalactites, and endless weaving of underground tunnels with guided tours. Adventurous visitors can take the Wild Cave Tour for exploring more hidden areas and underground formations. With well-lit passages and intricate formations, there’s a lot more to explore in this panoramic underground.
Waubonsie State Park – beautiful Iowa landscapes and gorgeous vistas of Iowa’s unique Loess Hills
Nestled in the southwestern corner of the state, the Waubonsie State Park is one of Iowa’s older state park. Comprised of a unique landform called the Loess Hills, the steep slopes of this geological area were formed thousands of years ago with the sediments carried away by westerly winds.
With thousands of acres of protected wildlife, woodlands, oak savannas, wetland, and prairies ridges, this beautiful park offers sweeping views of the Missouri River Valley. Camp around or trail along the sunset Ridge Nature Trail with forest glades, the park offers varied recreational opportunities amid the serene beauty.
Pella – a unique Dutch Treasure in the United States!
Pella or the ‘city of Refuge’ is a small town in Marion County of Iowa. Founded by Dutch settlers in 1847, the quaint town is known for its natural beauty and Dutch heritage. From Dutch heritage museums, stunning tulip gardens to unique Dutch architecture, Pella lets you experience genuine European ambiance without traveling Europe.
Just an hour’s drive from Des Moines and you’ll land in this historic beauty with which retains the classic Dutch charm. From exploring the tallest working windmill, the Vermeer Windmill to savoring Dutch cuisines, Pella will give you a hearty dose of Dutch culture.
Lake MacBride and Lake MacBride Waterfall – a pretty secluded lake in Iowa’s largest state park
Iowa’s oldest and most scenic park, Lake MacBride near Solon is surrounded by rolling woodlands and a serene lake. Part of the Lake MacBride State Park, the lake features a multitude of activities including hiking, camping, boating, and picnic areas. With mesmerizing trails and surrounding landscapes, Lake MacBride offers a beautiful beach area to enjoy the waters.
A perfect place for nature admirers, the park is full of native birds and wildlife. From boating to swimming, the lake is every angler’s paradise.
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