22 of The Very Best Things to Do in Iowa

When it comes to Midwestern charm, Iowa knows how to deliver. Located in the heart of America, this state is home to friendly people, delicious food, and plenty of opportunities for outdoor fun.

From biking and hiking to kayaking and fishing, there are endless ways to enjoy the great outdoors. And when you need a break from all that fresh air, you can explore one of Iowa’s many museums or take a walk through a charming small town.

Beautiful Skyline of Des Moines, Iowa, the best things to do in Iowa
Beautiful Skyline of Des Moines, Iowa

No matter what your interests are, you’re sure to find something to love in Iowa. So what are you waiting for? Start planning your trip today!

Iowa State Capitol Building

Iowa Capitol Building, Best things to do in Iowa
Photo: Anthony C.

The Capitol Building is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Iowa. Located in downtown Des Moines, the Capitol Building is a beautiful landmark that was built in 1886.

Visitors can take a tour of the State Capitol, which includes the Rotunda, the Supreme Court Chambers, and the House and Senate Chambers.

The Capitol Building is also home to the Iowa State Museum, which has exhibits on the state’s history, culture, and natural resources.

In addition, the Capitol Building is surrounded by beautiful gardens and parks.

Visitors can also take a walk through the grounds of the Iowa State Capitol, which offer stunning views of the city. The Capitol Building is a must-see destination for anyone visiting Iowa.

1007 E Grand Ave, Des Moines, IA 50319

Maquoketa Caves State Park

Maquoketa Caves State Park, things to do with kids in Iowa
Photo: Jamie W.

There’s something magical about caves.

Perhaps it’s the way they take us back to a time before modern conveniences, or the way they offer a cool respite from the summer heat.

Whatever the reason, caves have a special allure, and Iowa’s Maquoketa Caves State Park offers a truly unique experience.

The park is home to more than 12 miles of underground passages, making it one of the largest cave systems in Iowa.

Visitors can explore the caves on their own or take part in guided tours. Above ground, the park offers hiking trails, picnic areas, and stunning views of the surrounding countryside.

Whether you’re looking for an adventure or a place to relax and soak up nature, Maquoketa Caves State Park is definitely worth a visit.

10756 98th St Maquoketa, IA 52060

Iowa State Fairgrounds

Iowa state fairgrounds, fun things to do in iowa
Delicious! Photo: Alice T.

The Iowa State Fairgrounds is located in Des Moines and it is full of different events all year long.

One of the most popular events is the Iowa State Fair which is held every August. The Iowa State fair has many different activities, rides, food, games, and concerts.

Another popular event at the fairgrounds is the Butter Cow Festival which is held every September.

This festival celebrates the world-famous butter cow that is on display at the state fair each year.

If you are looking for a place to have some fun and learn about Iowa culture, then the Iowa State Fairgrounds is the place for you!

3000 East Grand Ave Des Moines, IA 50317

National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium

National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium, best things to do in iowa with kids
Photo: Steven T.

The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium is a must-see for anyone visiting Iowa.

Located on the banks of the Mississippi River, this museum tells the story of America’s mightiest river and its importance to the country’s history and culture.

The museum features a variety of interactive exhibits, including a replicated nineteenth-century river town and a working boatyard.

Visitors can also see live animals, such as river otters and bald eagles, and learn about the efforts to protect the river’s ecosystem.

The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium is both educational and fun, making it one of the best things to do in Iowa.

350 E 3rd St Dubuque, IA 52001

Figge Art Museum

Art is a form of self-expression that is often underappreciated. It can be found in many different forms, from intricate paintings to simple sketches.

At the Figge Art Museum, visitors can explore a wide variety of fascinating art forms from around the world.

The museum houses permanent collections of European and American art, as well as temporary exhibitions of contemporary artists.

In addition to the artwork on display, the Figge Art Museum also offers highly educational programs and workshops for all ages.

Whether you’re an art aficionado or simply looking to expand your horizons, the Figge Art Museum is definitely worth a visit.

225 W 2nd St Davenport, IA 52801

National Czech & Slovak Museum and Library

The National Czech & Slovak Museum and Library is one of the best things to do in Iowa and highly edifying to boot.

This museum is dedicated to preserving the history and culture of Czech and Slovak immigrants.

The museum features a variety of interesting exhibits, including a replica of a traditional Czech village, a Slovakian folk art gallery, and a library with over 12,000 books.

Visitors can also participate in a variety of educational programs, such as language classes, cooking demonstrations, and fun dance performances.

The National Czech & Slovak Museum and Library is a must-visit for anyone interested in learning more about the Czech and Slovak cultures.

1400 Inspiration Pl SW Cedar Rapids, IA 52404

Vander Veer Botanical Garden

The Vander Veer Botanical Garden in Davenport, Iowa is truly a hidden gem.

This gorgeous garden features over 15 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens, ponds, and walking trails.

The highlight of the Vander Veer Botanical Garden is the Conservatory, which houses an impressive collection of tropical plants and flowers.

Visitors can also take part in educational programs, like gardening classes and plant walks.

215 W Central Park Ave Davenport, IA 52803

Blank Park Zoo

If you’re looking for a great day out in Iowa, then you can’t go wrong with a visit to Blank Park Zoo.

Home to over 800 animals from across the globe, the zoo is one of the state’s most popular tourist attractions.

And it’s easy to see why – with so many different species to see, there’s something for everyone at Blank Park Zoo.

One of the highlights of the zoo is definitely the African Savannah Exhibit, where you can see lions, giraffes and zebra roaming around in their natural habitat.

Kids will also love the Children’s Zoo, where they can meet and feed some of the smaller animals.

And don’t forget to check out the aquarium, where you can see all sorts of fascinating fish up close.

7401 SW 9th St Des Moines, IA 50315

Devonian Fossil Gorge

There’s something truly magical about visiting a place where you can literally see the history of our planet unfold before your eyes.

The Devonian Fossil Gorge is one of those places. This glacial gorge exposes fossils that date back to the Devonian period, which was over 375 million years ago.

Today, the fossils are protected by a limestone cliff that towers 50 feet above the river.

Visitors can explore the gorge by hiking along the River trail, which offers stunning views of the fossils and the river below.

The Devonian Fossil Gorge is a very unique must-see for anyone interested in geology or simply in marveling at the wondrous natural history of our planet.

2850 Prairie Du Chien Rd NE Iowa City, IA 52240

Fenelon Place Elevator Co.

The Fenelon Place Elevator Co. in Dubuque, Iowa is one of the coolest and most unique places to visit in the state!

This historic funicular railway has been in operation since 1884 and is the oldest privately-owned public transportation system in the world.

The Fenelon Place Elevator Co. consists of two counterweighted cars that travel up and down a steep hillside, providing stunning views of the city below.

Visitors can ride the elevator to the top of the hill, where they can enjoy a picnic or take in the sights from one of the best vantage points in Dubuque.

The Fenelon Place Elevator Co. is a must-see for anyone visiting Iowa!

512 Fenelon Pl Dubuque, IA 52001

Des Moines Art Center

The Des Moines Art Center is one of the best things to do in Iowa. With its world-renowned collections, rotating exhibitions, and public programming, the Des Moines Art Center offers something for everyone.

Visitors can explore the work of contemporary artists from around the globe, or take a stroll through the beautifully landscaped gardens.

The Art Center also offers a variety of educational programs for all ages, making it a great destination for families.

4700 Grand Ave Des Moines, IA 50312

Effigy Mounds National Monument

Effigy Mounds National Monument, best things to do in Iowa
Photo: Effigy Mounds National Monument

The Effigy Mounds National Monument is a must-see for anyone visiting Iowa. The monument protects more than 200 Native American mounds, some of which are in the shape of animals like bears and turtles.

The mounds were built by early inhabitants of the area between 500 and 1300 AD, and they provide insight into the daily lives and beliefs of these ancient peoples.

Visitors can hike through the monument to see the mounds up close, or they can take a ranger-led tour for a more in-depth look at this fascinating piece of history.

Either way, a trip to Effigy Mounds National Monument is sure to be a highlight of any visit to Iowa.

151 Highway 76 Harpers Ferry, IA 52146

Brunnier Art Museum

Brunnier Art Museum, best things to do in Iowa
Photo: Brunnier Art Museum

Iowa State University is home to the Brunnier Art Museum, which houses a impressive collection of 19th and 20th century art.

The museum is free to the public and features both temporary and permanent exhibits. Recent temporary exhibits have included works by Edouard Manet and Pablo Picasso.

The permanent collection features American paintings, sculptures, and glassworks. There is also a section of the museum devoted to works by Iowa artists.

The Brunnier Art Museum is a great place to spend an afternoon exploring the world of art.

1805 Ctr Dr Second Fl Scheman Building Ames, IA 50011

Buddy Holly Crash Site

On February 3, 1959, a young musician named Buddy Holly died in a plane crash in Iowa. He was only 22 years old. He was already a star around the world, and had greatly influenced musicians that would go on to become mega-stars. For example, Paul McCartney was a huge fan of Buddy and produced a documentary about his life.

Today, the site of the crash is a popular tourist destination. Visitors can see the monument that marks the spot where the plane went down, as well as the graves of Holly and the other musicians who were on board.

The Buddy Holly Crash Site is also a popular place for concerts and other events. Every year, on the anniversary of Holly’s death, a tribute concert is held at the site.

The concert features performances by some of Holly’s biggest fans, as well as special guests who knew him personally. For music lovers, the Buddy Holly Crash Site is a must-see destination.

Gull Ave & 315th St Clear Lake, IA 50428

Herbert Hoover Presidential Library

Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, things to do in iowa
Photo: Irene Y.

The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library has exhibits on the life and Presidency of Herbert Hoover, as well as on the Great Depression and World War II.

There are also interactive exhibits, such as a simulated presidential campaign, that allow visitors to get a firsthand look at what it was like to be a part of history.

In addition to the museum, the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library also has a research center and a public genealogy program.

The research center houses more than two million documents, photographs, and artifacts, making it an essential destination for anyone interested in history.

And the public genealogy program provides access to millions of records, making it possible for visitors to trace their own family histories.

210 Parkside Dr West Branch, IA 52358

The Putnam Museum & Science Center

The Putnam Museum & Science Center is one of the best things to do in Iowa.

This world-class museum has something for everyone, with exhibits on natural history, science, and Iowa history.

The museum also has a giant screen movie theater, making it the perfect place to learn while taking in a fun and educational films covering different subjects.

And if that’s not enough, the museum also has a hands-on science center where you can experiment with different materials and see how they react.

1717 W 12th St Davenport, IA 52804

Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center

The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center is a museum that tells the fascinating story of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

The museum has exhibits on the expedition, the people who were on it, and the animals that they saw.

The Interpretive Center is located in Onawa, Iowa. The town of Onawa is located on the Missouri River.

The town is named after a Native American tribe called the Omaha Tribe. The Omaha Tribe lived in the area that is now Nebraska and Iowa.

The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center is located on the site of the Omaha Tribe’s village. The village was called Big Village.

4201 Giant Springs Rd Great Falls, MT 59405

Gray’s Lake Park

Photo: Rachel L.

If you’re looking for a beautiful place to enjoy the great outdoors, look no further than Gray’s Lake Park.

This tranquil and scenic park offers plenty of activities for everyone to enjoy, including hiking, biking, fishing, and picnicking.

The park is also home to a variety of wildlife, making it a perfect spot for birdwatching.

1700 Fleur Dr Des Moines, IA 50321

 John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park

The Pappajohn Sculpture Park in Iowa is world-renowned for its beautiful and unique sculptures.

Located in the heart of downtown Des Moines, the park features over 30 sculptures by some of the world’s most celebrated artists.

Visitors can stroll through the park and enjoy the artwork, or take a seat on one of the benches and soak up the scenery.

The sculpture park is also a popular spot for photography, and it’s not uncommon to see professional photographers set up their equipment and capture the beauty of the sculptures.

13th St And Locust St Des Moines, IA 50309

Union Pacific Railroad Museum

Union Pacific Railroad Museum, fun things to do in Iowa
Photo: Paisley T.

The Union Pacific Railroad Museum is located in Council Bluffs and tells the story of the transcontinental railroad and its impact on the development of the American West.

Visitors can explore interactive exhibits, see historic artifacts, and learn about the people who built the railroad.

The museum also has a restored locomotive and caboose that visitors can explore.

The Union Pacific Railroad Museum is a fantastic place to learn about American history and the development of the West.

200 Pearl St Council Bluffs, IA 51503

Buffalo Bill Museum

Photo: JW

The Buffalo Bill Museum is dedicated to the life and times of Buffalo Bill Cody, who was a famous American westward expansionist.

The museum features a variety of exhibits that explore Cody’s life, from his days as a frontier scout to his time as a showman.

You can learn about the many legends that have grown up around Cody, such as his famous Wild West show.

The museum also houses a large collection of artifacts related to Cody’s life, including his firearms, clothing, and personal effects.

The museum also has an impressive research library that contains a wealth of information about Cody and the American west.

The Buffalo Bill Museum is an excellent place to learn about an important figure in American history and to explore the myths and legends of the American west.

Top review: “The museum sits on the bank of the Mississippi river below the main road in town. Outside is a marvelous Buffalo statue that begs to be sat on and photographed. Upon entering, you’re greeted by a very friendly volunteer asking for $5. You’ll think about leaving at this point, but stay my friends, yours reward awaits. Your fee buys you an 8 minute video about Buffalo Bill Cody and some of the folks in town. This includes an elderly gentleman who plays an accordion and sings about Mr. Bill.

After the video, a short saunter gets you to a large buffalo head (We aptly named him “Bill the Buffalo”) and plenty of memorabilia from both Buffalo Bill and folks from around the town. Our favorite piece of Le Claire-icana, as we named it, was a medical kit from the 1910’s that claimed to cure cancer without the knife.”Matt U.

199 N Front St Le Claire, IA 52753

Reiman Gardens

Reiman Gardens, a stunningly gorgeous garden park is located on the campus of Iowa State University.

Reiman also features a butterfly wing, an indoor conservatory, and a 10-acre pond.

The garden is also home to the world’s largest walking stick collection.

Reiman Gardens is open year-round, so you can enjoy its beauty no matter what time of year it is. Trust me, it’s worth a visit!

1407 University Blvd Ames, IA 50011

You might also like scouring these articles: