From unforgettable boat trips to magnificent garden tours
Known for its rolling hills and farmland, Iowa features a variety of lakes, creeks, rivers, and parks that make for great Midwestern day trips. Don’t let the open prairie landscape fool you, because Iowa is full of hidden gems meant to be seen, so get out there and let the journey begin!
Parks and Nature
If your group is craving a taste of history, check out Cedar Rock State Park at Independence. This park is home to the historic home of Lowell and Agnes Walter, designed by the famous American architect of the late 1800s to mid-1900s, Frank Lloyd Wright. Visitors can enjoy the beauty of the gardens and paths that surround the Walter House landmark. To learn more and get a glimpse of Wright’s work, visitors are invited to free seasonal tours by park staff.
While offering extraordinary panoramas on the wooded hills, State of Maquoketa Caves
To park is by far one of the most unique places in Iowa due to the number of caves just waiting to be explored. There are approximately 13 caves in the park, which is more than any other state park. Six miles of trails will lead you to cave entrances, some of which can be explored on foot. Don’t forget to take in the beauty of the panoramic views from the top of the cliffs and look for the 17 ton ‘Balanced Rock’ just along the trail.
Located in Ames at Iowa State University, Reiman Gardens offers 17 acres with 26 distinct garden areas and several structures, as well as an enchanting butterfly wing, the conservatory and the gift shop. There’s always something new with ever-changing landscapes, unique exhibits and annual themes.
In the heart of downtown Des Moines is the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden it is like nothing else. Stroll through one of the many gardens and see more than just the beautiful flowering plants, with gorgeous artwork and sculptures that bring the beauty of the Midwest to life. The water garden is sure to be a sight to behold with over 100 water lilies, three islands of tropical plants, and a stunning backdrop of the Des Moines skyline. From May to October, take the Downtown Des Moines Farmer’s Market. Taste local, homemade and handmade products in an entertaining and lively atmosphere.
For a different view of Iowa, take to the water. Rivers and lakes make up much of Iowa’s natural beauty, providing plenty of opportunities for visitors to explore. From the Missouri River on the west coast to the Mississippi River on the east coast, the state is full of boating options.
The Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge at Council Bluffs rises 3,000 feet above the Missouri River. A popular site for tourists, the bridge named ‘Bob’ is a favorite stopover. Recently opened on the Mississippi River is the I-74 River Bridge, connecting Iowa to Illinois. Be sure to look at the river through the Glass Oculus.
One of the best ways to admire the Iowa landscape is from the deck of a riverboat. The Queen II in Okoboji and the the Lady of the Lake in Clear Lake, both offer relaxing cruises on the lake. If an unforgettable Mississippi River tour is more what your group is looking for, then don’t miss the Beautiful Celebration and the Dusk of the river boat. River cruises offer a variety of delicious lunch or dinner experiences as well as overnight options. From the deck of a cruise ship, it’s a great way to observe the magnificent birds of The Big River Bird Watching Trail.
The magnificent waterfall Dunnings Spring Park at Decorah is a favorite stop. While there, visitors can explore the Decorah Fish Hatchery and the Trout Run Trail for more outdoor experiences. Those who want even more can hop in a canoe or kayak to paddle among the cliffs of the Upper Iowa River.
For the more adventurous group, a trip to Charles City’s whitewater park maybe on the route. The park offers kayaking and tubing opportunities on the Cedar River for visitors of all ages and abilities. Adjacent Riverside Park has covered picnic shelters, a maze, public art sculptures, and a walking path.