You’ve probably driven through or flown over it, but haven’t ever thought of it as a family vacation spot. Quick Weekender TravelingMom says Central Iowa is so much more than corn fields! There is something for everyone. Movie lovers, hikers, art enthusiast and even sulky teens will be impressed with everything Iowa serves up. She shares just a handful of reasons to visit Central Iowa.
I was recently granted the chance to explore Iowa for a few days. Being completely honest, I wasn’t sure there was enough in Iowa to keep us busy… But I was quickly proven wrong. There is so much to see and do our measly four days wasn’t enough to see and do everything we wanted to!
Winterset, Iowa – Birthplace of John Wayne
Winterset, Iowa is the birthplace of John Wayne making it the perfect for grandpa, dad and any young cowboy or cowgirl that grew up watching “The Duke.” Take a step back to 1907 and visit the house little Marion “John Wayne” Morrison was born.
While much smaller than my home, I was amazed at how spacious the tiny four room home felt. But with rambunctious boys, I bet it didn’t feel as big back in the day!
There is a newly built museum across from the little house dedicated to all things John Wayne. Here I was able to get a peak into the film history surrounding the most famous cowboy. Mostly costumes and props from some of his movies the small museum is a fun place to explore for any cowboy movie buff.
The Bridges of Madison County
Winterset is such a small town, but it holds so much for film lovers including the covered bridges from the “The Bridges of Madison County.”.
There are a total of six covered bridges. Each holding a story of their own.
Built in 1883 by Benton Jones, the Roseman Bridge is where Robert Kincaid leaves a note for Francesca asking her to dinner in the Bridges of Madison County film.
But the bridge’s real history isn’t as romantic as that! Locals say the Roseman Bridge is known to be haunted. In 1892, two sheriff posses chased an escaped prisoner into the bridge. The posses surrounded the bridge where they witnessed the man cry out and rise up right through the roof and disappear. Legend holds that the man was never found or heard from again.
Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad
Trains are a wonderful way to get a new perspective on a town. From the basic excursion to the dinner train and even specialty holiday train rides, the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad offers a wide range of choices.
The dinner trains or dessert trains are perfect for a date night while families will love the picnic train that allows families to bring their own food onboard to enjoy in the dining cars.
Trains are fun for the whole family, but we all know they are a dream come true for those Thomas loving toddlers! The railroad hosts a “Day out with Thomas” each year and is sure to delight the little ones.
High Trestle Trail Bridge
Modern art isn’t something usually associated with Iowa. But from the unique bridges to a sculpture park in Des Moines, Iowa is surprisingly the place for art enthusiasts.
There are quite a few bridges located throughout Iowa, but my favorite has to be the High Trestle Trail Bridge. Located along the popular 25-mile long High Trestle Trail, the bridge is a highlight for locals and visitors alike.
Popular for families, teens, and travelers, we noticed many walking, biking and even skateboarding along the trail.
But the real “aha moment” came when the sun went down and the bright blue lights illuminated a small section of the bridge.
Pappajohn Sculpture Park
Since our Iowa adventures had already been full of surprises, I shouldn’t have been shocked to see a modern sculpture park right smack dab in the middle of the city. But I was!
Donated by John and Mary Pappajohn, the sculptures now decorate just over 4 acres in downtown Des Moines.
From what some call weird to what others call beautiful, the sculpture park is a fun stop for everyone. Parents and older kids will appreciate the wonders of the different sculptures. The lush lawns allow kids to run off some steam and are perfect for somersaults! But keep a close eye on them as the area is surrounded by busy downtown streets.
This one’s for the teens (but adults will love it too)! Not your average burger joint, the added ghoulishness, and the fun burger choices will bring a smirk to the sullen teen’s face.
“The Walking Ched” is a must! Anything with a fried mac and cheese bun has to be good. And the Undead Elvis with peanut butter, fried bananas, bacon and more is just too weird not to try.
Zombie Burger also has incredible shakes. They are thick and the choices are just as unique as the burgers. My personal favorite was the spiked Zombie Joe. This restaurant was my introduction to the Iowa foodie scene. And I’ll admit I didn’t think they had a foodie scene but was captivated with my first bite.
My short trip to Central Iowa was jam-packed and I left wanting more. The motto on our trip ended up being “well, you’ll just have to come back,” and I honestly can’t wait to go back!