Travel to Iowa – Episode 717

categories: USA Travel

Places to visit in Iowa (Podcast)

Hear about travel to Iowa as the Amateur Traveler talks to Sara Broers from about her home state.

Sara says, “I live in Iowa. I have lived here all my life. I live on an Iowa farm. I married the neighbor boy. The one thing I realized is that a lot of people didn’t know a lot about the midwest or about my home state of Iowa. Iowa has beautiful cornfields and soybean fields, but we have a lot of other amazing things. That’s why you need to come to Iowa to visit. Iowa will surprise you, the art, the culture, the scenic byways will blow you away.”

Sara starts us near Mason City with a visit to the last known hotel designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. In addition, the art museum and the downtown sculpture walk, see recommends a visit to the boyhood home of Meredith Willson who wrote the music man.

We stop in Charles City to enjoy their downtown whitewater park and the tractor collection at the Floyd County Historical Museum. Charles City was the home of the first tractor factory in the world. 

Nearby in Clear Lake, music fans will want to stop at the Surf Ballroom and then visit the memorial at the crash site of a small plane on the “Day the Music Died”. The crash took the life of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, the “Big Bopper” and their pilot. Take the Lady of the Lake riverboat onto Clear Lake itself or camp in one of the nearby state parks including McIntosh Woods State Park and Pilot Knob State Park. Take a factory tour of the Winnebago Factory in Forest City.

We stop at the Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend and the town of Estherville to see the 455 pound Estherville Meteorite.

We stop at Elk Horn, Iowa to see the Danish heritage and later Decorah, Iowa to see the Norwegian heritage. The National Balloon Classic is a nine-day event with nearly 100 hot air balloons held in Warren County, Iowa. We take a selfie in front of the American Gothic House from Grant Wood’s iconic painting.

Sara recommends the Covered Bridges Scenic Byway in Madison County, John Wayne’s birthplace, and the Iowa State Fair. 

Along the way, Sara recommends a winery, a bakery with Danish pastries, a great place to get a pork tenderloin, what to eat on a stick at the state fair, and where to stop for a “loose meat sandwich”.

Gas up the car and get ready to discover the interstates, the country roads, and the scenic byways of Iowa.

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Show Notes

Travel With Sara
Midwest Travel Network
Mason City, Iowa
Historic Park Inn Hotel – Mason City
River City Sculptures on Parade – Downtown Mason City
Charles H. MacNider Art Museum – Mason City
The Music Man – Meredith Willson Boyhood Home in Mason City, Iowa
Charles City WhiteWater
Red Cedar Lodge – Charles City
Floyd County Historical Museum
Surf Ballroom
The Day the Music Died
The Lady of the Lake
McIntosh Woods State Park
Clear Lake State Park
Starboard Market, Clear Lake
Pilot Knob State Park
Pilot Knob State Park
Winnebago Factory Tour
West Bend Grotto
Estherville, Iowa
Woodys Pizza Restaurant, Estherville, Iowa
Fort Defiance State Park
Elk Horn, Iowa
Museum of Danish America
Larsen’s Pub, Elk Horn
Danish Table, Elk Horn
Elk Horn Ridge Vineyards
Atlantic, Iowa
Des Moines, Iowa
John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park
National Balloon Classic
Pella, IA
Jaarsma Bakery
Maid-Rite, Oskaloosa
Oskaloosa Art Center and Studios
Ottumwa, Iowa
American Gothic House
National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium
Fenelon Place Elevator – Dubuque
Covered Bridges Scenic Byway
Winterset town square
John Wayne Birthplace & Museum
Yellow River National Forest
Decorah, Iowa
Vesterheim – Norwegian Heritage Museum
Pikes Peak State Park
Iowa State Fair
Iowa in Photos


Morning Chris,

Thanks for getting an episode on Nebraska.

I know you can’t highlight everything but just a couple of quick mentions.  You mentioned the Oregon Trail.  Nebraska has four other National Historic Trails also running through or along it: California, Pony Express, Mormon, and Lewis & Clark.  The number of cavalry forts and historic westward movement sites are numerous along those trails.  Continuing in the National Park Service theme, you mentioned Niobrara which was not mentioned as a unit of the system.  Two additional NPS areas in Nebraska are another river, Missouri, and out by Scotts Bluff is Agate Fossil Beds.  While a town of 20 is small, the town of Monowi is a population of one.  Stop in and say Hi to Elsie Eiler in the Monowi Tavern.  Finally, two roadside attractions I’ve visited are the World’s Largest Time Capsule in Seward and the Sentinels of the Prairie (windmills) Museum in Jackson.

Have a good weekend,

Jeff Ohlfs


Hi Chris, 
Thank you so much for all the work you do on the podcast. Over the past year, I’ve recovered from serious illness and listening to the shows was a big help as they are so enjoyable and interesting. They transported me around the world and I feel like I’ve visited so many places I had never heard of before. This week’s destination Lafayette is now on my ever-growing list! 
Thanks for doing what you do. 

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Places to visit in Iowa (Podcast) | Travel to Iowa #usa #iowa #des-moies #madison-county #travel #trip #vacation #places #itinerary #things-to-do-in Places to visit in Iowa (Podcast) | Travel to Iowa #usa #iowa #des-moies #madison-county #travel #trip #vacation #places #itinerary #things-to-do-in

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Chris Christensen

by Chris Christensen

Chris Christensen is the creator of the Amateur Traveler blog and podcast. He has been a travel creator since 2005 and has won awards including being named the "Best Independent Travel Journalist" by Travel+Leisure Magazine.

5 Responses to “Travel to Iowa – Episode 717”



I would recommend a visit to the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum located in West Branch, Iowa. It is an easy stop adjacent to Interstate 80. I know that there are many of your listeners who enjoy visiting these libraries and while this one isn’t as large as others it is still a worthwhile visit to add to your personal collection of presidential libraries that you have visited.

Chris Christensen


Thanks Bob! I love a good presidential library.

Marcia Melone


Hi Chris, Marcia from the Prague trip. I loved the Iowa podcast but being born and raised in Des Moines, I must say that it was like fingernails on a blackboard every time I heard Dee Moines. It is pronounced Duh Moines. A local T shirt company even makes fun of it on the ground of a T shirt that they make.
Also, for bicycle riders there is no better way to get to know Iowa that to ride RAGBRAI, Registers annual great bike ride across Iowa. It is a ride from west to east across the state. The route changes every year and it is a blast. It is at the end of July for one week. You ride 50-100 miles a day and overnight in small towns, eating in church basements and the like. You absolutely see the best of Iowa and her people!

Chris Christensen


Sorry about that. I didn’t even know I pronounced it that way.

Aurora Knight


This is one of the best shows I’ve listened to on any podcast for why one should visit their state. Sara’s enthusiasm is contagious. So much so I’m planning a trip to Iowa the summer of 2021. Thank you both for providing so much wonderful information.

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