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5 Can’t-Miss Day Trips in Iowa

Follow the beaten path to gorgeous sights and exhilarating experiences across the Hawkeye State.

By Kevin Litwin on January 5, 2021

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Iowa / Bill Nellans/Iowa Tourism Office

Iowa offers plenty to do in every corner of the state, with a bevy of easy-to-get-to attractions. Here is just a small sample:

1. Backbone State Park

Dedicated in 1919, Backbone State Park in Dundee is Iowa’s first state park and best known for its Devil’s Backbone, a narrow limestone ridge that can be reached by climbing up a steep, rocky staircase. This northeast Iowa park offers camping, spelunking, 21 miles of hiking trails and a lake for boating, fishing and swimming.

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Iowa / Lothar Beyer

2. The Amana Colonies

Established in 1855 by a group of German Pietists, the Amana Colonies are a collection of seven historic villages near Cedar Rapids that have been declared a National Historic Landmark. Located in east-central Iowa, these colonies have become popular destinations for their unique restaurants, craft shops, furniture stores and clothing shops.

Life in the Fast Lane: Iowa Gets You Where You’re Going

3. Clear Lake

Visitors to the city of Clear Lake can take a paddlewheel boat tour around the large lake and visit the Surf Ballroom, the site of Buddy Holly’s last concert in 1959 before he died in a plane crash. Today, numerous lake activities and attractions, including restaurants and resorts, make Clear Lake a popular stop along Interstate 35.

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Iowa / Carl Wycoff/Flickr.com

4. Mount Vernon 

Located 20 miles from Iowa City, Mount Vernon is a quaint town known for its tree-lined streets and historic uptown district. The community is a popular tourism spot with attractions such as Palisades- Kepler State Park, the American Gothic Barn and Mount Vernon Nature Park. Lincoln Wine Bar and Fuel are charming places for cocktails, coffee, and good food.

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Iowa / Bill Nellans/Iowa Tourism Office

5. Pella 

Founded in 1847, this charming town in south-central Iowa boasts an opera house and the tallest working windmill in the U.S. It is home to the headquarters for Pella Corporation, a well-known window/door manufacturer. In May, Pella comes alive with thousands of tulips, and area residents celebrate Pella’s Dutch heritage with a Tulip Time Festival.

If you’d like to learn more about Iowa, check out the latest edition of This is Iowa

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