Iowa is famous for a number of things, ranging from its food production, farms, its rivers, and the political divide within the state. However, one very important element that makes the state famous includes its countless landmarks.
In this article, we will take a closer look at the famous landmarks that make the state a must-visit place for every adventurer and tourist.
Famous Landmarks in Iowa
1. Amana Colonies
Listed as a historic landmark since 1965, the Amana Colonies hosts seven villages known for their wood and calico production prowess. But that’s not all the villages have to offer. From high-end restaurants to clothing and woodcraft shops, you’ll find it all here.
And when you’ve had your fill of merchandising and souvenirs, you can always head to the local breweries, soul food stands, and the hallmark fruit cocktails of the region.
The historic region still adopts a traditional method of brewing whine and its meat shop. Or, if you’re up for it, you can head to the local smokehouse for prepared meat or fish.
The Amana Colonies Visitors Center is located right at the center of the region, featuring a corn-crib aesthetic to showcase its historical value. You’ll also find bespoke furniture here if you’re looking for something to give off a more rustic appeal.
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And finally, you have the largest known collection of 1/12 scale miniature replicas of different cities, called the mini-America. It was built entirely by a single person, showcasing just how inventive a human mind can really be!
The Amana Colonies have been landmarked because of their historic nature as the communities have been around since the 18th century!
2. Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption
This landmark features a historical and religious significance, hosting nine distinct grottos that depict the life of Jesus Christ.
The grottos also contain a collection of minerals, petrifications, and other materials, which combine to make the Shrine of the Grotto of Redemption one of the largest grottos in the world.
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The Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption was built in 1912 but was completed roughly 52 years later with the help of a collaborator. These 52 years present a marvelous representation of the hard work the two people put in, giving it the title of the largest man-made grotto.
When visiting the famous landmark in Iowa, you should also consider the Museum around, gift shop, campgrounds, and eateries nearby. You can buy a replica of the grotto itself (a mini-version) as well as the stones and gems as a souvenir.
3. Herbert Hoover National Historic Site
Situated in the National Park, West Branch, Iowa, the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site includes buildings and grounds that memorialize Herbert Hoover’s (31st president of the US) life.
The site surrounds the cottage in which former-president Herbert Hoover was born (1874), preserving it for the masses.
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You’ll also find traditional eateries near the site, offering wine aging as far back as the president himself as well.
There are also several patriotic-themed souvenir shops where you can buy merchandise reflecting the 3rd president and the difference he made, not only for Iowa but also for the nation.
4. Old Capitol Museum
One of the most famous landmarks in Iowa includes the Old Capitol Museum, reflecting some of the most important legislation’s passed in the US. These include the Married Women’s Property Act (1839), Mississippi’s secession (1861), and several state constitutions.
The Old Capitol Museum also served as the first State Capitol of Iowa but has now turned into a culture-rich center of the state.
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When on tour towards the Museum, you can explore the grand spaces of the Museum as well as the history of the state on your own or with the help of a guide.
Plus, the Museum offers free admission, so it is a must-visit place in Iowa for everyone!
5. Effigy Mounds National Monument
If you are into archeology or space, this is a must-visit in Iowa. Many believe that the mounds were built to mark celestial events or observances by our elders, while others believe that these were simply territorial markers or boundaries.
Regardless, these mounds remain an attraction and a symbol for the area’s tribes.
When visiting the mounds, make sure to also go for extended walks along the hiking trails therein or to explore the Museum exhibits nearby for a peek into ancient artifacts by pre-Columbian Mound Builder cultures.
The mounds are now managed by the National Park Service, which also manages several wildlife reserves in the area. Who knows, you may also see some wild animals along the way!
6. Maquoketa Caves State Park
The Maquoketa Caves State Park is yet another state park famous in Iowa (Jackson County) for its natural beauty and appeal.
The park is northwest of Maquoketa city and is listed as one of the prettiest caves in the US. You may have to go a bit off-road to reach the entrance, but it is well worth it in the end.
The historic cave has been a popular tourist attraction for many years now, showcasing the natural beauty that Iowa hosts.
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The Maquoketa Caves state park creates a 1.7-mile loop trail as well for hikers and trekkers. The trail is considered to be among the easier routes, hence being suitable for beginners and advanced hikers alike.
The average completion time for the trail is 48 minutes, and it is also considered a rather popular destination for camping and for some solitude (especially during the night). There are a large number of birds here as well, making it a popular birding destination and to be one with nature.
7. John Wayne Birthplace Museum
Located in Winterset, Iowa, this Museum is the birthplace of John Wayne, the popular actor known as The Duke. The Museum lies just 35 miles away from the Des Moines commercial airport.
This birthplace museum has been restored to its original 1907 appearance and preserved along with John Wayne’s collection of antiquities, props, wardrobes, movie posters, and more. You’ll also find one of his famous automobiles in the garage!
While the house itself is rather modest, the message it sends is quite a powerful one. It reflects the American Dream at its finest, i.e., how anyone can become anyone with a little effort.
8. American Gothic House Center
Also known as the Dibble House, the American Gothic House Center in Iowa hosts a distinctive outlook as presented in The American Gothic, one of the most famous works by Grant Wood.
The house features the same outlook and design as the 20th-century painting, hosting some of Grant’s most famous paintings as well. The 1930 backdrop is preserved in its original form and has therefore become one of the most popular backdrops for many a parody nowadays.
The house has also been featured in many movies since it was turned into a popular destination. Who knows, you may even get a chance to watch a movie or parody being made in real time!
The house features the same rustic design that you would expect from a hose in that era, featuring a window in the attic, a front yard, and a patio.
9. Sergeant Floyd Monument
The Sergeant Floyd Monument, as the name suggests, was made in honor of Sergeant Charles Floyd – a quartermaster in the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The monument was built in his honor for being the only fatality on the expedition.
The Sergeant Floyd Monument is Missouri River at Floyd’s Bluff, but he isn’t buried there because of the river’s erosion. He died on August 20th, 1804, and was buried half a mile away from the site.
He was believed to have died from bilious colic, a.k.a. stomach ache, but modern medical experts suggest that he died because of a ruptured appendix. This was apparent from his diary entry, where he suggested that his fever broke and he was getting better before dying from an infection.
On the site, you can enjoy the river and the amenities that the monument itself presents. There are several hotdog stands and some expedition souvenir shops where you can purchase expedition-related memorabilia.
10. Dodge House-Historic General
The Dodge House, situated in Council Bluffs, Iowa, is a house museum famous for its robust build and history.
It belonged to Grenville M. Dodge, who was not only a Union Army general but also a politician who played a major role in developing railroads and dealing with outlaws in the “Wild West.”
The house was built in 1869 and stayed in the family till 1960. It wasn’t until 1961 that the house became a National Historic Landmark, but it has only recently been opened to the public.
General Grenville Dodge lived in the house himself with this family, and after his death, it was turned into apartments for the heirs. It was only in 1963 that the city purchased it and reversed the alterations made to the occupancy.
These are the some of the most famous landmarks in Iowa that you can and should visit, whether you are simply visiting the state or residing in it. The state is known for its natural beauty and the vast wealth of cultural diversity. Who knows, you may end up finding some secret on your own!