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Welcome to Iowa

All eyes turn to Iowa every four years when the United States’ first presidential caucuses are held in the state. However, you should put Iowa on your list of places to visit even when it’s not an election year. Travelers will find wide-open spaces and friendly folks here in the heartland. The terrain is marked by waterways, with the Missouri and Mississippi rivers forming two of the state’s borders and several lakes and rivers found amid rolling hills and hardwood forests. Charming small towns and laid-back cities welcome visitors across the state.

Iowa’s Great Lakes

The Okoboji region of northwest Iowa is home to a chain of beautiful, glacier-carved lakes. Known as the Iowa Great Lakes, these waterways offer 12,000 acres of natural fun. Find a quiet cove and toss in a line. You’ll likely snag some walleye, bass or crappie. A number of state parks can be found in the region, offering beaches, boating, hiking trails and an abundance of recreational opportunities. The Iowa Great Lakes Trail network winds its way around the stunning blue waterways and through grassy prairies, allowing you to experience Iowa’s great outdoors on foot or on wheels. Several resort communities dot the region, hearkening back to earlier days of small mom-and-pop stores and friendly diners serving Midwestern blue-plate specials.

Along the Mississippi River in eastern Iowa, large grassy mounds rise high above the surrounding landscape. These aren’t natural hills; they’re remnants of Native American tribes who thrived in this region for thousands of years. Learn about this piece of Iowan history with a visit to Effigy Mounds National Monument. Nearby, Pikes Peak State Park offers some of the best views in Iowa from its 500-foot bluff above the mighty waters of the Mississippi. An observation deck serves as the perfect spot for selfies and photo ops. To truly get away from it all, explore Yellow River State Forest.

Produce in the Park

In central Iowa, the state’s capital city of Des Moines welcomes visitors with a plethora of attractions. As you drive across town, you might catch a glimpse of a golden dome glittering in the sun from Iowa’s gold-capped Capitol building. Downtown’s Pappajohn Sculpture Park is an interesting place to explore, with its massive artworks displayed against a backdrop of the city’s skyline. Hit the Downtown Farmers Market to sample some amazing cuisine and take home locally grown produce.

Fair Fun

Where can you sample a deep-fried cheesecake while gazing at an amazingly intricate sculpture carved out of butter? The Iowa State Fair, of course. Visiting this big event is a quintessential Hawkeye State pastime. Browse agricultural displays, catch a thrill ride and sample the smorgasbord of deep-fried fair food at this annual event, held each August in Des Moines.

Another piece of Iowa’s history can be explored at the Amana Colonies, in eastern Iowa near Interstate 80. Built up by German settlers in the mid-1800s, this region has maintained its architecture and history over the years. Stop at a bakery, brewery or restaurant to sample some of the region’s authentic food and drinks.