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Iowa: The past comes alive at these amazing heartland stops

Prairie history comes alive on this history-filled route through the heartland. From Davenport’s state-of-the-art museums to the political history on display in Iowa City and Des Moines, the Hawkeye State impresses with its old-meets-new mentality and unending Midwestern charm.

Drive 175.6 miles, 2 hours, 32 minutes

1. Davenport

Starting Point

For nearly 150 years, the Putnam Museum has been a centerpiece of Davenport’s downtown culture. Founded as a natural history museum, it is now one of the country’s finest immersive, educational experiences. Adults and kids will delight in the hands-on approach to science, technology and nature on display in the numerous exhibitions. The Skybridge, stretching from Second Avenue right up to the Mississippi River waterfront, offers unparalleled views of the river and a must-see nighttime light show. Round out the day with a river sunset cruise on an authentic paddleboat to truly capture the historic feel of this riverside city.


Interstate RV Park
Davenport, IA
(563) 386-7292
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

2. Iowa City

56.5 miles, 52 minutes

A gateway to America’s cultural and political past, Iowa City has it all. The historic downtown district is home to a vibrant, creative scene, with street musicians, artists and novelists honing their crafts and performing and lecturing on a regular basis. The University of Iowa is to thank for this, and even a quick stroll around town—from the beautiful Oakland Cemetery to the pedestrian mall—is enough to understand the small town, high-minded balance that the college town strikes. The Herbert Hoover Presidential Museum in nearby West Branch is a source of great pride for the community and does an excellent job of detailing Hoover’s life and global influence.


Amana Colonies RV Park
Amana, IA
(319) 622-7616

3. Kellogg

75.5 miles, 1 hour, 3 minutes

With a population of only about 600, this town is an easy place to overlook. However, the Kellogg Historical Museum, which encompasses a large part of the downtown area, will leave history buffs in awe. The main museum building is in the Simpson Hotel, which includes accurately preserved bedrooms, laundries, playrooms and more. There is also an extensive research library and archive in the building—be sure to look through the historic newspapers for headlines noting the railroad’s arrival in town.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

4. Des Moines

43.6 miles, 37 minutes

A historical trip through Iowa wouldn’t be complete without visiting Living History Farms just outside of Des Moines. This 500-acre estate is an interactive museum with working Indian and pioneer farms and re-enactments of prairie life. Head into Des Moines for a visit to the Capitol building, the epicenter of state politics and first stop on many presidential campaigns. The guided tours are excellent and, if you’re brave enough, you’ll have the chance to climb the narrow, winding steps to the top of the building’s massive dome. In the evening, take a stroll along the Principal Riverwalk, a pedestrian pathway that winds its way through landscaped public spaces as it connects many of the city’s walking and biking trails.