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Mary Smith
Leicester asked on Jan 22, 2012

Iowa City

What to do, where to go....

I am 99.999% sure I'll be staying in IC for several days (probably 5 or 6) in mid-August. Not yet sure how i'll be arriving...still trying to sort out an itinerary within my budget.

Some of those days will be certainly taken up with other things (the reason why I'm going) but I anticipate having at least 2 or 3 free. I shall hire a car: I know I must!

So....where shall I go? My real interests are history and archaeology, small places and countryside. But I will almost certainly be by myself, so would be a bit wary of taking long hikes in what I assume will be (for a Brit) hot weather. Gentle countryside strolls would be better.

All ideas gratefully received. :-)

12 Answers

answered on 1/22/12 by
a VT member from Minneapolis

J, I haven't been there for many years but you might find the Amana Colonies an interesting bit of history:

They are about 17 miles west of Iowa City so not a lengthy drive.
Take a look at the website and see if it trips your trigger?

Thought about sending you to Effigy Mounds but that's just too far a drive.

answered on 1/22/12 by
a VT member from Europe

almost a week at IC?

why not litel bit more Northern or Western?

answered on 1/22/12 by
a VT member from Europe


answered on 1/22/12 by
Mary Smith from Leicester

Thanks, Kate....that's useful.

Had already thought of Effigy Mounds...and even Madison County...maybe I'll feel like a long drive?

answered on 1/22/12 by
Mary Smith from Leicester

cgf: I have no real choice in the matter.

answered on 1/22/12 by
a VT member from Minneapolis

I figured you would like Effigy...

And I'm still looking. :)

answered on 1/22/12 by
a VT member from Los Angeles

Definitely go to the Amanas - SUCH good food! And a bunch of terrific shops and there's a few nature walks as well. Don't go to the Amanas restaurant right on Inst. 80, go to the actual colonies - there are several, each one has its own attractions but the best restaurant is in Main Amana (Ox Yoke Inn). The best shop, in my opinion, is the General Store in High Amana - great old shop with punch-tin ceiling and unique gifts. The best bakery is in Middle Amana but you have to get there REALLY early because the stuff goes so fast. All the buildings in the Amanas are historic though - it's fun to just drive around and appreciate the architecture. (

Also, Kalona is another nice place to visit - there's an Amish community near there so the shops in town are good but on the edge of town there's a place called "Stringtown Grocery" where the Amish shop. They have terrific bargains there. If you cook at all you need to go. You can stock up on spices - large containers of all sorts of spices for low low prices. There's also a cheese shop near by that's pretty good (not as good as Wisconsin).

If you go into Cedar Rapids, there's Brucemore, a historic mansion you can tour and the city has a pretty nice art museum as well. Also a bit further but still not too much of a drive is the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library in West Branch.

answered on 1/22/12 by
a VT member from New Jersey

I also vote for a day trip to the Amana Colonies. There is an interesting little museum there that has a bunch of interesting exhibits about the history and people of the colonies. The Herbert Hoover Museum is also not too far away in West Branch. If you want to do a longer drive, there are a couple of options. One is to go 2-3 hours west to Des Moines, the state's capitol and largest city. Two others to the north are Dubuque, Iowa and Galena, Illinois. I know that there was flooding along the Mississippi River in 2011. I don't know to what extent it caused damage in Dubuque or Galena. Your Iowa friends should know.

answered on 1/22/12 by
a VT member from Sacramento

Above it states: "The best bakery is in Middle Amana but you have to get there REALLY early because the stuff goes so fast"

So true. We used to drive up the day before and camp so we could be at the bakery when it opened. You will not believe how good it is. They use an old wood-fired oven and somehow manage to bake everything to perfection. The Amana Colonies have dandelion wine tastings. We thought it was pretty bad, but it is an experience not to be missed. Generally, the food there is great; the scenery is beautiful; the history is interesting . . . and you can get two classical music stations on your car radio!

I like Iowa City. I'm also betting you will have a great time there. If you are lucky, the weather will be bearable. Sometimes August can surprise you . . . ;^)

answered on 1/22/12 by
Mary Smith from Leicester

Thank you all...I know I will have a good time, even if some people may feel it an unusual place to stay. Just being in another culture (and it is a very different culture in many ways) is interesting in itself.

I am noting info as we go. Hopefully there'll be some more ideas. My 'friends' will certainly have ideas but they will also be very busy for much of my time there, so I'll definitely have to do some solo explorations. :-)

answered on 1/23/12 by
a VT member from Minneapolis

Because it's Leics, I'm allowed to be a wee bit chatty on this travel forum thread:

>the scenery is beautiful

Thanks for that, Sally. I grew up about an hour from Iowa City and have a soft spot for "my Iowa." Compared to places many of you live or have traveled, it may not be the most exciting/interesting part of the world but it's an honest, friendly face. The area around this pocket of Eastern Iowa is Grant Wood Country, if anyone is familiar with the artist known for "American Gothic":

My challenge has been finding those things that I know would specifically interest our J...and archeological opportunities are a bit few and far between. The only digging about happening there is turning over acres and acres of most highly valued ag soil in the U.S. for planting corn and soybeans!

answered on 1/23/12 by
Mary Smith from Leicester

It's ok. Archaeology isn't really within my expectations when I visit the US (sorry, but 'tis the the truth) and, to be honest, history isn't either. At least not the type of history which really excites me (up to Medieval and not much further). But I'm always happy to look at anything historical.

So I'm really quite happy with variations in architecture and landscape-pootling and getting excited about wild chipmunks and big butterflies. And maybe a bit of living history/old-fashioned stuff if it's available.I'm quite easily pleased. :-)

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