Unexpected Travel, Culture and Food Gems in Iowa
Photo: Ottis Bunning
Wildsam’s new Iowa Prairie field guide ventures across the Hawkeye State, discovering vibrant arts scenes, fine food aplenty and some sights that couldn’t be anywhere else. There’s a lot in this book, a celebration of a quiet Heartland contender. Here are a few mandatory stops:
CODFISH HOLLOW BARNSTORMERS
This 1954 “whale-belly” bar has become a unique and beloved tour stop for national talent and an oasis for Iowa music fans. In the barn, dance. On the lawn, laze by firepits. @realcodfishhollow
LOESS HILLS NATIONAL SCENIC BYWAY
South from Plymouth County
Threaded along Iowa’s western border, a slow-drive dream links wildlands, archaeological sites, vintage towns and scenic overlooks. The Mondamin loop hike leads to wildflowers.
Harbinger, photo: Byron Jones
ASIAN-INSPIRED PLATES & COCKTAILS
Chef Joe Tripp and his team sleuth it out in Thailand and Vietnam to stir a bright remix in this cozy, bricklined space–arguably the pride of Des Moines’ excellent food scene. Trust us: order the carrots. Pre-game and/or post-game at nearby cocktail den Bartenders’ Handshake. @harbingerdsm
LOWELL AND AGNES WALTER HOUSE
Also known simply as Cedar Rock, this one of the most complete extant examples of storied architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Usonian” design aesthetic. [Elsewhere in Iowa, the town of Mason City is also stocked with FLW-related design, including Wright’s only surviving hotel, the Park Inn.] friendsofcedarrock.org
We interviewed a lot of sharp Iowans for our book. Mike Draper, founder of this statewide fave for pointed T-shirt slogans and other signs of Midwest pride, was a particularly interesting conversation. “Humor in Iowa is much deeper than corn and pig jokes,” he told us. “This is the state that produced Johnny Carson. We took the Iowa humor that already existed and put it on a T-shirt.” raygunsite.com
FIELD OF DREAMS MOVIE SITE
“If you build it, he will come.” Kevin Costner’s character, Ray, hears that whisper through the corn in Field of Dreams, the classic late-’80s movie. [ICYMI: Farmer builds baseball diamond in cornfield, summons ghosts of 1919 Chicago White Sox.] Folklore made the quote plural. The movie indeed turned a Dyersville farm into a pilgrimage site for baseball lovers. Stroll the diamond, get in a game of catch. @thefieldofdreamsmoviesite
ROLLING THUNDER PRAIRIE
South of Des Moines
A preserve of rich habitat and native grasses, including a rare patch of 200 acres that have never been plowed.
Lincoln Winebar, photo: Jesse Sauerbrei
PIZZA IN A SMALL TOWN
Wood-fired Neapolitan pies from a custom oven, with hyperlocal spirit. Primo beer and wine. @pizza_lwb
CAFÉ SAINT PIO
On a stately corner in the charming Czech Village neighborhood [those painted doors!], find throwback elegance and fine cappuccino. @cafesaintpio
In the heart of creative hotbed Iowa City, this shiny new hotel sits within walking distance of the excellent Stanley Museum of Art [it leads with a Pollock, just keeps rolling] and readings at famed bookstore Prairie Lights. First-class indie moviehouse FilmScene is in the building.
Discover more treasures in the towns and cities of the Iowa Prairie.