US States Travel Guide

Iowa Travel Guide

Iowa , a state in the Midwest of the United States of America, was admitted to the Union in 1846 as the 29th state. The people are very friendly, enjoy good food, and enjoy being in the political hotbed every four years when the Caucuses roll through the state. The state is quite rural, with plenty of fields of corn and soybeans and hog farms, although some cities, namely Des Moines, have a strong metropolitan feel.




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Purchased from France as part of the Louisiana purchase, Iowa officially became a state in 1846. True to form in the Midwest, settlers tended to gravitate toward rivers and established their communities there. Today, many of the State's major cities are based on rivers including Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Davenport, Dubuque, Sioux City and Council Bluffs. For many years, agriculture was the primary industry of the state but recently, the State's population has tended to urbanize resulting in a diverse mixture of industries. Agriculture, though significantly diminished as the economic driver of the state, is still a major economic component.

Though Iowa as long been considered a rural state, it has a surprisingly rich cultural scene. The University of Iowa in Iowa City is home to a number of major programs including the Iowa Writers Workshop, a program that has trained a number of America's great modern writers. Iowa State University in Ames is also a major driver of culture in the central part of the State. A number of prominent liberal arts college also dot the state including Grinnell, Cornell, Coe and Luther.


You should find Midwestern English quite easy to understand.

Get in

By car

Most people enter (and leave) Iowa via Interstate 80 if coming from the east or west, I-35 from the north or south. Both interstates are easy to navigate, as are many Midwestern states. The former has done more to perpetuate the stereotype that Iowa is flat and boring than just about anything else. If you want to see the true face of the state, get off the interstate, ignore the fast-food signs, and find one of the small towns that make the Midwest so charming. State maps are available free of charge at state "Welcome Centers" and rest areas. State maps list such points of interest as Cedar Rock, a rare Usonian example of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture, and scenic routes, often found on county roads.

By bus

By train

</listing> Amtrak's Chicago/Denver/San Francisco route also makes stops at Omaha (just across the Missouri River from Council Bluffs), Creston (southwestern Iowa), and Ottumwa, Mt. Pleasant and Burlington in southeastern Iowa. The Chicago-Los Angeles route stops in Fort Madison as it clips across the southeasternmost corner of the state in route to Kansas City. Chicago-Dubuque service and Chicago-Quad Cities service is in preparation, with extension of the latter to Iowa City and perhaps eventually to Des Moines somewhat farther in the future.

Get around

Most people get around Iowa by car. Certain, more rural parts of Iowa - like much of the Midwest - are laid out on a grid pattern. Drive on any of the state's outer highways, and you will quickly come to realize that there is an intersection at every mile. This makes figuring out where you are and getting from there to where you need to be a relatively simple undertaking.

Travellers unaccustomed to ice and snow may have trouble driving in Iowa winters - plan ahead if you need to travel during the colder parts of the year.

Major Routes in the State include the following:




Historical Site




Points of Interest



Iowans consider themselves the "breadbasket of the world," and their cuisine reflects this. Get ready for pork chops and pork BBQ, corn-on-the-cob, casseroles, and more just-plain-good Midwestern cooking than you can possibly eat in a lifetime. Most rural towns have a fast-food restaurant or two if you're in a hurry, but the best places are the ones which take a little more time, possibly giving you a chance to chat with friendly locals over a pie or coffee. Early morning in a rural diner might find you in the company of a bunch of farmers!

Towns with strong ethnic identities sometimes have restaurants devoted to a particular country's cuisine. Iowa has a substantial Latino population, and there are many family-run Latino restaurants which generally have quite good food.


Before Prohibition, Iowa had a healthy wine industry, which is growing once again. There are vineyards scattered throughout the state, each producing their own wines.

Des Moines boasts the state's largest number and widest variety of establishments for all age groups, but the bustling college towns of Cedar Falls, Ames and Iowa City provide the most avid nightlife in the state for (mostly) younger crowds (older crowds are more popular on game days, particularly in the fall during football season). Scores of young adults pack local bars and clubs Thursday through Saturday nights.

Alcohol purchases cease at 2AM in both bars and stores. There are no separate outlets for different types of alcohol purchases and all alcohol content in beer is the same no matter where it is purchased. Alcohol is available seven days a week and the state does not have any "dry" counties.

Millstream Brewing Company , based in the Amana Colonies, and Okoboji Brewing Company from the Iowa Great Lakes area are local craft breweries whose products can be found throughout the state.

Stay safe


The rural parts of Iowa are quite safe, with many people not bothering to lock their car doors. A traveler should take on more common sense methodology when visiting more populous areas such as Council Bluffs, Davenport, or Des Moines as these areas do have crime rates that do resemble that of a typical mid-sized American city.

For the most part, a traveler will find that most Iowans are friendly, warm, and happy to help you if you have trouble.

Severe Weather


Although Iowa does rest in the unofficial "tornado alley", a large portion of the state doesn't rest in the most active zones of the alley save for the far southwest portion of the state. Tornadoes are witnessed in spring and summer months.

With that in mind, pay attention to weather conditions and frequently update yourself via television of radio of any potential severe weather threats while traveling to or through the state during the spring/summer seasons. Conditions can change rapidly, and you do not want to find yourself inadvertently in the path of a dangerous storm.

For more information on this issue, refer to the Tornado safety page.


Iowa has been a historically varied state, known for liberal and conservative politicians alike. It is also an unusually political state, owing in large part to its historical large role in the presidential nomination process (perhaps because Iowans tend to be less apathetic than other states). While Iowans tend to welcome political discussion more than most, their usual friendliness may at times give way to more hostile debate -- especially when the caucuses near their end, as Iowans have been subject to every candidate parading the state, hosting town forums and debates and soliciting their vote, for a much longer time than the rest of the states are forced to withstand. Feel free to ask Iowans about the caucuses, and don't hesitate to offer your own opinion about political matters, but be respectful.

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