Think of Iowa, and it is natural to think of farming. With 92 percent of its land in agricultural production, Iowa has dedicated a larger portion of its territory to farming than has any other state. More than 30.7 million acres on 92,000 farms produce much of the nation’s corn and soybeans. But there’s more to this state than tractors and farm reports.
Farming’s omnipresence in the state actually produced its greatest tourist attraction, the Iowa State Fair, held every summer 10 minutes from downtown Des Moines. More than a million people attend each year, coming from around the world to experience the renowned event that includes a midway, livestock competitions and classic fair eats (bacon-wrapped eggs are a sure bet). It was Iowa’s fair that inspired a Broadway musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein, as well as a book and three movies. Most of the buildings on this 400-acre site were built prior to World War I, and the grounds are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is no wonder that the fair is also listed in 1,000 Places to See Before You Die.
Couples in search of a romantic spot will find one of the famed bridges in Madison County inspirational. The county, located southwest of Des Moines, still maintains five of its historic covered bridges, along with a replica of another bridge that was destroyed by fire in 1992. The five historic bridges were built in the 1870s and 1880s. Even before Robert Waller brought these bridges to national prominence in his novel, The Bridges of Madison County, these charming structures provided the backdrop to many a romantic story.
Another distinctive attraction in Iowa is the filming site for the movie Field of Dreams, located in Dyersville. Baseball (and movie) fans love this classic diamond carved out of a cornfield. Here, visitors can play ball, and admission is free. About 20 miles to the east is the mighty Mississippi River and the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium in Dubuque. A quarter of a million people visit this attraction every year. Those looking to experience the river up close can catch a ride on the Spirit, a paddlewheel replica that offers a variety of cruises from Dubuque’s river harbor.