Best Places to Visit in Iowa


Planning a trip to Iowa? If you’re familiar with the state’s history or have visited previously, you likely know about its popular attractions — museums, gardens, theme parks, theaters, and so much more. If you don’t know as much about Iowa, you’re in for a real treat! We look forward to sharing some must-see places in Iowa that may help inspire fun activities for your visit.

Whether you’re planning a family vacation, organizing a school field trip, embarking on a business trip, or needing a peaceful escape, there are many enjoyable things to do in Iowa for every age group. Plan an unforgettable trip with one or more of these incredible spots!

The Best Iowa Travel Destinations

There are many travel destinations in Iowa, and you’ll surely find something for you and your entire group to enjoy. From museums to waterparks and zoos, Iowa is a hotspot for intriguing tourist attractions. However, with so many unique places to visit in Iowa, you may feel overwhelmed by the number of choices, each offering its own special features and activities.

Thankfully, we’re here to help narrow down your options by covering some of the best destinations to visit in Iowa. No matter the type of activity or venue you’re looking for, we’re confident you’ll find at least one thing from this list that piques your interest.

Read on for some excellent sightseeing locations in Iowa!

1. National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library

Located in Cedar Rapids, the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library has an unmatched passion for sharing the Czech and Slovak culture. It aims to help the public better understand how history led us to our present-day freedoms in society through educational traveling displays, interactive exhibits, and events for the whole family to enjoy.

This 50,000-square-foot building opened in July 2012. Since then, its rotating exhibits, two-room Chech immigrant house display, and other historical artifacts have brought stories to life before visitors’ eyes. You can also browse European gifts and treasures in the museum’s gift shop.

If you’re a history buff longing to experience more cultural intrigue, the African American Museum of Iowa is just across the 12th Avenue Bridge. Consider visiting these historical locations in Iowa for a true taste of culture. If you need a place to stay overnight, the Hotel at Kirkwood Center is just a few miles down the road.

2. National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium

The National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque is an aquarium, science center, and museum all in one. Its educational experiences bring history to life for children and adults alike. Featuring rotating exhibits, a discovery center, a 4D Theater, several live animals, and other historical collections, its impressive display reflects the geological and cultural significance of the mighty Mississippi River.

The 14-acre campus also features an extensive outdoor plaza, two separate two-story buildings, and a blacksmith shop. If you need a place to stay overnight in Dubuque, Hotel Julien Dubuque is just a few blocks down the road. Discover over 100 animal species and thousands of historical artifacts at this remarkable venue. With so much to do and explore here, your trip will be one to remember.

3. Greater Des Moines Botanical Center

Housed in Iowa’s historic capital city, the Greater Des Moines Botanical Center features 10 acres of gorgeous tropical gardens and lush greenery for a picture-perfect scene. Take a leisurely stroll in its rose garden, conifer garden, water garden, and conservatory for a relaxing afternoon. You can also enjoy a delicious lunch at the Trellis Cafe or purchase handmade gifts in its garden shop.

The botanical center also offers educational programs, events, and workshops designed to help visitors refine their gardening skills and appreciate the beauty of nature. In addition, you can check out several vibrant flower displays, including its bonsai, coleus and plectranthus, amaryllis, gesneriad, and orchid collections.

Whether you enjoy gardening, have a deep appreciation for nature or need a relaxing outdoor escape, we recommend checking out the Greater De Moines Botanical Center.

4. Lost Island Waterpark

If you’re seeking out an exciting activity for the whole family to enjoy, Lost Island Waterpark in Waterloo is a must-see. With multiple major attractions and water slides, this spot is ideal for spending a warm afternoon blowing off some steam before visiting the next historic site. If slides aren’t your thing, float on a raft and unwind on the peaceful Kailahi River.

Additionally, the park features designated areas for younger children and non-water activities such as go-karting and golfing. Whether you’re planning a family getaway or a school field trip, this may be just the location you’re looking for. If you plan to hit Lost Island during your trip to Iowa, we recommend planning ahead by purchasing your tickets online — you may be able to get a slight discount!

5. Capitol Building

Standing proudly atop a hill on Grand Avenue, Iowa’s State Capitol building in Des Moines serves as a state symbol that reflects its unique history. Its impeccable architecture features a towering gold dome and a grand interior that makes you stop and stare. It also offers a prime view of downtown Des Moines so you can soak in the city and all it has to offer.

In addition to being the central location for the state’s government, including Iowa’s supreme court and the house of representatives, the capitol building also features a grand display of architecture, historical artifacts, and fascinating Iowa exhibits. You can explore these on a self-guided tour.

6. Blank Park Zoo

If you’re looking for more family-friendly activities or field trip locations in Iowa, we recommend visiting Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines. With animal exhibits of over 1,400 species from around the world to explore, including snow leopards, otters, and Japanese macaques, Blank Park Zoo is easily one of the best places in the city for both children and adults to visit.

Take a stroll through the Kids Kingdom, where young children can enjoy the playground, interact with farm animals, or even ride a camel ride! The zoo also features activities for adults, including a Zoo Brew on Wednesdays throughout summer.

7. Maquoketa Caves State Park

Spend a weekend connecting with nature by visiting Maquoketa Caves State Park in Jackson County. With more caves than any other Iowa state park, multiple trails to hike, and overlooks that provide stunning views, it’s no wonder Maquoketa is a widely popular Iowa attraction.

Many people — particularly those who don’t mind squeezing into tight spaces — come to this park to explore its caves. However, if you’re not one for compact spaces, the Dancehall Cave provides a walkway, high ceilings, and plenty of natural light. But if you plan to venture through one of its dozen other caves, be sure to bring a flashlight and a change of clothes.

With 29 campsites suited for tents and RVs and nearby vacation rentals, you can also enjoy comfortable overnight stays in the park. Whether it’s colorful autumn hues, a snow-covered park, vivid wildflowers in the spring, or lush summertime greenery, experience the beauty of nature during any season when you visit Maquoketa Caves State Park.

8. Paramount Theatre

Located in Cedar Rapids’ historic downtown district, Paramount Theatre aims to provide visitors with high-quality entertainment, educational experiences, and cultural events. A restored movie house from the 1920s, this venue carries an extensive and fascinating history.

During its first year in 1928, Paramount Theatre was originally called the “Capitol Theater.” It presented a wide range of entertainment, including movies, singers, dancers, acrobats, comedians, etc. Paramount Pictures purchased the theater a year later, resulting in its present-day name. It also featured a hall of mirrors, furniture, expensive oil paintings, busts, and other treasures, most of which were removed by the 1950s.

A flood in June of 2008 left downtown Cedar Rapids underwater and damaged the theater. Thankfully, after a few years of hard work, the city was able to restore and reopen the theater in 2012, just in time to host the Iowa symphony’s first performance.

Today, visitors continue to visit this historical 1,690-seat theater to enjoy community concerts. Paramount Theatre is home to Orchestra Iowa, Cedar Rapids’ Theater Organ Society, and other performers. Feel free to check out upcoming events on its website to see if any strike your fancy.

9. Des Moines Art Center

Established in 1948, the Des Moines Art Center is an ideal spot for residents and visitors to appreciate beautiful works of art. It features a unique variety of sculptures, paintings, and mixed media. The center also provides a range of art classes for those looking to refine their painting, drawing, photography, printmaking, and ceramics skills. Additionally, it offers specialty classes in mixed media, calligraphy, and metals.

This venue offers an intriguing educational experience tailored to all age groups, making it perfect for a field trip, a family visit, or to enjoy some time to yourself. Best of all, admission is free for everyone!

10. Herbert Hoover National Historic Site

Dive into more state history when you visit the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site in West Branch, Iowa. This site was established the year after President Hoover’s death in 1964 to commemorate his life. His birthplace in West Branch makes the perfect place for this site!

This historic landmark features 28 acres of land and several reconstructed buildings. It aims to give visitors a glimpse into Hoover’s humble beginnings. You can tour his original birthplace cottage, which now contains replica buildings such as a schoolhouse, a meeting house, and a blacksmith shop owned by his father.

The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum is a recent addition to the site, containing multiple artifacts, archives, and media accumulated throughout his life. Hoover and his wife are buried on these grounds, and the public can visit their memorial slabs. This fascinating site is worth checking out if you find yourself in the West Branch area.

11. Ledges State Park

Ledges State Park — one of the first state parks to open in Iowa — has been a beloved landmark since 1924. It features several breathtaking landscapes that reflect the elegance of nature. With a picturesque stone bridge, a stunning gorge, and an overlook of the Des Moines River Valley, you’ll create beautiful memories to last a lifetime.

The park also provides various sites for camping, hiking, sightseeing wildlife, and canoeing — perfect for spending some quality time with your loved ones. If you’re passionate about the outdoors, you won’t want to miss checking out this incredible spot.

12. Adventureland Resort

Enjoy a thrilling adrenaline rush when you visit Adventureland Resort in Altoona, Iowa. Established in 1974, this family-friendly amusement park features over 100 rides, making it Iowa’s largest theme park. With a wide selection of activities, including roller coasters, water rides, and children’s rides, there’s something for every age group to enjoy.

Adventureland also features a variety of shows, including live music, circuses, and magic shows — feel free to catch one of these performances during your visit! If you get hungry, grab a bite at one of its snack vendors or restaurants. This seasonal park is open from April to September every year, so be sure to plan your visit during this window.

13. Pikes Peak State Park

Enjoy beautiful natural landscapes with Pikes Peak State Park in Clayton County, Iowa. It features nearly a thousand acres of trails, breathtaking wooded valleys, and flowing rivers. With high overlooks that offer stellar views of the park, you and your group can take advantage of amazing photo opportunities. Stroll down the wooden boardwalk that guides you to the tranquil Bridal Veil Falls for another picture-worthy scene.

With plenty of spots for camping, hiking, and picnicking, you can plan various outdoor activities for the entire family to enjoy. Spend some much-needed time away from the office or other daily pressures of life by getting in touch with nature — and don’t forget to bring your camera!

Contact Us for Your Transportation Needs

After learning about some of the many unique destinations in Iowa, we hope you’ve gathered some ideas for your upcoming trip. Besides planning attractions to visit, transportation is another essential factor to consider.

At CIT Signature Transportation, we can get you and your group wherever you need to be — comfortably and on time. Whether you need school transportation for a field trip, charter services for Iowa sightseeing, or a ride to a concert or event, we’ll take care of your group’s transportation needs so you don’t have to. If you’d like to hit more than one Iowa attraction, we can help you visit multiple spots in a day.

Ride in style during your trip by renting a private charter bus from CIT Signature Transportation. To learn more about how we can assist your traveling needs while providing a VIP experience for your group, contact us or get a quote today!

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