Get Out There

Four Public Sites to Visit in Iowa

Iowa is a state that loves its public lands. This week, citizens have been gathering in the Capitol building. Hundreds of people attended meetings in the state’s House to oppose two bills that limit the government and private organizations from buying land for conservation or public use. Farmers, conservationists, teachers, cyclists and more went in an attempt to shut down the bills that they feel endanger the state's future.

This passion made us think long and hard about our list of places to visit. It seems almost disrespectful to point you toward the amazing man-made attractions of the state. In Dyersville, you can visit the movie site of the Field of Dreams. You can visit Le Mars, the location of the Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor, nicknamed Ice Cream Capital of the World. In Gladbrook, you can visit a museum devoted to the matchstick sculptures of Patrick Acton. But, to celebrate the civic-mindedness of Iowans, we’re looking at some great, and public, attractions!

American Gothic House


Publicly owned sites aren’t always nature parks. The house featured in “American Gothic” belongs to the State Historical Society of Iowa. The previous owner had problems maintaining the property but recognized its cultural value. The Historical Society runs the house as a tourist site and lends people pitchforks and aprons to recreate the portrait in a photo! The site and educational visitor’s center are free to the public. Get more information here.

High Trestle Trail Bridge


No matter the season, you should visit the High Trestle Trail Bridge. The land was purchased from the Union Pacific Railroad. Twenty miles of trails and the incredible bridge were opened to the public in 2008. Clocking in at half a mile long and 130 feet high, it is one of the largest trail bridges in the world. The bridge lights up fabulously from dusk until midnight. The bridge features six overlook spots with interpretive signs about the history, trail and area. Get more information here.

Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden

View from the Koehn Garden. Image: Scott Shigley,

The Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden is a seven-acre public indoor/outdoor garden with greenhouses and a domed conservatory. With an art and sculpture garden, waterfalls, the Garden’s website describes it as educational, cultural, innovative and ecological. The spot hosts educational programs as well as concerts, art classes, story time, yoga and more. The onsite café features locally-sourced food with a new menu monthly. Get more information here.

Effigy Mounds


The Effigy Mounds are a National Monument located in Harpers Ferry. These mounds made from earth. They are sacred ground for 20 Native American tribes connected to the site. The mounds are believed to have been built between 550-1200 B.C. They feature many animal shapes as well as burial mounds and rectangular raised areas. Impressive from both the ground and air, these large mounds are both visually and historically interesting. Get more information here.

We hope this inspires you to learn more about the state’s public sites. There are tons of parks and sites we aren’t mentioning here because of space and what’s open during this season. Take a look at Iowa and plan a trip today!

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