7 Fun Places To Explore In Northern Iowa (2022)

North Iowa is home to several experiences that are exceptional yet are under the radar. This area in Iowa offers rolling hills, prairie, and an opportunity to see some of the best sunsets of your lifetime. I know this very well, as North Iowa is where I live. Every time a friend of mine visits, they remind me of how fortunate I am to call North Iowa home. The people and attractions are exceptional in this less-populous area of the state. June and July are spectacular months to explore this area as the fields are lush and green, as are the wildflowers. You will quickly learn that each community has numerous attractions to keep you busy all day long.

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1. Forest City

Forest City is home to Winnebago Industries. Winnebago’s Class A, C, and B Motorhomes are made here, and the Visitors Center is located at 1045 South 4th Street. Factory tours are available during the summer months for visitors who are curious about how these iconic RVs are constructed.

Grab a pastry and a cup of coffee from Cabin Coffee before you head to the local state park and find a picnic table to enjoy breakfast with a view. Pilot Knob State Park is a short drive from town and offers numerous hiking trails (including one of the eight best hikes to experience in Iowa) with spectacular views from the tower on Pilot Knob. Plan to spend a good portion of your day in the Forest City area, then drive to Clear Lake for a couple of nights of lodging.

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2. Clear Lake

Clear Lake, Iowa is home to the legendary Surf Ballroom. Here is where Buddy Holly played his last concert before that fateful plane crash in February of 1959. Take a short drive out to the crash site. You will see the famous black glasses along the road as you approach the trail to the site. All visitors to the crash site will walk approximately a quarter of a mile. Depending on the weather before your visit, you may need mud boots. The hike to the site is surrounded by corn and soybean fields. What’s fascinating to me is the fact that there are often people from several states at the site on any given day. People leave items at the marker as a memorial.

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Arrive back in Clear Lake for a meal at Starboard Market. Order a local favorite, The Dude sandwich, and a bowl of chicken enchilada soup accompanied by a chocolate mint brownie. You will not regret anything that you order from this award-winning sandwich shop. Clear Lake State Park also offers a beautiful beach and picnic area. If a picnic is on your radar, stop into Louie’s Custom Meats and More for your perfect picnic lunch. The Surf Ballroom offers a museum with memorabilia from all genres of music. Book a stay at the Larch Pine Inn for a charming night’s stay.

Pro Tip: Near sunset, position yourself near the seawall downtown or at Clear Lake State Park for an epic sunset photo.

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3. Mason City

Mason City is home to music and art. Meredith Willson’s boyhood home, which is located near downtown, can be toured. Music Man Square offers a museum that focuses on Willson’s life as a composer. He is most known for The Music Man, for which he wrote the script, lyrics, and music. Stroll the streetscape and place yourself on the set of The Music Man movie.

While in town, hop on the River City Sculptures On Parade walking tour for an epic art experience. More than 50 sculptures on a 1.5-mile walk are sure to give you a sense of the town. Enjoy lunch at State Street Deli for a top-of-the-line sandwich. I highly recommend The Michigan sandwich.

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After lunch, lace up your walking shoes for a 90-minute walking tour of Rock Crest-Rock Glen Historic District. This walking tour includes the first planned Prairie School development in America and the Park Inn Hotel, the last hotel in the world designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The majority of this walking tour is on pavement, but it is not a flat walk. Expect some elevation gains.

After your walking tour, indulge in a steak at Northwestern Steak House for the best steak meal you will ever have. Give them a call at 641-423-5075 after 4 p.m. to place your order or reserve your seat. Stay in a room at the Historic Park Inn Hotel for an architecturally marvelous night to remember.

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4. Rock Falls

Wilkinson Pioneer Park is located in Rock Falls, Iowa. This is an 80-acre county park that offers complete camping facilities surrounded by native prairie. Fishing, picnicking, hiking, and biking are all favorite activities of the park’s visitors. My favorite thing about this park is the covered bridge that sits on the road. One thing that makes this bridge unique is that you can drive your car through it. Many of the covered bridges that remain in the United States are for viewing and cannot be driven through.

Pro Tip: If you are camping, I would suggest stocking up on your groceries in nearby Mason City before you head to your campsite.

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5. Charles City

Charles City is home to numerous outdoor experiences, including the Charles City Whitewater at Riverfront Park. This is a one-quarter mile rodeo course and it is rated at Class II and III levels and has three distinct features for paddlers of all levels. Kayakers, inner tubers, and stand-up paddleboarders all take to the waters here. The Cedar River provides endless hours of recreational activities and is flanked by the Charley Western Recreational Trail. A highlight of this five-mile trail is a scenic view from a bridge that overlooks the Cedar River and the beautiful Friends Garden.

History buffs will want to visit the Carrie Lane Chapman Catt Girlhood Home. Carrie was a driving force behind the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which ultimately gave women the right to vote in America. There is no fee to visit, and daily tours are given from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Another free collection of art is the Mooney Collection, which is housed in the Charles City Public Library on the Cedar River. Works from Rembrandt, Picasso, Matisse, Salvador Dali, and Grant Wood are all found here.

A favorite meal of mine is pizza from Cedar River Pizza Co. Order your pizza and enjoy it along the riverbank. After your fun day exploring Charles City, head on over to Red Cedar Lodge for a quiet night’s stay along the river.

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6. Nashua

A few miles south of Charles City, you will find the charming town of Nashua. This community is home to the world-famous Little Brown Church in the Vale. People travel from all around the world to be married here. Travelers can visit during the day, as the church doors are always open. There is no fee to visit. Plan to spend 30 minutes exploring the church and its grounds.

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The Bradford Pioneer Village Museum is next door and takes visitors back to 1836. This museum is small, but it plays big. It showcases the life of a pioneer and what it was like to live during those times.

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7. Drive The Iowa Heritage Byway (Starting In Northwood)

The Historic Jefferson Highway runs right through North Iowa. You can hop on this historical route at the Minnesota border north of Northwood. The route travels south through Kensett, Manly, Mason City, Rockwell, Sheffield, and Hampton. Plan to spend a full day driving this route in North Iowa, as I can guarantee that you will find something unique to see in each town along the route. The signage is excellent and the route is entirely paved. Highlights of this North Iowa route include the Worth County Historical Society in Northwood. There is a one-room schoolhouse on site that is in excellent shape. It has been well taken care of and showcases school life of yesteryear. At the south end of the North Iowa route, the Franklin County Courthouse is stunning. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the rusticated stone really stands out.

These seven places make North Iowa stand out from other areas of the state. Most importantly, slow down and enjoy each community as you immerse yourself into it. The arts, music, nature, and food experiences are sure to win you over.

FAQs

What is the number 1 attraction in Iowa? ›

1: Iowa State Capitol

While you can tour the Iowa State Capitol online via pictures and videos, this attraction is well worth a visit in person. The Capitol is impossible to miss, with its large 23-karat golden dome visible from anywhere nearby in Des Moines.

What towns are in North Iowa? ›

  • Cedar Falls.
  • Decorah.
  • Independence.
  • Waterloo.
  • Waverly.
  • Dyersville, Iowa.

What is northeast Iowa known for? ›

This region of Iowa prides itself on having the best outdoor recreation in the state including first class trout, walleye and bass fishing, canoeing, kayaking or tubing scenic rivers, biking or hiking the states most scenic trails, exploring forests and high quality prairie remnants, camping, cross country skiing or ...

What is the prettiest place in Iowa? ›

Crystal Lake Cave. Located five miles south of Dubuque, Crystal Lake Cave is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places to visit in the state of Iowa.

What is Iowa famous for? ›

Iowa is known for many things, including corn and pork production, political caucuses, and the Iowa State Fair. It became the 29th state in the U.S. in 1846, and it's the only state to be bordered on two sides by navigable rivers: the Mississippi and the Missouri.

Are there waterfalls in Iowa? ›

Located along the upper Iowa River near Bluffton, Malanaphy Falls is one of Iowa's most beautiful waterfalls. The hike to the falls is about half a mile, and it takes you through some stunning Driftless Area landscape.

Is Iowa Safe? ›

At A Glance: With #1 being the best, Iowa is ranked #16 for property crime out of 50 states + Washington, D.C. You have a 1.73% chance of being a property crime victim in Iowa in the next 12 months. Iowa's property crime rate is 18% lower than the average crime rate in the United States.

What is the oldest town in Iowa? ›

Dubuque is Iowa's oldest city and is among the oldest settlements west of the Mississippi River. The first permanent settler to the area was French-Canadian fur trader Julien Dubuque. When he arrived in 1785, the Mesquakie (Fox) Indians occupied the region which included an abundant amount of lead mines.

What is in Northern Iowa? ›

7 Fun Places To Explore In Northern Iowa
  • Forest City. Forest City is home to Winnebago Industries. Winnebago's Class A, C, and B Motorhomes are made here, and the Visitors Center is located at 1045 South 4th Street. ...
  • Clear Lake. Clear Lake, Iowa is home to the legendary Surf Ballroom.
Jul 28, 2020

What is Iowa best known for? ›

Iowa is known for many things, including corn and pork production, political caucuses, and the Iowa State Fair. It became the 29th state in the U.S. in 1846, and it's the only state to be bordered on two sides by navigable rivers: the Mississippi and the Missouri.

What is the most popular food in Iowa? ›

Iowa's most iconic dish is found at a grocery store. B&B Grocery earned the accolades for its breaded pork tenderloin, or more accurately, its “killer pork breaded pork tenderloin” found at the family-owned deli that opened in 1922. “If there's one food Iowa is known for, it's pork tenderloin.

What is Des Moines known for? ›

Des Moines is a major center of the US insurance industry and has a sizable financial services and publishing business base. The city was credited as the "number one spot for U.S. insurance companies" in a Business Wire article and named the third-largest "insurance capital" of the world.

Is Iowa a beautiful state? ›

Iowa isn't always thought of as the place to go if you want to see jaw-dropping natural sights, but it is home to some unique and breathtaking places. One of the most intriguing and awe-inspiring places is Loess Hills. Running 200 miles along the Mississippi River, it was originally formed during the Ice Age era.

Which state has more pigs than humans? ›

Iowa takes the crown for pigs outnumbering people. About 22.5 million pigs were raised in 2010 in the state of Iowa, about seven pigs for every person.

What famous person is from Iowa? ›

27 famous people from Iowa: Ashton Kutcher, Johnny Carson and more.

What is the deepest lake in Iowa? ›

This lake is Iowa's deepest, at 136 feet. Which lake is it? ANSWER: West Lake Okoboji is the deepest lake in Iowa.

Minnesota consistently ranks as one of the best places for bass fishing in the country. Anglers from all over the United States talk about Minnesota’s lakes and rivers as ideal for catching smallmouth and largemouth bass.

Anglers from all over the United States talk about Minnesota’s lakes and rivers as ideal for catching smallmouth and largemouth bass.. Largemouth bass occupy the shallow lakes of southern Minnesota's farm country.. Minnesota’s central region offers some of the most diverse waters in the state, with a wide variety of lakes and rivers on which to cast your line.. A favorite place for tournaments, great catches of both largemouth and smallmouth bass can be found in most of the dozen or so lakes that make up the chain.. Almost 60 percent of the lake is less than 15 feet deep, with populations of both large and smallmouth bass.. Woman Lake , to the south of Leech Lake, is considered one of the best “big” smallmouth bass lakes in the area.. The southernmost area of the state is known for its variety of lakes as well as the Mississippi, Minnesota and other rivers that pop up in and around the area’s small towns.. The Mississippi River in southern Minnesota offers some of the best bass fishing opportunities anywhere.. Still, they continue to produce good numbers of high-quality fish for all anglers, especially bass anglers.. In 2019, Bassmaster named Lake Minnetonka the 8th best bass lake in the Central region of the U.S. Its 14,528 acres host more bass tournaments than any other Minnesota lake.. Spring and fall tend to be especially productive for bass fishing because there are large numbers of fish in shallow waters.

The serenading song of birds and the translucent green glow of freshly unfurled leaves signal the arrival of spring in Minnesota. If you’re lucky, you can add the thunder of waterfalls, too. As winter loosens its grip, snowmelt fills the state’s rivers that roar toward Lake Superior, rumble through hardwoods and cascade across prairie.

At 63 feet high, the High Falls at Tettegouche State Park is the tallest waterfall within Minnesota's state border. You have to go north—all the way to the Canadian border—to see Minnesota’s highest waterfall as it plummets 120 feet down the Pigeon River at Grand Portage State Park .. Magney State Park north of Grand Marais and hike to the waterfalls where the water splits.. A real-life rainbow over High Falls in Grand Portage State Park. Cascade Falls in Cascade River State Park near Grand Marais / Kevin Linden. Get your boots dirty on a fall hike at Gooseberry Falls State Park / Micah Kvidt. Southern Minnesota’s largest waterfall can be found at Minneopa State Park .. It’s tucked into 219-acre Alexander Ramsey Park , the state’s largest municipal park and a popular spot for camping, hiking and visiting a small zoo with buffalo, deer, prairie dogs and waterfowl.. In Minneapolis, the falls at Minnehaha Park cascade 50 feet as the creek rushes toward the Mississippi River.. The falls anchor this popular park, where you can hike, rent a bike, catch a concert or kick back on the patio at the seasonal Sea Salt Eatery .. Lisa Meyers McClintick is a prolific travel writer for outlets including USA Today, Midwest Living, the Star Tribune and her website lisamcclintick.com .

From beaches of Austin to Rosemary Beach, FL, we’ve scoped out all the best stops for our Texas to Florida road trip itinerary.

While the beaches in Texas will do just fine most summers, sometimes you may want to truck-it east on I-10 to reach the glorious, white sandy beaches of the Alabama Coast or the Florida Panhandle.. Thankfully, a Texas to Florida road trip can be quite fun!. Houston is three hours to the east of Austin.. T his is my favorite little town in all of Mississippi!. It’s another hour east, right on the Biloxi Bay.. The small downtown has streets lined with art galleries, restaurants, and huge oak trees.. If massive battleships aren’t your thing, the small town of Fairhope, Alabama is just around the bend on the other side of Mobile Bay.. This is one of the most charming towns in the whole state.. With plenty of space to run around and multiple restaurants, it’s the perfect stop for an afternoon of fun.. Two hours east of Fairhope, it’s time to roll down the windows and breathe a slow, deep inhale.. Each town has it’s own personality.. Rugged dunes in Grayton, food trucks around a family green in Seaside, and fancy restaurants in Rosemary Beach (the most upscale of the bunch).

From ghost towns to asylums, these 10 abandoned places in Virginia will frighten you and keep you up at night.

But these 10 abandoned places in Virginia take creepy to a whole new level.. First on our list of abandoned places in Virginia is the Wise County Orphanage.. This is one of the scariest places in the state AND one of the best abandoned places to explore in Virginia.. When Mark "Professor" Cline turned an old abandoned mansion in Virginia into a haunted house, he also created one of the prime tourist attractions in the area; that is, until it was destroyed by fire in 2012.. Sadly for paranormal enthusiasts, it's no longer one of the best abandoned places in Virginia to explore.. It's hard not to love a good ghost town and if you like exploring ghost towns in Virginia, Pamplin is a good one to visit.. But with manors and towers and interesting relics of...well, relics, there's no doubt, out of all the abandoned places in Virginia, this site still entertains.. Address: Old Wise County Orphanage, Suffolk Rd, Wise, VA 24293, USA. Learn more about this abandoned town and several others in our Virginia Ghost Towns road trip post.. And with Virginia’s long history, there are plenty of haunted and scary places that can keep even the bravest soul up all night.. Are there any haunted towns in Virginia?. With its long history and abandoned buildings galore, it’s no wonder this town is haunted.. Address: Old Wise County Orphanage, Suffolk Rd, Wise, VA 24293, USA

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