In an earlier entry of the 50 States series, I pointed out that the tourism office for Nebraska had its work cut out for it. However, its neighbor Iowa is perhaps underachieving. For a state with a reputation as a boring cornfield, the region had a lot more to offer than I would have guessed.
We used Des Moines as our home base. Des Moines was a surprisingly cosmopolitan place with a delightful riverfront park and an incredible amount of public art.
One must-see for me was the Pomodoro sphere at a regional insurance company's headquarters building which also had a lobby full of avant garde works.
Des Moines is also the state capitol and the grounds of its state house are crowded with the usual kitsch like replica Liberty Bells and Statues of Liberty but they also have lots of oddly suggestive metaphorical statuary.
We took a day trip across the state and our first stop was at the Maytag Cheese dairy which makes restaurant grade bleu cheese. The dairy is owned by descendants of the founder of the appliance company with the same name but is not affiliated with the washer makers.
We ended up in another area not coincidentally named after an appliance manufacturer, the Amana colonies. These towns were the homes of a communitarian religious sect where there was no private property. Many of the former communal houses still exist and the common dining halls have been converted to homestyle German influenced restaurants.
But perhaps Iowa's biggest attraction even many years after the book and movie peaked are the Bridges of Madison County. There are seven of them and it is nearly a full day to hunt them all down. But they are worth the effort.
In addition to the bridges themselves, the town of Winterset is undeniably quaint. You can even sit at the same lunch counter stool Clint Eastwood sat on.
Iowa was a decidedly delightful destination, well worth a stop in one's travels.