Though the last glacier left Iowa 12,000 years ago, its presence can still be felt today. Some of the best things to do in Iowa revolve around the carved out landscape left in the massive ice-sheet’s wake, from picturesque hikes in Ocheyedan Mound State Preserve to parasailing on the Okoboji lakes. On the Mississippi––which borders the state to the east––riverboats scoot around casino zoning laws while hugging tightly to shores once lauded by Mark Twain. Further inland, explore the spiritual sights of the Indian effigy mounds at Effigy Mound National Monument or take a guided boat tour to marvel at the lengthy natural processes that created Spook Cave.
Of course, one of the best things about Iowa’s varied landscape is that creates a prime setting for enjoying the fruits of farm labor. One of the best things to do in Iowa is visit the Des Moines Farmer’s Market—rated one of the top in the US by the Huffington Post. There, customers peruse a spread of goods representing 51 of Iowa’s 99 counties, such as produce, fish, cheese, wine, and meats such as buffalo and ostrich. For a rowdier diversion, a tour of the Templeton Rye Distillery presents a taste of a whisky that was once so popular that Al Capone reportedly had bottles smuggled into his cell at Alcatraz.
The Amana Colonies presents a closer view of what farm life might have been like for the German Pietists that first settled the communal settlements in 1855. Of course, Iowa also offers plenty of attractions for modern sensibilities such as Iowa City’s celebrated Summer of the Arts Program, which features movies and concerts in the pedestrian-friendly downtown.