Jasper's modern winery squeezes the life out of central Iowan grapes to create a delicious lineup of colorful wines. The 60-minute VIP tasting gives groups of four or double-four a tour of the winery's chambers and splashes tongues with tastes of all 11 vintages, which include the crisp and citrusy Edelweiss white and the Norton dry red, whose smells of baked fruit awaken connoisseurs to flavors of currant and blackberry with slight hints of cinnamon and mint.
For more than 10 years, The Heart of Darkness has elicited scares from nearly 10,000 visitors every Halloween season with one of the largest haunts in Iowa. People from across the country and ghosts studying abroad brave nine separately themed areas on the terror-infested grounds, from a haunted playground to a maniacal-clown asylum. Each section crawls with grotesque creatures. A living scarecrow swipes at guests with a rusted sickle, causing them to flee right into the padded cell of Crispy, a demented arsonist whose victims gave him a taste of his own medicine by scorching his skin.
So committed to their duty to terrify, owners Kevin and Dolly Schults are affectionately known as The Halloween Family, as detailed on a 2009 episode of ABC's Wife Swap. Outside their spooky corridors, the Schults reward survivors with concession stands, a live DJ, and a photo booth that snapped the pictures Crispy uses for his online-dating profile.
Give Advanced Air Incorporated an hour of your time, and their instructors can give you the power of flight. Their training aircraft climbs high above Council Bluffs, where the airport's 656 acres start to look like the world's most realistic Lego set. The instructor hands over the controls, and novices take charge of a plane for the very fist time. The experience is known as a Discovery Flight, and it's a fitting name. That short time in the air can plant the seeds for a lifelong hobby, or perhaps even a career.
The journey to private or commercial licenses begins in ground school, but skills solidify once on Council Bluffs Airport's runways. CBA offers new pilots an ideal location. The airport lies close to Class C airspace, so new fliers begin communicating with air traffic controllers right away. Here, Advanced Air Incorporated's instructors have led many pupils to success; their website's home page brims with words of congratulations for new fliers or pilots who have gained instrument ratings and advanced certifications.
These students don't set their autopilot to fly off into the sunset. Advanced Air Incorporated keeps pilots around with a rental fleet of 10 aircraft, including Cessna and Piper models. The maintenance team also works on privately owned planes.
Nestled in the hills of rural Iowa, Snus Hill Winery hosts a diverse range of regional wines crafted by in-house vintners. Siphon samples from stores of the winery’s award-winning inventory, including a lauded edelweiss, laced with floral notes, and the dry Snus Hill red, imbued with suggestions of oak, smoke, and cherry. The 90-minute winery tour leads curious groups on a thorough behind-the-scenes view of the estate and its operations, giving visitors access to everything but the bedtime stories that winemakers read to each crop in the night. A wine-tank tasting invites oenophiles-in-training to sip prebottled elixirs, and the wine 101 class crams craniums with vital wine vocabulary and facts. A wine-terminology handout keeps the fruits of the experience fresh and plump in pupils’ minds, and an engraved glass reminds sippers of the vineyard’s sweeping panoramas and how many e's are in the word “estate.”
Decorative smokestacks stretch toward the sky as Victorian red and gold decor surrounds passengers nibbling brunch in a dining salon. This scene unfolds aboard the Spirit of Dubuque, an authentic-looking paddleboat that pays homage to the century-old steamboats of the Mississippi River. Dubuque River Rides' signature vessel, it has played host to thousands of cruises filled with entertainment, meals, and improvised renditions of "Old Man River" since being christened by Iowa governor Robert Ray in 1977. Elsewhere on the river, a more modern boat cuts across the water, casting a sleek outline against the sky. The 80-foot yacht, affectionately called Miss Dubuque, sets an intimate stage for events that range from weddings to Huckleberry Finn's notorious dinner parties.
Both boats call the northern expanse of the Mississippi River their home, sharing the area with wildlife such as turtles and bald eagles. The sightseeing vessels also pass by river barges and historic structures such as the Chicago Central Pacific Railroad Bridge, which was built after the president invented Lincoln Logs in 1868. After boats return to the docks, their passengers can head over to the floating barge that houses the Ice Harbor Restaurant.