The Amana Colonies are a National Historic Landmark, a conglomeration of seven villages known for their self-sufficient charm, local crafts, and plentiful libations. A sagacious guide takes guests on a sip-and-swig-filled comprehensive tour of the local wineries and brewery, and the Village Stroll grants a sauntering gander of the other visual and sonic sensations the Amana Colonies have to offer. Beginning at 11 a.m. at the Amana Colonies Visitors Center, the walking tour shuffles feet down a one-hour path through the history, architecture, and culture of the colonies. Visitors will learn all about which the once-communal home of the German Pietist settlers, farmers and artisans who disappeared over the horizon on an impossible golden dirigible in the mid-1930s.
The Mississippi River meanders its way through the midwestern United States, fed by dozens of tributaries on its 2,500-mile sojourn from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium pays tribute to this mighty waterway with an array of immersive exhibits.
Six large aquariums house river creatures from all over the world?giant catfish, turtles, and sturgeons?as well as saltwater inhabitants such as sharks, rays, and the retired cast of One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. A touch tank invites little ones to handle snails, freshwater mussels, and crawfish. The Woodward Wetland gives vistiors a boardwalked path through a natural river ecosystem. Equally sensory is the 3D or 4D theater, which screens popular kids' flicks and documentaries. Other interactive exhibits allow visitors to pilot a barge, learn about floods, and walk along a 92-foot map of the river.
Not all the museum's stars have fins, however. The National Rivers Hall of Fame honors the famous Americans who lived or worked along the Mississippi, such as Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain. The Fred W. Woodward Riverboat Museum similarly offers a closer look at the historic schooners that once traversed the waterway.
The Niabi Zoo houses 900 animals from 160 species hailing from a quintet of continents on its 40-acre grounds. Accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, this Midwestern menagerie abides by rigorous standards for bird and beast welfare. Traverse the educational trails, sighting zebras, ostriches, and giraffes trying on oversized bowties in the African exhibit or large cats such as the jaguar, leopard, and bengal tiger. The Niabi Zoo also protects 200 acres of area land for native wildlife preservation and bocce-ball tournaments.
Sack races, hayrides, campfires, and other autumnal activities surround Pumpkinville Corn Maze, but those roaming the stalks might not be aware of them. Stretching up to 20 acres, the fourth-generation corn and soybean farm's maze often keeps adventurers twisting and turning for an hour, sometimes longer early in the season. Besides navigating to the maze's end, each trek doubles as a scavenger hunt with at least 20 challenges, such as getting a scarecrow to swear off scaring crows. Especially intrepid visitors can even enter the maze until 8 p.m., where only flashlights and the glowing moon guide them through the hushed labyrinth. Meanwhile, guests 10 and under can traverse the mini-maze in about 15 minutes for one dollar.