For three days each year, the Grinnell Games takes over the central Iowa college town with a gauntlet of fun-focused, family-friendly sporting events and games. Many of the town's 15 miles of bicycle trails and more than 70 acres of public parks become the stage for races, bike races, and sports such as basketball and dodgeball. 5K runs, for instance, follow a gently looping path through this natural setting and historical downtown, while a 10K run at sunset circles around the lake at Rock Creek State Park. The difficult Warrior Run event challenges runners with mud pits and towering obstacles, but rewards them with a live music and beer party. Meanwhile, a scavenger hunt sends participants off on a wild chase throughout the town, where challenges range from solving puzzles and finding landmarks to memorizing the first three paragraphs of the 1976 zoning codes.
There’s no turning back once visitors are wheeled via pallet jack into The Slaughterhouse, not unlike pigs being carried to their bloody end. Once inside, visitors must navigate a winding, cavernous fortress of solid steel, careful to avoid whirring chainsaws, murderous madmen, and adorable teething puppies.
Marshalltown Aviation charters flights to small airports not normally served by national airlines. Its Piper Cheyenne IIIA aircrafts can hold up to eight passengers each, and can cut long trips down with comfortable rides in the air. For those who want to learn how to pilot aircraft themselves, Marhsalltown Aviation also runs lessons for private and commercial pilot certificates along with flight instructor training. During introductory flights, potential aviators get a taste of the open sky and learn basic flight skills, such as how to tell which clouds are actually made of cotton candy.
Pilot and local network meteorologist John McLaughlin has logged more than 7,700 hours of accident-free flight time in both fixed wing planes and rotorcraft. He draws on that experience to lead flights and tours around Iowa such as agricultural and crop condition surveys and holiday lights sightseeing tours. The flights soar over farmland and wilderness, and he also zips over Des Moines for panoramic views of the skyline and river. John also provides flight training and examinations, teaching burgeoning pilots the fundamentals of flight and the best mouth noises to make during takeoff.
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.