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.
The richly-detailed pioneer life of Iowa native Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books comes to life on 20 Christmas trees in this seasonal exhibit at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum. Historically adorned conifers such as the Fiddle and Harmonica Tree will transport minds to simpler days when Wilder's father, Pa, would bow up a tune, or to the memories of last weekend's trip to prairie band fantasy camp. The natural charms evoked by the exhibit's Wildflower Tree or enchanting Doll Tree, adorned with dolls Laura herself may have cherished, loom adjacent to a display of authentic artifacts from the Wilders' original Mansfield, Iowa home. A Little House Christmas offers whimsical holiday cheer to both adults and children (under 16 admitted free) with the added convenience of free parking for both motor vehicles and horse-drawn SUVs.
Retrace and retread tractor history at this Dyersville museum, located 90 minutes from downtown Cedar Rapids. With thousands of toys and exhibits scattered throughout its two-floored exhibition space, the National Farm Toy Museum pays tribute to historic and contemporary crop contraptions. Fun-loving farm enthusiasts may peruse the museum's frenzy of farm implements, including trucks, pedal tractors, and life-size John Deer soil-sifters. Original artwork, dioramas, and two Doug Schlesier sculptures artfully express anecdotes of American agriculture, while miniature farm replicas and Ertl Company toys convey while miniature-sized farm replicas and Ertl Company toys convey to visitors the life-sized growth of American farming. The National Farm Toy Museum is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
The sun and the stars serve as constant companions at Hillcrest Event Center, where a 9-hole golf course, a swimming pool, and camping grounds entertain visitors day and night. A breezy par 30, the executive course caters to all experience levels, inviting beginners to take on its short holes while letting seasoned golfers hone their approach shots. After navigating the water hazards, guests can purposely head to the Olympic-sized swimming pool, which ripples at the center of a 3,000-square-foot sundeck where waiters serve poolside food and drinks. Or, dine at The BBQ Pit, home of the Illinois BBQ Fest.
As the sun sets, the crackling glow of fires peppers the campgrounds, illuminating the nylon sides of tents or canvas hulls of mobile RVs. Tent sites include access to the resort's hot showers and restrooms, while the RV facilities' hookups pump water and electricity into mobile homes so residents can bathe in private and use electric carving knives for whittling. When the sun rises, residents can begin their day with a hike on the resort's nature trails.
With cruises and rentals from Dubuque’s American Lady Yacht Cruises, you can set sail along the Mississippi River either as a relaxed passenger or an adventuresome captain. Aboard the $1 million American Lady yacht, passengers roam the vessel's two stories, slipping into the climate-controlled interior salons or enjoying the river breeze on the open bow and upper deck. The yacht has hosted weddings and corporate events, and it regularly departs on happy hour and sunset dinner cruises that treat passengers to fresh air, panoramic views, drinks, and refreshments from the ship’s caterer, Catfish Charlie’s River Club.
Sylvan 21- and 24-foot pontoon boats are also in the company's fleet.