Boutique Hotel Pays Homage to Iowa History
The Hotel Pattee property is at once a quiet countryside retreat and a carefully curated tribute to Iowa’s history: each of the building’s 40 individually decorated guest rooms is adorned with original art and antiques that highlight elements of Iowa culture. In one room, the color scheme pays homage to the cream and eggs that sustained families during the Great Depression, whereas another room is decorated with a lamp fashioned out of a canary birdcage—a tip of the hat to the region’s coal-mining history, as canaries were often sent into mines to detect gases.
David’s Milwaukee Diner, meanwhile, has dining rooms modeled after passenger trains, complete with coffered ceilings, wood paneling, and murals of the countryside. This Groupon includes entrees for two; you can enjoy American cuisine such as sirloin steak basted in a whiskey glaze or tortilla-encrusted tilapia topped with pineapple salsa. Feel free to finish your day with cocktails at the Inter-Urban Lounge, or play a few frames at the onsite bowling alley.
Works by more than 30 artists are featured throughout the property, including a few pieces by acclaimed woodworker Chris Martin in the Woodworking room. The Russian room is modeled after a dacha, or 18th-century Russian summer house; it commemorates Nikita Khrushchev’s controversial visit to Iowa during the height of the Red Scare.
The hotel just opened a new Aveda spa, too, called Copper Door Spa. You can indulge in a variety of exotic treatments here: the Caribbean Therapy body wrap includes a detoxifying seaweed-wrap mask, and the Pattee signature chakra draws from the healing arts of India to relieve muscle tension.
Perry, Iowa: Quiet Farmland Outside Des Moines
Perry—situated about 40 miles northwest of Des Moines and 140 miles from Omaha—is a small rural town that once served as a major railroad junction. The railroad presence remains strong; there are themed restaurants like the one at Hotel Pattee. In the neighboring town of Boone, you can hop aboard an authentic steam engine that pulls 1920s-era coach cars through the scenic countryside to the old coal-mining town of Frasier. Along the way, you can take in fantastic views of the river valley from the train’s open-air car.
Farming is embedded in Iowa’s history. It’s worth visiting the living-history farms in nearby Urbandale. This 500-acre outdoor museum tells the story of how Iowans transformed the prairies into one of the most productive farmlands in the world. You can also learn how indigenous tribes grew crops in the 18th century and explore a replica of Walnut Hill’s main street as it appeared in 1875.