Family vacations can be stressful and expensive. However, there are plenty of attractions and places to see, all right in Eastern Iowa. I've put together a map of just some of the highlights but will link a page with many more things to see in that area if you'd rather see something else or EVERYTHING!
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Save some money and explore your own "backyard" with the family!
I live in Cedar Falls, so I'll start there. You can always plan it in a different way by using Google Maps, as I did.
The Ice House Museum in Cedar Falls is a quick, easy, and very interesting place, right on the bank of the Cedar River. It was once the REAL ice house, where ice, cut out of the river in the winter, was stored to keep cold. From there, the townspeople would come and get smaller squares to bring home to keep perishable food from spoiling. That's where the word "ice-box" comes from when referring to refrigerators.
John Deere Tractor & Engine Museum in Waterloo and within walking distance from the John Deere plant is where many families from all over come to learn about the history of farming. Not only about the evolution of the machines that have come out over the years to help the farmer do his job more efficiently, but you can learn about John Deere, himself!
The largest waterpark in Iowa is in Waterloo! Near the Isle Of Capri Casino, Lost Island Water Park is a sprawling family mecca with tons of water rides and slides as well as pools and other attractions right on site! Now, they are building it to be an even bigger and more fun amusement park with roller coasters and other park rides!
Straight east of the Cedar Valley on Highway 20. is Dyersville, home of the Field Of Dreams movie set site! It's the actual farm, field, and house that was used in the movie starring Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones, and Amy Madigan. "Is this Heaven?" No! It's Iowa! NOW you can see the bigger spectator field built by the MLB for special games to be played at night. The first MLB game was played in 2021 between the Yankees and the White Sox. The next game is scheduled in August of 2022 between the Reds and Cubs.
Follow HWY 20 and continue east, you come into beautiful Dubuque, IA. There, at the Port of Dubuque on the banks of the mighty Mississippi River, you'll find the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium! Here, you learn all about the Mississippi, the history, the ecosystem, plants, animals, and water creatures in several aquariums on site. Tour through the William M. Black steamboat, a vessel now on the National Historic Register.
From Dubuque, drive south on the famous HWY 61 toward Maquoketa! This small town is known for its huge antique mall and its cave system! Maquoketa Caves State Park is just south of town and has many caves, large and small. Bring a sweatshirt or jacket as the caves get quite cool, even in the middle of a hot summer. Besides walking through some big, cavernous caves, if you're not afraid to get dirty and not claustrophobic, you can climb and crawl through many more of the darkened caves and explore even more! Bring some flashlights!
Now, start driving southeast through MY hometown, DeWitt (no need to stop and look for people who know me... I mean, they're there, but will most likely deny that they know me for personal reasons. Unless it's my mom, then grab a comfortable place to sit as she'll be more than happy to give you the history of Shawn Foxx - Why do that to yourselves?) Near Scott County Park, you'll find Buffalo Bill Cody's boyhood home! The scout and Wild West Showman was born in LeClaire, Iowa and you can tour the 1847 farmhouse his father built near there from local limestone and walnut. It's been restored to its original beauty and is open from April through October. If you go in the fall, you may be able to smash apples for apple cider made on the site and see some buffalo! A short drive from there to LeClaire where you can see the Buffalo Bill Museum!
Follow the Mississippi River south until you get to Davenport! One of the larger cities in Iowa, there are lots of things to do when you're there. Figge Art Museum, the Skybridge, and the Putnam Museum and Science Center. I'm not sure how many times I've been there... I've lost count. The whole family will find some really cool things here, to see and learn! Want to see a REAL Egyptian mummy and sarcophagus? It's there! There are lots of artifacts from all ages to see and some really cool science areas that are interactive. Tons of fun!
Now, jump on I-80, the most traveled cross-country interstate highway, and drive west toward Iowa City! Almost forgot - Stop in Walcott at The World's Largest Truck Stop and check out the Trucker Museum. You'll see all sorts of trucks that were used throughout the years to bring goods from one place to another, all across this country. Have some of the food there too!
If you want more Iowa history, feel free to exit off I-80 about a half-hour past Walcott and tour a President's official library! President Herbert Hoover was an Iowan and chose West Branch to put his Presidential Library and Museum. Learn more about one of the presidents and what contributions he and his family gave to the U.S.
Now, back on 80 and to Iowa City, Iowa's first state capitol, before it was moved to Des Moines. In Iowa City, on the campus of the University of Iowa and home of the Iowa Hawkeyes, the Old Capitol Museum is open for tours of the grandeur that IS the Old Capitol building. Lots of early Iowa history and bills were written and signed into law in that building.
Now that we're wanting to head back north (or wherever it is YOU started this journey), exit off of I-80 onto I-380 N and stop in Cedar Rapids for many opportunities to see and do things! From the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library to the Brucemore Estate, to world-famous artist and painter Grant Wood and the Grant Wood Studio! You can see some of the not-so-famous but beautiful works as well as the renowned pieces! See everything Grant Wood was about and how he loved the beauty of the midwest plains and the people.
Of course, there are FAR MORE places to see and to do things... I'll let you find those yourself. (FYI - Wine Trails are very popular as are Brewery Trails!)
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