‘Visit939Iowa’ – Nebraska students plan to visit every city in Iowa this summer

Two students from the University of Nebraska Omaha visited all 531 cities in Nebraska last summer, and this summer, they set out to visit all 939 cities in their neighboring state of Iowa. The end goal is to create a book with everything they see.

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Schneider and Varner are welcomed to Bayard, IA on Wednesday, May 5, 2021.

Isabel Tuisl, News Reporter


Seth Varner and Austin Schneider were stuck at home quarantining in summer 2020.

Although the public was told to stay home, the University of Nebraska-Omaha students thought this was actually the perfect opportunity to take a road trip — to all 531 cities in their home state of Nebraska. The pair amassed close to 25,000 followers on their Facebook page and created a book with historical facts, stories, and unique experiences from their trips.

This summer, Varner and Schneider are setting out to visit all 939 towns in Iowa.

Varner and Schneider said their new mission, ‘Visit939Iowa,’ was not always part of their plan.

“Nebraska was the original goal because it’s [our] home state, and then people started joking around saying we should visit Iowa next summer,” Varner said. “But we went down to Oklahoma City for spring break and as we were going through these small Kansas towns we thought, ‘What if we did a whole other state?’ and we knew it would have to be Kansas or Iowa because those are the only reasonable ones for us. So we decided on Iowa because we live right next to it.”

It has been a childhood dream of Varner’s to visit every town in his home state, he said.

“When COVID started, we kind of had the excuse to go out and do it because otherwise we were just working at Dairy Queen or cruising around town,” Varner said. “So one day I went to Austin and asked him if he wanted to visit every town in Nebraska and we just went from there.”

To plan out their trips, Varner picks an area of Iowa and thinks about how many towns in that area they can realistically visit in one day. He plugs those towns into MapQuest Route Planner,  which automatically finds the quickest routes.

Then, he posts the route to Facebook so people can leave their suggestions with what restaurants to go to, or sights to see.

“Once people started messaging the Facebook we started going to local bars or restaurants that they wanted us to support so that was the main part later in the journey,” Schneider said.

Jack McGonigal, Varner and Schneider’s roommate, met Varner last year and reached out to him when he heard about the Nebraska trip. McGonigal asked Varner if he could join him and Schneider in going to a few cities with them, he said.

McGonigal ended up visiting half the cities in Nebraska with Varner and Schneider and plans on tagging along to a few cities in Iowa as well.

“It sounds like they’re getting a lot of attention from Iowa,” McGonigal said. “I didn’t think they’d get as much because they’re from Nebraska but it seems to be going well so I’m going to jump on a couple trips with them this summer.”

Varner and Schneider also bring a mascot with them on all their trips — Schneiders Energizer plush bunny.

“We always say it relates to us because the Energizer bunny never stops going just like we never stop going,” Schneider said. “We take a picture with it in front of every town’s welcome sign.”

Varner only plans their trips a few days in advance, so he doesn’t know exactly when they’ll visit Iowa City yet. Nonetheless, they said they are excited to visit the University of Iowa.

“I’ve never had an excuse to go there, so it’s cool seeing other peoples’ campuses,” Varner said. “Some people from the area are going to work with us to [try to] set up a time for us to wave to the kids in the Children’s Hospital from Kinnick Stadium, so that’ll be pretty special.”

In order to help fund their trips, the pair set up a GoFundMe. Their biggest donation so far has been $200 from an anonymous supporter. They have currently raised $1,706 and their goal is $2,500. Any leftover money will be used to create a book for Iowa, like they did for their trips in Nebraska.

“All these old ladies basically got on Facebook and said we should make a coffee table book out of this whole thing and we started thinking about it,” Varner said. “Then in late September we started working on it and it was done by early November, so there was a good month and a half where we were non-stop working on it to get it done ready for Christmas.”

Iowa Love, a Waterloo-based T-shirt company, is sponsoring five of the trips that Varner and Schneider are taking to Iowa.

McGonigal is constantly surprised at the attention the trips get.

“I definitely didn’t expect it to be as big as it is but now thinking about it, it makes sense because nobody’s ever really done this before so I can see why there’s a lot of hype around it,” he said.

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