Opinion | Iowans shouldn’t take Iowa for granted

Growing up in Iowa may seem slow moving and uneventful, but there are many beautiful places in the state to keep life interesting.


Gabby Drees

People line up to enter the Stanley Museum of Art at its opening celebration at the University of Iowa on Friday, Aug. 26, 2022.

Yasmina Sahir, Opinions Columnist

Anywhere you live long enough will eventually become old news. As someone born and raised here, this is how I feel about Iowa.

But the older I get, the more I realize my “boring” childhood in various Midwestern small towns also allowed me to have greater independence and opportunities than I would have had if my family lived in a more urban environment.

If you aren’t a fan of agriculture, Iowa has a lot to offer if you look past the fields, pigs, and cows and their respective manure smells.

Below is a list of 5 adventures you can embark on in the Hawkeye State without traveling too far from Iowa City:

1. Take a hike

Along the Mississippi River, bluffs and hills make for great nature getaways. Throughout Dubuque and Jackson counties specifically, the Mines of Spain, Swiss Valley, and Maquoketa Caves provide miles of outdoor fun. Camping is also available at the Caves while Swiss Valley’s attached nature center often features volunteer-led tours, a range of taxidermy animals native to Iowa, as well as family fun activities.

Lake McBride and Hickory Hills are less remote, but still wonderful walking trails closer to Iowa City for those who can’t make the hour drive north.

2. Go to a water or theme park

With Lost Island in Waterloo, Adventureland in Altoona, and Arnolds Park near Lake Okoboji, most residents in the state are never more than a few hours drive from a theme park. Costs per park vary with an average adult ticket price of $43 dollars per person.

3. See local art and museums

Iowa is home to many museums and historical societies, including the National Mississippi River Museum, the Coralville Children’s Museum, and the only statewide African American History Museum in the country. These are just a few of the education museums available in the state.

For the artistic crowd, many medium-sized Iowa towns solicit artists to paint murals along downtown buildings. The Stanley Museum of Art is an Iowa City option for those seeking the gallery experience. For something a little different, the Grotto of Redemption is undeniably a piece of art. Built in 1912, this walk-through rock sculpture covers an entire city block.

4. Attend an outdoor movie

Drive-in theaters were projected to die until the pandemic hit in 2020. Iowa City is only 90 minutes away from one Iowan drive in. Carved out of a farmer’s field, the 61 Drive-In  has been serving Iowa for over 50 years. Just make sure to check the weather report before you visit as there are no refunds due to weather.

FilmScene in Iowa City also hosts outdoor movies every summer.

5. See a live show

Des Moines Performing Arts Center hosts a variety of off-Broadway musical and play casts. It’s wonderful to have the option of attending a professional show closer to home instead of traveling to nearby metropolitan areas like Chicago and Minneapolis.

For those closer to the Illinois border, the Quad Cities also host many local and professional productions on a less frequent basis.

Stand-up comedians also regularly rotate through Iowa, with recent visitors including Steven Hofstetter and Gabriel “Fluffy” Igelsias.

For the weekend going out types, many bars in Iowa City, Des Moines, and other cities host local music groups. In Iowa City, the best place to find these schedules is on posted signs downtown around campus.

This list is not exhaustive, and no place is perfect for everyone. While I won’t plan on staying in Iowa post-graduation, I don’t regret continuing my education here after high school. There is magic and wonder in familiar places if you’re willing to change your perspective.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.