Best Things to do in Iowa & Places to Visit

Iowa is an ideal destination for your next family vacation, with historical colonies, water parks, outdoor adventures, and more.

If you prefer to spend your time outside doing something other than water and amusement parks, consider Iowa’s unique agri-tourism, historical sites, or outdoor activities.

There are enough state parks to keep you entertained for days on end, and when you’re done, you can unwind with a trip to a winery or a day of shopping. The top tourist attractions in Iowa include scenic locations, adventure, and family fun, making them ideal for any length of vacation.


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While you can view pictures and videos of the Iowa State Capitol online, this attraction is well worth seeing in person. The Capitol is unmistakable, with its large 23-karat gold dome visible from anywhere in Des Moines.

Four smaller but equally beautiful domes surround the main dome. Make a reservation for a tour so you can climb the winding steps to the top of the dome and admire its beauty up close.


The Amana Colonies are made up of seven villages and are popular with tourists looking to unwind away from the stresses of everyday life. When visiting the colonies, you will be able to enjoy local art, furniture, and food.

The Amana Colonies are one of the country’s oldest communal societies, dating back to German villages in 1714. In 1855, the villagers fled to Iowa in search of freedom. It’s no surprise that the Amana Colonies are a National Historic Landmark with such a rich history.


The Blank Park Zoo is one of the top attractions in Des Moines. Children and adults alike will enjoy exploring exhibits of 1,484 animals from around the world, including Japanese macaques, otters, and snow leopards.

Visit the Kids Kingdom to allow your children to interact with farm animals, play on the playground, or take a camel ride.

There are also activities for other age groups, such as the Zoo Brew on Wednesdays during the summer, which is ideal for adults who want to see the animals while sipping delicious brews without having to worry about their children.


The Greater Des Moines Botanical Center, as the name suggests, is another of the top Iowa attractions in the capital city. The botanical gardens, located near downtown, provide an opportunity to escape with temperate and tropical gardens.

Visit the Amaryllis, Bonsai, Coleus & Plectranthus, Gesneriad, or Orchid Collections, or participate in one of the many monthly events.

The Botanical Design Series can teach you how to bring nature into your home, or you can find events and workshops that will help you improve your gardening skills on your patio or lawn.


Lost Island Waterpark in Waterloo is a must-see attraction for families visiting Iowa. This is an excellent place for your children to relax, unwind, and burn off some energy before you take them to more historical sites.

There are nine major water slides and three major attractions, including the Kailahi River, where you can float on a raft peacefully.

Outside the park, there are also designated areas for younger children and non-water activities such as golf and go-karts. If you buy your tickets online, you will receive a small discount, so plan ahead.

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