As The Heritage Tourist, I am personally knowledgable of the many opportunities of an Iowa heritage tourism experience – this is my home state. Born and raised on a farm in western Iowa, I kept the state for a number of years after college. I brought my family back to Iowa in the late 1960s. We left again in the mid-1980s. Today, when I think of Iowa heritage tourism, I think first of The Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area which includes sites in the centrally located Capital City of Des Moines (e.g. Living History Farms) and throughout the north-east third of the state. You can see more details on my recently completed Iowa Heritage Tourism webpage, with links to other awesome destinations to include in your travel plans.
About an hour or so northwest of Des Moines, on Iowa 141, you will also find the Whiterock Conservancy - a hidden gem of natural conservation and recreation – that happens to be near my hometown of Coon Rapids. It is the home of the Roswell and Elizabeth Garst Homestead Historic District – remember the visit to Iowa (Coon Rapids) of Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev in September 1959? This was the principle site he visited. Learn much more about this historic visit with a visit of your own.
Iowa consists of 99 counties in a grid pattern that is easy to follow. In the early 1970s I had the opportunity to visit each of those 99 counties, in my little, new, gray Volkswagen bug, when I served as Deputy Commissioner of the Iowa Department of Social Services under Iowa Governor Robert D. Ray. While much has changed in Iowa over the years, much has also stayed the same across the State of Iowa. I urge you to visit this diverse state and see for yourself. Known for corn and hogs, education and insurance, Iowa also has a strong manufacturing base and is a leader in alternative energy sources.
A few miles east of Des Moines you can visit the Amana Colonies, settled in 1856 by radical German Pietists, in seven villages, known for their nearly self-sufficient local economy and excellent workmanship. A few miles west of Des Moines west on I-80 you can visit the Danish Immigrant Museum in Elk Horn that has been preserving the history of Danish immigration to America since 1983. If you have Danish ancestry, as I do, it is a must visit cultural heritage site.
While I often reference Wikipedia articles, I rarely recommend them. In the case of the State of Iowa on Wikipedia, I recommend it as a great starting point for your travel planning. Hope you have a great trip.
© Dr. Bill Smith 2012
Dr. Bill Smith is the author of The Heritage Tourist, a monthly column in The In-Depth Genealogist which focuses on the social context of travel and history when applied to our genealogy. Dr. Bill can be found blogging at Dr. Bill Tells Ancestor Stories.