Iowa

In the US state of Iowa, you'll see farmland and rolling plains, but few people. Nevertheless, there are always surprises waiting for you between the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. Join us on an exciting journey through the "Hawkeye State" in the Midwest of the USA.

Iowa facts

Capital:

Des Moines

Area:

145,743 km²

Population:

about 3.2 million

Location:

Midwest of the USA

Nickname:

The Hawkeye State

State animal:

American Goldfinch

Time zone:

UTC-6 (CST)

UTC-5 (Daylight Saving Time)

Iowa: location & population

Iowa lies in the Midwestern United States and borders Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

The people of Iowa are primarily of Western European descent, with the largest ancestry groups being German, Irish, and English. Aside from a slightly growing Hispanic population, Iowa is considered to have the lowest level of diversity in the whole United States.

Thus, the demographic changes evident in most other US states of growing minorities and diversity have largely bypassed Iowa. About 97% of Iowa's people are American citizens and only about 5% were born outside the state.

Large parts of Iowa are used as farmland, so population density is relatively low at about 20 people per square kilometer. More than 60% of the "Iowans" live in the cities.

The biggest cities in Iowa

Among Iowa's vast plains, you'll also find a few attractive cities. Among the largest are:

 

City Population
Des Moines 214,000
Cedar Rapids 134,000
Sioux City 83,000
Iowa City 75,000
Dubuque 58,000

Climate and nature in Iowa

The climate will rather not be the reason for a vacation in Iowa, because it feels like you are in a constant change between blizzard and tornado. The most beautiful days are usually in June.

Iowa is considered to have a humid continental climate. Given the significant amount of precipitation, this description sounds overly optimistic. You'll experience clearly identifiable seasons here, offering both heatwaves over 35 °C and frosty winters in the double-digit minus range.

Among the dominant expanses of mile-long cornfields, large natural recreation areas and deep natural lakes are also scattered throughout the state. Also, Mississippi and Missouri Rivers frame Iowa on two sides. However, you won't find mountains here.

Best time to visit Iowa

Given the disastrous weather, you'll have to choose your travel time to Iowa very carefully. The best times are in the spring from May to June and in the fall from September to October.

Iowa in spring

The few good-weather days in Iowa are in spring, and residents take full advantage of them. Statewide garage sales, farmer's markets, animal shows, art festivals, big dances, and sporting events all line up between May and June. You can really enjoy yourself here on tours through Hawkeye State.

Iowa in fall

Indian summer in Iowa can certainly keep up with the famous color spectacles in New England. If you come to Iowa in the fall, you can expect to see not only the vibrant foliage but also beautiful farmer's markets, music festivals, and BBQ events. However, when October rolls around, it's time to pack your bags, because Iowa's location in the "Tornado Alley" means there's an increased risk of hurricanes in late fall.

How to get to Iowa

Among the airlines offering flights to the US state of Iowa are American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Air France, Air Canada, and Lufthansa.

The largest airports in Iowa are:

  • Des Moines International Airport
  • The Eastern Iowa Airport (Cedar Rapids)
  • Dubuque Regional Airport
  • Sioux Gateway Airport (Col. Bud Day Field)

If you fly from Europe to Iowa, you will most likely land in Des Moines or Cedar Rapids and pay between € 900 and € 1300 for your flight.

Usually, there are 2 - 3 stops and you will be traveling between 15 and 20 hours. From Frankfurt am Main and Munich, you can fly to Iowa with only one stop.

Travellers from Africa or Asia have to travel 30 hours and more. A cheaper and faster way for US fans to get to Iowa is from Mexico: here, you will have to pay about € 500 for a flight ticket and travel for only 6 - 8 hours.

Flights to Iowa

Iowa entry permit

In case you don't have a Green Card yet and you are not a US citizen, you will need an ESTA or a US visa for your trip to Iowa.

ESTA – visa-free to the USA

With an ESTA, you can stay 90 days visa-free in the USA. Apply online now!

Iowa airport transfer

Once you land in Iowa, there are several transfer options available to you:

Taxicab

At Des Moines Airport, there are two cab companies waiting for you behind the exit by the baggage carousels. Eastern Iowa Airport has five different cab companies for you to choose from.

Shuttle bus

In De Moines, many hotels have their own airport shuttles that will gladly pick you up if you have booked a room with them. Regional intra-city shuttles are also available to take you to various cities in Iowa. You will find the express shuttles at the north end of the baggage claim. At Eastern Iowa Airport, three different bus companies, as well as several individual shuttles, offer their services.

Public Transportation

In Des Moines, DART (Des Moines Area Regional Transit) operates buses on several routes and passes by the airport. You can buy tickets either directly on the bus, via mobile app, or from DART customer service. A single-ride ticket costs $ 2, and a day pass costs $ 4.

Other options

Lyft and Uber ride services will get you to your destination at both Des Moines International Airport and Eastern Iowa Airport (Cedar Rapids). For longer distances, you may also find it worthwhile to take a Greyhound bus. In Des Moines, you'll have to drive 15 minutes from the airport to the nearest Greyhound station. At Eastern Iowa Airport, however, you can board the Greyhound bus directly at the airport.

National parks and natural wonders in Iowa

The "Corn Belt" state of Iowa will surprise you in many places, as plenty of natural landmarks await you off the miles of cornfields. Here are the most beautiful places in Iowa:

Effigy Mounds National Monument

From the hills of Effigy Mounds National Monument in northeast Iowa, you'll have a breathtaking view of the Mississippi River. As eagles circle above your head and the wind cools your hike-heated body, you'll briefly forget you're in Iowa, not paradise. Tip: Take a fall stroll through the hiking trails and enjoy the vibrant colors of Indian Summer.

Pikes Peak State Park

You'll be rewarded with a sweeping view of the Mississippi Valley at Pikes Peak State Park without having to hike long distances. After just a short walk, you'll be at various overlooks and can take in all the beauty of the region. Tip: Check out Bridal Veil Falls. You can actually pass under these waterfalls. From the parking lot, you walk there about 1.6 km.

Maquoketa Caves State Park

It's a fairyland! The hiking trails of Maquoketa Caves State Park lead you through lush greenery, along sparkling streams and mossy cliffs to the mysterious caves around which everything revolves. The caves are surrounded by beautiful forests that glow in stunning colors, especially in the fall. Tip: Bring a flashlight

Iowa Great Lakes

In northwest Iowa lies a group of deep, clear glacial lakes nicknamed the Iowa Great Lakes. The cluster includes East Okoboji, West Okoboij, Spirit Lake, and Clear Lake. Here, you can boat, sail, fish, swim, or just relax by the clean, blue waters. Tip: The sunsets over Clear Lake are especially beautiful.

Top 10 sightseeing highlights in Iowa

The following places in Iowa are must-sees and should absolutely be on your travel list

  • Effigy Mounds National Monument
  • Des Moines Art Center
  • Maquoketa Caves State Park
  • Adventureland Park
  • Amana Colonies
  • National Mississippi River Museum
  • Pikes Peak State Park
  • Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden
  • Backbone State Park
  • Iowa State Capitol

Iowa city trips

Despite its reputation for presenting nothing but cornfields and rolling hills, the state of Iowa has vibrant and exciting urban areas. Here are our city highlights in Iowa:

City highlights Des Moines

After a flood in 1993, pretty Des Moins with its many historic buildings first lay in ruins. But Iowa's cultural capital quickly got back on its feet and is now making tourists happy again with its many museums, exhibits, charming gardens, and plenty of shopping opportunities.

These are the places you should see in Des Moines:

  • Capitol Building
  • Iowa State Fairgrounds
  • Downtown Farmers Market
  • Pappajohn Sculpture Park
  • Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden

Accomodation in Des Moines

City highlights Davenport

As part of the so-called "Quad Cities," Davenport is one of the Midwest's celebrities. However, the city also made headlines with flooding from the Mississippi River. Davenport attracts the most tourists during the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival, Mississippi Valley Fair, and Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival.

Check out these attractions when you're in Davenport:

  • Figge Art Museum
  • Vander Veer Botanical Park
  • The Putnam Museum & Science Center
  • Davenport Skybridge
  • Freight House Farmers Market

Accomodation in Davenport

City highlights Cedar Rapids

There is a fifth season in the lovely city of Cedar Rapids! At least, the city is called the "City of Five Seasons". Here, season number five is "time to enjoy." You can really do that in Cedar Rapids, as there are many museums, theaters, and parks. Just beyond the city limits, you'll find vast hillsides with herds of bison and gorgeous views. The city's Czech history is particularly exciting.

These are places you should see in Cedar Rapids:

  • National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library
  • Brucemore (historic house)
  • Czech Village
  • Cedar Rapids Museum of Art
  • Paramount Theater

Accomodation in Cedar Rapids

City highlights Sioux City

In Sioux City, in the tri-border area between Iowa, South Dakota, and Nebraska, the Big Sioux River and the Floyd River flow into the Missouri River. This makes the small city easily accessible from all sides. That's a good thing because Sioux City is packed with nature, parks, history, arts, and entertainment.

These are the places you should see in Sioux City:

  • Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center
  • Sioux City Public Museum
  • Trinity Heights
  • Sergeant Floyd River Museum and Welcome Center
  • Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center

Accomodation in Sioux City

Road trip in Iowa

Iowa is known as the “state of roadside attractions" and therefore perfect for an extensive road trip. And indeed, the things you'll see to the left and right of the highway on a drive through Iowa are truly a surprise. Among them are:

  • Elwood the giant garden gnome at Reiman Gardens
  • Iowa's largest frying pan in Brandon
  • The Buddy Holly memorial in Clear Lake
  • A swinging suspension bridge in Columbus Junction
  • The National Farm Toy Museum in Dyersville
  • The American Gothic House in Eldon
  • The Matchstick Marvels Museum in Gladbrook
  • The nearly 5-foot-tall fiberglass strawberry in the small town of Strawberry Point

Instagram hotspots in Iowa

Iowa can be so magically beautiful if you're in the right place at the right time. Here are our top 5 Instagram hotspots in the Hawkeye State:

  • National Balloon Classic Field, Indianola
  • Iowa State Fair
  • West Okoboji Lake
  • Lansing
  • Pikes Peak State Park

Iowa food highlights

Midwestern cuisine in Iowa is true "country cooking" with lots of corn, meat, and hearty pies - almost everything is made from homegrown products.

You should definitely try the following dishes during your Iowa vacation:

  • Flory's Truckle — Special Jersey cow's milk cheddar from Iowa
  • Sour Cream Raisin Pie — Creamy cake with meringue topping and raisins
  • Tavern Sandwich / Maid Rites — Ground beef roll with sauteed onions, pickles, ketchup, mustard, and cheese
  • Iowa Sweet Corn — The (allegedly) best corn in the world
  • Taco Pizza — Pizza with crispy tacos, ground beef, cheddar cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, and taco sauce
  • Rhubarb Pie — Juicy pie with rhubarb, strawberries, and crispy crust
  • Puppy Chow — Sweet pastries made from breakfast cereal, chocolate, peanut butter, and powdered sugar

Iowa fun facts

You probably didn't know these fun things about Iowa:

  • Iowa is 92% farmland. It is likely the reason why it is considered the safest US state to live in.
  • The Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend is also known as the eighth world wonder. The religious monument consists of the world's largest collection of fossils, minerals, and shells created by man.
  • Riverside in eastern Iowa is the future birthplace of legendary Star Trek commander Captain James T. Kirk in 2228. Visitors to the small town can already celebrate his birthday and see his monument each year at the annual Trek Fest.
  • The Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi founded his own university in Iowa. Later, a small town in his name was added.

Moving to Iowa

A life like a road movie - this is what your future in Iowa could look like. We'll give you some helpful tips on living and working in the Hawkeye State.

Working in Iowa

Major industries in Iowa include agriculture, renewable energy, manufacturing, services, and information and communications technology.

The most in-demand workers in Iowa currently include drivers, salespersons, laborers, carriers, and nurses.

Compared to other US states, Iowa has a strikingly high number of employees in agricultural purchasing. You also have a good chance of finding a job in education, construction, and foodservice.

Living in Iowa

It should already be clear to you that the clocks tick differently in Iowa, given its rural structure and low population density.

To be even clearer: time has stood still a bit in Iowa. So when you move here, you'll probably need to slow down a gear. Just don't stress. Chill out.

The cost of living in Iowa is well below the rest of the US in almost every area, according to the Cost of Living Index. Only in health care do you have to pay more than other US residents. The sales tax at 6% is not that cheap.

Go to Iowa with a Green Card

Only with the Green Card, you are allowed to live and work in the USA without limits. You can get the US immigrant visa through the Green Card Lottery, for example. That way, it is much easier than through an employer in the USA.

Your luck: Every year, 55,000 Green Cards are raffled off to US immigrants from all over the world! Sign up for the Green Card Lottery now - it's worth it!

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