The Blackhawk Hotel - Cedar Falls, Iowa
  • Blackhawk Hotel in Cedar Falls Iowa
  • Best of the Best 2011
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100 places in Iowa to visit before you die
October 22, 2006

Adventurers and Iowans, lend us your spare weekend. We have assembled 100 places so unique or wonderful - and occasionally both - they demand a visit.

At some of these sites, you'll learn about Iowa's past; at others you'll experience the latest in culture. Some are simply beautiful places to walk or to enjoy one of the state's many scenic rivers.
This list is similar to a list we published last summer, featuring 100 Iowa dishes everyone should eat.

The response to that list was overwhelming. Readers visited restaurants, tried our choices and sent us reviews. They e-mailed furious arguments as to why their favorites should have made the list.

A few readers even started clubs, planning to eat each and every one of the items we listed.

So take a look at our list of notable places, arranged alphabetically by location. Then visit and let us know what we missed. Happy trails.

  1. Town square, rich in architecture and retail with a chateau-inspired courthouse, Adel
  2. POW-built Nativity scene, hand-carved by German prisoners during World War II and displayed each December, Algona
  3. Yellow River State Forest, Allamakee County
  4. Amana Colonies, seven historical villages, Amana
  5. Campanile, Iowa State University campus, Ames
  6. Reiman Gardens, 14-acre public garden featuring a conservatory and butterfly wing, Ames
  7. Stephens Auditorium, rated "building of the century" by Iowa architects, Ames
  8. Hilton Coliseum, home of the Cyclones, Iowa State University, Ames
  9. M-Shop, classic nightclub at Iowa State University, Ames
  10. Arnolds Park, century-old amusement park, Arnolds Park
  11. Albert the Bull, bovine landmark, Audubon
  12. Park Farm Winery & Vineyard, one of several wineries on Iowa's Wine Trail, Bankston
  13. Davis County Courthouse, built in the Second Empire style, Bloomfield
  14. Chimney Rock, Upper Iowa River, among the most scenic stretches of river in Iowa, near Bluffton
  15. Downtown commercial district, historic river village, Bonaparte
  16. Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad, historic rail line, Boone
  17. Snake Alley, claims to be "crookedest street in the world," Burlington
  18. UNI-Dome, Iowa's largest arena, Cedar Falls
  19. Black Hawk Hotel, historic lodging, Cedar Falls
  20. Brucemore, historic mansion, Cedar Rapids
  21. Grant Wood Studio and Visitor Center, workplace of the famous Iowa painter, Cedar Rapids
  22. African American Historical Museum and Cultural Center of Iowa, featuring exhibits about African-American history in the United States and Iowa, Cedar Rapids
  23. Pikes Peak State Park, with suspension bridges and majestic river views, Clayton County
  24. Surf Ballroom, club turned icon as the final show site for Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper, Clear Lake
  25. Swinging bridge, Columbus Junction
  26. White Rock Conservancy, protected woodlands, prairie and wetlands in the Middle Raccoon River valley, Coon Rapids
  27. Western Historic Trails Center, introduction to four important trails that meet in the city - Mormon, California, Lewis and Clark, and Oregon trails, Council Bluffs
  28. Historic General Dodge House, Victorian home built by a railroad tycoon, Council Bluffs
  29. Howell's Dried Floral & Greenhouse, 15 acres of flowers, pumpkins, plus a charming barn gift shop with a staggering array of dried foliage and flowers in the hayloft, Cumming
  30. John O'Donnell Stadium, baseball park, Davenport
  31. Figge Art Museum and River Music Experience, Davenport
  32. Village of East Davenport, historic area with antique and art stores, Davenport
  33. Seed Savers, gardens featuring heritage varieties, Decorah
  34. Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, 16 buildings housing 24,000 artifacts, Decorah
  35. Backbone State Park, a steep ridge of bedrock with scenic overlooks above the Maquoketa River, Delaware County
  36. Des Moines Art Center, designed by three famous architects with an important collection of contemporary art, Des Moines
  37. State Capitol, magnificent example of 19th-century architecture topped by a 23-karat gold-leaf dome, Des Moines
  38. Salisbury House, historic home modeled after an English mansion, Des Moines
  39. Drake Stadium, recently renovated home of the Drake Relays,
    Des Moines
  40. 801 Grand, tallest building in the state, Des Moines
  41. Temple for Performing Arts, masterfully renovated Masonic temple housing a theater, restaurants and other retail, Des Moines
  42. Neal Smith recreation trail, paved route from Des Moines to Saylorville Lake, Des Moines
  43. Principal Park, stadium home of the Iowa Cubs, Des Moines
  44. Science Center of Iowa, state-of-the-art museum with interactive exhibits and IMAX theater, Des Moines
  45. Iowa State Fair, Des Moines
  46. Fenelon Place Elevator, claims to be "the world's shortest, steepest scenic railway" with views of the Mississippi River and downtown, Dubuque
  47. Our Lady of the Mississippi abbey, a community of Trappistine nuns famed for making caramels, Dubuque
  48. Eagle Point Park, renovated during the Depression and located on the rock outcroppings overlooking Lock and Dam No. 11 on the Mississippi River, Dubuque
  49. Field of Dreams, baseball and cornfield where the popular movie was filmed, Dyersville
  50. National Farm Toy Museum and farm toy stores, massive collection of agriculture-related toys, Dyersville
  51. American Gothic home featured in Grant Wood's famous portrait, Eldon
  52. Danish windmill, Elk Horn
  53. Maharishi University of Management campus and meditation domes, where buildings face east and have golden roof ornaments and central silent spaces called ''Brahmasthans,'' Fairfield
  54. St. Anthony of Padua Chapel, said to be the smallest church in the world with only eight seats, Festina
  55. Merchants National Bank, the "jewel box" bank designed by Louis Sullivan, Grinnell
  56. The Landing, three-story stone warehouse converted into hotel, Guttenberg
  57. Kinnick Stadium, home of the Hawkeyes, University of Iowa campus, Iowa City
  58. Iowa Advanced Technology Laboratory, futuristic Frank Gehry-designed building partially covered in stainless steel, Iowa City
  59. Pedestrian Mall, shopping district paved in brick and decorated with arts and a fountain, Iowa City
  60. Corn mazes, D and D Farms, elaborate patterns in a cornfield, Knoxville and Ames
  61. Hitchcock House, once a stop on the Underground Railroad, Lewis
  62. Gitchie Manitou State Preserve, featuring the oldest bedrock in the state, Lyon County
  63. Covered bridges, made legendary by Robert James Waller's book "The Bridges of Madison County" and a subsequent movie, Madison County
  64. Ledges State Park, with sandstone bluffs and arresting views of the Des Moines River valley, Madrid
  65. Authentic German Hausbarn, constructed in 1660 in Germany and moved to Iowa in 1996, Manning
  66. Decker Hotel & Restaurant, restored hotel originally built in 1875, Maquoketa
  67. Charles MacNider Art Museum, displaying marionettes from "The Sound of Music," Mason City
  68. Music Man Square, honors "Music Man" composer Meredith Willson, Mason City
  69. Rock Glen/Rock Crest neighborhoods, cluster of homes built in the Prairie style, Mason City
  70. The Three Sons, funky clothing store and official retailer of the "University of Okoboji" line, Milford
  71. DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, flyway for spring and fall migrations of ducks and geese since the end of the last ice age, Missouri Valley
  72. Ramsey Farm at Lesanville, 180-acre historic working farm and village depicting rural American life between the late 1800s and the early 1950s, Mount Ayr
  73. Pearl Button Museum, preserves the era when mussels were harvested for pearls to make buttons, Muscatine
  74. The Little Brown Church in the Vale, small church made famous in song, Nashua
  75. Handsaker barn or "Fernald barn," a striking square barn built in 1880, Nevada
  76. Iowa Speedway, new racetrack designed by illustrious NASCAR driver Rusty Wallace, Newton
  77. St. Boniface Church, magnificently ornate Catholic church,
    New Vienna
  78. West Lake Okoboji, a clear blue spring-fed lake in Iowa's Great Lakes chain, Okoboji
  79. Dutch-inspired downtown business district, with canals, windmills and a spring tulip festival, Pella
  80. Hotel Pattee, restored hotel filled with art and artifacts from around the state and Mission-style architecture, Perry
  81. Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge, 8,000-acre prairie where the buffalo still roam, Prairie City
  82. Cedar Rock, Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home, Quasqueton
  83. Sidney Iowa Rodeo Championship, calls itself Iowa's oldest, continually running outdoor rodeo, Sidney
  84. Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center, educational center in the Loess Hills, Sioux City
  85. Grandview Park, outdoor band shell and rose garden dating from 1937, Sioux City
  86. Orpheum Theatre, opulent vaudeville and motion picture house originally built in 1927 and since restored for contemporary performances, Sioux City
  87. Clay County Fair, calls itself the largest county fair in the state since 1917, Spencer
  88. St. Wenceslaus Church, oldest Czech Catholic church in America built in 1860, Spillville
  89. Gehlen House Bed and Breakfast, historic guest house in the historic limestone village built by Luxembourg emigrants, St. Donatus
  90. Toolesboro Indian Mounds, Hopewellian mounds dating from 200 B.C. to 300 A.D., Toolesboro
  91. Living History Farms, rich preservation of the agricultural and domestic history of Iowa, Urbandale
  92. Villages of Van Buren, 12 historic villages located in a single county, Van Buren County
  93. Maharishi Vedic Observatory, an open-air observatory of masonry sundials, Vedic City
  94. Iowa 80 Truckstop, world's largest, Walcott
  95. Galleria de Paco, coffee shop, gallery and club opening within a month featuring a Sistine Chapel reproduction, Waterloo
  96. John Deere operations, offering factory tours of the agricultural equipment manufacturer, Waterloo
  97. Lost Island Adventure Park, largest water park in the state, Waterloo
  98. Grotto of the Redemption, religious monument constructed from stone and gemstones by a German cleric over 42 years, West Bend
  99. Herbert Hoover National Historic Site, birthplace of the 31st U.S. president, West Branch
  100. Valley Junction, historic retail district, West Des Moines
Blackhawk Hotel - Cedar Falls, Iowa
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places
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