Explore Fall in Iowa Through New Travel Areas

Here in Iowa, we’re all about breaking the stereotypes. Visit us and you’ll discover a state full of fantastic flavors, breathtaking scenery, thrilling destinations and unique events.

Our state is categorized in five distinct travel areas – Capital Countrythe Driftless Area, Lakes & LandLoess Hills & Beyond, and Storied & Scenic. Travel Iowa partnered with five explorers to visit each of them, checking out must-see stops and beautiful fall views throughout their trip. 

Capital Country – Chelsey

Pella windmill.

According to Chelsey, Pella is “a small town so pretty it gives picturesque, storybook scenery a run for its money.”  

Located in the center of Iowa, Capital Country is a dynamic hotbed of cultural celebration – just look at Pella. The city’s architecture gives you the feeling of Holland, right here in the U.S.

“Think postcard-worthy windmills, tree-lined bike trails, and award-winning local bakeries and breweries,” Chelsey said. “The Dutch culture still permeates the town’s soul.”

Pella is filled with fun fall activities for the whole family – Chelsey and her kids got the opportunity to enjoy quite a few of them on their weekend getaway. 

“It’s nestled against the state’s largest lake, so when you’ve filled up on pastries, it’s easy to slip into adventure mode at Lake Red Rock,” Chelsey said. “If you’re searching for a different perspective, head to the Cordova Park Observation Tower for a bird’s eye view – it’s the tallest in the Midwest.”

Chelsey enjoyed the trip so much that she’s planning on returning in the spring for Pella’s acclaimed Tulip Time.

Driftless Area – A Mom Explores

Two young girls looking at the fall colors from a lookout point.

“How have I never been to Iowa before?” said Emily, a family travel blogger, after a recent visit to Cedar Falls. The city is located in Northeast Iowa’s Driftless Area and convinced Emily that Iowa is a “beautiful hidden gem of a state.” 

Her family experienced a wide variety of the things that make Cedar Falls a destination worth traveling to – butter and sugar crepes at Tata Yaya, gorgeous fall scenery at the Prairie Lakes Trail, cool art sculptures around town, a visit to Hansen’s Dairy farm, dinner at Starbeck’s Smokehouse for some delicious barbeque, a trip to The Patch, and a peaceful hike filled with fall foliage at the Hartman Reserve Nature Center

“There were many options we didn’t get to in Cedar Falls, so you’ll have no problem planning a 48-hour fall getaway with plenty to do with kids!” Emily said. 

Lakes & Land – Girl of 10,000 Lakes

Family standing outside of a tent.

“It was our first time venturing through Northwest Iowa – and what a gem! It’s 3ish hours from the Twin Cities & full of scenic beauty & activities for the whole fam,” said Jenny, who traveled to Fort Dodge with her family from Minnesota. 

Fort Dodge is located in the Lakes & Land area of the state, features abundant opportunities for year-round water adventures. 

Jenny’s family had a fun-filled weekend with hikes to enjoy the fall scenery around Badger Lake at John F. Kennedy Memorial Park and Dolliver Memorial State Park, visits to the Fort Dodge grain silo mural and Community Orchard, plus plenty of good food. 

“Probably the most surprising part for me was our dinner at Gaga and Hoo, authentic Korean food right here in Fort Dodge,” Jenny said.

Loess Hills & Beyond – Noted Natalie

Family standing on a path in Iowa's Loess Hills.

 “The Loess Hills area is filled with beauty and Midwest charm,” said Natalie, who recently visited Council Bluffs for a weekend getaway with her family from nearby Omaha.  

The renowned Loess Hills are as breathtaking as they are unexpected – you won’t find landforms like this in the western hemisphere. It’s a beautiful place to experience fall adventures according to Natalie. 

“Some of our favorite activities we did as a family while visiting were exploring Hitchcock Nature Center and picking apples at Ditmars Orchard and Vineyard. Iowa was such a fun destination to explore!”

Storied & Scenic – The Chicago Good Life

Woman enjoying a drink at a table at a restaurant.

“We had the best time eating and drinking our way through Cedar Rapids, Iowa last week,” said Christine, who traveled with her husband from nearby Chicago.

The duo’s travels took them the Storied & Scenic area, famous for bustling metros with culture and cuisine. Their jam-packed weekend included dinner at the Czech-influenced Rodina and James Beard nominated Cobble Hill, drinks at Lion Bridge Brewing Company and Cedar Ridge Winery and Distillery, plus stops at the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Bloomsbury Farm

“So many of the restaurants use local produce and fresh ingredients from nearby farms,” said Christine. “If you are looking for a Midwest road trip destination this Fall, definitely check out Cedar Rapids.” 

Published October 24, 2022

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