In the capital city of Des Moines, the Des Moines Art Center, 4700 Grand Ave. (tel. 515/277-4405; www.desmoinesartcenter.org), is a masterpiece designed by not one, but three renowned architects: I. M. Pei, Eliel Saarinen, and Richard Meier. It houses a world-class collection of contemporary modern art featuring works by Matisse, O'Keeffe, Rothko, and Richter, and sculptures by Rodin. It's hard to miss the gold-leaf-covered dome of the century-old Iowa State Capitol, East 12th Street and Grand Avenue (tel. 515/281-5129; www.legis.state.ia.us). Do go on one of the hour-long tours of the premises, which take in, among other things, an absolutely delightful collection of First Lady dolls. On the grounds you'll find several monuments and memorials to armed forces personnel who fell during various wars. For the lowdown on the state's history, check out the State Historical Building, 600 E. Locust St. (tel. 515/281-5111; www.iowahistory.org), whose ultramodern building houses interactive exhibits on native wildlife, American Indian and pioneer artifacts, military history, and an extensive collection of Iowa's historical records. A favorite exhibit traces the history of the woolly mammoth; the highlight of the exhibit is a complete skeleton of one of the extinct creatures.
Cedar Rapids, just north of Iowa City off I-380, is home to the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, 410 Third Ave. SE (tel. 319/366-7503; www.crma.org), which was seriously damaged by floods in the summer of 2008 that left most of the city under water. The museum reopened at the end of August, and the Grant Wood Studio on Turner Street is also open again, after a major renovation that survived the flood. The CRMA is home to the world's largest collection of works by native Iowan artist Grant Wood (1892-1942), best known for the iconic American Gothic. The city is also home to the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, 30 16th Ave. SW (tel. 319/362-8500; www.ncsml.org), the country's foremost museum covering Czech and Slovak history and culture, which is set in Czech Village, an area along the Cedar River that is loaded with old-world European charm. The state is home to a large population of Czech immigrants; a highlight of the museum is a restored 19th-century immigrant home.
About 10 miles west of Iowa City in the small community of West Branch is the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, Museum, and National Historic Site, 210 Parkside Dr. (tel. 319/643-5301; www.hoover.archives.gov), where you can tour the birthplace cottage of former president Hoover, his father's blacksmith shop, a Quaker meetinghouse, a pioneer schoolhouse, and the president's gravesite. Other exhibits detail the life of former First Lady Lou Henry Hoover, and President Hoover's diminishing reputation during the days of the Great Depression.
In the city of West Bend (2 1/2 hr. from Des Moines), the dream of Catholic priest Father Paul Dobberstein, the Grotto of the Redemption (tel. 515/887-2371; www.westbendgrotto.com) is a religious shrine composed of nine exceptionally designed grottoes depicting the life of Christ. It has been hailed by critics as "a miracle in stone" and took 45 years to build. The on-premises museum includes a large display of precious and semiprecious stones from throughout the world (its geological value is approx. $4.3 million). Tours are given daily May 1 through October 16.
Set alongside the Iowa River, you'll find the Amana Colonies, settled in the 19th century (they celebrated their 150th anniversary in 2005) by Inspirationists, a German religious sect. Though the original colonists' descendants voted to end their communal lifestyle in 1932, they left behind seven colonies, a virtually intact district of 500 historical buildings (including barns, kitchens, a mill, and factories -- among them the famous appliance factory that bears the colonies' name) that's a National Historic Landmark. To begin your visit, head for the Amana Colonies Welcome Center, 622 46th Ave. in Amana (tel. 800/579-2294 or 319/622-7622; www.amanacolonies.com).
Fans of Robert James Waller's novels should head to picturesque Winterset in Madison County, off U.S. 92 (tel. 515/462-1185; www.madisoncounty.com). Its five covered bridges date from the 1880s and are National Historic Landmarks. The best time to visit is October, when fall foliage is at its peak and the Covered Bridge Festival takes place. Also notable in Winterset is the birthplace of John Wayne, 216 S. 2nd St. (tel. 515/462-1044; www.johnwaynebirthplace.org). You can visit the four-room house in which the legendary actor was born; it's loaded with memorabilia and photos.
A Little Piece of Baseball Heaven -- Okay, so there really is a little piece of heaven in Iowa. Baseball heaven, that is. In the town of Dyersville, Iowa, you'll find the famous cornfield-based baseball diamond immortalized in the Oscar-nominated film Field of Dreams. The Field of Dreams Movie Site, 28963 Lansing Rd., off Hwy. 136 South (tel. 888/875-8404; www.fieldofdreamsmoviesite.com), was opened to the public in 1989 and, true to form, they built it and fans came. The field is open for play April through November, 9am to 6pm daily, and admission is free. If you're a baseball fan, it's worth the pilgrimage -- just don't forget to bring your bat and glove. Go the distance!
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.