January: The longest freaking month

Most months fly by at an alarming rate. Like: Whoa, where did September go?

But not January. No, January sucks. It always lasts about three months. All the fun, holiday-themed activities of December are gone. All we have left is darkness and cold and lots of time on our hands with nothing to do.

It’s very tempting to hibernate. I’ve been doing that all week, only going out of the house to work and the grocery store and maybe a movie.

So here’s a pep talk to myself and anyone else who hates January. Take control! Embrace the month! Here’s a list of things we should do:


Winter’s not such a bad time to go to the zoo; just pick a day that isn’t bone-chilling. You’ll have the place to yourself, and there are generally lots of indoor exhibits to explore. Here are two zoos to consider:

  • Blank Park Zoo on the south side of Des Moines is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Some exhibits and activities are closed for the winter, but you can still see penguins, otters, seals, lions, tigers, and more. You can also visit the Discovery Center and view rhinos indoors.
  • Just across the state line in Omaha is the world-class Henry Doorly Zoo.  Now through February, the zoo is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, and the buildings stay open until 5 p.m. Only a few exhibits are closed for the winter, so you can enjoy much of the zoo without the summer crowd. If it’s really cold, just stay inside and explore the Desert Dome, Kingdoms of the Night, the amazing Lied Jungle, the aquarium, and other indoor exhibits.


Unless it’s minus 9 degrees (the forecast for tomorrow), get off the couch and enjoy the Iowa winter. Here are just a few things you could do:

  • Ice skate: Brenton Skating Plaza is open 7 days a week in downtown Des Moines. In Dubuque, the outdoor ice rinks are flooded in Allison-Henderson Park through Feb. 15. Skating on Clear Lake’s Marion Park ice skating rink is free and open to the public. Check local listings for ice skating in your community.
  • Snowshoe: Snowshoeing is as easy as hiking. Choose a day in the 20s or 30s when there’s at least a couple of inches of snow on the ground, buckle on a pair of snowshoes, and you’re off. Head for any bike path that isn’t cleared, or go cross-country at one of Iowa’s many city, state, and county parks.  After a half an hour, you’ll have worked up a sweat. Reward yourself with a latte at a nearby coffee shop.
  • Ski: Yes, it is apparently possible to downhill ski in Iowa. Seven Oaks in Boone County is open Wednesdays through Sundays in January. You can ski, snowboard, or snow tube. Check the website for hours.  Sundown Mountain Resort in Dubuque offers a variety of terrain and snowy fun for the whole family. At Mt. Crescent in Honey Creek, you can ski, snowboard, or tube in the Loess Hills of western Iowa.
  • Ice fishing: Enjoy a morning of ice fishing on Bluebill Lake on Saturday, Jan. 11 in Mason City.  Or take a two-day introductory ice-fishing class at Legacy Learning Center at Briggs Woods in Webster City Jan 11-12.


Even in the dead of winter, you can still find festivals in Iowa:


Explore Iowa’s many botanical centers – most have indoor exhibits and are open year-round. Here are a few:

  • Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, downtown Des Moines, is open daily. Check out Botanical Blues each Sunday or dine at the Trellis Restaurant.
  • Quad City Botanical Center is open daily with a year-round Tropical Sun Garden, art exhibits, greenhouse, and butterfly habitat. Located in Rock Island, Ill.
  • On the other side of the state, just across the Nebraska border, you can visit Lauritzen Gardens, Omaha’s botanical center. A spring flower show is on display beginning Jan. 13.
  • Reiman Gardens in Ames features a conservatory and butterfly wing open daily to chase away the winter blahs.


Iowa has some wonderful art museums, a perfect getaway on the coldest, snowiest winter day. Check these out:

  • The Figge Art Museum, located in Davenport,  features American, Midwest Regionalist, European, Mexican, and Haitian art.
  • Cedar Rapids Museum of Art offers the world’s largest collection of works by Iowa artist Grant Wood and houses more than 7,200 works of art spanning many areas, from Roman antiquity to the present
  • The permanent collection of the Des Moines Art Center features 20th and 21st century works of modern and contemporary art. There are singular examples from other styles and cultures including the Renaissance, Impressionism, and post-Impressionism; and 18th- and 19th-century Japanese woodblock prints. The entire collection currently stands at over 4,800 works of art. While you’re there, check out Baru, the new Art Center restaurant. Yum!
  • The Dubuque Museum of Art  features 20th century American art with an emphasis on American Regionalism.
  • Blanden Memorial Art Museum, Fort Dodge, houses American 20th century paintings; European, Asian and American prints from the 16th through the 20th centuries; and 20th century American photographs.
  • I recently learned about the Fisher Community Center Art Gallery in Marshalltown. According to this website, the Art Gallery houses an outstanding collection of original Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings.
  • Iowa’s many public and private colleges and universities (Iowa State, Grinnell, etc.) also have wonderful art museums on their campuses.


Unless you’re a 16-year-old boy, you’ll probably agree with me that this is the best time of the year for movies. Many of the year’s Oscar-worthy films get released around the holidays, and most are still around (or just trickling in) in January. Plus, movie theaters are warm and cozy – and movie theaters abound in most Iowa communities. For a list of 2013’s best movies, watch for the Oscar nominations on Jan. 16.


Still looking for something to do? Try a new restaurant, read a book from your local library, or get caught up on your favorite TV series. Better yet, plan a 2014 trip. Half the fun is the planning, right? Plan your Iowa travels at http://www.traveliowa.com/.

If you absolutely can’t stand winter one more minute, grab the next flight out and head to a warmer climate. A round-trip flight to Miami from Des Moines International Airport starts at $486 – or $383 to Orlando.

Happy January!





2 comments so far

  1. Melanie Rosenow on

    What a timely post! You’re right. January is the longest month, especially when it’s -13 outside. I’m taking you up on your idea on going to the Botanical Center. Thanks for the wonderful ideas.

  2. Ellis on

    This is a great list of ideas

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