2014 year in review
In keeping with all the Top 10 lists that choke the airwaves and Internet at this time of year, here is my very simple list of top Iowa travel experiences of 2014:
Number 3: OKTOBERFEST IN THE AMANA COLONIES
Polka music! Beer! German food! More beer! Oktoberfest in the Amana Colonies has it all, plus a pretty decent parade.
Number 2: VILLAGES OF VAN BUREN COUNTY / HISTORIC HILLS SCENIC BYWAY
I really loved the two days I spent in this way-off-the-beaten-path county in southeast Iowa. There’s some very old architecture in these quaint, blink-or-you’ll-miss-them villages, with Amish farmsteads and shops, tiny museums, and scenic drives. Lacey-Keosauqua State Park and Shimek State Forest provided lovely fall color, and you can’t beat a stay at the Hotel Manning in Keosauqua, where you can get a shared-bath room for $50, a hot breakfast included.
Number 1: LOESS HILLS SCENIC BYWAY
This north/south byway in western Iowa is very pretty, it’s mostly rural, and it’s completely unique. I went in August and had many of the loop roads all to myself. Several times I literally left my car in the middle of the gravel road – running, doors open – while I walked around and took pictures of the scenery. Highlights included the Hitchcock Nature Center, Broken Kettle Grasslands, Waubonsie State Park, Preparation Canyon State Park…and those crazy loop roads. If you go, give yourself at least two days. Three would be better. Bring a good map of the area.
And the rest
Several of my 2014 outings were repeats from previous years (the Des Moines Art Center, Ledges State Park, High Trestle Trail, and Picket Fence Creamery) and annual events (Ames’ Octagon Arts Festival, Des Moines’ Arts Festival, the Iowa State Fair, and the Historic East Village Holiday Promenade). But I also had a fine time shopping for antiques in Walnut, visiting the Danish-American Museum in Elk Horn, and discovering new attractions in Cedar Rapids.
I spent a fair amount of 2014 exploring destinations outside the state. In March I went to one of my all-time favorite places: New York City. My husband, Dave, and I spent a few days driving the Natchez Trace Parkway (Nashville, Tenn., to Natchez, Miss.) in May, and later that same month I took a weeklong Greek Isles cruise that also included a stop in Istanbul, Turkey. We took a quick family vacation in June to Innsbrook, Mo., a resort community just west of St. Louis, where we rented a lake house and just kicked back. Dave and I spent a red-white-and-blue Fourth of July in Boston, perhaps the most patriotic place in America. And in September we did a driving tour of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Happy New Year!