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Archive for iowa

A Shot in Dubuque

By Linda Tancs

Standing sentinel over Dubuque, Iowa, is the city’s icon—a 120-foot-tall shot tower. One of few remaining in the United States, it’s the only one west of the Mississippi River. Shot towers were designed for the production of lead shot balls (ammunition), which assumed their spherical shape as the molten lead fell from the top of the tower to a water basin below. Used both prior to and during the Civil War for lead shot production, Iowa’s tower was subsequently used as a watchtower. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

A Miracle in Stone

By Linda Tancs

Touted as the largest man-made grotto in the world, Iowa’s Grotto of the Redemption is a religious shrine comprising nine grottos adorned with a vast collection of building materials, including petrified wood, malachite, azurite, agates, geodes, jasper, quartz, topaz, calcite, stalactites and stalagmites. Located in West Bend, it represents the lifelong work of Father Paul Dobberstein and is included in the National Register of Historic Places. The museum features tools used by Father Dobberstein in the construction of the grotto as well as a documentary video.

A Great House in Des Moines

By Linda Tancs

In the early 1920s, cosmetics king Carl Weeks commissioned the building of a signature home in Des Moines, Iowa. Known as Salisbury House, it was inspired by a 15th century manor in Salisbury, England, known as Kings House. Comprising 22,500 square feet on four floors, the 42-room mansion originally included 17 bedrooms and 16 bathrooms. Weeks was fascinated by English homes and Tudor architecture, incorporating 17th century tile from Lord Nelson’s Trafalgar estate in parts of the roofing and adding 16th century English oak paneling and floors to the interior. Family-occupied until 1954, the home is now a house museum, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Along with the gorgeous architecture and 11 acres of woodland, tourists are drawn to the property for its extensive collection of antique furniture, tapestries, fine art, rare books and artifacts.

World’s Largest Truckstop

By Linda Tancs

Along Interstate 80 in Walcott, Iowa, you’ll find the world’s largest truckstop. Known as Iowa 80, the stop opened in 1964 and currently serves 5,000 customers per day with parking spaces for 900 tractor-trailers, 250 cars and 20 buses. The amenities include a 300-seat restaurant, a gift store, a dentist, a barber shop, a chiropractor, a workout room, laundry facilities, a 60-seat movie theatre, a trucker’s TV lounge, 24 private showers, a food court, a convenience store, 10 gas islands, 16 diesel lanes, a fuel center, a seven-bay truck service center, a truck wash and the Iowa 80 Trucking Museum. Each year in July, the Iowa 80 hosts the Walcott Truckers Jamboree, a three-day event dedicated to celebrating America’s truckers. This year’s event begins on July 9.

The City of Five Seasons

By Linda Tancs

In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the folks believe that taking time to smell the roses extends life, almost like adding a fifth season to the calendar.  That’s the basis behind the city’s tagline, The City of Five Seasons.  For all the history, arts and culture that flourish in Iowa’s second largest city, you may very well need a fifth season to experience it all.  Start with a focal point like Brucemore, a classic 19th century Queen Anne-style house on a 26-acre estate in the heart of the city.  Caroline Soutter Sinclair built the mansion between 1884 and 1886 as a home for her six children; it’s only been owned by two families since that time.  Now operated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, this historic site is also an important community cultural center, offering concerts, theatre, special tours and exhibits.  Guided mansion tours start this month.

The Strawberry Gateway

By Linda Tancs

Strawberry Point, Iowa is home to the world’s largest–what else–strawberry.  A gateway to Northeast Iowa, you get the best of two worlds.  On the one hand, you’ll see the flat lands to the South and West; scenic rolling hills are to the North and East.  Besides the obligatory photo in town beside the World’s Largest Strawberry, there’s plenty else to see in Clayton County.  The kids will love Spook Cave, offering 35-minute tours.  Nearby is the campground, featuring locally handcrafted Amish log cabins.  Looking for something less rustic?  Then visit the Franklin Hotel, a slice of quintessential small town charm.

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Non Stop Fun in Iowa

By Linda Tancs

Attracting more than a million fans the world over each year, the Iowa State Fair kicks off now through 22 August at the Fairgrounds, located 10 minutes east of downtown Des Moines at East 30th Street and East University Avenue.  Today’s opening day festivities are highlighted by a tribute to the armed forces, including a live Skype chat with Iowa military in Kosovo, Iraq and Missisippi, a performance by the Central Iowa Hooves horse drill team and an evening concert by country music star Lee Greenwood (free with your fair ticket admission).  The grandstand lineup includes Keith Urban, Pat Benatar, REO Speedwagon, Darius Rucker, Sugarland and Sheryl Crow.  The entertainment may change from year to year, but annual staples like the Butter Cow (sculpted from butter, you see), double ferris wheel, livestock judging and endless stalls of food will remain–all to keep you in “non stop fun,” as this year’s theme goes.

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