If you have a heart that wants to explore, then you will love reading about the cheap things to do in Iowa. The city has been a center for recreation, education, culture and arts for years. It offers a wide range of vibrant restaurants, bars, historic sites, museums and marvels of nature. It is one of the coolest and worth-visiting cities of America. If you want to do something offbeat and fun without spending a fortune, then explore this list of top cheap things to do in Iowa.
Below slides will make you instantly go wow! Check out everything a budget traveler looks forward to on a trip to Iowa!
- High Trestle Trail Bridge: Panoramic Views Of Iowa
- Lover’s Leap Swinging Bridge: Iowa’s Quirky Attractions
- Elwood, the Tallest Concrete Gnome in the World
- Zombie Burger+ Drink Lab: Unique Iowa Activities
- Pottawattamie Squirrel Cage Jail: Historic Iowa
- Fenelon Place Elevator: Legendary Iowa
- Matchstick Marvels Museum: Affordable Iowa Activities
- Pappajohn Sculpture Park: Iowa City Center
- Union Park: Best Social Hangout In Iowa
- The Field of Dreams Movie Site: Baseball Legacy In Iowa
- Wrapping Up Cheap Things To Do In Iowa
High Trestle Trail Bridge: Panoramic Views Of Iowa
This bridge is one of the largest trail bridges in the world and is 130 feet high and half a mile long. It was originally used for carrying passengers and freight for the Milwaukee, Chicago and St. Paul Railway. When the trains stopped operating in the route; public support, grants and donations transformed the rails into a path for horseback riders, bikers and hikers.
The High Trestle Trail Bridge is considered to be a marvelous feat of engineering. This structure reflects in the river below, when the lights are switched on between dusk and midnight. It is a mesmerizing scene and the bridge offers panoramic views of the surrounding.
Lover’s Leap Swinging Bridge: Iowa’s Quirky Attractions
This narrow swinging bridge is for adventurers and enthusiasts. It swings eight stories high and would entice only visitors who have a thing for adventurous activities. Two brothers, Jesse and Lew Tisor in 1920 were walking over this bridge. They were used to the swinging walkway. However, the planks gave out and in a flash they ended up at the bottom unhurt. The event was considered a miracle.
This swinging bridge is also referred to as “Lovers Leap” and has a legend associated with it. A lovesick maiden threw herself from the bridge after her beau was killed in a battle. It is believed that the maiden is still buried nearby and you can hear her cries if you cross over, at the night. If we keep the legends apart, this bridge promises breathtaking views of the surroundings. Exploring the bridge is one of the top cheap things to do in Iowa.
Elwood, the Tallest Concrete Gnome in the World
This massive garden gnome in Iowa has set a record, beating all other competitors. Elwood can be found in the Reiman Gardens at Iowa State University. This ornament is 15 feet tall from the sole of his boots to the tip of the pointy hat. It was constructed for $8,000. You can visit this place to relax in the garden and click selfies with this world-famous concrete gnome.
Zombie Burger+ Drink Lab: Unique Iowa Activities
Have you ever visited a zombie-themed restaurant? If you haven’t, then you need to visit this place whenever you are in Iowa. This restaurant features artwork and movie posters and there are life-sized zombie sculptures that appear to be lurching towards you.
Everything right from the menu to the costumes of employees resonates with the theme. If you have a thing for horror-themed tricks, then you will love visiting this offbeat themed restaurant while exploring the city.
Pottawattamie Squirrel Cage Jail: Historic Iowa
This three-story rotary jail has been converted into a museum and is one of the three remaining rotary jails. It was constructed in 1885 for minimizing the interaction between the convicts and the jailor by twirling the cells around.
The primary design idea was that the cells were located on a central carousel that would start spinning by just turning a hand-crank. Most of the rotary jails built in the 1800s featured just one level. However, this jail was built with three stacked levels. The effect made it appear as some sort of cage for a small animal. Hence, it earned the popular nickname Squirrel Cage Jail.
The jail was handed over to the Historical Society of Pottawattamie Country after it became inactive. Visitors here can inspect this historic mechanical jail, although it no longer functions as before. Still, the site is fascinating to look at. Exploring this cage jail is one of the top cheap things to do in Iowa.
Fenelon Place Elevator: Legendary Iowa
Fenelon Place Elevator is claimed to be the steepest and shortest railroad in the world. It was originally built in 1882 by a wealthy businessman because his home was located on the top of the hill. He worked for a bank at the bottom at the hill and found it difficult to commute. Hence, he built a funicular for his personal use.
The original version of it seemed like a railroad with a wooden car moving up and down the hill powered by steam. It was burnt down within two years of its construction. He rebuilt the elevator and charged the public five cents for a trip.
This site has expanded over the years and there are numerous additions nearby worth exploring for the tourists. This elevator is still in operation and has been protected as a historical landmark. It will cost you approximately $3 for a round trip. Taking the Fenelon Place Elevator is one of the popular cheap things to do in Iowa and great experience in itself.
Matchstick Marvels Museum: Affordable Iowa Activities
Patrick Acton from Iowa has been constructing detailed models with wooden matchsticks for 40 years. He has constructed over 70 elaborate designs from Wright Brother’s Flyer to Notre Dame Cathedral. The museum is home to these painstaking creations.
About 20 models are accessible to the public at a time. His Iowa USS battleship measures 13 feet in height and his model of Minas Tirith from the movie Lord of the Rings is about 6 feet tall. He has also built a Hogwarts Castle with reference to the Harry Potter books.
Each model has been made from hundreds of thousands of match sticks. Acton has spent hours shaping, gluing and warping them with utmost precision. You can also view a documentary of his work at the museum. You are bound to have a great time exploring this incredible museum.
Pappajohn Sculpture Park: Iowa City Center
This park located in the Iowa City Center is home to sculptures worth millions of dollars. Right in the heart of Downtown Des Moines, you will come across an odd collection of modern sculptures popular as Pappajohn Sculpture Park. It takes up about 27 acres of land.
Venture capitalists Mary and John Pappajohn donated statuary of over $40 million for the site. The park was made open to the general public and visitors in 2009. It housed 24 sculptures initially and now the number has been increased to 27. The structures in this park are quite impressively housed in the midst of an urban center.
This grand park in Dubuque, Iowa was built to show off the wonders of electricity to the common man. During the early 1900s, this park was a hub of social life with fountains, pools, band pavilions, dance halls, a wooden roller coaster and much more. The park initially changed owners after finally being purchased byGeneral Electric.
The company spent over a decade to transform the park into a premier attraction exhibiting the wonders of electricity for visitors and tourists. The company added electric lights to the cave, built a roller coaster, added pools, and a mammoth theater in the park.
A dance pavilion was also built but its popularity declined after a tragedy. It finally closed down in 1934, however, the traces of its glory can still be experienced. The YMCA owns and operates a zip-line course in the park premises now.
The Field of Dreams Movie Site: Baseball Legacy In Iowa
The century-old farm in the Dyersville area was the site of a 1989 movie, Field of Dreams. It still attracts a lot of visitors. People come here to play a game of catch. There is no admission fee charged here on Sundays. This farm has a baseball diamond carved in its center.
This was the original site of movie filming and the venue today is rented for ball games, private and corporate events. Tours of the Field of Dreams House are available daily from 10 am to 4 pm. The guided tour of 30 minutes takes the visitors to the first floor of the home that has been restored to look exactly the same way as it was featured in the movie. You need to call 24 hours in advance to book tours. $20 is charged for adults and $18 for seniors.
Wrapping Up Cheap Things To Do In Iowa
There are plenty of regions worth exploring in Iowa. In addition to the above-mentioned activities and places, you can explore Muscatine History and Industry Center, Loess Hill State Forest, The Museum of Natural History and several other places of interest. It is no wonder that the tourism industry in the city is booming. If you want a comprehensive list of best Iowa road trip destinations, check out our sampling.
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