Need something to humble brag about? While we’ve always known it, U.S. News recently affirmed that Iowa is the best state in the country. Taking into consideration 8 categories—health care, quality of life, education, infrastructure, fiscal stability, crime, opportunity, and economy—results were calculated based on the average of two year’s worth of data from an annual McKinsey & Company survey, which asked people across the nation to prioritize each category in their state. Iowa was ranked in the top five for Infrastructure, Health Care, Opportunity, and Education, leading it to its final ranking as the top state in the country. We’ve appreciated what makes Iowa so special for a long time, and want to share that love and passion with you. Here are our top five reasons why you—whether you’re native or a transplant—should plant your roots in our top-notch state. Check it out below!
1. Abundance of Fresh, Local Produce
Summer is one of our favorite times of the year. Throughout the spring and summer, Iowa’s fields come to life with some of the country’s best produce. Living here, we have the unique opportunity to buy farm-fresh fruits and vegetables at the area’s many local Farmers Markets and CSA programs. Both programs give locals the chance to sell prepared foods as well, including baked goods, jams and jellies, and more. Farmers Markets can be found all across the state, with the two largest being found in Iowa City and Des Moines. Living in the Iowa City community, the Urban Acres team are frequent patrons of the Iowa City Farmers Market, taking place at the Chauncey Swan on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Food trucks—offering fresh made smoothies, burritos, pancakes, and more—line the outer streets while local musicians perform for visitors enjoying their food and basking in the warm sun. Inside, vendors offer an assortment of organic, fresh grown produce, baked goods, and tasty eats. Head to Des Moines, and you’ll find over 300 vendors offering fresh produce, pork, wine, and many other delicious items. Like the Iowa City market, the Des Moines Downtown Farmers’ Market also offers its visitors great ready-to-eat food, beautiful art, music, and so much more. No matter what market in Iowa you visit, you’re sure to experience a big part of what makes life in Iowa so delicious.
2. Small Town Meets City Life
When people ask us why we love Iowa, one thing that always comes to mind is that we’re both a little bit urban and a little bit acres. Throughout the state, small town meets city life in unique and inviting ways. In our community, in particular, we have the best of both worlds. In Iowa City proper, locals can find everything from festivals and a bustling nightlife to live music, movie nights under the stars, and more. Drive a little bit out of town, and you’ll be met with beautiful rolling fields, quaint shops, and historical treasures in friendly little towns.
3. Connection and Friendliness
Whether you are at the local coffee shop or simply sitting on your front porch, it’s likely you’ll experience “Iowa Nice.” In Iowa, being kind and approachable is a way of life. Whether you’re having a rough day or your car’s broken down on the side of the road, someone will almost always be there to ask you how you’re doing or offer a helping hand. Not only are Iowans friendly, but living here gives you a sense of community you won’t find anywhere else.
4. Unique Attractions
While we might be best known for the Iowa State Fair, there are many more adventures to be had in our state. Iowa is home to many spooky, fascinating, fun, and historical attractions. One novel attraction is Snake Alley, which Iowans claim to be “the crookedest street in the world.” Located in Burlington, Iowa, the alley was constructed in 1894 with the intention of it being a connection to the downtown area and shopping areas. Today it is a popular tourist spot and hosts an uphill bike race once a year. On the spookier side, Villisca is home to the infamous Ax Murder House. An entire family of six and two others were brutally murdered in 1912 and the killer was never caught. Today, the owners of the house have turned it into a place where people can take a tour or, if brave enough, stay overnight. The Amana Colonies is another hot spot that many Iowans like to visit for a mini vacation. There is an abundance of shops, restaurants, and gorgeous historical buildings. Make sure to check out the Millstream Brewery, which offers fresh-brewed sodas and beer that you can sit and enjoy. While you’re in the area, don’t miss one of the restaurants—such as the Ox Yoke Inn—that offers family-style meals.
5. Natural Beauty
Iowa isn’t always thought of as the place to go if you want to see jaw-dropping natural sights, but it is home to some unique and breathtaking places. One of the most intriguing and awe-inspiring places is Loess Hills. Running 200 miles along the Mississippi River, it was originally formed during the Ice Age era. Glaciers repetitively moved across the land, grinding rock into particles of dust. As the glaciers melted, rock and mud were deposited throughout the plain of what we now know as Iowa. Over time, the areas were covered by grass, and it is now an area many go to visit. In Moorhead, Iowa there is a Scenic Overlook, which allows you to see the gorgeous landscape of the Loess Hills in a new way. Another favorite is the Effigy Mounds National Monument, an area of Iowa which has been inhabited since around 800 CE. Native Americans were the first to populate the land and created animal-shaped mounds on the ridge tops as ceremonial and sacred sites, according to the stories and legends of associated tribes. Today, many of these mounds still remain, preserving Native American prehistory in one of the most picturesque parts of the state. With over 11.5 miles of trails, some mountain bike accessible, at the nearby Pikes Peak State Park there is so much beauty and history to explore. Of the countless other great natural beauties in Iowa, another mentionable destination is Crystal Lake Cave, located in Dubuque. Even though the cave has formed over the past two million years, it was only discovered in 1868 by a miner. Minerals dripping from the cave created beautiful, delicate crystals that line the limestone. Go explore yourself, or take a guided walking tour to learn more.