Sports, Smiles, and Adventure:

What to Love About Iowa

Iowa is synonymous with cozy, small-town life. It’s packed with charming cities, flea markets, historic properties, and cultural attractions galore. If you’re booking a bus ticket to Iowa, be prepared to enjoy a little bit of everything—from agriculture to science to art, there’s something for everyone here.

A Look at Iowa History

Iowa was obtained by America in 1803 as a part of the Louisiana Purchase. Following this, President Thomas Jefferson requested that Meriweather Lewis and William Clark develop a map of the northern portion of the newly purchased territory. Among their stops was Iowa, for which they offered their approval. Before long, the enthusiasm drew hundreds of residents. Iowa entered the union in 1846, and Des Moines was named the capital in 1857.

Iowa Culture

Many associate Iowa solely with farming, but there’s so much more to this diverse state than meets the eye. Given its landlocked position, it’s certainly no surprise that outdoor life and agriculture take center stage here. The farm-state also has incredible historic ties. It was the birthplace of Herbert Hoover, the 31st president, and features a group of old-world American Indian ceremonial mounds. Multicultural festivals are held year-round, and there are wonderful art and history museums, farmer’s markets, and botanical gardens peppered throughout the state.

The real draw here, however, is the opportunity to experience “Iowa nice.” It’s hospitality at its best: cordiality, warmth, kindness, and generosity are the norm here, and you shouldn’t be surprised if you make an instant connection with the friendly person you meet at a restaurant, tourist attraction, or store.

Where to Go and Stay in Iowa

Iowa City

You may book a bus ticket to Iowa City with the intention of visiting the state capital, but this is not actually the capital! It is, however, among the most vibrant cities in the state. This is where you’ll find the University of Iowa, and if you’re a sports fan you can take in a football game at Kinnick Stadium or a basketball game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. If you’re a politics buff, head to Hamburg Inn No. 2, where many candidates stop to make speeches while on the trail. There are also many Iowa City attractions listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including the Old Post Office, Park House Hotel, Johnson County Courthouse, St. Mary’s Church, and the five cottages on the Muscatine Avenue Moffitt Cottage Historic District.


There’s much to see and do in Waterloo, despite its relatively small size. It neighbors Cedar Falls, where the University of Northern Iowa is situated, so people visiting students may flock to the city for new things to do. Among the most noteworthy is the Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area, a preserved space whose mission is to celebrate historic and modern farming and agriculture. It’s also worth a visit to the Waterloo Center for the Arts to browse the largest Haitian art exhibit in the country.

Des Moines

As the state capital, Des Moines offers far more to do than you can squeeze into a day. It’s known for its beautiful cityscape, which, since the 1970s, has grown to feature countless skyscrapers. Some of the newest buildings in the downtown area include the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines, which proudly hosts an array of Broadway shows, and the four-mile skywalk that connects several of the city’s properties. Arts enthusiasts will find plenty to do here, from catching shows at Wells Fargo Arena and the Des Moines Metro Opera to touring the impressive 42 rooms at Salisbury House and Gardens. If you’re curious about the state’s history, head straight to the State of Iowa Historical Museum to learn all about its political, military, and native background. And if you’re traveling with the family, don’t miss a stop at Adventureland Park and Blank Park Zoo.


A bustling manufacturing town, Dubuque is home to several locations listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Among them are the Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, the Dubuque County Courthouse, and the Grand Opera House. For visitors who just want to relax and take in the scenery, a walk along the Mississippi River waterfront is a must. Here, you can try your hand at the Diamond Jo Casino and visit Ice Harbor.


Just north of Des Moines is Ames, a fairly low-key city with plenty of activities for families and solo travelers to enjoy. Pay a visit to the tap room at the Alluvial Brewing Company, learn about local life at Ames Historical Society, or check out the art exhibits at the Octagan Center for the Arts.


The third-largest city in Iowa is Davenport, known largely for its broad arts and entertainment scene. Providing views of the Mississippi River, the Figge Art Museum offers a vast collection of local and international exhibits. Indulge your outdoorsy side with a walk through Vander Beer Botanical Park, a beautiful spot to relax and enjoy the earthy aromas and vibrant greenery.

No matter what you choose to do while in Iowa, you’re sure to have a great time. Check out prices for booking a bus ticket online and see how much money and time you can save.

Top Ten Most Popular Bus Trips in Iowa