Ah, Memorial Day, the unofficial start to summer. But how best to spend your three-day weekend? By hitting up these Iowa festivals and hotspots, of course!
Western Iowa: Where windmills and antiques collide (but not literally)
Embrace your Danish side (even if it’s just your love of pastries) and head to Elk Horn for the one and only Tivoli Fest. See traditional folk dancing, tour the Danish Windmill that was imported from Denmark and try delicious Danish specialties like aebleskiver (yummy pancake puffs).
Another western Iowa must-stop is Walnut, which just happens to be Iowa’s Antique City and is mere minutes away from Elk Horn. There you can browse shop after shop featuring unique vintage and antique finds. (Just make sure you leave enough room in your car so you can haul those finds home.) Check out what Iowa Girl on the Go had to say on her trip to Walnut.
For unbeatable scenery of the eastern edge of the Loess Hills, visit Breezy Hills Winery for a view that’s enhanced with a glass of wine in your hand and good friends by your side.
Northwestern Iowa: Batter up! and Twin Bings
Nothing quite says summer like softball and baseball so head to Sioux City for the 2016 NAIA Softball World Series. Your kids will love lounging on blankets in the open air and you’ll love that it’s FREE admission.
While you’re in Sioux City, check out the recently opened Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. And no trip to Sioux City would be complete without getting a tasty Twin Bing candy bar at Palmer’s Old Tyme Candy Shoppe. [Fun fact: Palmer’s Twin Bing was created in 1923 and is still produced by hand today.]
North Central Iowa: Strike up the band!
Even if you don’t have a single musical bone in your body, you’ll still want to make the trek to Mason City for the North Iowa Band Festival. With lively music, a parade, entertainment, carnival, car show and tasty treats, your family won’t be disappointed.
Continuing with the music theme, while you’re in Mason City, stop by The Music Man Square, where it’s always 1912 and looks like it came straight out of the movie The Music Man. In nearby Clear Lake, walk the half-mile path to visit the Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and Big Bopper Crash Site Memorial. You won’t regret it.
Central Iowa: Make it a Memorial Day tradition, Pilgrim
Honor those who’ve served our country by attending Decoration Day at Living History Farms in Urbandale, for a Victorian ceremony and speeches. And be sure to stick around for the Historic Baseball Game to see the Walnut Hill Bluestockings compete in an 1870s-rules baseball game.
Other Des Moines activities include perusing the Downtown Des Moines Farmers Market – where you’ll find artisan cheeses, farm-fresh produce and much more – and renting a boat at Big Creek so you can make the most of summer’s first unofficial weekend.
Then head south to Winterset for a celebration of one of America’s most iconic actors, John Wayne. Every year Winterset holds the John Wayne Birthday Celebration, where there’s a parade, country barn dance, outdoor movie screening, 5K and more.
Eastern Iowa: Medieval entertainment, German tradition, and some serious shopping
Won’t thou attend-eth the Iowa Renaissance Festival in Middle Amana? After all, it features touring performing groups, costumed village characters, artisan merchants, crafts, a beer garden, and more. It could easily be the best step back in time you’ve ever taken.
After the festival, tour the rest of the Amana Colonies for unique shops and restaurants that honor their German heritage.
That’s just the tip of the ice cream cone