Whether you are looking for an explorative afternoon indoors, or you want to deepen your knowledge about the world around you, the state of Iowa has a lot of great museums to take you back to the past. If it’s an in-depth look at the ever-changing trucking industry that you’re seeking, or a visit to the birthplace of one of Hollywood’s most famous cowboys, Iowa has something for you. Check out these 10 best museums in Iowa.
The Figge Art Museum in Davenport has one of the most robust collections of art and media in the state, including an impressive Grant Wood archive that celebrates and shows the life of this famous Iowa artist. Among the many rotating exhibits and architecturally interesting wings of the Figge Art Museum, you can find Rembrandts, colonial artwork and plenty of educational and learning opportunities to deepen your love for the finer things in life.
While the Iowa Children’s Museum in Iowa City was built with adolescence in mind, parents can also find pleasure from the intricately designed kid’s exhibits and programs. From the Notion of Motion playroom to the CityWorks interactive Children’s Hospitable studio, the Iowa Children’s Museum has ample space for all types of constructive and engaging learning.
With two major interstates dissecting the state of Iowa in quarters (I-80 & I-35), it makes sense that Iowa also has one of the most in-depth trucking museums in the country. With over 100 trucks in collection, and at least 60 always on display, you can jump back in time at the Iowa 80 Trucking Museum and see for yourself the long way society has come when it comes to transporting goods and trucking.
Split between historical and living collections, the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium is one of the most popular museums in Iowa, and for good reason. With a whole host of visual and educational displays, including every gamut of wildlife supported by the Mississippi River and historical records of the people who relied on the river for their livelihood, the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium can keep you busy all weekend long.
Though some may not associate Iowa with a prominent Czech and Slovak population, the National Czech & Slovak Museum (NCSML) in Cedar Rapids shines a light on a rich community by tying stories of the past to the relevance of current times. Celebrating more than the Czech and Slovak heritage in Iowa, the NCSML tells the whole turbulent story of the Czech and Slovak culture, informing every visitor as they walk through the doors.
Perhaps one of the most iconic Iowans out there, John Wayne made a major dent on the movie scene, and you can see his humble beginnings by visiting the John Wayne Birthplace and Museum in Winterset. While visiting this historical marker, you can tour the restored childhood home of this famous movie cowboy, and with the adjacent 6,100 square-foot museum next door, you can see the rise and shining star of the legend that is “the Duke.”
Featuring the acclaimed “America Travels by Rail” exhibit, this amazing museum brings to life the last 85 years of rail travel that has defined the state of Iowa and surrounding country. Alongside the rail cars, the Union Pacific Railroad Museum also features a homage to Abraham Lincoln, who in 1862 signed the Pacific Railway Act, earning him the accreditation of being the father of the Union Pacific.
The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum is situated on the grounds of the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site in West Branch, Iowa. It is one of 13 presidential libraries run by the National Archives and Records Administration. With a variety of exhibits on rotation, you can always see the historic Herbert Hoover galleries. The collection of works thoroughly illustrates the 31st president’s life and career in office.
With over 25,000 pieces of folk art, fine art, furnishings, clothing and tools that celebrate the pioneers who first settled this area, the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum & Heritage Center is living history waiting for you to explore. Celebrating the culture and identity of some of the first Norwegians to immigrate to the United States, this center is ripe for all backgrounds and interests to explore.
Besides housing a wide array of historic and vintage aircrafts, the Iowa Aviation Museum in Greenfield is also home to the Iowa Aviation Hall of Fame which features prominent people who have significantly shaped the way we travel by air. Featuring airplanes dating back to 1929, ancient gunships and a 1975 Easy Rider Glider, even if you’re not an airplane aficionado, the airplanes on display will fill anyone’s interest.