Holiday Guide: The Quintessential Thanksgiving in Iowa

Iowa is a wonderful place to celebrate Turkey Day. With the smell of homemade pie in the air and autumnal landscapes surrounding you, it doesn’t get much better. From turkey trots, to parades, to college football, here’s how to enjoy the quintessential Thanksgiving in Iowa. 

1. Joe’s Place, Iowa City, IA

For the perfect place to let loose the night before thanksgiving, Joe’s Place in Iowa City provides plenty of space, a great bar selection and an unofficial meeting spot for University of Iowa students, alumni, and community members alike. If you have had any tenure in Iowa City, you’ll run into someone you know at Joe’s Place, and chances are you’ll meet someone new too. 

2. Coffee Cup Cafe, Sully, IA

While baking your own pie can go a long way for the Thanksgiving holiday, a pie from the Coffee Cup Cafe will surely add some extra sweetness to the spread. Featuring all the holiday staples including apple, pumpkin and cherry, it’s highly recommended to check out other new favorites on the Coffee Cup Cafes long menu, including toasted coconut, lemon meringue and pecan pies.  

3. New Pioneer Food Co-op, Multiple locations

Featuring locally-raised, free-range frozen and fresh turkeys, the New Pioneer Food Co-op has you covered when it comes to a high-quality bird. The spread selection doesn’t stop when it comes to turkeys at the New Pi Co-op, and with plenty of fresh holiday sides, ingredients and suggestions for what to cook, New Pi can help deliver on a first-class meal and leftovers. 

4. Festival of Trees Holiday Parade, Davenport, IA

Taking place on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, the Quad Cities Festival of Trees Holiday Parade is the equivalent to the Macy’s Day Parade of Iowa. Featuring larger-than-life helium balloons soaring above the crowd, the Festival of Trees Holiday Parade is a celebration of the coming holiday seasons. Downtown Davenport hosts the Festival of Trees itself, which includes merry decorations, live music and silent auctions after the parade.  

5. Jordan Creek Town Center, West Des Moines, IA

If Black Friday is circled on your calendar the day after Thanksgiving, then the place you’ll want to head to in the wee hours of the morning is the Jordan Creek Town Center in West Des Moines. Featuring more stores than you can visit in a day, Jordan Creek contains small shops unique to the area and mega brands like Best Buy, Scheels and Younkers. 

Theta Parents Weekend meant that my favorite family member came to visit 🐶💗

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6. Iowa Hawkeyes vs. University of Nebraska-Lincoln football

Nothing is better in the state of Iowa than sitting in a deep recliner, with a plate of Thanksgiving leftovers in your lap, and watching the Hawkeyes play the Cornhuskers. University of Nebraska-Lincoln entered the University of Iowa’s football conference in 2011, and since then, the annual Black Friday battle has always been an exciting and fun game to watch, no matter the turnout. This matchup is also the Heroes Game, an annual rivalry event that benefits the American Red Cross.  

7. Meskwaki Cultural Center and Museum, Tama, IA

For more perspective on the Thanksgiving Holiday, a visit to the Meskwaki Cultural Center and Museum in Tama is worth your attention. Featuring artifacts, photographs, and plenty of stories to share, visitors to the Meskwaki Cultural Center learn about the history of the Meskwaki Nation, as well as their current cultural presence. Admission is free to this captivating display of culture, and you can keep everything you learn well past the holidays. 

8. Des Moines Turkey Trot, Des Moines, IA

Get your turkey trot on this Thanksgiving at the Des Moines Turkey Trot. Touted as one of the best trots in the nation, the Des Moines Turkey Trot hits all the scenic parts of the city and comes packed with a lot of holiday cheer. Racers can opt for a casual 5K, a slightly more competitive five-mile route, or a tot trot for the young turkeys out there. Whichever trot you choose, and even if you just spectate the event, it’s a festival full of good cheer and friendly faces.  

9. Food Bank of Iowa, Des Moines, IA

In the spirit of giving gratitude to what we’re thankful for, there are a lot of great organizations to get involved with during the holiday season. The Food Bank of Iowa is one among many of those organizations that can use volunteers of all sizes. Whichever organization you’d like to help out this holiday season, the first step will be getting in touch with them and asking how they could use your help. 

10. Ox Yoke Inn, Amana, IA

If not for the main holiday meal, at least once during the season be sure to leave the cooking up to the professionals at the Ox Yoke Inn in Amana. Featuring family-style entree selections, including savory turkey, mashed potatoes and chilled salads, there’s little to no room left on the table at the Ox Yoke Inn for anyone’s hunger to remain. 

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