Where to Eat, Stay & Play in West Central Iowa

Travel West Central Iowa

West Central Iowa Fall 2019

Seeking a Midwest day trip or overnight stay?

Check out West Central Iowa locations.

This Iowa Tourism website is fantastic for trip planning. https://www.traveliowa.com/regions/west-central/9/

Click on the West Central Region and scroll near the bottom. Find all of the towns in the region with links.

Our October 12-13, 2019 Itinerary

Plan your own getaway or follow the itinerary we created and used.

Shelby, Iowa https://www.shelbyia.com

On a recent weekend, we left Omaha on a Saturday morning and drove to Shelby, Iowa.

It’s known for having the World’s Largest Corn Stalk (as seen from I-80) but on October 12, 2019 it also had a craft and vendor show.

We shopped local and enjoyed meeting and admiring the work of the talented crafters including, B&3 Boutique https://b-3-boutique-by-beth.myshopify.com/ as well as https://www.facebook.com/countrycreations3592/.

Laura S. Fell of Chalk Couture is an independent designer and chalk teacher. Find her work on Facebook at The Chalking Teacher 402.660.3468.

Stephanie McDonald’s work was simply beautiful. Her business is Papaya’s Rustic Designs. Reach her at 712.307.0256 or stepharkfeld@gmail.com.

Work of Stephanie McDonald of Papaya’s Rustic Designs

What is a fall festival without locally baked goods? The cinnamon and caramel rolls looked tempting. They didn’t disappoint.

Avoca, Iowa  http://www.cityofavoca.com

Our first stop was at the ever-popular Volkswagen Beetle Spider at 649 South Chestnut Street.

Spider Car in Avoca, Iowa

You have to get out and take a photograph there, of course.


We ventured downtown on the cold, blustery morning. We admired the Eagle of Honor Tribute and visited the Avoca Public Library. There’s a wonderful interactive music station outdoors.

Apples were being given away in the library foyer by generous local homeowners. We bought nearly-new hard covered books at the book sale. We believe in supporting local libraries.

We also picked up a copy of the “Western Iowa Visitors Guide for 2019-20” at the library.


It led us to the Octagon Building in Graceland Cemetery. This building (1875) is on the National Register for Historic Places and was a gathering place for mourners during inclement weather. The deceased could also be kept there if the ground was too frozen to permit burial.

Avoca, IA: Graceland Cemetery Octagon Building

The Cemetery itself is a picturesque location with unforgettable vistas and headstones.

Walnut, Iowa   https://walnutiowa.org/

Walnut is known as Iowa’s Antique City.

The brick streets are lined with historic buildings filled with antique and specialty shops.

Two of our favorites were Forget Me Nots Gifts Treasures and Décor www.facebook.com/ForgetMeNotsIA and Plum Krazy. https://www.facebook.com/Plum-Krazy-Vintage-More-380801965592190/

Sadly, there are no restaurants in Walnut.


Based on multiple referrals, we drove back to Avoca and lunched at the Embers Restaurant. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Embers/117491594943683

 The food was plentiful, delicious and quite reasonably priced.

Check the Avoca business directory (Restaurants) for a list of dining choices. http://www.cityofavoca.com/business-directory.php

Carson, Iowa https://www.carsongov.com

The drive from Avoca to Carson, Iowa in the fall is beautiful.

Carson is only 21 miles east of Council Bluffs, Iowa but yet seems so far away: rural, pastural setting.

Drive through the town. Get out and walk.

Be sure to see the West Nishnabotna River area.


We stayed at the Country Vineyard Retreat with Paula as our Superhost (Airbnb).

The rural property was 5 miles east of Carson off Highway 92.

Carson, Iowa lodging view

The space is large, well-appointed and ideal for anyone wanting or needing a break from city life or a long day on the road.

Part of lodging interior.

Guests are encouraged to walk the property and to enjoy the vineyard views.

Macedonia, Iowa  https://www.macedoniaiowa.com/

We drove to Macedonia after watching the Iowa State Cyclones football team defeat West Virginia.

What an awesome community.

The town’s Main Street is lined with iron railings. Each tells the story of an event, family or organization with special ties to Macedonia.

Macedonia, IA Main Street iron railings

The Grist Mill McCready Theatre is where the Fine Arts Council hosts performances. Check their Facebook page and website for performances. http://www.gristmillfinearts.com/

The Stemple Bird Museum (tours available by appointment) is at 311 Main Street and houses over 300 mounted displays.

Painted Camel Gallery on Main Street http://potterybythecreek.com/index.php is open Saturdays from 10 AM – 4 PM or by appointment. Call 712.486.2324. It’s houses hand-crafted pottery, paintings, jewelry, wooden furniture, woven rugs and so much more.


The Back Forty Restaurant and Bar http://www.backfortybarandgrill.com/ also on Main Street was referred by nearly everyone from whom we sought a dinner recommendation.

Saturday is steak special night. The prime rib, according to my husband, was great.

The place was full of diners of all ages enjoying one another’s company and watching football and volleyball games on one of many TVs throughout the space.

The service is quick and grateful.

Well-Rested Conclusion

On the commute back to Omaha via Highway 92, I asked my husband, Ken, if he felt rested. His response, “I feel like I’ve been gone for more than a day.”

That’s what a getaway to West Central Iowa can do for you.

Husband, Ken, at lodging location

Plan your trip today.

Share this with your fellow travelers. Thank you!

©October 2019. Linda Leier Thomason All Rights Reserved. This means seek permission before using copy or images from this site. Images are available for purchase.

Linda Leier Thomason writes freelance business and travel stories along with feature articles. Her work experience includes a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.

Would you like Linda to visit and write a feature story on your community? Nominate it in the comment section below.

All You Need to Plan a Reunion in Winterset, Iowa

The Thomason extended family decided to plan a 2019 family reunion.

As with most families with members living in multiple states, it can be somewhat difficult to gather often. Yet there is the desire to connect in person.

3 Generations of Thomason Family

Share this Post with Others Planning Reunions.

6 factors in choosing a reunion location

  • Short travel distance for matriarch, aka Granny
  • Easy travel for airline commuters
  • Comfortable, well-appointed, and affordable lodging
  • Great dining and shopping choices
  • Availability of a professional photographer for family photos
  • Entertainment & Recreation

Winterset, Iowa–Chosen Reunion Location

Winterset, Iowa was chosen as the ideal location. It is great for families of all sizes. There is plenty to see and do in Madison County and businesses and attractions are well accustomed to working with and welcoming visitors and guests from all over the world.

In addition, their Chamber and Welcome Center has a fantastic website.

More information. http://www.madisoncounty.com/

Winterset is approximately
• 37 miles from Des Moines, Iowa
• 125 miles from Omaha, Nebraska
• 180 miles from Kansas City, Kansas
• 270 miles from Sioux Falls, South Dakota


Check the Chamber’s website http://www.madisoncounty.com/ for accommodations of all types and price ranges.

Our group booked all of the rooms at Heavenly Habitat Bed & Breakfast. http://www.heavenlyhabitat.net/. It was perfect in every way. We gathered often to share meals, play board games, watch NBA finals games and enjoy one another’s company.

Steve and Nancy Fauser are exceptional inn keepers. Each breakfast was better than the next. Come with a hearty appetite. Microwaves and refrigerators are available on site.

Street View of Heavenly Habitat
Breakfast Area on Main Floor
What is a reunion without Frisbee and Corn Hole? Grassy area across from B&B.


Winterset has plenty of great dining options for all budgets and appetites. Check out the Chamber website to plan your meals and make advance reservations. http://www.madisoncounty.com/dining/.

Northside Café Salmon Dinner

Our group dined here & would gladly return to

What to Do at Your Reunion

Check the Events tab to plan reunion activities. http://www.madisoncounty.com/

50th Annual Madison County Covered Bridge Festival is October 12-13, 2019.

Bridges of Madison County

1 of 6 bridges visited. http://www.madisoncounty.com/the-covered-bridges/

Aquatic Center

Visit https://wedesignpools.com/portfolio/winterset-aquatic-center/. We did not have time to use this facility. We did drive by and families of all ages were using it.

First Friday Night Concert Series

Photography Session

Hiring a professional photographer to capture family photographs was important to this group. We hired http://teddiyaeger.com/. She was professional, prompt and experienced. She provided expert advice on location and attire and was a pure joy to work with.

Parks & Recreation

There is plenty of green space in Madison County, including in Winterset Iowa. Check out the multitude of recreational opportunities http://www.madisoncounty.com/recreation/


The historic square in downtown Winterset is known for great shopping http://www.madisoncounty.com/shopping/ and our group made an economic impact during our visit.

One of our favorite spots was Pine Creek, Ltd. https://www.facebook.com/Pine-Creek-Ltd-435798216503689/

Another favorite was http://www.1stavenuecollective.com/. It’s an artisan market in the former Madison County jail.


I posted a feature on Madison County in the Fall of 2018. Check out the attractions information on it, including mention of wineries. http://www.lindaleierthomason.com/2018/09/11/9-reasons-madison-county-iowa-is-worth-visiting/


Start planning your reunion today. SHARE this post with others attending.

This post was not sponsored.

©Copyright. June 2019. Linda Leier Thomason
All Rights Reserved. This means seek permission prior to using any images or copy on this site. All are copyright protected. Images are available for sale.

Linda Leier Thomason writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business.
Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.

Would you like Linda to write a feature story on your community? Nominate it here.

9 Reasons Madison County Iowa is Worth Visiting

Madison County’s Abundant Appeal

Community Visit Exceeds Expectations


I’m excited before each community visit/study I do.

I’ve completed dozens of these, mostly undercover, in conjunction with organizations like Convention and Visitor Bureaus (CVB), economic development groups, Chamber of Commerce’s, etc.

Yet, I still get butterflies as I drive into the city limits for the first time. Never fails. Happens each visit.

Before leaving, I research attractions, events, and historical facts and map out and schedule my time. Hard work ensues to put variety into my agendas: Culture, art, history, parks and recreation, lodging, dining, retail and more.

I develop a perspective from online information about what makes the community tick.

Afterall, what a community shares online becomes that community’s brand. The marketing affects perception.

Once there, I test these pre-conceived notions and hypotheses.
Most of the time, I’m pretty spot on.

I’m delighted when a community wildly exceeds my expectations. And, I’m truly disappointed for communities that aren’t living up to their potential. Madison County Iowa exceeds all expectations, including mine.

PLAN a visit. ENJOY all it offers.

Winterset, Iowa

Population 5000+-Madison County’s County Seat.

Winterset is approximately
• 37 miles from Des Moines, Iowa
• 125 miles from Omaha, Nebraska
• 180 miles from Kansas City, Kansas
• 270 miles from Sioux Falls, South Dakota

The Bridges of Madison County

Hogback Covered Bridge

Holliwell Covered Bridge

I’ve been wanting to visit Madison County, Iowa since watching the 1995 “Bridges of Madison County” movie starring Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep. (Available on Amazon Prime Video.)

What I learned during my 30-hour visit is that Madison County is a whole lot more than covered bridges, though these are spectacular and are worth the trip alone.

Bridge Names (Pick up a map in the Welcome Center)

  1. Roseman Covered Bridge-featured in movie + most popular bridge; gift shop on site
  2. Cedar Covered Bridge– on novel cover + arsonist destroyed it in 2017
  3. Holliwell Covered Bridge-featured in movie + longest of 6 remaining bridges
  4. Imes Covered Bridge (1870)-oldest and in St. Charles, Iowa
  5. Hogback Covered Bridge (1884)-spans 97 feet over the North River
  6. Cutler-Donahoe Covered Bridge (1870)located in Winterset’s City Park

Madison County is well prepared for the many who visit this area. It’s true. Most come because of the Bridges and John Wayne. Once there, however, visitors discover the depth of offerings and attractions in the County and stay longer or plan a return visit.

I traveled throughout Madison County during my 30 hour stay. I didn’t see everything. Though I saw a lot. It was a beautiful late summer day filled with plentiful sunshine.

I visited each attraction and location below.

Let me know what else to see and do after you visit.

SHARE this with your travel companions to Madison County, Iowa.

9 Reasons Why You Deserve to Visit Madison County, Iowa

1. Chamber & Welcome Center Information

Log on to the Chambers website www.madisoncounty.com  for self-guided ½ day and full day itineraries, along with photos, links and other helpful information.

Call the Center. 515.462.1185. A friendly voice and a well-informed person will answer your questions, every time.

Their website is so well done. It should serve as a benchmark for other similar organizations.

The Welcome Center itself is a destination for tourists.

Location:73 Jefferson Street on the Courthouse Square. [Courthouse open during the week. Built in 1876 and is a designated historic district by the National Park Service.]

Pick up maps and brochures. Restrooms and retail items are available. Be sure to place a pin on their map of your hometown.

2. Community Pride

When every person one meets in a new community speaks to you in a manner that shows pride in their community and appreciation for your visit (I don’t identify I’m doing a study/story on the area.), you know you’ve found a place you want to return to or maybe even call home. But it’s more than that. The sense of Madison County community pride shows up in other ways too, like:

• Well maintained streets and roads
• Bountiful flower baskets hanging from street poles
• Interaction of citizens-people greeting 1 another by name + being good neighbors and citizens
• Residences and yards well-kept
• Lack of litter and graffiti
• Well-marked services provided (Fire, police, hospital, schools, pools, recreational fields, etc.)

While some take this list for granted, these are hallmarks of community pride. It shows citizens working and cooperating to make their hometown shine not only for visitors but also for themselves.

3.  Ease of Getting Around

Visiting Madison County attractions is done with great ease. Signs are put in all the right places. Some might think this happens everywhere.

It doesn’t.

I’ve been to those places where finding major attractions is more like a scavenger hunt than a nice drive on a scenic byway.

I’d researched addresses and picked up a map at the Welcome Center but I found the road signs were so abundant that I didn’t need to rely on my GPS or any other tools to get around.

Great signage makes driving on gravel county roads and in unfamiliar places so much more enjoyable. It is a stress-free experience.

For a unique experience, follow the recently designated 82-mile-plus Covered Bridges Scenic Byway featuring the iconic and internationally known covered bridges along with scenic natural areas, historical sites, Winterset’s Courthouse Square and Commercial district, the John Wayne Museum and Birthplace, and many other unique destinations.

4. Appreciation of History & Ancestry

$ The Madison County Historical Complex


Location: 815 South 2nd Avenue Winterset, Iowa is one of the finest museums I’ve visited in the Midwest.

It has 14 buildings on 18 acres on the south edge of Winterset.
Each building is filled with mostly donated items in outstanding condition. A genealogy research library is also on site. Picnic at one of the shaded tables. Restrooms are inside the Museum building.
Buildings include a law office, several school houses, a post office, a mercantile, a blacksmith shop, a 3-hole privy, an agricultural building, and more. Collections include early farm machinery and tools, barbed wire, quilts, Native American artifacts, and so much more.

Plan accordingly. I could’ve spent at least ½ of a day there taking time to fully appreciate the items and the meticulously kept grounds.

Be sure to take a guided tour of the 1856 Bevington-Kaser House restored and furnished in Victorian richness.

Appreciate the quality of the woodwork and the finishes. There are no roped off areas, allowing visitors to get up close to all items.

$ John Wayne Museum


Location: 205 South John Wayne Drive Winterset, Iowa
13-pound Marion Robert Morrison (today known as John Wayne) was born in Winterset, Iowa on May 26, 1907.
Visit his birthplace-a modest 4- room home & the 6100 square foot John Wayne Birthplace Museum next door. It is the only museum in the world dedicated to this Hollywood legend.

The Museum contains a movie theatre as well as a collection of artifacts and memorabilia from John Wayne’s career.

A well-appointed gift shop and restrooms are inside the Museum.

George Washington Carver Memorial Park

Location: Narrow green space west of the fire station on Court Avenue in Winterset, Iowa. It is across the street from Monumental Park-a tribute to fallen soldiers and those who fought in the Civil War.

Mr. Carver, a world-famous scientist, artist and humanitarian, lived in Madison County in the 1800s. He once worked at a hotel that stood on the spot of today’s memorial.

$ Iowa Quilt Museum


Location: 68 East Court Avenue Winterset, Iowa
• Opened May 2016
• Offers 3-4 changing exhibits per year
• Official home to the Quilts of Valor Project
• Retail items are available for sale in the lobby
• Vote for your favorite quilt

$ Iowa Theater

Location: 121 North John Wayne Drive Winterset, Iowa
Built in approximately 1899, the historic Iowa Theater was re-opened in May 2017 after undergoing a complete renovation. It is owned and operated by a mother/daughter team with years of entrepreneurial and creative experiences.
It shows “second run” movies-movies shown 4 to 6 weeks after they hit theaters in big cities. The concession counter has the traditional theater treats like buttered popcorn, soda and candy but it also offers locally produced wines, craft beer and locally roasted coffee. Notice the hardwood staircases on each side leading to the reopened balcony.
It is home to The Winterset Stage, which produces 3 live stage productions each year.
Keeping with the historical theme, The Theater presents classic American films on Wednesday nights. Check the website for shows and times.

Red Delicious Apple

A monument to the Delicious Apple is seen in Winterset’s City Park. Jesse Hiatt, a farmer in East Peru, discovered an unusual seedling in his apple orchard in 1872. He nurtured the tree and originally named its first fruit, “Hawkeye.”

When judged in the 1893 Missouri State Fair, a judge proclaimed it “delicious” and the name stuck.

A poster of it hangs in The Bakery Unlimited (established in 1984) located at 119 John Wayne Drive in Winterset-known for their apple fritters made exclusively with Delicious Apples.

Clark Tower 

Location: In City Park at the corner of 9th and South Street in Winterset.

The tower is accessible by car or foot (no RVs or buses). Follow signs in park-two mile round trip.
• Built in 1926 to honor the county’s first pioneer family
• Constructed from limestone
• 25-feet high
• Stunning views of the Middle River Valley

5. Green Spaces

Madison County is blessed with abundant green spaces including densely wooded river valleys, majestic limestone bluffs and gently rolling grasslands. It has 4 unique river systems that meander through the County from west to east – North River, Middle River, Grand River and Clanton Creek.

Fishing, hunting and biking opportunities are plentiful in Madison County. Here are two I visited.

City Park

Location: SE edge of Winterset at the corner of 9th & South Street
• 76 acres
• English hedge maze-find the hidden sundial
• Rotary bocce court
• Home to the Cutler-Donahoe Covered Bridge
• Hike or walk to Clark Tower
• Camping, picnic areas and playgrounds

Pammel State Park

Location: 4 miles SW of Winterset. From Winterset go West on State Highway 92 for 1 mile, turn South on County Highway P68 for 3 miles
• 351 acres
• Canoe access +  Hiking trails +  Nature Center
• Campsites, yurts and a lodge

6. Wineries

Several wineries craft fine wines in Madison County using Iowa grapes.

I was invited to watch grapes being harvested (September 2018) at the Covered Bridge vineyard. Volunteers assist in the harvest and are treated to a cookout and wine tasting afterwards. Again showing the sense of community pride and cooperation in Madison County.

Covered Bridges Winery www.coveredbridgeswinery.com planted their first vineyard in 2004. Their production facility and tasting room is located off Highway 169 at 2207 170th Trail north of Winterset.
Visit this website for more information on Madison County Wineries and a Cidery. http://www.madisoncounty.com/wineries-spirits/

7. Repurposing

Repurposing is more than a trendy fad in Madison County. Along with retail stores like Angel Wings and CT you will find a church that’s been converted into bed and breakfast and a county jail converted into a handcrafted artisan market.

Heavenly Habitat B&B


Located at 218 South 2nd Avenue in Winterset
• Established in 2009 and built in a former church and fellowship hall

It has  3 spacious guest rooms with private bathrooms

  •  Free WiFi and common area access with a great room, deck, shared kitchen and dining room

1st Avenue Collective


Location: 220 North 1st Avenue in Winterset
• Inside former Madison County Jail
• Original features and fixtures of the jail have been preserved, adding to the unique style of the store
• Filled with handcrafted artisan products made by local and regional artists-unique gifts for all occasions
• Offers nice selection of local Iowa wines
• Jewelry making classes available

8. Events

Winterset is known for annual events and festivals.

Visit the Madison County Chamber website for a complete list. http://www.madisoncounty.com
The day I visited (Sept. 8, 2018) there was a morning Farmer’s Market and an evening Classic Car Show.

Their most popular event is the Madison County Covered Bridge Festival
• Held 2nd full weekend each October
• Celebrating the County’s history, heritage and culture, and its world-famous covered bridges
• Guided bridge tours are available through the local Rotary club
• Civil War reenactors tell the stories of Madison County from the 1800s and early 1900s, including tales of the Underground Railroad, the Civil War, George Washington Carver, Susan B. Anthony, and others
Visit www.madisoncounty.com/covered-bridge-festival for complete information

9. Food

Winterset businesses and residents are well prepared for visitors, including with their dining options.
One of the most popular choices is the Northside Café where Clint Eastwood had lunch in “The Bridges of Madison County.” In fact, the stool where he sat is marked.

In addition to being known for this, Northside Café is legendary for its pork tenderloin and hot roast beef sandwiches along with their desserts.

Visit www.madisoncounty.com/dining for more options.

PLAN a visit to Madison County, Iowa. Let the merchants and B&B owners know you used this post to plan.

SHARE this post with others you’d like to meet for a great weekend in Madison County.

This visit was completed with the cooperation of the Madison County, Iowa Chamber & Welcome Center.

©Copyright. September 2018. Linda Leier Thomason
All Rights Reserved. This means seek permission prior to using any images on this site. All are copyright protected and available for sale.

A special thank you to my husband, Ken, who did all the driving, as usual, for this visit.

More images are found on my Facebook and Instagram pages.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business.
She specializes in undercover studies of communities wishing to attract visitors for economic impact.
Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form.

Natural Setting 25 Miles North of Omaha at DeSoto

DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge


DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge’s primary purpose is to serve as a stop-over for migrating ducks and geese. Most years, large amounts of waterfowl and other migratory birds use the refuge as a resting and feeding area during their fall and spring migrations between the northern nesting grounds and the southern wintering areas.

Peak populations of 50,000 or more ducks, mostly mallards, are common on the refuge during the fall migration.

Late October through early December are the months of peak waterfowl use, with smaller concentrations of ducks and geese returning in March and early April


1434 316th Lane
Missouri Valley, IA 51555


25 miles north of Omaha, NE. From Omaha take Interstate 29 north to U.S. Highway 30, Exit 75 at Missouri Valley, continue west on US Hwy 30 for 5 miles to the refuge entrance. Or take US Hwy 75 North to Hwy 30, going east 5 miles to the refuge entrance on DeSoto Avenue.

Phone Number



$3.00 per vehicle


Refuge Open 1/2 hour before sunrise and closes 1/2 hour after sunset

Visitor Center  9:00AM-4:30PM daily

Closed  Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.


The migration  season is October 15-April 14, limiting access to ceretain areas on the Refuge.

Museum Display

Things To Do at DeSoto

  • Hike the Trails
  • Take Bicycling or Driving Tour
  • Fish (April 15th-October 14th)
  • Bird Watch (Bring Binoculars)
  • Photography
  • Ice Fishing (January 2-end of February, annually, conditions permitting)
  • Gather Mushrooms
  • Hunting (Check website for details)
  • Observe Wildlife (Shhh! Silence attracts more wildlife)

    Bob Starr Wildlife Overlook
  • Visit the Bertrand Discovery Site
  • Picnic
  • Boat
  • Watch Video and See Museum Displays in Visitor Center, including thousands of cargo items excavated from the Bertrand Steamboat, which sunk in 1865 and was discovered a century later.


  • Firearms
  • Open Fires
  • Camping

Bring on Your Visit to DeSoto

  • Sunscreen
  • Insect Repellant
  • Water
  • Binoculars
  • Cash for gift shop
  • Picnic lunch/food
  • Walking Stick
  • Hat
  • Closed Toe Walking Shoes

Visited late April 2018 after Spring migration. Trails extremely well maintained. Very cool breeze. Few visitors at sunrise. Museum well worth visiting. Educational. Architecture of building alone worth the visit. Indoor restrooms available. Make time to view the short film . Gift shop.

©Copyright. May 2018. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.


17 Ways to Enjoy the Iowa State Fair

Nothing Compares to Iowa State Fair Thrills

August 8-18, 2019 Des Moines, Iowa


I enjoy fairs of all sorts and sizes: craft, pottery, art and state and county fairs. Wherever there is a group of like-minded people happily gathered showcasing their talents, I’m delighted to join.

I’ve attended the internationally acclaimed Iowa State Fair twice. In 2016, I was mostly a spectator. I applauded a friend as her family was honored with a Century Farm Award presented in the Pioneer Livestock Pavilion.

I then joined her at a friend’s nationally known “Thank a Farmer” magic show in the Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center. I spent most of the afternoon watching talented Iowa youth at the Bill Riley Talent Search, including the daughter of a fellow Iowa State graduate I hadn’t seen in 30 years. We re-connected between performances and applause.

Iowa State Fair

The Iowa State Fair is the single largest event in the state of Iowa and one of the oldest and largest agricultural and industrial expositions in the country. It attracts more than a million people from all over the world each year. Iowa’s Fair is also known as “America’s classic state fair” because the event features all of the traditional activities associated with state fairs in a park-like, 450-acre setting (the Fair’s home since 1886). The grounds and the adjoining 160 acres of campgrounds are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

On Saturday, August 12, 2017, I was included in the 120,833 people at the Fair. This time I walked nearly every inch of the fairgrounds, enjoying the sights, sounds and aromas of this great annual event. Both visits were distinct, but each enjoyable. I realized one can experience the Fair quite differently on each visit with a bit of pre-planning. I met some who attend multiple days each year and claim they see and experience it differently with each visit. That’s possible.

17 ways to Enjoy the Iowa State Fair


  1. Define your purpose. Do you want a general overview experience? Are you going to ride the rides on the Midway? Do you want to see the livestock judging competitions? Are the entertainers your priority? Paid or unpaid performers? Will you sample fair foods most of the day? Are you looking forward to viewing the photography and art exhibits? Do you want to see the butter cow exhibit? Do you prefer commercial exhibits? What is it you want to get out of your experience? If you only have one day, visit the excellent Iowa State Fair website and pre-plan your visit. Print the map and schedule. Download the Iowa State Fair Food Finder app. It also includes the daily schedule of events.
  2. Purchase advance tickets. This will save you both time and money. Check the Iowa State Fair website for special admission pricing (Deals & Discounts) such as Fairgoers aged 60+. Until a couple of days before the Fair starts, one can even print tickets at home with no additional fee. Otherwise advance tickets are available in various grocery stores in Iowa.
  3. Pack accordingly. Bags are subject to inspection. Bring sunscreen, a camera and cash. While some vendors accept credit and debit cards, there is a preference for cash. A change of clothing may be necessary for small children. There are spray fountains to both cool and entertain kids. After the playground, hand wipes may be necessary. Restrooms and water fountains are readily available and well-marked. You may re-fill water bottles at fountains.
  4. Wear comfortable clothing and shoes. This Fair has livestock. If you’re going to walk in the barns, closed toe shoes are best. Parking can be a distance from the entrance. Be prepared to walk, though there are courtesy golf cart shuttle rides available. The parking lots are not paved. Stroller rides can be bumpy.
  5. Preach patience. If you’re attending on the weekend, be prepared for large crowds. Though this is an extremely well-run operation, there is a lot of traffic and it can take a bit to get parked. [Remember where you parked.] The grounds, shows and events can get quite crowded. Keep in mind everyone wants to have an enjoyable Fair experience. Be patient. If there’s a show or event you must see, arrive early to get a seat.


  1. Arrive early. Parking is $10 per vehicle. The grounds open at 7am. If you’d like to see the Fairgrounds without the crowds, arrive early. Sunrise at the Fair is spectacular. Most buildings do not open until 9:00 am.
  2. Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center. This is an ideal location for young children to learn about farm animals. The building is near the North gate and has baby chickens, pigs, etc. along with educational stations where prizes are awarded for answering questions. This is a great place to see animals, if children do not have the energy to make it to the actual barns on the Fairgrounds.
  3. Variety. Butter sculpting. Yoga on the hill. Dutch oven cooking seminar. Grape stomping. Backgammon tournament. Egg rolling contest. Sheep shearing contest. The list of things to see and participate in is endless. It can be overwhelming. Pre-planning helps,  as does setting realistic expectations of what be accomplished on one visit.
  4. Accessible. ADA/Accessible parking is available, primarily in the North lot. Scooters and wheelchair rentals are also available. Keep in mind most of the parking areas are unpaved. Trams with marked stops are available once inside the grounds as are golf carts for mini-shuttle service from the parking lots to the gates. Check the Iowa State Fair website for additional services.
  5. Care Stations and ATMs. Need an aspirin or band-aid? Look for a Care Station vending machine at the Fair. Need extra cash? There are at least 30 ATM machines on location.
  6. Eat & Drink at the Fair. Outside food and beverages are not allowed. Download the Iowa State Food Finder app for a list of foods by vendor and location, including healthy foods. Beverages cups, once purchased, are re-fillable at most vendor locations for a minimal fee.
  7. From Above. Sky gliders give an overview of the fairgrounds from above. The ride is slow and easy, allowing you plenty of time to see and to take photos. There are two: east and west. Round trip is ideal.
  8. Keep it Clean. Hand sanitizer is plentiful throughout all of the animal barn areas and in all restrooms. Use it. Stop the spread of any potential disease.
  9. Talk to Them. The youth who’ve raised and are showing the animals in the barns are eager to talk about the experience. Approach them. Take an interest in their project and ask questions. Some of the most memorable conversations I had at the 2017 Fair were with a state FFA officer and an Iowa Pork Producers summer intern. These students are impressive representatives of their organizations.
  10. Check the weather. Do you need sunscreen or an umbrella? Evening Grandstand shows run late. Sometimes a light jacket or sweatshirt is necessary. Remember, to take breaks and drink plenty of water.
  11. Share. There are endless photographic moments at the Iowa State Fair. Check for hashtags and share on social media. Popular 2017 hashtags were #ISF2017 and #IowaStateFairThrills.
  12. Plan to Participate. Throughout the Iowa State Fair, you may find ways you can participate in future Fairs. Whatever your interest or hobby, find a way to work on a project and display or show at the Fair. Maybe you can’t raise a cow or pig in your neighborhood, but perhaps you can bake a Bundt cake, submit a photograph or raise a prize-winning rose or pumpkin. Be a part of one of the greatest Fairs around. Participate.

5 Favorites at 2017 Iowa State Fair: August 12th

  1. Fiddle and guitar music in Pioneer Hall
  2. West round-trip Sky glider ride
  3. Walking through the  barns early in the morning and watching youth care for their animals
  4. Horticulture gardens filled with bright, aromatic blooms
  5. Courtesy of fair goers, workers and volunteers

The 2019 Iowa State Fair is August 8-18, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa. Mark your calendar. Find your 5 Favorite things to do at the 2019 Iowa State Fair.

Linda Leier Thomason is a retired CEO who now writes freelance business and travel stories along with feature articles. She’s represented the North Dakota Pork Producers as the 1979 Pork Queen and has attended countless county and state fairs promoting the pork industry. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government and small business. She is a dual graduate of Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa.

If you have something you’d like Linda to write, contact her below.

©Copyright. August 2017. Linda Leier Thomason

Become a Consignment Shopping Beast

8 Tips: Furniture Consignment Shopping + 1 Superstar Shopper

 Here’s a true story. One of a “senior citizen” with more courage, determination and smarts than most decades younger than her.

20160709_150125In September 2016 Brenda relocated from upstate Maine to Des Moines, Iowa. That in itself deserves applause, regardless of age. Similar climates. Similar people. Yet, major geographical change.

All last summer, together with her retired sister and brother-in-law, they sorted, donated and sold not only her accumulated items but also those of her parents whose house she was living in after her father’s recent death. [Years before, when Brenda’s husband died, she sold their Louisville, Kentucky home. Then, she moved herself to Maine to care for her aging parents. Care-taking became her life. So had becoming self-sufficient.]

After sorting and selling the Maine house, the trio loaded a moving trailer. They hitched it to a pick-up truck and caravanned three vehicles half-way across the country. All were relieved when they arrived.

Brenda purchased a condo prior to the move. Therefore, she had a sense of what would travel to Iowa with her. Yet, letting go of decades-old heirlooms is not easy. Some were taken by a brother remaining in Maine, making the letting go less painful. Others she photographed as a way to remember.

Mom’s Got Decorating Style + Smarts

What she did when she got to Iowa surprised all, mostly her children and grandson. She expertly and smartly furnished her “new pad,” combining items that made the trip with pieces purchased at a high-end consignment store. The first time her daughter saw her mom’s newly furnished home she exclaimed, “Mom, I just never expected you to furnish and decorate your place like this.” Well, she did. She used the opportunity to smart-size (a trendy word for downsize) and to create a space that fit who she saw herself as today.

For the first time in decades, she had no one to care for but herself. It was time to start over. She deserved a place she was proud to call “home.”

Tips for Furniture Consignment Shopping

  • Keep photos of room layouts and measurements on your phone. They’ll be handy for quick purchases. Most consignment stores have a no-return policy.
  • Find a consignment store that chooses well-cared-for pieces, timeless or trendy. Buying secondhand and re-purposing are now trendy. However, you’re not looking for torn or smelly upholstery or rotted wood. There are some outstanding furniture consignment stores. Find them and patronize them.
  • Get to know the consignment store staff. Make sure they have your contact information and know your style and vision. Have them contact you when a piece comes in they think is an ideal fit for your space.
  • Visit your favorite consignment store often. Inventory turns quickly. Know if the store accepts cash only,or if you can use a debit or credit card.
  • Do your own price research. Comparison shop online to guarantee you’re getting a great price at the consignment store.
  • Understand that some pieces require a bit of work. Did you find a well constructed, designer brand dresser or sofa? Be willing to upholster or refinish the piece. Make sure neither costs more than purchasing new.
  • Have any of the pieces been recalled? Do they have lead paint? Ask. Work with a reputable consignment store that doesn’t sell dangerous items.
  • Visit the store with a vehicle large enough to haul away your purchases. Some stores charge a holding fee.

Brenda purchased a new sofa and two side chairs, but nearly everything else, including wall hangings, came from consignment stores.

Take a look.  Would you know the difference?

She did an outstanding job!

Leave your comments and questions below.

All but glasses from consignment shop
All but glasses from consignment store

Table, chairs and centerpiece from consignment shop
Table, chairs and centerpiece from consignment store

Vase adorns fireplace ledge. It from consignment shop.
Vase adorns fireplace ledge. It’s from consignment store.

Wall hanging, lamp and chest, which doubles as file cabinet..from consignment shop
Wall hanging, lamp and chest, which doubles as file cabinet..from consignment store.









Consignment shop chairs
Consignment store chairs







Flower vase from consignment shop
Flower vase from consignment store.

Plant from consignment shop
Plant from consignment store.










Dresser being primed for painting.
Dresser being primed for painting.

Painted dresser
Painted dresser











Is it time for you to down or smart-size? Check out tips for doing this successfully on the “Real Estate” tab above. And, good luck with the move.

Share this post.

© Copyright. August 2016. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.



Dr. Hoiberg-50 Years- 3 Sons-Much Success

isuEric O. Hoiberg was the second person I met in Ames, Iowa after parking my loaded, four-door, silver Plymouth Fury. The residence hall director was the first. Eric was my student advisor. I was a seemingly lost transfer student alone in a new town on a campus with a student body nearing the population of my home state of North Dakota.

To this day I recall the feeling of optimism and assurance I had leaving his office that August afternoon. I sensed I’d graduate as a Cyclone. I believed I’d succeed in the so-called real world post-graduation. He left me with the impression he believed in me, so I did in myself.

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees from Iowa State University (ISU) under his guidance.


Dr. Eric O. Hoiberg-an inspirational figure.

Die-Hard Cyclone

Hoiberg is a dedicated, loyal Iowa State University Cyclone, except for the fact that he earned 3 degrees (BA, MA, and Ph.D) at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln (UNL).  He spent 21 years as a Sociology faculty member and advisor for and coordinator of the Public Service and Administration (PSA) program. Before retiring, he was promoted to, and spent 11 years as, the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the College of Agriculture. Hoiberg returned to ISU twice after retirement. Once to create an alumni program. Next as the Interim Associate Provost while a search was being conducted.

European Influence

Eric’s upbringing greatly influenced him. Born in Fayette, Missouri, he and his three older brothers and homemaker mother, accompanied his father to Germany directly after World War II during the Berlin Airlift. There his father, a rural sociologist, worked with the Reconstruction effort helping churches cope with the Holocaust and other ravages of war. The family returned to Europe several years later when his father directed a group establishing Turkey’s first Land Grant University. The family traveled extensively throughout the Muslim country, expanding Hoiberg’s view of the world. However, he also developed a deep appreciation for the lifestyle and subculture of farmers and small towns where many of his extended family members resided. This combination of academic readiness and world-wide vision made him an ideal university employee.


His doctoral research at UNL was published in the esteemed American Sociological Review and centered on creating a new methodology for assessing neighborhood and community structure and change. A comprehensive survey of 700 Iowa farm families, which provided a baseline for the state of agriculture in Iowa in the 1970’s, was his first research venture at ISU. Eric also conducted research on farmers’ adoptions of new technologies and techniques, particularly environmental practices. And, he was part of a national research team that studied a series of six rural communities across the country, originally studied by the USDA in 1940. His team examined change over the roughly 50-year period.

Despite this nationally recognized research, Eric cites the growth of the PSA program as his most valued career accomplishment. “I took over the program in its infancy and grew it into a strong program attracting excellent students who went on to do some good in society.”

One of those students, Renny Olhava Crawford shared “I remember sitting in his class my sophomore year. By this time, I’d already changed my major 4 times. As I was listening to the lecture, all I could think was – I love this!  I need to talk to him and learn how I can get more into this. So, I found a reason to go arrange a meeting, some question on an assignment, I believe.  After “clearing” up my question, I just told him, “I really love everything we are going over in this class-how do I study more about this?” I think his response was “Well maybe you need to look into PSA”.  He told me more. That afternoon I changed my major-and probably my life.”

Fellow PSA graduate John Bahr added, “Eric is one of the three key male figures who influenced my life. His guidance and insight helped me graduate from Iowa State. As a result, I learned discipline and gained academic confidence, which helped me to achieve personal and professional success.”

These Kids Now Days

Eric’s attitude and approach while working with students earned him numerous advising and teaching awards. He felt responsible to place curriculum in context so students gain an appreciation for the why and wherefore of courses they’re required to take. “There must be a link between the curriculum and the world of work they’ll be entering.”

He enjoyed students stopping by after a lecture to discuss how ideas/examples in class applied in their own lives. “This kind of discussion invariably increased my own understanding of the topic and reinforced that education is truly a two-way street.” And, he was frustrated when students focused solely on grades and test scores rather than understanding and communicating subject matter and applying it to their lives. “Evaluation is an important part of the educational process, but it shouldn’t be the only one.”

Over time he saw 3 key indicators that predicted student success: One, leadership experience in high school. “If a student came to PSA with extensive FFA experience, I could almost guarantee they’d be successful upon graduation.” Two, strong communication skills, and Three, a love for learning, indicated by a high level of intellectual curiosity and exploration. Today’s students also need a sound grasp of technical skills.

Hoiberg FamilyHoiberg Family

In addition to guiding and advising countless ISU students, Eric and his wife, Karen, who just celebrated 50 years of marriage, raised three boys: Steve, Fred and Andrew. Today, they also enjoy the company of 8 grandchildren. “My greatest sense of pride comes from my children and grandchildren. I revel in their accomplishments, both big and small. They’re each unique in their own way but also integral parts of our family unit.” Fred, the wildly popular former ISU basketball player and coach, has struggled publicly with heart conditions. “His concerns have strengthened our family. We all recognize life is fragile and we should be thankful for the gifts we have.”

Eric and KarenOne of those gifts is time together in Northern Minnesota-Eric’s favorite getaway. Now fully retired, he and Karen enjoy the spontaneity of life while he’s tirelessly working on becoming a scratch golfer. “It doesn’t seem to be happening.”

Compassionate, Curious, Understanding-that’s my college Advisor-Eric O. Hoiberg.

Proud to know him and deeply grateful for his influence on my life.

Share with ISU Cyclones and others who know Professor Hoiberg.

Feel free to leave your comments for Eric below.

At an event honoring Dr. Eric O. Hoiberg during the Bacon Fest on the campus of Iowa State University on October 7, 2017. Still an inspiration and mentor to many, including me.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.

©Copyright. August 2016. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

Free Alan Jackson Concert Tickets


How about a PAIR of FREE tickets to the Alan Jackson concert in Sioux City, Iowa ?


Do 3 things To Qualify

  1. Follow my blog by leaving your 1st name & email on my website in the red, white & blue box.
  2. Blogger page “Like” the  Linda Leier Thomason Blogger Facebook Page.


3. Comment on that Facebook page by listing your favorite Alan Jackson song.

Disclaimer & Fine Print:

  • Immediate family members of www.lindaleierthomason.com (spouse, children, parents and siblings, their spouses and children) are not eligible for this giveaway.
  • 1 entry per person for the entire contest length. More than one entry will disqualify the entrant.
  • Winner assumes all responsibility for getting to and from Sioux City, Iowa and releases www.lindaleierthomason.com and all affiliated parties from liability of any sort.
  • Tickets are the property of lindaleierthomason.com and cannot be transferred or given to another party. Should winner not be able to attend, 72 hour notice must be given to allow for another winner to be named.
  • Winner must provide and agree to allow www.lindaleierthomason.com to use photographs of self + guest at concert on social media, website and any other outlets deemed necessary. Photographs to be emailed within 48 hours of concert conclusion.
  •  Must be 21 to enter.
  • Show starts at 7:30 PM CST.
  • Tickets to be claimed at “Will Call.”
  • Failure to do all 3 steps described above disqualifies entry.
  • Contest Ends & Winner to be drawn & announced Sunday, April 24, 2016.

Many thanks to the Sioux City Convention and Visitors Bureau for assistance  in this promotion.


Sioux City Stinks: That’s What You Think

 4 Hours Changed My Opinion

snarkyCan I be snarky?
Since relocating to the Midwest seven years ago and commuting regularly between our first home in Sioux Falls, SD and our new home in Omaha, NE, we’ve skirted by Sioux City, Iowa on I-29 endless times. It was hard to do more than just get through there. Roadway construction is ever-present. It used to smell. Then it flooded. More recently the city decided to pick a fight with SD about using speed cameras to capture South Dakotans in a hurry to get past Sioux City. It was hard to love Sioux City, almost impossible to stop.
That all changed recently when our son, who’s attending USD in Vermillion, SD, suggested we meet in Sioux City rather than drive the additional 40 miles to his doorstep. If you read my January post (Parenting tab) “I Spent New Year’s Eve with a New Man”, you’d understand his suggestion. I’m no dummy. I knew it was more about protecting his personal space than saving us an additional 80 miles. But, that’s okay. We were gathering as a family, and that was the point.
Our meeting was decided rather quickly. None of us relished sitting in a chain restaurant looking at one another for half a day, so I did what I do for most family outings. I logged on to the Convention & Visitor’s Bureau (CVB) website. If you’re unfamiliar with CVBs, you’re missing out on the best local information in any community-large or small. And, much to my surprise, Sioux City appeared rather diverse and quite appealing, at least as portrayed on the CVB website. I was a bit stunned. I was curious.
I went through the “What to Do” and “Attractions” tabs and felt a bit of remorse for neglecting Sioux City all these years, and let’s be quite honest, for also saying some less than flattering things about it. I take it all back. Every single word, well, except the part about the city bullying SD for speeder revenue.

We had a half day to enjoy one another’s company in Sioux City.

Here’s what we did.
4 Hours + 4 Attractions
1.  Trinity Heights
maryThe city was hosting the NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball tournament, thus we avoided the more familiar attractions along I-29. And because it’s Lenten season, we started our day at Trinity Heights, which opens at 9am.
Breathtakingly peaceful is the best descriptor of this place. We were the only visitors, except for flocks of returning birds who serenaded us on this crisp, cool Saturday morning. Though Catholic in theology, this location clearly appeals to all. The grounds are immaculate, the statues massive and outdoor Cathedral areas inviting. Surprisingly, many Sioux City residents we met were unfamiliar with this peaceful place. Admission is free and donations accepted. There also is an adoration chapel onsite.
2. Billy Boy Drive Thru
Billy BoyThis much beloved local hamburger joint did not disappoint. Filled with character and what appeared to be a recent remodel, the half-century old restaurant offers great food at a very fair price. What did not go unnoticed was the Dairy Queen right next door to this locally owned place that had a line of cars in the drive thru all during the lunch hour. There’s a reason it’s been around for over 50 years. Try it out.  Get in line. You’ll be able to read the menu choices easily from the massive menu board. Inside dining is available. Check out the wash basin in the restroom. Super cool!
3.Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center
musicCommuning with nature is my idea of perfection; this despite severe allergies to most insects and plants. So severe indeed that I carry an EpiPen® and visit emergency rooms regularly for allergic reactions. Undeterred by warnings, I never miss visiting natural settings in new locations. And, I’d never miss the chance to stop here again. All of their well-designed marketing materials feature children interacting with the exhibits and enjoying the grounds. We all are considered legal adults yet each of us maximized every moment here. The interactive exhibits are the best I’ve seen. They’re well-designed and constructed and educate in a fun way. We swung on the wooden swing, tried to assemble the tree trunk puzzle, studied turtle anatomy, peered through binoculars and learned much about Loess Hills. We even presented a wind song chimes concert in the play area out back. Admission is free. Go. Be a kid again. Commune with nature. Learn something new.
4. Riverside Park
gameWe passed this park on the way to lunch and decided to stop in after the Nature Center and before leaving town. On such a beautiful early March Saturday, it was well used, but we still found enough space to enjoy a competitive game of Bocce . We also threw football and Frisbee and ended our day with the traditional UNO match, despite the impending rainstorm and increasing winds. Admission is free. This park is easily accessible from I-29.

We’re likely to visit these attractions during our next gathering in Sioux City:

Sioux City Arts Center
Latham Park
Sioux City Public Museum
Sioux City Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center

Fourth Street Historic District

Log on to The Sioux City Convention & Visitors Bureau site. Plan your day or weekend there. Share what you did by listing it in the box below. I’ll add it to our next visit.

Share this article with anyone planning a trip, especially a day trip from South Dakota, Iowa or Nebraska. They will thank you, as do I.

©Copyright. March 2016. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.




10 Must See Places Off I-80 in Central Iowa

Update: November 2018. Looking for more to do in Central Iowa?

Read: 9 Reasons Madison County Iowa is Worth Visiting + 10 Free Iowa Attractions For a Day Trip from Omaha found on this website.

Click TRAVEL + then Midwest to find those articles or use the Search box.

Happy Traveling through Iowa.

Here’s how I spent a day in Central Iowa.

A fellow Iowa State Cyclone, Susanne, met me in West Des Moines and we headed out on I-80. These were the stops we made along the way in Central Iowa. Get off the Interstate and do our own exploration in Central Iowa.

#1: Hickory Park Restaurant. We headed east on I-80 and veered north on I-35 to enjoy an early lunch in Ames. As cash-poor students, we usually limited ourselves to the old-fashioned parlor sundaes, but on this trip we savored the generous portions of hickory smoked meats and Susanne enjoyed a delicious sundae. [Regretfully, I’m now lactose intolerant.] Lunch filled our bellies as much as our need for re-connection and nostalgia. There’s a reason this restaurant founded in 1970 remains a must-eat-at place for those visiting Ames. Try it!

#2:Iowa State University. Proud Cyclones we are! It was a hot, dry, summer day, with few students roaming campus, so we took our time, stopped to recall classes and situations in certain buildings and reminisced about the house we both lived in that’s now the Alumni office. The campus has predictably grown yet remains as picturesque and full of promise as the days we spent there in the 1980s.

#3: Reiman Gardens. Walking through 17 acres of indoor and outdoor gardens and strolling july2011 013through the butterfly wing filled my insatiable desire to commune with nature. Perfect for all ages and open year round, Reiman Gardens is a must-see when in Ames, Iowa.

#4: John Wayne Birthplace Museum. Famous for saying, “I’m the stuff men are made of,” rugged Hollywood film actor, John Wayne (Duke) was born and raised in Winterset, Iowa in #5: Madison County-home to the world-famous “Bridges of Madison County.” Some day I will get to the annual covered bridge festival being held October 13-14, 2018.

#6: Greenfield, Iowa. The town that boasts it is the center of culture and commerce in the middle of farm country did not disappoint. Harking back to my North Dakota roots, I felt right at home in Greenfield. It’s 55 miles from Des Moines and 80 miles from Omaha. Hit the road and go visit!

#5: Ed and Eva’s. Located inside Greenfield’s historic opera house, Ed and Eva’s features Iowa made products and artwork. It has the feel of a gallery and one is allowed to leisurely browse without being disturbed by employees. As a huge supporter of small local business, I did some early Christmas shopping and encourage you to do the same through their user-friendly website.

#6. Warren Cultural Center. Pride in community is one of the things I appreciate most about small towns. Greenfield citizens are no different. Leaving Ed and Eva’s I was curious about the impressive building the store is in, so I started snooping around. Within moments I was joined by a staffer from the Warren Cultural Center offering to show me the building-a restored 1896 opera house-placed on the National Register of Historical Places in 1979.

#7. Greenfield Bowl. Thirsty. We crossed the street and had a cold drink here, chatting with a very friendly bartender, learning about the history of the place while watching locals gather in conversation and longing to feel that sense of community again somewhere, maybe Greenfield.

#8. Hotel Greenfield. If I need a solo respite or desire a romantic get-away with my husband, this is my go-to place. I loved it here. The furnishings are traditional period pieces matched with modern-day traveler necessities. The staff is helpful without smothering and the rubber duck in the tub, well it’s priceless. The patio out back is quiet. The only drawback is the lack of an elevator; however, front desk staff are willing to carry bags for those unable. Breakfast is included.

#9. Olive Branch Family Restaurant. We had excellent service from a waitress in training and our meals were above average as was the service.  We enjoyed the Greek platter and fried chicken. Cocktails and desserts are served.

#10. The Freedom Rock. This 60+ ton boulder, located just off I-80, is repainted with a Greenfield, IA and summer '14 misc 018different theme every year by artist Ray “Bubba” Sorensen II as a thank-you tribute to our nation’s veterans. Ken met us at the memorial and we ended our terrific day by pausing in a moment of silence, honoring those who give us the freedom to travel this great country.

Share. Which of these attractions are you most likely to visit on your next trip to Central Iowa? Will you make a special trip to Iowa to visit these sites? Do tell and add other sites to see.


Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.

Copyright. August 2015. Linda Leier Thomason