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Seek out Iowa's hidden gems

By Joshua Nichols, Staff writer
Published On: Jul 08 2011 12:30:13 AM CDT
Field of Dreams movie site

So you think you've got Iowa pegged? Well, some of the state's hidden gems, from art museums to a baseball diamond shaped from a field of corn, just may surprise you.

Field of Dreams movie site

Whether you want to just get in a game of catch or emerge like a "ghost player" from the corn, a visit to the Field of Dream" movie site in Dyersville is sure to be a crowd pleaser. There are no organized events at this baseball diamond cut from a field of corn, just a chance to take in the site, buy a memento or two and repeat the catchphrase from the Kevin Costner film that was shot here, "If you build it, they will come."

The Amana Colonies

When most people hear the name Amana, they most likely think of refrigerators. But those refrigerators got their start in the Amana Colonies, a group of seven historic villages founded by German immigrants just south of Cedar Rapids. Visitors to the area can purchase antiques, handwoven baskets, furniture and clocks, or taste locally-made wine and beer. Visiting the Amana Colonies is like stepping back in time to the 1850s, when the community got its start.

Great River Road

One of the most famous -- and longest -- scenic and historic drives in the United States, the Great River Road covers more than 3,000 miles of federal, state and county roads that generally follow the Mississippi River from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Iowa's portion of the route passes through national wildlife refuges, overlooks a series of locks and dams and takes visitors through some of the state's oldest, and most beautiful, communities.

Grotto of Redemption

Legend says that Father Paul Matthias Dobberstein promised to build a shrine to the Virgin Mary if he survived a near-fatal bout of pneumonia. Dobberstein kept to that vow, starting work on the Grotto of Redemption in the farmlands of northwest Iowa in 1912. For the next 42 years he used rocks and precious stones to create nine separate grottos, each portraying a scene in the life of Christ. What he also created was a site that has to be seen to be believed.

Figge Museum

The renaissance of Davenport's riverfront downtown, which had struggled for decades, was anchored by the opening of a stunning glass box of a museum designed by British architect David Chipperfield. The Figge Museum stands in sharp contrast to the aging brick buildings around it. The museum draws major exhibits from around the world. While you are downtown, spin the roulette wheel on the Rhythm City riverboat casino, grab a bite at one of the downtown pubs and then take in a Quad City River Bandits minor league baseball game at the historic riverfront Modern Woodman stadium.