Seven Quick Takes: Iowa City

Seven Quick Takes: Iowa City

Last weekend, we went on a trip with my brother-in-law, Clayton, to Iowa City. Here’s what we did!

1. On our way up, we stopped in Hannibal, MO because Clayton and I had never been and my husband has only been once, in grade school. We paid to see the historic sites at the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum, but it seemed fairly expensive ($11) for what we saw. The museum a few blocks away was the best part. We had lunch at Java Jive and then walked down to see the river, which was very high.

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As we were driving away, we saw signs for an observation lookout and parked the car to walk up. Our feelings: not worth the climb. Also, we walked all the way from the bottom, which was unnecessary since there were places to drive almost the whole way up. The butterfly garden after the first set of stairs was pretty cute though.

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2. After getting to our hotel, we headed to dinner at Pullman. Gavin and I went half-and-half on the fried chicken and burger. The fried chicken was delicious and Gavin could have eaten twenty of the biscuits with honey. I thought the meat of the burger was the weakest part (sad) but the toppings and fries were delicious.

Then we walked around the University of Iowa’s campus, including through a few buildings.

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3. The next day, we went to the Devonian Fossil Gorge. While we were there, we saw the fossils and took a short hike.

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Then we headed to lunch at La Regia Taqueria. We knew it was going to be good when we saw every kind of people eating the same tacos. And it was. I recommend the carnitas, while Gavin thought the fried fish was the best.

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4. After lunch, we went to the Mormon Handcart Trail which is just a short paved path in a park with some informational plaques. There was a field of wildflowers next to it, so it was a lovely, if quick, walk.

And then we headed to the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library. Pro tip: even though things look far apart on the map, they’re not. Just park in one lot, either at the library or the national historic site, and you can walk to the other. We didn’t know anything about Hoover as a president going in, so the videos and exhibits at the library were very informative. Did you know his wife invented the concept of Girl Scout cookies? We saw his gravesite and took a little walk through a prairie nearby.
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We also enjoyed walking around his childhood neighborhood, especially the blacksmith’s shop and Quaker Meetinghouse.

That evening we had dinner at Nodo downtown and then listened to some of the free summer concert.

5. The next morning, we headed to Amana and got there before anything opened. In the rain. For what was supposed to be hike and bike weekend.

Hike and bike weekend was unfortunately cancelled (especially because it only rained for an hour!) but we were determined to stick it out anyway. We watched the video and then headed to the museum, where I really enjoyed seeing the artifacts, but will admit it was a LOT of reading. One of my favorite items was this sauerkraut-cutting machine.

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Most fascinating to me was their tradition of everyone having the same style of headstone and being buried in the order in which they died instead of in family areas. I found it so interesting because my father-in-law’s hometown of St. Rose, Illinois does the same thing! Their headstones aren’t as simple, but they are all identical and people are buried in rows in order of their death. I’d never heard of such a thing before marrying Gavin, so seeing it elsewhere was crazy.

Then we walked around Amana, ate lunch at the Ox Yoke Inn, and drove through the other villages to see the Communal Kitchen, broom shop (complete with Iowa’s largest solid walnut rocker), and their Church. At the church, a woman who still practices their religion talked about where it came from (people thought the Lutheran service was too fancy) and what services were like then and what they are like now. It was interesting to hear how they handled their services, but unimaginable to us as Catholics.

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If you want to see the older style trades being practiced, I wouldn’t recommend going to Amana on a Saturday. The woolen mill was not in operation and there wasn’t anyone demonstrating at the furniture store, either. We still enjoyed looking at the goods and then had a beer (or root beer) at the Millstream Brewing Company.

6. We had expected Amana to take all day when we thought we’d be making a four mile round-trip walk to our lunch, so when that part of the day was cancelled, we had some extra time. We decided to go see Inside Out. Afterwards, we got a pizza and ate it on the hotel’s back deck.

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7. The next morning we went to mass at St. Mary’s in downtown Iowa City, where we saw three baptisms! Then we grabbed some Jimmy John’s and headed right home. We had a lot of fun, but as any homebody knows, the end of a vacation is pretty great too.

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