Looking for an adventure? Checking off some bucket list items? Here are six "joy rides" you can take in Iowa - and some tamer alternatives if you chicken out!
1. Motorcycle the Historic Hills Scenic Byway
If you’re a fan of relaxing motorcycle rides, snaking scenic roads and historic sites to stop at along the way, the Historic Hills Scenic Byway in Davis and Van Buren counties might be your perfect ride. The byway treks alongside and across the Des Moines River making it an eye-catching site in any season. The Villages of Van Buren boast historical attractions and local eateries. Keep watch for Amish and Mennonite buggies that might accompany you on the road. They could be heading to their bakery where they offer fresh bread or pies.
Alternative: The byway is just as beautiful by car. Make sure to roll the windows down!
2. Cruise on the Lady of the Lake
Looking for a smooth ride on the water? The Lady of the Lake, located just minutes off I-35 in Clear Lake, provides a 90 minute trip on Clear Lake’s waters aboard an authentic sternwheel paddleboat. Enjoy a drink from their full service bar while listening to the Captain’s review of historical stories about the boat and some of the sites around the lake. After your ride, make sure to stop at P.M. Park, an iconic restaurant on the beach with cool vibes and delicious food.
3. Mountain Bike at Whiterock Conservancy
Get your bike chains greased, you’re in for an exhilarating ride at Whiterock Conservancy near Coon Rapids. Sixteen miles of professionally maintained single track and twelve miles of shared use trails await you. Built and designed to test your different skill levels, these trails will be sure to leave you with a great workout and breathtaking scenery. To top off your ride, spend the evening on the soft grass gazing up at the stars. The Conservancy claims to have the darkest skies in Iowa making it a perfect backdrop for stargazing.
Alternative: Whiterock also rents John Deere GatorTM vehicles to explore some of the park's off-road trails.
4. Hot Air Ballooning in Indianola
Iowa cornfields, meandering rivers and green tree tops are a few breathtaking sights you’ll see from high above while on a hot air balloon ride. Take a ride during the annual National Balloon Classic in Indianola (held annually in late July-early August) and see a sky full of riders and pilots enjoying the view from above. Rides must be scheduled in advance. Don’t miss out on the National Balloon Museum in Indianola while you’re in the area to get a history of this scenic sport.
Alternative: Heights not your thing? During the nine-day National Balloon Classic, you can also watch the balloons take off and land from the comfort of your lawn chair.
5. Ride the Fenelon Place Elevator
Described as the world’s steepest, shortest scenic elevator, the Fenelon Place Elevator serves as a great way to view Dubuque and the Mississippi River. Originally built so a banker could more quickly make his way home for lunch, the elevator has made trips up and down the hill since the late 1800s. Take a ride to the top observation deck to see views of Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin.
6. Drive Allamakee County's Roller Coaster Road
Are you ready for some ups and downs? Roller Coaster Road is located just outside of Harpers Ferry in rural Allamakee County. This stretch of road is aptly named for the succession of hills it runs over. If you enjoy the thrills of steep roller coasters, give this ride a try while traveling beautiful Northeast Iowa.