by Gerald Dlubala
Introduction to Central Iowa
Iowa remains a state comprised of more small towns than large cities, and visitors can expect to experience the best of both worlds with a trip to Central Iowa. After experiencing modern city amenities mixed with eclectic college town vibes and scenic natural wonders, your day will be complete by sampling a locally made craft beverage or glass of wine from one of the many options in the region. With terrain and climate that provide exceptional conditions for quality ingredients and grape growing, your time will be well-spent visiting one of the many local craft beverage producers in this region. Let’s all raise a glass to your Central Iowa travels!
Central Region Details
Central Iowa offers a four-season climate, with the January winter temperatures averaging just 14° Fahrenheit in the northwest to the lower 20s in the southwestern areas. Most of central Iowa is covered by drift plains, a sedimentary combination of clay, sand, gravel, and rock left over from ice age glaciers that is ideal for agriculture. Iowa’s central region sits cradled between the Des Moines and Iowa Rivers, in between the famous Loess Hills. This region lays claim to a distinctively formed landscape that produces a unique micro-climate with exceptional drainage capability. Protected by the Des Moines River bluffs, this corridor is sheltered from the most extreme heat and cold conditions, consequently forming an excellent area for growing grapes. Just another reason for you to stop into the region’s local craft beverage producers to see what they have to offer.
When exploring Central Iowa, you’ll be experiencing life in these counties:
Why Visit Central Iowa?
From the smell of burning rubber at the speedway to the educational ambiance of a recognized Museum of Natural History, this region delivers on making your day memorable. When it’s time to kick back and relax, this region offers award-winning craft beverages from local artisans for your enjoyment. Wines from Central Iowa are made primarily from Vitis Riparia, or the Frost Grape, a University of Minnesota developed grape varietal specifically developed to withstand the local climate conditions and accompanying weather extremes. This region produces popular wines with the Boule de Poils (similar to Sauvignon Blanc), the Marechal Foch, and the Frontenac grape varietals.
Top Craft Beverage Destinations
Should you decide to check in on some of the great craft beverage artisans in Central Iowa, the following is a diverse list of top participating producers to get you started:
Van Wijk Winery: Located in Sully offers visitors a chance to celebrate their day, or just life in general, in a stone castle setting complete with a cottage garden, courtyard, and patio to match your mood. Choose from over 40 wines, craft beer options, Italian sodas, or specialty coffees. Can’t decide? A complimentary tasting may help.
Confluence Brewing Company: Is a must stop destination in Des Moines to taste the beer that Des Moines calls it’s own. There’s no better place to enjoy great beer, beautiful times, and good friends with a spacious taproom and patio. In addition, visitors can bring in their own food, buy something from on-site food trucks, or order delivery from one of the nearby local restaurants.
The Hall: Also in Des Moines, this is your destination if you just can’t decide what you’re in the mood for or if you have a large group to satisfy. The Hall is the modern version of a food court, a spacious hall offering over 50 options for beer and wine on tap, and a rotating lineup of local gourmet food trucks to fill your belly. The Hall believes that food and drink should be a shared community experience with the opportunity for conversation. That is easy to do with a lineup of the best offerings in the area.
Firetrucker Brewery: Get a dose of art with your craft beer by checking into Firetrucker Brewery in Ankeny. Firetrucker’s constant rotation of new and exciting beers and infusions is complimented by their use of artistic labels on their can. Customers can expect to see creative labels developed in-house and in collaboration with art houses to promote artists, local events, and community happenings. As all craft beer enthusiasts know, beer is art. At Firetrucker, they take that slogan seriously and promote it deliciously.
Nearby Local Attractions
The combination of food, drink, and conversation is always a good time, but central Iowa offers many great attractions. Below are some popular options to get you started on your Central Iowa journey.
Des Moines, IA
• Capitol Building: Tour the Iowa State Capitol building, the only U.S. Statehouse with five domes.
• Iowa State Fairgrounds: Each August, it’s a fairground, but for the other 354 days of the year, it is the home to auto shows, livestock exhibitions, flea markets, antique shows, concerts, trade shows and more. See what’s happening at the Iowa State Fairgrounds.
• Adventureland Park: More than 100 rides, shows, and attractions, including the new family spinning roller coaster, The Phoenix! Rides for all ages are available from mild to wet-and-wild. Shows throughout the park feature a variety of family entertainment. Don’t miss Iowa’s newest water park, Adventure Bay. Water park admission is included with admission to Adventureland Park. Please see www.adventurelandpark.com for Park and Water Park operation dates.
• Prairie Meadows Casino Racetrack & Hotel: With more than 2,000 slot machines, game tables, live horse racing from April through October, award-winning restaurants, big-name entertainment, and a contemporary hotel, it’s no secret that Prairie Meadows has it all. Also featured is the Prairie Meadows Events and Conference Center, making Prairie Meadows the perfect place to hold your next conference or event. Open 24 hours a day.
• Blank Park Zoo: Blank Park Zoo is “Iowa’s Wildest Adventure!” Experience the wonders of nature found in the tropical rainforests, Australian Outback and Africa. The zoo offers educational classes, tours and rental facilities.
• Nederlanders Tap & Golf:
Nederlanders offers 70+ virtual golf courses, a wide array of driving ranges, target games, and mini games for all skill levels!
Not a golfer? Not a problem! Nederlanders is still a great spot to meet up with family, friends, and colleagues. Book your tee time or drop in for one of our gourmet hot dogs, domestic or craft beers, or delicious cocktails.
• Lake Red Rock: Iowa’s largest reservoir. Enjoy boating, hiking, camping, biking, fishing, birdwatching, and more!
• Pella Historical Village & Vermeer Mill: Step back in time to early Pella! Log cabin, general store, Dutch costume displays, and much more. Tour the Vermeer Windmill, one of the tallest working windmills in North America. The Wyatt Earp Experience explores the life of the famous western lawman who grew up in Pella.
• Molengracht Plaza: The Molengracht Plaza, located in Pella’s central business district, was built to replicate an authentic Dutch canal and is over 100,000 square feet. The better of two worlds, the Molengracht complex combines a 21st century entrepreneurial spirit with Old World Charm.
• Frisian Farms Cheese House: Small farm producing artisan Gouda Cheese, tours by appointment.
• Cordova Observation Tower: Tallest observation tower in a public park in the Midwest: 106 feet tall, 170 steps to the top!
• National Balloon Museum: This national nonprofit is dedicated to educating the public on its ballooning history through collections and exhibitions. More than 10,000 visitors attend the museum every year to comb through over 200 years of ballooning archives. The National Balloon Museum calls Indianola home because of the area’s prime flying conditions. Indianola also played host to the Balloon Federation of America’s National Hot Air Balloon Championships before it took on its current nine-day national event, the National Balloon Classic. The museum is open Wednesdays through Sundays from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., and guided tours are available to those who call ahead.
• Reiman Gardens: Take in the stunning beauty of the 17 acre Reiman Gardens, located on the campus of the University of Iowa. The year-round botanical garden offers events, programs, lectures, and a butterfly wing that houses over 800 butterflies.
• McFarland Park: Hit the outdoors at McFarland Park, a 200 acre paradise offering views of a variety of habitats, including prairies and woodlands. Picnic, fish, camp, hike, bike, and trail walk to your heart’s content against one of the area’s most beautiful backdrops.
• Octagon Center for the Arts: Get a close look at local artists’ contributions at the Octagon Center for the Arts, a not-for-profit organization that promotes and supports Iowa’s local artists. Exhibits are evolving throughout the year and offer the viewers a chance to own original clothing, textiles, pottery, paintings, and photography from Iowa’s local art community.
• Boone Scenic Valley Raiload: Take a ride on the rails to experience the scenery of Central Iowa. Riders can enjoy beautiful views of the Des Moines River Valley, where it is not uncommon to see a convocation of bald eagles. Take the Dinner Train in historic 1950’s passenger cars.
• Seven Oaks Recreation: Visit this family-owned and operated venue that offers year-round outdoor recreation in central Iowa. Seasonal activities include canoeing, kayaking, river tubing, paintball, skiing, snowboarding and snow tubing. They also provide a VERY nice facility that can be rented for wedding receptions, family reunions, class reunions, summer/winter retreats, birthday parties, corporate meetings/retreats, team building and other activities.
• Boone Speedway: A third mile high bank dirt race track and home to the IMCA Super Nationals each September. Boone Speedway races Saturday nights! Hot Laps at 6:45pm and Racing at 7:30pm. Modifieds, Stock Cars, Hobby Stock, Sport Mods and Dwarf Cars.
To learn more about things to do and where to stay in Central Iowa or elsewhere in the state, check out the official Travel Iowa website www.traveliowa.com and browse our guide Iowa Trails & Tales for fun trip ideas and inspiration or visit our website www.trails-tales.net