Situated in the Midwest region of the United States, Iowa is the 26th largest state in terms of land area. It has borders with six other states: Wisconsin, Missouri, Illinois, Nebraska, Minnesota, and South Dakota. Iowa has a rich history, having been under the control of both Spain and France until the Louisiana Purchase. Nicknamed the Hawkeye State, Iowa covers an area of 56,272.81 square miles and has an estimated population of 3.1 million, giving it the 30th highest state population.

Iowa's economy was strongly dependent on agriculture in the early days of European settlement, but has grown and developed over the years to include finance, manufacture, technology, and renewable energy. Iowa is regarded as one of the safest states in which to live, with a relatively low crime rate. The capital city of Iowa is Des Moines, which is also its largest city. The Greater Des Moines area is the biggest metropolitan area in Iowa. Here are some details and statistics for the largest cities in Iowa. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.

1.Des Moines

Des Moines
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Situated in Polk County, with a small section extending into Warren County, Des Moines is the capital and largest city in the state of Iowa. The city is located on the Des Moines River and was named after this river, with 'Des Moines' translating from French into 'The Monks' in English. The city of Des Moines is located in the south-central part of Iowa and covers an area of 90.65 square miles.

Des Moines has an estimated population of 217,000 people, with over 645,000 living in the surrounding metropolitan area. The city is a major industrial center for the state of Iowa, with key businesses in Des Moines being focused on insurance, financial services, and publishing. Des Moines is regarded as a national leader in the insurance field and is classed as one of the best cities in the United States to set up a new business.

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2.Cedar Rapids

Cedar Rapids
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Situated in Linn County in the central eastern part of the state, Cedar Rapids is the second biggest city in Iowa. It covers an area of 72.07 square miles and has an estimated population of 132,000 people, with around 257,000 living in the surrounding metropolitan area.

Cedar Rapids was established in 1838 and originally named Columbus, like several other cities around the nation, but had its name changed to Cedar Rapids in 1841 due to the rapids seen in the nearby Cedar River, which was named after the multitude of cedar trees on either side of it. A major art and culture city, Cedar Rapids is home to many museums and art centers.

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Located in Scott County in the eastern section of the state, Davenport is the third biggest city in Iowa. It is situated on the Mississippi River and is part of the 'Quad Cities' metropolitan area, which also includes Bettendorf in Iowa, along with the Illinois cities of Moline, Rock Island, and East Moline.

Davenport is the biggest city in the Quad Cities region and covers an area of 65.08 square miles. It has an estimated population of 102,000 people. Davenport is regarded as a key transport city due to its equidistant location between Des Moines and Chicago. This city is also known for its educational institutions.

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4.Sioux City

Sioux City
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Located on the western edge of Iowa, Sioux City is situated within both Woodbury County and Plymouth County. It is the fourth biggest city in Iowa and is located on the Missouri River. Sioux City covers an area of 59.49 square miles and has an estimated population of 82,000 people, with over 168,000 living in the surrounding metropolitan area.

The city was named after the Sioux Native American tribes that lived in the area when white European settlers arrived. Sioux City was founded in 1854 and incorporated a few years later in 1857. The city boasts several museums and a national historic landmark in the form of the Sergeant Floyd Monument.

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5.Iowa City

Iowa City
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Located in Johnson County in the central eastern part of Iowa, Iowa City is the fifth biggest city in the state. It covers an area of 25.28 square miles and has an estimated population of 75,000 people, with over 170,000 living in the surrounding metropolitan area.

Iowa City was once the capital of the Iowa Territory and was also the original state capital of Iowa, until being replaced by Des Moines. This city is home to the University of Iowa and is also seen as a popular tourist spot for the state of Iowa due to its history.

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5 of the Largest Cities in Iowa

  • Des Moines, Photo: f11photo/
  • Cedar Rapids, Photo: Jacob/
  • Davenport, Photo: Jacob/
  • Sioux City, Photo: dustin77a/
  • Iowa City, Photo: soupstock/
  • Cover Photo: Courtesy of f11photo -

Attraction Spotlight: Buffalo Bill Museum

Discover more about the Mississippi River and the lives of the people who lived on its banks by visiting the Buffalo Bill Museum in LeClaire. The Buffalo Bill Museum has received a number of accolades for its ability to successfully maintain and inform the general public about the history of the Mississippi River and those people, places, and things along its banks that have historical relevance and significance. Spend a day or two exploring the rich history of the Mississippi River by viewing a variety of artifacts, exploring Native American history, and being introduced to Buffalo Bill and an assortment of other well-known figures of the past.


The Buffalo Bill Museum contains a number of different exhibits to keep everyone from young to old thoroughly entertained. Such exhibits as the Mississippi River History provide detailed information on how the river came to be and how its cultivation and expansion affected those living nearby as well as detailing the river’s far-reaching impact. Some of the other exhibits include:

· Just for the Ladies – A display that features clothing worn by women in the early 1900s.

· A display of a 1949 winter season John Deere tractor

· Clams and more clams”– A display showing how clams were harvested from the Mississippi River

· A Red Cross quilt

· A recreation of a one-room schoolhouse

· And much more….

Kids’ Exhibits

The Buffalo Bill Museum aims to keep kids engaged so that they can enjoy discovering more about history through hands-on experiences. The kids’ only room is for children 3 to 8 years old, and it provides a space where children can explore history while being accompanied by an adult. Some of the features of the kids’ only exhibit include:

· Musical wall

· Dress-up area

· Pilot’s wheel

· Garden area

· and more

The kids’ exhibit also features a scavenger hunt where children can receive a prize for locating specific items found throughout the kids’ exhibit room.


Supporting the Buffalo Bill Museum via a membership allows individuals to help the Buffalo Bill Museum continue its legacy of offering a space to explore the historical significance of the region to the general public in LeClaire, Iowa. By obtaining a membership to the Buffalo Bill Museum, patrons receive free admission to the museum as well as a number of other perks. All memberships help to support the preservation as well as the endeavors of the Buffalo Bill Museum. There are several membership levels available. More information about membership options is available on the Buffalo Bill Museum website.


Buffalo Bill Museum, 199 N Front St, Le Claire, IA 52753, Phone: 563-289-5580

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Attraction Spotlight: West Bend Grotto

The West Bend Grotto in Iowa is a place that is not only stunningly impressive and gorgeous in a physical manner, but also an overwhelmingly spiritual experience. A visit to the shine and its connected church is an experience many won’t soon forget. The Grotto was built in the early 1900s by a man named Father Paul Matthias Dobberstein. Built as a shrine to the Virgin Mary after he prayed to be healed from pneumonia and recovered, Father Dobberstein collected various rocks and stones for over a decade before making good on his promise to the Virgin Mary and his subsequent ordination into the Catholic Church.


This impressive structure was built by only two men, Father Dobberstein and Matt Szerensce, and it took over 50 years to complete. The grotto has one of the largest collections of precious stones in the area - featuring topaz, malachite, jasper and quartz among others that Father Dobberstein lovingly handpicked. The Grotto is the biggest of its kind anywhere in the world and, especially due to its location in the farmlands of Iowa, is a definitely something any religious visitor should not pass up.

Permanent Attractions

Visiting the Grotto is often a religious pilgrimage, as the only attraction is the Grotto shrine and church itself. However, there are many features to notice while you are touring the grotto.

St. Michael the Archangel - This statue is an important symbol in the Grotto, representing in physical form the triumph of good over evil, as St. Michael is literally crushing the devil under his foot.

The Garden of Eden - Also known as “Paradise Lost,” this scene depicts when Adam and Eve were thrown out of the Garden of Eden after being tricked by the devil (in the form of a snake).

The Ten Commandments - Featuring Moses standing on the mountaintop with the Ten Commandments in his hands, this grotto is also known for the many stalactites and rosettes surrounding the statue.

The Stable in Bethlehem - Made of over 65 tons (130,000 pounds!) of petrified wood brought in from Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota, this grotto showcases the traditional manger scene after the baby Jesus was born to Mary and Joseph.

Christ’s Sermon on the Mount - Showcasing Jesus speaking about the Eight Beatitudes (which explains how to get into heaven), the statue itself is dwarfed by the immense stalagmite (over 2000 pounds) that is originally from Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico before it was named a National Park.

The Christmas Chapel - Located inside the Saints Peter and Paul Catholic church and featuring a 300 pound Brazilian amethyst, this grotto features many of the specimens that are too delicate for the outside elements.

The Entombment of Jesus - After being taken down from the cross, the statue commemorating the entombment of Jesus is a beautifully crafted piece of art made out of a single piece of Italian white marble.

Statue of Father Dobberstein - This statue was put up in 1992 to honor the 80th anniversary of the start of construction.

Special Events

While the West Bend Grotto doesn’t offer many special events, something that is special to this attraction is the ability for religious visitors to attend for a special pilgrimage. A pilgrimage to West Bend Grotto includes Catholic mass at Saints Peter and Paul Church, as well as receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation (penance) and having time for quiet, individual reflection in one of the nine grottos of your choice. There is no limit on the time spent in the shrine, and many visitors come and stay from just a few hours to a few days. Those that choose to stay more than a few hours can find lodging at one of the over 50 campsites for a small fee - either in a camper or in a tent. Electrical hookups are available on site, as well as showers and a central water/sewer dump station. Occasionally, special events are offered. Visitors should keep an eye on the website for additional information.


The West Bend Grotto does feature a small gift shop, with t-shirts, onesies for babies, small rosaries, crucifixes, statues of iconic Catholic saints and other small gifts. It is open regular business hours, from 9am - 5p except for being closed on Sundays to attend church and spend time with family.

The West Bend Grotto shrine 300 N. Broadway, West Bend, IA, 50597 and the Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church is located at 206 1st Avenue Northwest, Phone: 515-887-2371

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Attraction Spotlight: Herbert Hoover National Historic Site

Visiting the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site allows visitors to step back in history and get to know Iowa’s only contribution to President of the United States of America. Come and see his childhood home, enjoy the tallgrass prairie and wander around the Presidential Library and Museum to get a sense of who he was as a man and as the leader of the country.


The Herbert Hoover National Historic Site is located within steps of the 31st POTUS' (and Iowa’s only President) childhood home. This Historic Landmark was built in 1965, and sits on just under 200 acres and is managed by the National Parks Service and their many park rangers. Many of the buildings onsite are either restored or reconstructed from their original location and architecture. An incredible sculpture was given to President Hoover as a gift, in tribute to his leadership during wartime, and it stands on-site as a perception of Isis, an Egyptian deity. Many other buildings and structures have purpose and meaning to tell the wonderful story of Herbert Hoover's life.

Permanent Attractions

Visitor Center - The gateway to the rest of the historic site, the Visitor Center is staffed with park rangers ready and able to answer all of visitor’s questions and help plan their day. Here, visitors can pick up a map and get information on how to download the mobile app. Activity books are available for children to help them earn the “Junior Ranger” certification. There is also a fun and education film (just over ten minutes in length) to teach visitors about Herbert Hoover and how the historic site came to be. Make sure to view the artwork from the resident artists while there as well - they change yearly and the process to apply is strict so only the best is displayed.

Presidential Library and Museum - This is another main attraction on the historic site that takes about 2 hours to fully complete the experience. Another movie is offered here, this one 20 minutes in length, telling a more in-depth story of Herbert Hoover’s life. There is another art gallery on the premises as well, with temporary rotating exhibits. Although this is technically a library, there are no books to check and operates as a research facility. Materials are meant to be viewed only.

Herbert Hoover Gravesite - Herbert Hoover rests alongside Lou Henry Hoover, his wife, and are both buried onsite. Two plain white marble stones stand in tribute to the wonderful actions they have accomplished in their lives. The cabin that Herbert Hoover was born in can be seen in the distance.

Tallgrass Prairie Observation - 81 acres of reconstructed tallgrass prairie stretches as far as the eye can see. The National Park Service in Iowa is responsible for reconstructed native grasses, wildflowers and plants that would have been found there in the 1800s.

Blacksmith Shop - Another reconstruction of the type of blacksmith and wagon making shop that would have existed at the time, the shop is actually a working “smithery” run by a park ranger and blacksmith. Come watch them work!

Friends Meetinghouse - Built with the help of the Society of Quakers (a religion which Herbert Hoover was a member of), this meeting place was relocated and rebuilt in the 1960s. Visit and see a place that was very important to Herbert Hoover’s life.

Educational Opportunities

The Herbert Hoover National Historic Sites offers free of charge field trip opportunities to students. If a ranger guide is desired (this is recommended), they need to be reserved ahead of time. There are two options for those types of field trips - one for grades 3 through 5 and another for grades 6 through 8. Both are recommended for no more than 30 students at a time - which includes any adult chaperones - and can be adjusted to accommodate different age ranges, if needed.

The website also suggests a variety of readings and curriculum suggestions to work with students ahead of their visit. Make sure to have students dress appropriately for the weather as much of the field trip will be outside. Classes can eat lunch at the park at one of the park’s picnic shelter areas. Financial and travel grants are available by application as well to help schools that may have financial difficulty.


Located in the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, the Herbert Hoover Presidential Museum Store sells an assortment of books, dinnerware, apparel and other souvenirs. All purchases benefit the historic site. There is also a separate bookstore in the Visitor Center, run and managed by the Eastern National non-for-profit company.

110 Parkside Drive, West Branch, IA, 52358, Phone: 319-643-2541

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