Don’t Fly Over Iowa…Drive Into It!

There are those who believe that by flying over the state of Iowa – you are not missing anything.

Those people are incorrect. Why? Iowa has a lot of offer for LGBT tourists.

Sometimes, we often think of places like Iowa as unwelcoming and indifferent to us. That is where your perceptions may be challenged.

Iowa can be the most progressive of states. There are places where we can be ourselves and no one would dare to cause us emotional or physical harm. Yet, the state can be quite conservative, and caution is heeded in places where things might not be comfortable for us.

Like we said, Iowa can welcome us with open arms. There are communities that truly do exactly that. Communities, such as Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Sioux City, and a few other small towns love to open up their doors and roll out the welcome mat for LGBT visitors.

What you will find in these communities is a wide range of friendly accommodations, restaurants, places in mingle, and maybe some social media friends to hang out in real time. The breadth of offerings to welcome us vary with each location. Being the state capitol, you will find a wider variety of places in Des Moines compared to, say, Cedar Rapids or Sioux City.

These communities usually roll out the “rainbow carpet” in June during pride season. Des Moines’ Capital City Pride is centered around the Historic East Village close to the state capital building. Last year, their pride celebration attracted over 10,000 people to the city’s center of LGBT life.

On a smaller scale, Iowa City’s pride consists of a parade encircling the neighborhood away from the University of Iowa. The festival encompasses the city’s Pedestrian Mall off of East Washington Street – right in the heart of the city. Because the pride celebrations alternate each weekend, you might find people from Eastern Iowa visiting Des Moines one weekend, and vice versa the next.

For a list of pride celebrations in Iowa, here is what has been confirmed for 2019:

  • June 1-8: Sioux City – Sioux City Pride/Siouxland Pride Alliance
  • June 2: Davenport – Quad Cities Pride Festival
  • June 7-9: Des Moines – Capitol City Pride
  • June 8: Davenport – Quad Cities Pride Parade to Rock Island, Illinois
  • June 15: Iowa City – Iowa City Pride
  • July 6: Cedar Rapids – Cedar Rapids PrideFest

Although these are just a few dates on the calendar, Iowa does celebrate our community throughout the year. Of course, there is a lot more to do than just surround yourselves with the community.

You can find some really cool places in the state worth visiting. A recent visit yielded a stop at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake. If you know your musical history, this was the last place Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper performed before their doomed flight during a winter storm 60 years ago.

While the music “died” for that generation, the Surf Ballroom still attracts music acts to perform there. The place is still alive and a wonderful venue to check out some live music.

As LGBT folks who love the movies, you may have fallen in love with the covered bridges in Madison County through the lens of Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep. These bridges are for real and definitely worth visiting. Just drive southwest out of Des Moines and these bridges are just minutes away starting in Winterset for a guide to all of the bridges that were in the movie – or missed by Eastwood himself.

Madison County is an example of how a place can surprise you on the ground level. Iowa is full of surprises. You can drive into a small town and simple be amazed on how vibrant and friendly they can be to complete strangers. You may discover different cultures – such as the Amish at the Amana Colonies. You might even discover a cozy getaway that welcomes us for the fortnight.

However, if one single place tells the story of Iowa is its state capital building. The structure that looms over Capital City Pride is the single-most destination that needs to be visited deeply. Every inch, material, and design inside and out are reminders of the state’s legacy and gifts to the world. It is an impressive building.

For LGBT sports fans, if you happen to be in Iowa City during college football season, you may partake in a new ritual that will warm your heart. Overlooking Kinnick Stadium is the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital. Its patients and their families would go to the top floor of the hospital to look over the stadium during the game. After the first quarter, the fans in the stadium would turn towards the top floor of the hospital and wave back at the patients. The “Kinnick Wave” is well worth going to a Hawkeyes football game.

These are just a few things to do when driving through – not flying over – Iowa. To get to the state, you can actually fly into Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Quad Cities, Sioux City, or Omaha airports. You might even consider taking a leisurely drive from either Chicago, Minneapolis-St. Paul, or Kansas City into Iowa.

Before you consider dismissing Iowa as a “flyover state,” why not fly into it? Or, better still, drive. You may be surprised by what you may have missed by skipping it from 35,000 feet.