Iowa, a state in the Midwest of the United States of America, was admitted to the Union in 1846 as the 29th state. The official name of the state is the "State of Iowa". The state is named for the Native American Iowa people. It is known as the "Hawkeye State" or the "Corn State". The people are very friendly, enjoy good food, and enjoy being in the political hotbed every four years when the Caucuses roll through the state. The state is quite rural, with plenty of fields of corn and soybeans and hog farms, although some cities, such as Des Moines, have a strong metropolitan feel.
The state has 99 counties and its state capital is Des Moines, is located in Polk County. It's bordered by Minnesota on the north; Nebraska and South Dakota on the west; Missouri on the south; and Wisconsin and Illinois on the east. The Mississippi River forms the eastern boundary of the state. The boundary along the west is formed by the Missouri River south of Sioux City and by the Big Sioux River north of Sioux City. There are several natural lakes in the state, most notably Spirit Lake, West Okoboji Lake, and East Okoboji Lake in northwest Iowa (see Iowa Great Lakes). Man-made lakes include Lake Odessa, Saylorville Lake, Lake Red Rock, Coralville Lake, Lake McBride and Rathbun Lake.
Iowa has the highest average radon concentrations in the nation due to significant glaciation that ground the granitic rocks from the Canadian Shield and deposited it as soils making up the rich Iowa farmland. Because of the high surface area of the ground rock, radon is free to off-gas from the soils. Many cities within the state, such as Iowa City have passed requirements for radon resistant construction in all new homes.
Iowa experiences a continental climate with extremes of both heat and cold. The average annual temperature at Des Moines is 50.0 °F (10.0 °C); for some locations in the north the figure is under 45 °F, while Keokuk, on the Mississippi River, averages 52.1 °F. Winters are brisk and snowfall is common, the capital (Des Moines) receiving an average of 36.3 inches per season. Spring ushers in the beginning of the severe weather season, as well as bringing increased precipitation and warming temperatures. The Iowan summer is known for heat and humidity, with daytime temperatures sometimes exceeding 100 °F (37.8 °C).
Iowa averages about 50 days of thunderstorm activity per year. Some of these thunderstorms can be severe with high winds and hail. The state has a moderately high risk of tornadic activity with, on average, 37 tornadoes per year.
Most people enter (and leave) Iowa via Interstate 80 on their way towards points east or west of the state. I-80 will get you where you're going, but you won't see much. In fact, that highway has done more to perpetuate the myth that Iowa is "flat" than just about anything else. If you want to see the true face of the state, get off the interstate, ignore the fast-food signs, and find one of the small towns that make the Midwest so charming.
• Des Moines International Airport
• Dubuque Regional Airport
• Mason City Municipal Airport
• The Eastern Iowa Airport
• Sioux Gateway Airport
• Southeast Iowa Regional Airport
• Waterloo Regional Airport
Attractions • Amana Colonies
• Effigy Mounds National Monument
• Antique Car Museum of Iowa-Coralville/Iowa City
• Snake Alley in Burlington boasts being the world's crookedest street
• Baseball field used in the movie "Field of Dreams"
• Visit the world's largest strawberry in Strawberry Point
• The Grotto of Redemption in West Bend consists of nine grottoes telling the story of the redemption of Jesus.
• Collison's Par 3 Golf Course
• Mississippi River Museum
• Czech Village
• Cedar Valley Lakes Trail Network
• Fenlon Place Elevator in Dubuque is the world's steepest and shortest railway.
• Des Moines Botanical Center
• Sergeant Floyd Monument
• Iowa State Fairgrounds
• See the statue of the world's largest bullhead fish in Crystal Lake
• The town of Clarion is the birthplace of the 4H emblem.
• Winnebago County is where campers and motor homes are manufactured, hence the name Winnebago's.
• Elk Horn in the largest Danish settlement in the U.S.
• Iowa is the only state whose east and west borders are 100% formed by water - the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.
• Cedar Rapids is home to Quaker Oats, the largest cereal company in the world.
• Iowa is the only state whose spelling begins with two vowels.
The rural parts of Iowa are quite safe, to such an extent that many people don't bother to lock their car doors. This is not a good plan in more metropolitan areas, however. You will find that most Iowans are friendly, warm, and happy to help you if you have trouble.
Iowa does have many tornadoes, though rarely severe. Check the Tornado safety page if you are visiting Iowa.
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A summer corn harvest near Waverly, Iowa, U.S.A.
Regions • Northwest
• North Central
• South Central
Most people get around Iowa by car. Certain, more rural parts of Iowa - like much of the Midwest - is laid out on a grid pattern. Drive on any of the state's outer highways, and you will quickly come to realize that there is an intersection at every mile. This makes figuring out where you are and getting from there to where you need to be a relatively simple undertaking.
Travelers unaccustomed to ice and snow may have trouble driving in Iowa winters - plan ahead if you need to travel during the colder parts of the year.
Iowans still consider themselves the "breadbasket of the world," and their cuisine reflects this. Get ready for pork chops, corn-on-the-cob, hot dishes, and more just-plain-good Midwestern cooking than you can possibly eat in a lifetime. Most rural towns have a fast-food restaurant or two if you absolutely have to have McDonald's, but the best places to eat are often found by chatting with the locals. Note that there are many fast food places in more urban parts of the state.
Towns with strong ethnic identities sometimes have restaurants devoted to a particular country's cuisine. Iowa has a substantial Latino population, and there are many family-run Mexican restaurants which generally have quite good food.
Iowa City is known for its wide variety of ethnic cuisine and finer dining. The Motley Cow restaurant is highly recommended.
Barge being loaded with grain on Mississippi River in Dubuque, Iowa, U.S.A.