Which State Is Best to Visit: Iowa Or Minnesota?

9 minutes read

Both Iowa and Minnesota offer unique attractions and experiences for visitors to enjoy. Iowa, commonly referred to as the "Hawkeye State," is known for its picturesque countryside, charming small towns, and delicious farm-to-table cuisine. The state is dotted with iconic red barns, rolling farmland, and beautiful rivers, making it a popular destination for those seeking a peaceful and scenic getaway. Iowa also boasts some incredible outdoor recreational opportunities, such as hiking, fishing, and boating in its many state parks and lakes.

Minnesota, nicknamed the "Land of 10,000 Lakes," is famous for its breathtaking natural beauty and vibrant cultural scene. With its abundance of lakes, including the iconic Lake Superior, visitors can partake in various water activities such as swimming, fishing, and boating. The state also offers stunning national parks, such as Voyageurs National Park and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, where you can immerse yourself in nature and enjoy hiking, camping, and wildlife spotting.

Both states have their fair share of charming cities and interesting attractions. Iowa is home to the capital city of Des Moines, where you can explore its vibrant downtown, visit art galleries and museums, or enjoy live music and theater performances. Minnesota, on the other hand, boasts the iconic city of Minneapolis, known for its thriving arts and music scene, fantastic restaurants, and a plethora of shopping options. Additionally, visitors can explore the neighboring city of St. Paul and enjoy its historic charm and architectural marvels.

In terms of tourism infrastructure, both states offer a wide range of accommodation options, including hotels, resorts, and campgrounds. Visitors can also indulge in local cuisine, try regional specialties, and experience the warm Midwestern hospitality in either state.

Ultimately, the choice between visiting Iowa or Minnesota depends on personal preferences and interests. If you seek a more laid-back and rural experience with farm visits and outdoor activities, Iowa may be the ideal destination for you. On the other hand, if you are drawn to lakes, vibrant cities, and a thriving cultural scene, Minnesota might be the better choice.

How to discover hidden gems in Iowa and Minnesota?

  1. Research local attractions and activities: Start by researching popular tourist attractions in Iowa and Minnesota, but also look for lesser-known places that may offer unique experiences. Check travel websites, blogs, and forums for recommendations.
  2. Ask locals: Locals often have inside knowledge of hidden gems in their area. Strike up conversations with residents, ask for recommendations, and seek advice from hotel staff or local shop owners. They can suggest off-the-beaten-path places that are not commonly found in travel guides.
  3. Explore local parks and nature reserves: Iowa and Minnesota are known for their beautiful natural landscapes. Explore state parks, national forests, and nature reserves where you can find hidden trails, waterfalls, and scenic views. Check websites or contact the park offices for lesser-known areas to explore.
  4. Visit small towns and villages: While larger cities have their own attractions, exploring smaller towns and villages can uncover hidden gems. Look for unique museums, local festivals, charming shops, and hidden dining spots. These places often offer a more authentic and less touristy experience.
  5. Attend local events and festivals: Check event listings or community calendars for festivals, art shows, music concerts, or cultural events happening in Iowa and Minnesota. These events, especially the ones in smaller towns, may showcase local talent, traditions, and hidden treasures.
  6. Follow social media and online groups: Join social media groups or follow accounts that focus on traveling in Iowa and Minnesota. Here, locals and experienced travelers often share their favorite lesser-known spots, beautiful landscapes, hidden eateries, and unique experiences.
  7. Visit historical sites and museums: Historical sites and museums can offer intriguing insights into the local culture and heritage. Look for lesser-known historical sites, smaller museums, or local historical societies that may have hidden gems waiting to be discovered.
  8. Take scenic drives: Iowa and Minnesota have scenic byways and routes that offer breathtaking views of their natural beauty. Plan a road trip along these routes and keep an eye out for hidden spots to stop and explore. Don't hesitate to take detours and follow any road signs indicating scenic overlooks or points of interest.
  9. Stay in unique accommodations: Consider booking stays in unique accommodations like bed and breakfasts, farm stays, or cabins in rural areas. These properties may have their own hidden gems, such as private trails, gardens, or farm experiences.
  10. Embrace spontaneity and venture off the beaten path: Sometimes the best hidden gems are found by simply exploring without a specific agenda. Allow yourself to wander, take side roads, and visit places that catch your curiosity. Be open to unexpected discoveries and embrace the spirit of adventure.

What is the arts and entertainment scene like in Iowa and Minnesota?

Iowa and Minnesota both have vibrant arts and entertainment scenes with numerous cultural attractions and activities. Here is an overview of what you can expect in each state:


  1. Des Moines: Des Moines Art Center hosts contemporary art exhibitions, and the Civic Center showcases various performances like Broadway shows, symphony orchestras, and concerts.
  2. Iowa City: The University of Iowa's Hancher Auditorium presents a wide range of shows, including theater, dance, and music. The Englert Theatre and Riverside Theatre also offer diverse performances.
  3. Cedar Rapids: The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art showcases American art, while Theatre Cedar Rapids and Paramount Theatre feature live performances ranging from plays to musicals.
  4. Davenport: The Figge Art Museum and the Quad City Arts center promote visual arts, and the Adler Theatre hosts concerts, Broadway shows, and comedians.


  1. Minneapolis: The Minneapolis Institute of Art offers an extensive collection of artworks, and the Walker Art Center is known for contemporary visual arts. The Guthrie Theater is a renowned destination for theater enthusiasts, hosting performances from classics to experimental works.
  2. St. Paul: The Science Museum of Minnesota appeals to science enthusiasts, while the Minnesota History Center explores the region's history. The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts and the Fitzgerald Theater host various performances.
  3. Duluth: The Tweed Museum of Art exhibits American and international art, and the Duluth Playhouse offers theater productions. The Duluth Symphony Orchestra and the Bayfront Festival Park host concerts and events.
  4. Rochester: The Rochester Art Center promotes contemporary art, and the Rochester Civic Theatre offers a variety of theatrical performances.

Both Iowa and Minnesota have a vibrant music scene, with numerous local music venues, festivals, and concerts taking place throughout the year. Additionally, these states have a strong literary culture, with several bookstores, libraries, and literary festivals.

Overall, Iowa and Minnesota offer a diverse range of arts and entertainment options, ensuring there is something for everyone to enjoy.

What is the cuisine like in Iowa and Minnesota?

Iowa and Minnesota have their own unique cuisines that are influenced by their agricultural background and Midwestern traditions. While there may be some similarities between the two states, there are also some distinct differences. Here's an overview of the cuisines in Iowa and Minnesota:

  1. Iowa Cuisine:
  • Iowa's cuisine is known for its emphasis on farm-to-table and locally sourced ingredients due to its strong agricultural industry.
  • Pork is a prominent ingredient in many Iowa dishes. The state is famous for its pork tenderloin sandwiches, pork chops, and bacon. Iowa is also a leading producer of corn and corn-based products like cornbread and corn-fed beef.
  • Other dishes that represent Iowa's cuisine include the Maid-Rite sandwich (a loose meat sandwich), Iowa-style chili (with a hint of sweetness), and a variety of comfort foods like hotdish (a casserole) and shepherd's pie.
  • Traditional Dutch and Scandinavian influences can also be seen in dishes like sauerkraut, lefse, and lutefisk.
  1. Minnesota Cuisine:
  • Minnesota's cuisine is also influenced by its farming heritage, but it is known for incorporating a wider variety of ingredients due to its diverse population.
  • One of the most iconic foods in Minnesota is the Juicy Lucy or Jucy Lucy, a cheese-stuffed hamburger patty. It is said to have originated in Minneapolis.
  • Another popular dish is the Scandinavian-inspired lutefisk, which is made from dried fish soaked in lye water.
  • Minnesota is known for its wild rice, which is often incorporated into many dishes like soups, casseroles, and salads.
  • The state is also famous for its walleye fish, which is often pan-fried or grilled.
  • Minnesota's cuisine includes a variety of comfort foods like tater tot hotdish, wild game dishes like venison or pheasant, and dishes featuring locally grown fruits like apples and blueberries.

Overall, both Iowa and Minnesota embrace hearty and comforting dishes with influences from their farming heritage and cultural diversity.

How to decide which state to visit: Iowa or Minnesota?

Deciding between visiting Iowa or Minnesota can be a tough choice as both states have unique offerings. Here are a few factors to consider when making your decision:

  1. Interests and Activities: Think about the specific activities or attractions you are interested in. If you enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing, and exploring national parks, Minnesota might be a better fit with its numerous lakes, forests, and the iconic Boundary Waters Canoe Area. On the other hand, if you are fascinated by agriculture, rural landscapes, or want to attend the Iowa State Fair, Iowa might be your preferred choice.
  2. Cities and Culture: Consider the cities present in each state and what they have to offer. Minnesota has vibrant cities like Minneapolis, known for its arts scene, museums (such as the Minneapolis Institute of Art), and vibrant music venues. In contrast, Iowa has cities like Des Moines and Iowa City, which offer a mix of cultural events, live music, and a thriving food scene.
  3. Natural Beauty: Both states have picturesque landscapes, but the type of scenery may vary. Minnesota boasts stunning lakes such as Lake Superior, along with lush forests and waterfalls. In Iowa, you can find rolling hills, prairies, and scenic rivers like the Mississippi River.
  4. Climate: Consider the time of year you plan to visit. Minnesota experiences colder winters and can be a playground for winter sports enthusiasts, while summers in Minnesota tend to be mild and warm. Iowa, on the other hand, has hot summers and colder winters, with a more moderate climate overall.
  5. Accessibility: Consider the convenience of traveling to either state, including proximity to your location, flight connections, and ease of transportation within the state.

Ultimately, the decision between Iowa and Minnesota will depend on your personal preferences and what you hope to experience on your trip. Consider these factors and do some additional research on specific attractions, events, and natural wonders each state has to offer to make an informed decision.

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