Iowa, USA

What is Iowa Known For? 37 Things Iowa is Famous For

Iowa, a Midwestern state in the U.S, is widely recognized for its robust agriculture, particularly as a leading producer of corn and soybeans. The state hosts the prominent Iowa State Fair every summer which is famous for featuring a life-sized cow sculpture made of butter, in addition to a variety of other unique attractions and exhibits. In presidential election years, Iowa’s caucuses are known to kick off the nation’s candidate selection process. The state also boasts a deep literary heritage with institutions like the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Iowa’s landscapes, ranging from rolling farmland to the scenic hills along the Mississippi River, add another layer to the state’s rich diversity.

What Food is Iowa Known For?

Sour Cream Raisin Pie

Sour Cream Raisin Pie is a traditional American dessert with rich, creamy, and tart flavors. It combines plump raisins with a custard-like filling of sour cream, sugar, and spices, encased in a flaky pie crust. The pie is often topped with a meringue or a dollop of whipped cream. Despite its simple ingredients, this comforting treat requires careful preparation and baking to achieve the perfect balance of sweetness and tartness. Its unique flavor profile makes Sour Cream Raisin Pie a cherished recipe in many households, often served during Thanksgiving or other special occasions.

Breaded Pork Tenderloin

Breaded Pork Tenderloin is an iconic dish in Iowa, renowned for its crispy exterior and juicy, tender interior. This quintessential Midwest staple involves pounding pork tenderloin to thinness, coating it in seasoned breading, and then deep-frying to golden perfection. The crispy cutlet often extends well beyond the bun’s edges when served as a sandwich, a trademark feature. Its popularity has resulted in an annual contest for the ‘best breaded pork tenderloin’ in the state, making it not just a beloved local cuisine but a significant part of Iowa’s food culture.

Iowa Ham Balls

Iowa Ham Balls are a cherished regional dish, combining ground ham and pork into savory meatballs, glazed with a tangy, sweet sauce often made from a mixture of mustard, vinegar, and brown sugar. This classic Iowa cuisine, typically baked in the oven, is known for its contrasting flavors and textural richness. Ham balls serve as a common entrée at Midwest potlucks and family gatherings, representing a comforting and hearty meal choice. The recipe’s simplicity and distinct taste make it a beloved fixture in Iowa’s culinary landscape.


Scotcheroos are mouthwatering dessert bars with Midwestern roots, especially popular in Iowa. These no-bake treats infuse crispy rice cereal with a sweet and sticky blend of sugar and peanut butter, then are topped with a shiny layer of melted chocolate and butterscotch chips. The result is a perfect balance of crunchy, sweet, and slightly salty flavors. Quick to make and easy to serve, Scotcheroos are a staple at picnics, potlucks, and family gatherings, often brightening up dessert tables with their delightful texture and eye-catching glossy topping.

Maid Rite Sandwiches

Maid-Rite Sandwiches, often known as ‘loose meat’ sandwiches, are a classic culinary staple in Iowa. The sandwich features finely ground, seasoned beef, cooked until tender and juicy, served on a warm bun. Despite its simplicity, its savory taste has won over countless food enthusiasts. Since its introduction in the 1920s by the Maid-Rite restaurant chain, this sandwich has symbolized Midwestern simplicity and wholesomeness, often enjoyed with pickles, mustard, or onions. This unpretentious, hearty sandwich continues to be a beloved part of Iowa’s food tradition.

Steak de Burgo

Steak De Burgo is a signature dish of Des Moines, Iowa. This exquisite culinary creation involves tender beef steak, traditionally a filet mignon, pan-seared to perfection and seasoned with garlic, butter, and Italian herbs, most notably basil. The marriage of flavors results in a rich and aromatic main course, often complemented with a side of potatoes or roasted vegetables. Despite its cosmopolitan-sounding name and gourmet composition, Steak De Burgo is known for its humble Midwestern roots, embodying Iowa’s unique spin on classic steak preparation.

Taco Pizza

Taco Pizza is a delightful fusion dish, marrying the flavors of a classic taco with the convenient form of a pizza. Originating in the Midwest, its popularity has rapidly spread across the U.S. The pizza dough serves as a tortilla substitute, topped with essential taco ingredients such as seasoned ground beef, tomatoes, onions, and cheese. After baking, it’s commonly garnished with shredded lettuce, crispy tortilla chips, and a drizzle of taco sauce. Taco Pizza epitomizes the playfulness of American culinary innovation, blending two beloved food cultures for a unique, mouthwatering experience.

Snickers Salad

Snickers Salad is a whimsical Midwestern dessert, combining the sweetness of candy bars with the creamy texture of a fruit salad. This deliciously indulgent treat features chopped Snickers bars, tart apples, and soft grapes, folded into a luscious mixture of whipped cream, cream cheese, and powdered sugar. The result is a delightful contrast of flavors, textures, and temperatures. Often a popular choice for potlucks, picnics, and family gatherings, Snickers Salad epitomizes the resourcefulness and creativity of homegrown American desserts, satisfying sweet cravings with a playful twist.


Corn in Iowa is not just a crop, but a vital part of its economy and culture. Known as the nation’s leading corn producer, Iowa’s vast, picture-perfect cornfields contribute significantly to the USA’s supply of corn for food, feed, and ethanol production. Valued for its role in local cuisine, corn is also celebrated through events like the annual Sweet Corn Festival. Integral to the state’s agrarian identity, ‘Iowa Corn’ symbolizes the state’s agricultural power, and is a cherished reminder of its roots in farming and commitment to sustainability.

What Drink is Iowa Known For?

Frozen Blue Margarita

A Frozen Blue Margarita is a visually striking and refreshing cocktail, perfect for hot summer days or themed parties. This vibrant drink features the classic margarita components: tequila, triple sec, and lime juice, but adds a twist with blue curaçao, giving it its distinctive color. All ingredients are blended with ice, resulting in a frosty, slushy texture. The icy chill, sweetness, and citrus burst from the margarita, juxtaposed with the kick from the tequila, make the Frozen Blue Margarita a popular choice for those seeking a beverage that is both exciting and satisfyingly cool.

Places and Cities Iowa is Known For

Iowa City

Iowa City is a vibrant, culturally rich metropolis, known primarily as home to the University of Iowa. As the state’s first capital, it holds the Old Capitol building, a symbol of its historic past. The city is famous for its strong literary heritage, earning a UNESCO City of Literature designation due to its renowned Iowa Writers’ Workshop. This stimulating academic environment, combined with a thriving arts scene, engaging cultural festivals, and expansive green space in a network of city parks, creates a diverse, intellectual, and lively community. Iowa City consistently ranks among America’s best places to live.

Des Moines

Des Moines, the capital of Iowa, stands as a thriving hub for business, politics, and culture within the state. Among its many offerings, the city boasts a flourishing culinary scene, vibrant arts district, and exciting entertainment options, attracting visitors from near and far. As the political nucleus, Des Moines hosts the Iowa caucuses, playing a key role in the U.S. presidential election cycle. Moreover, the city is recognized as a leading insurance and financial services center, contributing to robust economic growth. Its dynamic combination of metropolitan attractions and Midwestern charm entices residents and tourists alike.

Amana Colonies

The Amana Colonies, a national historic landmark in Iowa, is a cluster of seven villages established by German Pietists in the mid-19th century seeking religious freedom. Adhering to communal living, the Amana Society led an almost entirely self-sufficient life revolving around farming, craftsmanship, and religious devotion. Today, the Amana Colonies offer a glimpse into a distinct way of life, with preserved 19th-century architecture, traditional arts and crafts, homemade foods, and nature trails. The Amana Colonies’ rich traditions, unique history, and serene rural setting make it a compelling cultural attraction and a window to the past.

Cedar Rapids

Cedar Rapids, located in the eastern part of Iowa, is the state’s second-largest city and an important economic hub. Known as the “City of Five Seasons” for taking time to enjoy all four seasons plus an extra season to savor life, the city boasts a rich arts scene, with popular attractions like the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art and the Paramount Theatre. It’s also known for its manufacturing industry, notably in the production of corn-based products including cereal, due to the presence of large corn processing facilities, underlining its pivotal role in Iowa’s agrarian economy.


Okoboji, a highlight of Iowa’s Great Lakes region, is renowned for its network of beautiful, glacier-carved lakes. Serving as a popular holiday destination, Okoboji offers an array of recreational activities such as boating, fishing, and golfing in summer, and ice fishing and snowmobiling in winter. Key attractions include the historic Arnolds Park Amusement Park and the Iowa Great Lakes Maritime Museum. With a diverse offering of restaurants, shopping outlets, and accommodation, along with its stunning natural beauty, Okoboji presents a unique blend of leisure and outdoor adventure, making it a cherished retreat for visitors.


Dubuque, nestled along the Mississippi River in northeastern Iowa, is a vibrant city that combines rich history with stunning natural beauty. Known as the “Masterpiece on the Mississippi,” Dubuque’s history originates from its founding as a mining and trading post in the early 19th century. Visitors are drawn to its riverfront attractions, including the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium, historic districts like Cable Car Square, and numerous parks and trails. The city is also home to various cultural and arts institutions, evoking a unique blend of old-world charm and modern entertainment, making Dubuque a captivating destination.

Attractions and Landmarks Iowa is Known For

National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium

The National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium, located in Dubuque, Iowa, offers a fascinating exploration of America’s rivers. It showcases an impressive display of both aquatic and terrestrial species native to these river systems, along with interactive exhibits on river conservation and human history. Housed within a sprawling campus, the museum’s highlights include huge aquariums, historic exhibits, a 4D theater, and a reconstructed wetland. The institution, through its comprehensive educational programs and varied exhibits, aims to bring alive the story of the Mississippi River and encourages the shared responsibility for its preservation.

State Capitol

The Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines is a significant architectural and historical landmark. Completed in 1886, the Capitol, with its golden dome visible from miles away, exudes a sense of grandeur. Home to the governor’s office and the chambers of the Iowa General Assembly, it vividly symbolizes the political pulse of the state. The building houses an impressive collection of art, beautiful law libraries, and historic flags, and offers unparalleled views of downtown Des Moines from its dome. Tours of the Capitol provide insight into Iowa’s history, and its role in guiding the state’s future.

Field of Dreams Movie Site

The Field of Dreams movie site, located in Dyersville, Iowa, is a beloved attraction famed from the 1989 classic film. This iconic cornfield, with its well-preserved baseball diamond, has attracted thousands of fans hoping to capture the magic of the movie’s message: “If you build it, he will come”. Visitors can walk the bases, explore the original farmhouse, and indulge in a game of catch, reliving the movie’s spirit. The site hosts a variety of events, and in 2021 staged a major league baseball game, further cementing its status as a bucket list destination for baseball fans.

Maquoketa Caves State Park

Maquoketa Caves State Park, situated in eastern Iowa, is a geological wonder and popular outdoor destination. The park is known for its unique system of caves, including the largest in Iowa, the Dancehall Cave. Visitors can explore labyrinthine passages, marvel at enchanting limestone formations, and hike through lush forests on miles of trails. The park also features a wealth of outdoor recreation, including camping and picnicking facilities. As a perfect blend of natural beauty, geological intrigue, and accessible adventure offerings, Maquoketa Caves State Park is an ideal escape for families and nature enthusiasts alike.

Pikes Peak State Park

Pikes Peak State Park, located in northeastern Iowa, is a haven of natural beauty and panoramic vistas. Perched on a high bluff overlooking the confluence of the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers, it offers some of the most breathtaking views in the state. Visitors can indulge in a variety of outdoor activities like hiking, camping, and bird watching across its 960 acres. The park houses Effigy Mounds, a significant Native American archaeological site, enhancing its historical importance. With its blend of natural beauty, outdoor recreation, and historical resonance, Pikes Peak State Park is a captivating Iowa attraction.

The Bridges of Madison County

The Bridges of Madison County, located in central Iowa, is an alluring collection of picturesque covered bridges that have stood the test of time. Built in the late 19th century, these six remaining bridges, immortalized by the bestselling novel and film, showcase the rich architectural and historical heritage of the region. Visitors, drawn by their rustic charm and romantic appeal, can follow self-guided tours to explore each bridge. Nearby, the quaint town of Winterset, the birthplace of John Wayne, adds another layer of interest for those who appreciate America’s cultural heritage and idyllic landscapes.

Des Moines Art Center

The Des Moines Art Center, located in the heart of Iowa’s capital city, celebrates the power and beauty of visual arts. Housing an extensive collection of contemporary and modern works from renowned artists, the center provides a dynamic exhibition scene. Notable for its unique architecture, the Art Center comprises three interconnected buildings designed by globally recognized architects. Offering a robust line-up of educational programs and artistic experiences, it strives to foster an appreciation of art in the community. With free admission and a top-rated restaurant, it’s a must-visit destination for art lovers and curious minds alike.

Grotto of the Redemption

The Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend, Iowa, is a marvel of devotional architecture and artistry. Recognized as the largest man-made Grotto in the world, it’s a complex created from millions of fossils, gems, and stones collected from across the globe. Started by Father Paul Dobberstein in 1912 as a tribute to the Virgin Mary, the project took over four decades to complete, resulting in nine separate grottos that depict scenes from the life of Christ. This impressive religious landmark attracts countless visitors each year, both for its spiritual significance and its unique, intricate design.

History, Culture and Activities Iowa is Known For

First Electronic Digital Computer

Iowa holds a distinctive place in computing history, as the birthplace of the first digital electronic computer. Dr. John Vincent Atanasoff, a physics and mathematics professor at Iowa State University, and his graduate student, Clifford Berry, created the Atanasoff-Berry Computer (ABC) from 1939 to 1942. Devoid of any mechanical parts, the ABC used binary arithmetic, parallel processing, and electronic switching—principles foundational to modern computing. The invention revolutionized computing technology, paving the way for advances in science, mathematics, engineering, and many other fields. It underscores Iowa’s contribution to technological innovation and digital intellect.

Hawkeye State

The Hawkeye State is a popular nickname for the state of Iowa, derived from the name of a Native American leader, Chief Black Hawk, who played a significant role in Iowa’s early history. Originally proposed by James G. Edwards and Judge David Rorer in their newspaper “The Fort Madison Patriot,” in 1838, it honored Chief Black Hawk and recognized the warrior spirit of the natives and early settlers. Today, the nickname embodies a sense of pride, unity, and strength for Iowans, celebrating their rich and vibrant history, and preserving the legacy of the state’s indigenous cultures.

Birthplace of Sliced Bread

The birthplace of sliced bread is Chillicothe, a small city nestled in Missouri, not Iowa. In 1928, Otto Rohwedder, an inventor from Iowa, perfected his bread-slicing machine, bringing about a revolution in bread consumption and the bakery industry. The Chillicothe Baking Company was the first to commercially use Rohwedder’s invention, creating pre-sliced loaves advertised as “the greatest forward step in the baking industry since bread was wrapped.” This innovation immensely improved convenience and uniformity, leading to the popular phrase “the greatest thing since sliced bread.”

Political Caucuses

Political caucuses are local gatherings of party members that serve to select candidates, discuss policies, and organize activities for upcoming elections. As grassroots democratic processes, caucuses enable ordinary citizens to have direct participation in their party’s decision-making. The Iowa caucuses, in particular, hold a special position within the U.S. presidential election cycle, as they are the first nominating contest for both the Democratic and Republican parties. The results from Iowa spark early momentum, shaping the perception of a candidate’s viability and providing a valuable indicator of their nationwide appeal, garnering media and public attention.


The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) is a renowned non-competitive bicycle ride traversing the state of Iowa. Initiated in 1973 by the Des Moines Register newspaper, RAGBRAI is the largest, longest and oldest bicycle touring event in the world, attracting cyclists globally. Over seven days, cyclists cover approximately 468 miles, enjoying Iowa’s scenic landscapes and warm hospitality from welcoming towns. The event is a testament to Iowa’s community spirit, and the physical endurance required underlines the attributes of resilience and determination that RAGBRAI celebrates.

Iowa State Fair

The Iowa State Fair is an annual highlight, steeped in tradition and showcasing the best of Iowa’s agriculture, industry, entertainment, and food. Held over 11 days in August, it attracts over a million visitors each year. With its grand livestock shows, varied contests, rollicking concerts, political soapbox speeches, and diverse food offerings, including the famous ‘butter cow’, the fair encapsulates Iowa’s community spirit and dedication to agricultural excellence. The Iowa State Fair is not just an event, it’s a celebration of Iowa’s unique culture and identity, making it a cherished institution for locals and tourists alike.

What is Iowa Known For Producing?


Iowa stands as the leading pork-producing state in the U.S., with nearly one-third of the nation’s hogs raised there. Its rich agricultural heritage, combined with optimal weather conditions, corn availability, and dedicated farming families, contributes to high-quality pork production, destined for both domestic consumption and export. This industry significantly contributes to Iowa’s economy and supports local communities. The pork production simultaneously upholds and propels Iowa’s legacy as an agricultural stronghold, binding together the state’s identity, its economic health, and its role in meeting global food demands.


Corn in Iowa is more than just a crop—it’s an essential part of the state’s identity, economy, and heritage. As the country’s top corn producer, Iowa cultivates corn across over 13 million acres of farmland. This threshhold isn’t only for feeding livestock or producing ethanol, but also for exporting around the world. The successful growth is attributed to Iowa’s fertile soil, suitable climate, and hardworking farmers. Iowa’s corn production, therefore, has a profound impact that reaches far beyond its borders, shaping industries, influencing trade, and providing sustainable income for farming communities.


Ethanol production is a vital component of Iowa’s economy, driven by the state’s dominant role in corn production. As the largest ethanol-producing state in the U.S., Iowa harnesses its corn crop to create a clean, renewable, and homegrown biofuel that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and fosters energy independence. The industry supports thousands of jobs, adds value to agricultural products, and contributes to local communities’ economic growth. Iowa’s commitment to ethanol production underscores the state’s dedication to innovation and sustainability, demonstrating a crucial intersection between agriculture and environmental responsibility.

Famous People from Iowa

Ashton Kutcher

Ashton Kutcher is a renowned actor, producer and entrepreneur, hailing from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Known for his roles in popular sitcoms like “That ’70s Show” and films like “The Butterfly Effect,” Kutcher has also made a name for himself as a co-founder of the venture capital firm A-Grade Investments. He passionately invests in technology start-ups and champions humanitarian causes like human trafficking prevention. His Iowan roots instilled in him a grounded perspective that balances his Hollywood fame and his role in the tech industry, reinforcing his commitment to leveraging his influence for positive change.

Herbert Hoover

Herbert Hoover, the 31st President of the United States, was born in a small, two-room cottage in West Branch, Iowa. Hoover’s Quaker upbringing in Iowa sowed the seeds of compassion and service that would define his life’s work, including organizing food relief efforts during World War I. As the first president born west of the Mississippi, Hoover’s Iowa roots contributed to shaping his political career and a deep sense of responsibility towards his fellow citizens. The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum—located in his birthplace—commemorates his legacy and fosters appreciation for his early life in the heartland.

Johnny Carson

Johnny Carson, one of America’s most revered talk-show hosts, began his life in Corning, Iowa. As the genial and witty host of “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” for three decades, Carson became an integral part of American television history. Though his family moved to Nebraska when he was young, his birthplace celebrates their connection to the TV icon with the Johnny Carson Birthplace Society. Through his humor, warmth, and Midwestern charm, Carson exemplified a genuine and relatable character that resonated with millions of viewers, making him a beloved figure in the annals of entertainment.

Elijah Wood

Elijah Wood, perhaps best known for his iconic role as Frodo Baggins in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Wood’s Midwestern roots grounded him amid his soaring Hollywood career. The actor and producer often speaks fondly of his home state, noting its down-to-earth charm and closeness of community. Despite his global acclaim and extensive filmography, Wood’s Iowan origin underpins his humble persona, revealing that even amid Hollywood’s glamour, a connection to one’s roots remains an important aspect of individual identity.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top