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Iowa After the Caucuses: What's in It for You?

Scott Vogel

Soon today's "historic" Iowa caucuses will be over -- interpret that however you like -- and the state will abruptly recede back into its customary position in the Midwest as Iowa's outsized reputation is not something that typically lingers. And you can't really blame the Department of Tourism for that; they're in the unenviable position of having to sell their state to the world during its bleakest, most bone-chilling months.

But let's assume for the moment that today's events will inspire you to travel to their source. One thing's for sure, if caucus tourism ever takes off, Iowa will be ready. For starters, there's the "Caucus Iowa" exhibit at the State Historical Museum in Des Moines, running through Jan. 2009, where, among other things, visitors can "step into a living room and a gymnasium to learn exactly how these grass roots caucuses work -- for both Republicans and Democrats. And the visitor will get an impression of the experience of caucus night."

Candidates, volunteers and media have converged on Iowa for today's caucus. (Eric Thayer/Getty Images)

You've only got until Jan. 13 to see "Caucus! The Musical" at Des Moines State Historical Theatre, and to hear such soon to be classics as "Get Off Your Sorry Ass and Vote" and "The Tough Question Sidestep," but the Des Moines restaurants frequented by the various campaigns will still be open for business, even if that business won't be as brisk as before. Red Staters might stop in for some red meat at 801 Steak and Chop House, admiring the warm if cigar-friendly atmosphere that was a favorite of Republican campaigns. Card-carrying Democratic tourists might want to stick with Azalea, which was popular the Clinton campaign among others, and features American cuisine "with Mediterranean, Asian and regional American influences."

And then there's the music venue the Val Air Ballroom, which will try valiantly to soldier on without Mike Huckabee playing bass guitar accompanied by Chuck Norris, as will the Iowa Events Center, site of last fall's dramatic Jefferson Jackson dinner where Barack Obama's fortunes began to turn and which will soon host a Van Halen concert (Feb. 6)

For all your other Iowa needs, check out, a blog written by Garance Franke-Ruta. She spent weeks on the campaign trail, then compiled this resource for reporters.

So, yes, Iowa will go on once the media convoy heads to New Hampshire, where they'll be greeted by a whole new crop of auditoria, eateries and, yes, exhibits by yet another historical society, this one called "New Hampshire: A Proven Primary Tradition."

Admit it. You've been to Iowa. What were the highlights?

By Scott Vogel |  January 3, 2008; 12:16 PM ET  | Category:  Scott Vogel
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We went to Iowa to pick up our puppy at a breeder.

So we dropped by The Field of Dreams in Dyersville (actually, it's split into two by property lines, so you have two separate concessions), and the Future Birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk in Riverside.

But other than picking up our dog, the most memorable part of the road trip was passing through a little town in NE Iowa somewhere. I can't remember the name of the town itself, but we do remember the biggest building in it had the following sign:


We were just hoping that they didn't use the last service as a way to procure the first two...

Posted by: Chasmosaur | January 3, 2008 2:36 PM

I went to college in Des Moines so I would...

Head to Java Joe's, or Zanzibars or one of the other amazing cozy local coffee shops for a relaxing cup of house brew.

Then, off to the Varisty or the Fleur Cinema for a good independent flick

Next...a drive through the old neighborhood off of Grand to drool at all the (afforable) old stately mansions (which are even prettier right now b/c of Xmas lights).

Finally, a stroll through Valley Junction and dinner at one of my favorite local places, Cafe Su.

The list could go on if we were only talking about food...Trostel's Greenbrier for Dinner, The Diner or Tasty Taco for lunch...

But if I could go back in August it would be all about be the Iowa State Fair.

Posted by: alaythya | January 3, 2008 9:03 PM

Yes Washington, I am FROM Iowa. And have just fought my way back to Rockville, MD through truly hideous weather on I-74 and I-70. We spent a stupendously snowy winter break in SE and Eastern Iowa. We managed to avoid personal contact with all political candidates through the simple medium of choosing to believe ourselves snowed-in on the in-law's farm. We avoided the human and robo phone calls by allowing other out-of-towners and pre-teens to handle them. However, we missed seeing some good friends who were off catering meals for one campaign event or another.

Favorite all-season stops in Fort Madison:
Alpha's on the Riverfront
The Ivy Bake Shoppe
The Book Mark

In warmer weather:
Old Fort Madison

In early September:
Tri-State Rodeo

In Donnellson:
The Wooden Pig (barbecue and ice cream)
Lee County Fair, July
Under The Water Tower concert series in warm weather

In Clinton:
Clinton Lumber Kings minor league baseball
Summer theater on the show boat

Anywhere along the Mississippi:
Birdwatching (Bald Eagles all year but easier to spot on the ice in the winter)
Watching the barges lock through at any of the dams, but especially at Keokuk where you may also be able to wrangle a tour of the only hydro-power plant on the Mississippi

Extra bonus for winter visits:
Ice Fishing

Posted by: Lee Countian | January 3, 2008 9:49 PM

Try the Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque - lots of fun for kids.
In Cedar Rapids, you can see works by Grant Wood and Marvin Cone, including Wood's studio, at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art.
The Czech & Slovak Museum in Cedar Rapids is interesting, but the best part is shopping the Czech crystal and glass in the surrounding shops.
While on the Czech thread, try the Bily Clock Museum in Spillville too - where Anton Dvorak stayed during his visit in 1893.
Of course, the Bridges of Madison County....
Mason City served as the setting for the musical, The Music Man, and hometown of the Meredith Wilson, and his home is open for tours.
John Wayne was born in Winterset and his former home is also open for tours.
On the western border, drive the Loess Hills Scenic Byway along the Missouri River. The Loess Hills are very unique - the only other comparable formation is in China. It's really beautiful in the summer when the prairie plants are blooming.

Posted by: Jen | January 8, 2008 11:47 PM

Good suggestions above. Also in Lee County in southeastern Iowa is the annual Sweet Corn Festival in West Point--going on 56-57 years--a 4 day affair with free sweet corn and entertainment, parade, and carnival. Two independent movies have been made about it. Also, Effigy Mounds National Monument north of Dubuque near McGregor where you walk among Indian burial mounds and get an eagle-eye view of the Mississippi. I also will especially recommend the 10-day State Fair in Des Moines. In fact, the Corn Festival and the State Fair overlap so you can make both and stop in Pella at the Jaarsma Bakery for Dutch letters. Have fun.

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