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Looking to travel? New Iowa app lists fun spots from breweries to bison wallows

Looking to travel? New Iowa app lists fun spots from breweries to bison wallows

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Looking for some road trips?

The Iowa Tourism Office has launched a free digital passport to help travelers explore 12 distinct byways around the state with 10-12 stops on each byway, showcasing natural beauty, historic sites, shops and restaurants.

App users also qualify for discounts at some of the attractions, and they'll be entered into a monthly drawing for a prize package worth $200.

You can sign up for the free digital passport at explore.traveliowa.com/byways with an email address or by scanning a QR code from posters at locations included on the passport.

Here are the byways.

Covered Bridges Scenic Byway

This route takes in "The Bridges of Madison County" and several sites in the city of Winterset, including the John Wayne Birthplace Museum and the Iowa Quilt Museum, as well as the Madison County Winery.

Delaware Crossing Scenic Byway

Backbone State Park, dedicated in 1920 as Iowa’s first state park, is one of the attractions on this route. Also included are the "Field of Dreams" movie site in Dyersville, the Franklin Street Brewing Co. and the Manchester Fish Hatchery.

Driftless Area Scenic Byway

"Driftless" refers to that part of Iowa that was not covered by the last glacier and thus has very different topography — hilly! — than most of the state. You can learn more about this at the Driftless Area Education And Visitors Center.

Other attractions: Iowa's oldest smokehouse; the Decorah Fish Hatchery where trout are reared; Siewers Springs, a good spot for picnics, and a huge eagles' nest in Decorah

Also in or near Decorah: the Hotel Winneshiek, a 34-room grand historic hotel; Seed Savers Exchange, a nonprofit that conserves heirloom seeds;  Toppling Goliath Brewing Co., known internationally for its IPAs and barrel-aged stouts; and the Vesterheim, The National Norwegian-American Museum & Heritage Center that houses more than 33,000 artifacts, 12 historic buildings, a Folk Art School, and a library and archives.

Also on this route: the Yellow River State Forest that has one of the top 50 hikes in America called the Backpack Trail.

Glacial Trail Scenic Byway

You'll find lots of natural areas here: Barnes Area, Bertram Reservation and the Prairie Heritage Center, offering hiking, hunting, canoeing and live bison. Also, the Illinois Central Railroad depot. 

Grant Wood Scenic Byway

Highlights here include Baldwin Marsh, a 67-acre area with wetlands and prairies; Bellevue State Park with Mississippi River overlooks, a nature center, butterfly sanctuary and two camping areas; and Maquoketa Caves State Park.

Historic Hills Scenic Byway

The American Gothic House & Center next to the historic American Gothic House — the inspiration for the iconic and much-parodied "American Gothic" painting by Grant Wood — will bring you up to speed on the artist.

Also: the Airpower Museum, the Bloom And Bark Glass Blowing Studio & Natural Farm, the Dutch Country General Store in Bloomfield with "something for everyone and free ice cream cones every day" and the Dutchman's Store featuring bulk food, candy, fabric and crafts.

Iowa Valley Scenic Byway

The Amana Heritage Society owns and operates a number of historic properties open to the public, including the Amana Heritage Museum in Amana consisting of the Amana village Schoolhouse, the Noe House, and the washhouse/woodshed. 

A scenic three-mile trail running along Lily Pond connects the villages of Amana and Middle Amana. Visitors can rent a bicycle to check it out.

Also on this byway: the Meskwaki Cultural Center and Museum and the Larry Schlue Memorial Sound Park, the latter designed by an artist inspired by the trains he heard going through town as a child. You can make your own sound waves using the park’s interactive equipment.

Lincoln Highway Historic Byway

This route includes the 1915 Lincoln Highway Bridge & Park; the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad that operates passenger excursions in Boone County;  the Harrison County Historical Village & Iowa Welcome Center that offers a scenic overlook of the Loess Hills; the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library; The Sawmill Museum; and the Union Pacific Railroad Museum.

Loess Hills National Scenic Byway

You can travel the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, a 3,000 foot-long, 15 foot-wide bridge connecting Council Bluffs to Omaha, Nebraska, across the Missouri River. It opened in 2008.

Also on this tour: Broken Kettle Grasslands, the largest remaining natural prairie in Iowa and home to nearly 200 bison, and the Wabash Trace Nature Trail, one of Iowa's premier trails, stretching more than 62 miles.

River Bluffs Scenic Byway

The Effigy Mounds National Monument preserves prehistoric American Indian burial and ceremonial mounds dating from 500 B.C. to 1300 A.D. on 2,500 acres of forested land along the Mississippi River.

Also on this jaunt: Pikes Peak State Park, famed for its majestic views of the Mississippi, including an overlook atop a 500-foot bluff above the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers.

The Volga River State Recreation Area is another stop.

Western Skies Scenic Byway

Albert The Bull Park, featuring the World's Largest Bull, and the Coon Rapids Giant Corn are photo opps. For a more natural experience, there is the Desoto National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center located in the migratory bird corridor of the Missouri River floodplain.

Other stops: Little Mermaid Statue Garden; Saint Boniface and Saint Joseph Catholic churches, and Trestle Park with trail art and sculptures.

White Pole Road Scenic Byway

Interested in outlaws? This trip takes you to the Barrow Gang Shootout Site where you'll find a monument to the bloody end of Bonnie and Clyde when they were apprehended by police.

You can also see their last robbery site, a former bank they hit in 1934. It closed in 1944 and today houses offices and information about its history.

There also is the Jesse James Historic Train Robbery Site, an upright train wheel that marks the spot where, on the dusky summer evening of July 21, 1873, Jesse James and his gang executed the world's first robbery from aboard a moving train.

This video is shot at Riu Palace Las Americas, Cancun.

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