IowaIowa Bars Nightlife and Entertainment.

John Kinsella:” Is this heaven?”
Ray Kinsella: “It’s Iowa.”
John Kinsella: “Iowa? I could have sworn this was heaven.”
Ray Kinsella: “Is there a heaven?”
John Kinsella:” Oh yeah. It’s the place where dreams come true”
Ray Kinsella: “Maybe this is heaven.”
Field of Dreams 1989 (starring KevinCostner as Ray Kinsella)

Heaven – not quite – but this Hollywood blockbuster about an Iowa farmer who hears a voice in his corn field telling him, “If you build it, he will come”, which he interprets as an instruction to build a baseball field on his farm, has certainly inspired plenty of new visitors to this, the 29th US state (since 1846). And, indeed, in Dyersville you can see the cornfield-based baseball field for yourself: The Field of Dreams Movie Site is open from April til November (bring your bat and glove).

Actually, there’s a lot more to Iowa than the film, although there are a hell of a lot of cornfields here. For one thing Iowa is where the presidential election ball really gets rolling. In January of election year it holds the first presidential caucuses: groups of voters who decide on which candidates they want to go forward (not secretly as in the primary election).
Iowa, highlighted in redIowa is a great place for lovers of the outdoors. Hunting, hiking, fishing, golf, horseback riding and more; and although the rolling plains, nestled between the Mississippi River to the East and Missouri River to the West, don’t offer the dramatic scenery of other states, Iowa’s autumn colours are amongst some of the most beautiful you’ll see anywhere.

Historically, Iowa also has a lot to offer, with many well preserved sites and monuments to early explorers including Lewis & Clark and Sergeant Charles Floyd. Named after the American Indian tribe of the same name, Iowa was closed to whites until the early 1830s when, after the Black Hawk War, the Sauk or Sac and Fox tribes were forced to make land cessations to the west of the Mississippi in return for a little cash, 40 barrels each of salt and tobacco. The US government had bought themselves some prime, fertile land; a year later the native tribes were ordered out. In 1856 some of the land in central Iowa was purchased back by the tribes, descendants of which still live there as the Meskwaki Settlement. Not surprising then, that Iowa is also known as the Hawkeye State.

Initially Iowa was part of Michigan, then part of Wisconsin; finally becoming a territory in its own right in 1839, with Iowa City originally the capital until 1857 when it moved to Des Moines. Much of the old Iowa is still evident today and visitors can explore old frontier settlements, restored 19th century villages and historic river towns galore. Other attractions include the Herbert Hoover National Historic site and Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, Maquoketa Caves State Park, The Amana Colonies and Adventureland.

So what about nightlife? Well, Iowa has a population of around 2.9m and, although it is feeling the effect of ‘rural emigration’, this is still very much an agricultural based state (hogs, corn, soyabeans, oats and cattle) with only two cities have more than 100,000 residents (Des Moines and Cedar Rapids) and a further four having more than 60,000. So don’t expect Iowa to be the clubbing centre of the US.
But don’t think Iowans don’t know how to enjoy themselves, because they do ��” and with fairly liberal liquor laws (6 am��”2am Mon��”Sat, 8 am��”2 am Sun) there are enough opportunities for late night partying if you seek them out. If you’re a smoker and have een to Iowa in the last few years you might think that the state is still ‘heaven’ for you. Think again. From July 1 2008, smoking is banned in restaurants, bars and most public places, although casinos are exempt.

Favoured by publishing and insurance companies, Des Moines is as far away as you’ll get from cornfields in Iowa. Here you’ll find most of the nightlife action downtown on Court Avenue – a pretty area with a good selection of bars, clubs and restaurants – while the Historic Valley Junction area offers an interesting array of restaurants, galleries, shops and bars.

One hot live music spot is Blues on Grand (corner of 15th St and Grand Ave), which is a must if you enjoy live blues (Tuesday to Saturday); House of Bricks (East Grand) is another one, with Blues jamming sessions on Wednesdays. A variety of music, including celtic and jazz, is on offer at Java Joe’s on 4th St or if you just want some good old fashioned dancing and music, try Val Air Ballroom in Valley Junction.

Best bars include Legacy Sports Bar & Grille on Hickman Road which features a 35ft bar and excellent steak and sandwich menu; and the Twisted Parrot (Hickman Rd again) which advertises itself as a sports lounge, cocktail lounge, dance bar and restaurant. Known particularly for its pizzas, it offers pool, darts, shuffleboard, bowling, fruit machines and all sorts. Its open from 3pm to 2am. Clubwise, Aura on University Ave has a good sized dance floor and seating area, with private booths for groups ordering bottles; while Club AM on East 2nd St is the only place you can dance til 5am on Friday and Saturday (but you pay for the privilege).
Hungry? The Taki Japanese Steakhouse on 86th St, On the Border (74th St) and the Waterfront Seafood Market & Restaurant on University Avenue are all recommended for dining. Want more? Head out to Altoona for the Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino, where you can bet on the horses and dogs, enjoy a good meal at one of three restaurants, and then lose all your winnings on the 1,000 slot machines!

Built on the Cedar River, the first building in Cedar Rapids was an inn, built by Osgood Shepard in the 19th Century. Today it is better known as the founding place of Quaker Oats, still the world’s largest cereal manufacturing plant. Being a town associated mostly with outdoor pursuits, visitors generally are happy with a good dinner and relaxing drink in the evening, rather than dancing the night away. But, if you have got any energy left, Teeghans Ice Bar on 2nd St SE is the place to go. Open seven days a week til 2am, live music features local bands and acoustic acts, plus there are daily specials and fun promotions to get customers involved, including Thursday Karaoke night. The Chrome Horse Saloon on 3rd St SE is a favourite with bikers (well, its decked out with Harley-Davidson kit, so what do you expect), offering live music, cold beer, pizza and burgers.

There are a couple of good microbreweries here, The Cedar Brewing Company on Blairs Ferry Rd NE and the Granite City Food and Brewery on 1st Ave SE, or for your pint of Guinness head to the Irish Democrat Pub on the same road. Recommended restaurants in the city include Blend, Zins and CR Chophouse, while for more casual dining try Gringo’s Mexican Restaurant, Legends Sports Bar and Grill or The Blue Strawberry on 2nd St SE and C St SW.
Seal of IowaWith the University of Iowa, a major national research facility, located in Iowa City there is naturally a good choice of student friendly venues here and in nearby Coralville. If you happen to find yourself in this busy commercial town – a good place from which to explore the local historic villages – head down to the downtown river area for some friendly and lively spots. Students head to S Dubuque St for clubs like The Deadwood, where happy hour has been renamed ‘angry hour’, Brothers Bar & Grill, Mickey’s or popular Irish pub Dublin Underground (small but buzzing). The Sanctuary is S Gilbert St offers mellow jazz and great pizza, or The Foxhead and George’s – both in E Market St – are both bars with lots of history and character. The Coralville Strip is another happening area with popular hangouts like the Wig and Pen, The Vine and Old Chicago, which has more than 100 beers on offer. Heavenly! Maybe the film was right, after all!

Events and Festivals in Iowa.

Burlington Steamboat Days, American Music Festival. June 10-15. Attracting over 100,000 visitors each year, Steamboat Days feature rock, pop, R&B, country, jazz and lots more.
Saturday in the Park, June. Tyson Event Center, Sioux City. A huge Mardi Gras parade, floats, live music and more.

Iowa State Fair, Des Moines. August 7-17. Over 150 years old, this is rated as one of the US’s best state fairs. Highlights include an arts show, lots of live music, a livestock show, fireworks, food, and lots lots more.