Whew! I did a lot this month. And honestly? I’ve never been happier with my experience living in Iowa than I have this month.

So much to see, so much to explore – my plans for my 3 remaining months in this state are quickly expanding and filling up my calendar. But May was fantastic. Let’s get into everything I did!

Amana Colonies

Amana Colonies May Day Festival barn covered in vines

First up, the Amana Colonies. I enjoyed my visit here, and it nicely coincided with their Mai Day Festival. I will say, I was a tiny bit disappointed that there weren’t more festivities. I think they anticipated the weather being a lot better, but they still could have pumped some music outside to the town to create more festive cheer.

Regardless, it was a wonderful time wandering down the Main Street, stopping in for wine and food tastings along the way. I loved watching the May Pole dances, doing some shopping for local cured meats, and viewing the picturesque old buildings.

Pella Tulip Festival

A view of the 1850s Tuttle Cabin in Pella Iowa

Planning a trip to Iowa anytime soon? Make sure it coincides with the Pella Tulip Festival! This is a massive, all encompassing festival that is not limited to the fabulous tulips. The food, the events, the sites, the sounds – it’s all here.

I did a large write-up about the Pella Tulip Festival, so I won’t be telling you too much more here. However, just know this is the only thing I’ve seen in Iowa that I may be coming back for once I’ve moved to Minnesota.

The Covered Bridges of Madison County

Inside of a covered bridge

Not just a movie (that I haven’t and won’t be seeing because…sad) but one of the most beautiful areas of Iowa countryside, with a friendly local town, and the famed historical covered bridges.

There are six bridges, all within around 15-20 minutes of each other, in something of a circle around the town of Winterset, Iowa. The bridges are timeless, and I love any kind of doorway into nature. Portals to other worlds, fairy gates, tori gates, in America there are isolated covered bridges.

So many dirt roads! I became quite skilled on them as I bumped along, my dog by my side. With some beautiful weather, these places make excellent picnic or short walking areas. Beware of the ginormous bees that seem endemic to these bridges, though.

The town of Winterset has some great cafes and is really quite pretty. I tried out car camping for the first time at the nearby campground and absolutely loved it! I can’t wait for this to expand my roadtrips in the near future.


View of Chicago river walk on a spring afternoon

I have finally made it. The missing city on my “collect the largest cities in America” card. Ok, so technically I haven’t been to San Francisco either…but that’s not going to happen any time soon so I am perfectly happy to say I have now visited all the traditional giants.

I had completely forgotten about Memorial Day, so I got an extra day off of work at the last second!! And thank goodness because trying to see this entire city on a weekend was going to be very difficult.

Chicago was a fabulous time, primarily because of the Korean spa that I slept in two nights out of the three-night trip. My feet, still unused to the amount of walking they used to put up with, were practically falling off every night. My step count skyrocketed!

I saw all the museums, drank some of the best hot chocolate, treated myself to far too much food at a Michelin-star restaurant, took a water taxi, and walked along the gorgeous river way. Chicago is the most friendly city I have been to in America.

Unlike LA, NYC, or Boston, people are not focused on being suave or cold, everyone here was loud, friendly, and unrestrained. A little too loud – this city is also the loudest city I’ve ever been to. The ground seems to vibrate from a constant bass being pumped from somewhere.

All in all, I’m so glad I’ve been, and I can’t wait to live in Minneapolis and have similar amenities at my fingertips.

What’s Up Next?

After this exhilarating month, can I keep it up in June? Well, everything is booked so I certainly hope so!

First up is the Herbert Hoover Museum and National Library. The birthplace of a, well, not particularly interesting president to me. But hopefully I’ll learn something. It’s a US National Monument, and should be an easy daytrip for me. After the exhilarating but exhausting holiday in Chicago, I need something easy for this weekend.

But never fear, I’ll be ramping things up immediately the rest of the month. In no particular order, I’ll be visiting the following places:

Ledges State Park. One of the top state parks in Iowa, I’ve been planning to go for awhile.

However, after my recent success with car-camping, I wanted to improve upon my experience and do some more. Unfortunately, I misjudged how quick the residents of Iowa are at booking state camping spots. They’d all been snatched up for the entire year!!

Luckily, I recently learned about a site called HipCamp and I was able to score a spot elsewhere. I’ll be popping back into Des Moines as well as the two other nearby state parks (Big Creek and Walnut Woods).

Pikes Peak State Park. The other state park that I’ve been trying to squeeze into this schedule of mine somewhere. Another situation where the camping is booked or non-existent. In a way, this has been a boon as it forced me to look at other places…including state parks in Wisconsin!

So, I’ll be visiting Wyalusing State Park as well, now 🙂 The good news is that I expect the parks to be absolutely beautiful this time of year, and I’m thrilled to bring my dog. I’ve developed some fairly severe separation anxiety when it comes to leaving her, which is probably bad but I do love having her travel with me.

For my big trip of the month I’ll be heading to Dubuque. There is simply so much to do there! From wineries to caves, from state parks to historical theaters and rail cars, it’s sure to be a packed weekend.

Add to it that Dubuque is just across the Mississippi River from Galena, and I won’t be twiddling my thumbs for a moment. Apparently the theme of this month, much like May was Festival month, June is Presidential Homes. The President Grant house and museum is in Galena and I plan on visiting there too!

So if I don’t collapse from happy exhaustion from all of this, I’ll be ready for the absolutely jam-packed month of July for my birthday.

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