Secret Iowa cover


A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure

By: Megan Bannister

Published: September 15, 2023

Publisher: Reedy Press


5 stars

Megan Bannister has called the state of Iowa her home for the last fourteen years. She loves finding the quirky roadside attractions that make road trips more interesting and sharing them on social media. Then, she realized everyone needed to know about these hidden gems so she wrote a book about all the weird, wonderful, and obscure things to see while driving through Iowa.

As a lifelong Iowan, I didn’t expect to find too many surprises in the book, but I did. How did I not know about Elwood the Gnome in Reiman Gardens? Elwood is 15 feet tall and weighs 3,500 pounds. He has a red pointy hat and a long grey beard while holding a garden trowel. He is made of concrete and guards over the beautiful Reiman Gardens in Ames. I need to give him a visit next summer!

World's Largest Strawberry
Just last weekend I drove by the World’s Largest Strawberry in Strawberry Point, Iowa.

A few other places on my must-visit list include the Traer Salt & Pepper Shaker Gallery (it’s so close to me), the Wilton Candy Kitchen, and the Matchstick Marvels Museum in Gladbrook. Each place is listed in the book with an address, phone number, admission cost if applicable, as well as a bit of history about the place. Megan includes photos of each location and a pro tip such as the best time to visit, whether you need to make sure to have cash on hand, or a nearby place to add to your trip.

Pink Elephant
The Pink Elephant was such an iconic landmark for me as a child.
We made numerous trips to Prairie du Chien to visit family and I always knew we were almost there when we drove by the Pink Elephant.

I’m fortunate to have visited a number of the places in her book that I recommend you add to your Iowa Bucket List. Don’t miss the Pink Elephant in Marquette, the Fenelon Place Elevator in Dubuque, the Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Effigy Mounds in Northeast Iowa, and the Madison County Bridges and Clark Tower in Winterset. Be sure to take your kids to the Wells Visitor Center and Ice Cream Parlor in LeMars!

Wells Visitor Center
We stopped by the Wells Visitor Center in LeMars on our way to Yellowstone back in 2015.

Megan’s book is the perfect gift idea for that hard-to-buy-for person on your list. Gift it to a true Iowan or maybe someone who has just moved to Iowa. Is there a new retiree on your list? Are you an empty nester wanting to encourage your spouse to go on fun day trips? Want to encourage your adult children to come back and visit? Give them this book to remind them of all the cool things to love about Iowa.

Fenelon Place Elevator
The view as you head back down on the Fenelon Place Elevator. It’s a little scarier to ride it back down than to ride it up.

Megan Bannister is an Iowa transplant who has called the Hawkeye State home for more than 14 years. An avid road-tripper, Megan writes about offbeat destinations, roadside attractions, and “world’s largest” things. She is also the author of IOWA SUPPER CLUBS. Megan lives in Des Moines with her husband, her cat Poe, and approximately 52 houseplants. Follow her adventures by visiting her website, HERE.

To purchase a copy of SECRET IOWA, click the photo below:

Other posts you might like:

Thanks to the publisher for sending a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. This review is my honest opinion. If you choose to make a purchase through the above links, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase.
Posted in

Leave a Comment

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.