The Midwestern State is rising, with growing cities and large agricultural influence.
I have covered quite a few Midwestern states so far. Like Missouri, Iowa is another state where I have spent a bulk of my college years. Iowa is in the middle of the country, and near several major cities, including: Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Chicago, and Kansas City. I attended college at the University of Iowa, where I enjoyed basking in the small-town life of Iowa City with a joining suburb Coralville. And yes, there is an ample amount of the famous Midwest cornfield scenery here. Here are some highlights of my time in Iowa:
Contrary to what may some think, Iowa has several large cities that resemble any other metropolitans in the country. There are the Quad Cities, four cities on the Illinois and Iowa border. The ones on the Iowa side are Bettendorf and Davenport, and they offer a suburban feel on the outer edges while the downtown districts reside on the Mississippi River. I have stopped here a few times only to see a line of suburban sprawl in some places.
The town of Cedar Rapids is only a half hour drive from my college campus, and seeing downtown from the distance felt like driving into a massive city. I have seen a Quakers Oats factory here and eating at Paradise Bar & Grill, a modern Indian restaurant great noodles and curries reminiscent of a sports bar atmosphere.
Finally, the great town of Dubuque on the Mississippi River is another Iowa city I have visited. My family stood on the banks of the Mississippi River in this small town where we strolled the streets of downtown, and I remember getting a magnet to put on my fridge (we always do that). Finally, we took a small cable line up a steep hill to see the view from the top. This was my first trip ever to Iowa, in late 2011.
Driving Through the State
I have driven through Iowa east to west a few times, in a span of 300 miles on Interstate 80. Driving through the state is quite peaceful. From the moment, you enter, there is neatly plowed fields on each side that will stretch mostly throughout the entire drive. The road is not always flat, however, as there is some mini climbs and descents, all of which provide terrific views of Iowa’s well-known cornfields. The last 100 or so miles after the Des Moines area, traffic is very minimal and this has usually been the most peaceful part of my drive. A quiet road, it afforded me time to clear my thoughts. There are windmills in this part of the state, sometimes even spanning in the distance.
A growing small town with a perfect mesh of commercial development and private restaurants, Iowa City is charming. My campus was in downtown, with the historic Old Capitol building present, and plenty of dining options right across from campus. There was no shortage of shops with University of Iowa Hawkeyes gear, and I saw how strong Hawkeye pride was for students and residents of the area, and even the state. There was also a mini mall next to campus as well. During the daytime, campus would be bustling with many students, and come night time, the bars would pack up. The only way to get to downtown was climbing a steep hill, but looking up at the Old Capitol building from below provided panoramic views of this icon. My favorite places to eat on campus were Java House (coffee), Z’Mariks Noodle Cafe, China Star just to name a few. There was nothing better than being immersed in this large university culture that offered so many amenities for students, and a great setting to enjoy college life.
Outside the downtown area was Coralville, a tranquil suburb that had housing, open recreation areas, plenty of hotels, stores, food, and Coral Ridge Mall. Coral Ridge Mall was a great local weekend spot to visit, offering a movie theater, access to Target, and the only Chick Fil-a in town. Driving along Route 6 in Coralville meant driving in the heart of suburbia. Some of my favorite places to eat here were Casa Azul (Mexican cuisine), Exotic India, and Village Inn for the best pies. These towns made for a perfect setting for a college kid, with the mixture of a downtown district, a quiet suburb, no pollution, peace, minimal traffic, and affordable prices.