There are a lot of unique things to do in Eastern Iowa along I-80. See the American Pickers store, museums, wineries, a giant truck stop, and much more!
After an amazing overnight stay in Grinnell, we were continuing east on our Iowa road trip. Over the next two days we saw more of the state we were growing to love and discovered there are so many fun things to do in eastern Iowa!
Visiting the Amana Colonies is probably one of the most unique things to do in Eastern Iowa. There are seven colonies and they were founded by German immigrants back in 1855. Visiting the colonies is like stepping back in time.
Collectively the colonies have been named a National Historic Landmark. There are cute shops that sell homemade items like soaps and chocolate fudge. There are also antique shops, there’s a woolen mill, wineries, and a brewery.
Pro Tip: Get to know the over 100 Iowa Wineries!
As you continue east looking for I-80 attractions, we recommend stopping in Iowa City. It is home to the Old Capitol Museum. The capital of Iowa was Iowa City from 1839 until 1857, when it was moved to Des Moines. Since then the capitol building has been used as a university and museum.
Inside, there are restored period rooms including State and House Chambers. For us, however, the highlight of the Old Capitol was the incredible reverse-spiral staircase.
Another one of the unique things to do in Iowa City is to head over to the Devonian Fossil Gorge. The fossils and limestone bedrock date back almost 200 million years before the dinosaurs! There are markers that tell about the area and you’re free to walk around. We were able to spot some fossils, which we thought was really cool!
In West Branch, we recommend visiting the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum. Inside, visitors will learn all about the life and accomplishments of Herbert Hoover, the 31st President of the US. Exhibits include stories about his world travels and post-presidential humanitarian work.
The Museum is located on the Hoover National Historic Site. As you walk around you will see the small cottage where Hoover was born as well as other period buildings. You can even pay your respects and visit the grave-site of Hoover and wife Lou Henry Hoover.
While in West Branch, we also recommend visiting Brick Arch Winery. They have great wine and delicious snacks.
Continuing east, you’ll come upon the World’s Largest Truck Stop. This I-80 truck stop is the biggest truck stop in the world! Inside, besides the normal stuff you’d find, you’ll also find: a chapel, game room, barber, dentist, chiropractor, library, movie theater, restaurant, showers, laundry, and more! It’s amazing!
Just behind the truck stop, you’ll also find the Iowa 80 Trucking Museum. Inside, visitors can see over 100 trucks, dating back to the early 1900’s as well as lots of other cool memorabilia like original petroliana signs and vintage gas pumps. Admission is free, although they do appreciate donations.
One of the top attractions in Davenport is definitely The Putnam Museum. We’d say this is kind of a mix between a science and history museum. You can learn about ancient Egypt and also get hands-on experiences with robots! They also have temporary exhibits on rotation. While we visited, they had an exhibit about the Best of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which we really enjoyed.
There are many more things to do in Davenport, but unfortunately we didn’t have time to visit them all. We heard that the Figge Art Museum is a really great museum and that taking a tour of the Isabel Bloom Studio is pretty interesting as well.
If you’re starting the day in LeClaire, we recommend your first stop be Antique Archaeology, the home base for the American Pickers Show on History Channel. We had no idea this shop was here, and even though we’d only watched the show a few times, we thought it’d be really awesome to see in person.
And so did a bunch of other people. We got there before the store even opened and there was already a gaggle of people waiting. So yeah, get there early. Even if you have no plans on buying anything, you’re more than welcome to take a look. There are some pretty interesting items!
Did you know Buffalo Bill was born in LeClaire, Iowa? You can learn all about him and his adventures in the Wild West at the Buffalo Bill Museum. There are also a lot exhibits showcasing the history of the area, from Native American artifacts to the Lone Star Stern Wheeler (one of the longest running wooden steamboats in the US).
Just behind the museum is the mighty Mississippi River. We took a few minutes to walk along the RiverWay, where we found a small veteran’s memorial and the Scott County Freedom Rock. We also saw the Riverboat Twilight, waiting quietly to start touring again in May.
Pro Tip: Learn more about the original Freedom Rock in our Western Iowa post.
Although we weren’t able to tour the studio, we were able to visit the Isabel Bloom store in LeClaire. It’s obvious that Isabel Bloom was loved in the community and her artwork and sculptures touched the lives of many.
Another cute shop in LeClaire’s historic downtown is Grasshopper’s. Located inside an old historic home, the shop has antiques, gourmet food items, wine, and many other items. President Obama has even stopped by this charming store!
And don’t you dare leave LeClaire without visiting either Wide River Winery or Mississippi River Distilling Company (or both). They offer visitors some pretty delicious drinks! 😉
We recommend staying at the Holiday Inn Express LeClaire. It’s on the southern end of LeClaire, so a great location between it and Davenport. It’s also close to I-80, making it convenient if you’re continuing on to Illinois.
It is a riverfront hotel, so we were extremely happy with our balcony that looked out onto the Mississippi. We also loved the comfy bed and complimentary breakfast!
Check Holiday Inn Express LeClaire rates!
There are so many things to do in Eastern Iowa along I-80! We feel there’s such a great mix of historical, quirky, and sophisticated stops. We were certainly sad to be leaving Eastern Iowa, and Iowa in general. It feels like we only scratched the surface by road tripping along I-80, so next time we hope to explore Iowa’s northern and southern cities.
What do you think of Eastern Iowa’s I-80 attractions? Let us know in the comments below! 🙂
**A big thank you to Travel Iowa for their help in creating this awesome itinerary. As always, all opinions are our own.**