The New Midwest Vacation
Authentic crafts and a slower pace: Iowa
Travelers consistently say they're seeking something--anything--that feels authentic. In a green east-central Iowa River Valley along Interstate-80 (100 miles east of Des Moines), the seven Amana Colonies have clung to their roots with German steadfastness since 1855.
"Oh, there's a lot of history here," Deb Heitmann says as she pours beer at the Millstream Brewing Company in Amana, the largest colony (population: 2,000). "I live in my great-grandparents' house."
Most proprietors begin stories this way; 400 buildings appear on the National Register of Historic Places. Though the commune became a private land-owning corporation in 1932, more than half of current residents are descendants, and inns, restaurants and shops draw heavily on traditional foods and handicrafts.
The area makes a few mainstream concessions, including the Wasserbahn water park at the Holiday Inn Amana Colonies along I-80. But heritage and history dominate, as in the Wiener schnitzel-heavy menus at the Ronneburg and other restaurants.