One of the Great Plains states, Iowa’s climate has wild weather with thunderstorms, droughts, blizzards, and hailstorms, and the western part of the state is in tornado alley.Iowa generally has hot and humid summers with temperatures reaching or exceeding 37 degrees (Celsius). Winters are cold and harsh, January temperatures are generally in the minus figures and low single digits, and travel can be difficult. Spring and autumn are mild, but the springs are wet. Typically, the state has 266 sunny or partly sunny days and an average of 76cm (30 inches) of winter snowfall.
When to fly to Iowa
Summer is the peak tourist season and when most visitors step off their flights to Iowa. July and August are busy with fairs and festivals, and the Iowa State Fair (the state’s largest event) is held in August.
There are lots of outdoor activities, and summer is the time for golfing, fishing, hiking, camping, and biking.
Des Moines is comfortable in late spring and early autumn, especially May and September, when temperatures are in the low 20s (Celsius).
The autumn foliage rivals that in some of the more expensive states, and "fall" also brings about the hunting season.
Winter has cross-country skiing and snowmobiling, although the weather can make travel around the state difficult.
Getting around Iowa
Driving is the best way to get around Iowa and its cities, and the best way to see the state. Scenic drives take you to the Madison Country bridges, along the Mississippi valley, and through the Loess Hills. Iowa has 13 scenic drives and 23 visitor centres.
The terrain of plains and low, rolling hills makes bicycling easy, and the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (Ragbrai) is an annual seven-day bicycle ride across the state and is the longest, largest, and oldest touring bicycle ride in the world.
Iowa insider information
- Some of the best architecture can be found in the Midwest and the Des Moines Art Centre definitely ranks high on the list. Designed by three of the greatest 20th century architects: I. M. Pei, Eliel Saarinen, and Richard Meier, this modern museum is home to some of the most exquisite modern art including works by Matisse, O'Keeffe, Rothko, and Richter.
- Another impressive structure that shouldn’t be missed is the Figge Art Museum designed by London-based minimalist architect David Chipperfield. Overlooking the Mississippi River, the museum has an impressive collection of art including works by Grant Wood and Any Warhol as well as a large selection of Mexican colonial paintings.
- If you enjoyed reading the weepy novel Bridges of Madison County or watching the movie, then why not visit the famous covered bridges in the picturesque town of Winterset where the movie was filmed. Then head to legendary actor John Wayne’s house where he was born and take a guided tour of the 1907 property.
- Antique lovers should head to the town of Walnut, better known as “the antique city”, and explore the quaint antique shops that house some of the best quality antiques in the country. A favourite among antique buffs is the Granary Antique Mall where you’ll find a large selection of priceless antiques and collectibles. And if you happen to be there in June check the annual AMVET's Antique Walk and Show.
- If you’re interested in US history then the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, Museum, and National Historic Site will fascinate you. The Historic Site includes a tour of the former President’s birthplace cottage, his father's blacksmith shop, a Quaker meetinghouse, a pioneer schoolhouse and the president's grave.