The Prairie as his Palette:  Grant Wood

Eastern and Central Iowa — 2 Days

Cedar Rapids, Jones County, Amana Colonies, Fairfield, Eldon

Day 1:

In Cedar Rapids, tour a museum that houses the world’s largest collection of Grant Wood’s works and visit the original studio where he lived, worked and painted some of his most famous works, including American Gothic.

We’ll visit the Queen Anne-style mansion that has been home to three prominent families who used the estate as a center for culture and the arts. Discover the personal connection between one of the owners and Grant Wood and see the graphic impression the artist made on the home.

Learn about the Czech Slovak culture in the museum and library that has hosted noteworthy exhibits as Alphonse Mucha and Andy Warhol.  Enjoy fresh baked kolace and coffee or have a traditional Czech meal.

As a possible side trip, consider traveling to neighboring Jones County to visit the home of Grant Wood’s art colony in Stone City, the art gallery and learn more about his life and times.

Day 2:

The Pietists came from Germany and formed the Amana Colonies, one of America’s longest-lived communal societies.  We’ll tour the seven villages visiting historical sites and meeting artists and artisans of handcrafted products.  Enjoy lunch at the Ox Yoke Inn, one of the well-known German/American family style restaurants.

Recently named by Smithsonian Magazine as one of America’s best small towns, Fairfield is big on culture and thriving on creativity.  Fairfield is a unique place where the approach to life is spiced up with diverse culture, an eclectic scene of entertainment, shops, and eateries.

Finally, we’ll tour the famed American Gothic House which served as the inspiration and backdrop for Grant Wood’s most famous painting, “American Gothic.” one of the most recognized and parodied paintings in the world. Costumes and pitchforks are available to create your own memorable portrait!

The Art of Prairie School Architecture

Central and Eastern Iowa—2 days

Algona, Mason City, Charles City, Decorah

Day 1:

This former bank building in Algona is often described as a “jewel box”. Designed by renowned architect Louis Sullivan, whose most famous pupil was Frank Lloyd Wright, it’s one of only eight such architectural masterpieces in the Midwest. One of Sullivan’s best-known works is the Carson Pirie Scott department store in Chicago.

The Stockman House is the first and only Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Prairie School house in Iowa. The restored home in Mason City is furnished with Arts & Crafts and Wright designs of its period. Browse the architectural interpretive center and get a unique look at Prairie School Homes in area.

Next we’ll tour an art museum, formerly a gracious 1920’s Tudor revival home, which now houses a permanent collection of American art, including works by Regionalists Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood.

The Historic Park Inn Hotel and City National Bank building is the last remaining hotel in the world designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. This classic example of Prairie School Architecture has been completely restored to its original appearance serving as an exquisite hotel. Explore the restored public places of the hotel on a guided tour of the facility and enjoy dinner before retiring for the evening.

Day 2:

Explore a gallery in Charles City that contains 77 old master prints including: Dali, Rembrandt, Picasso, Durer and Grant Wood. Stretch your legs with a quick stroll along the Cedar River and take a peek at some public art and Iowa’s first whitewater park.

On the way to northeast Iowa, we will stop at a place where clocks depict history, art, religion and culture. You’ll be amazed at the collection of clocks hand carved by two Czech brothers and an exhibit dedicated to famous composer Antonin Dvorak.

Towering limestone bluffs and cascading springs offer a picturesque backdrop to an area rich in history and unique attractions in Decorah and Winneshiek County. Visit a museum that is the most comprehensive museum in the United States dedicated to a single immigrant group – the Norwegians. It features over 24,000 artifacts and preserves this community’s founding culture. It’s also a national heritage center for folk-art education with classes in rosemaling, woodworking, knifemaking, food traditions, and fiber arts.

Iowa’s Heritage: Footsteps of Time

Central and Eastern Iowa— 2 days

Des Moines, Pella, Kalona

Day 1:

Explore downtown and find out why New York Times noted Des Moines as a must-see cultural destination when you visit the sculpture park downtown. The 4.4 acre park has 27 different sculptures from the most celebrated artists worldwide.

Next, take a peek into a dream turned reality for one early 1900s family. This historic home is one of the best places to visit for beauty, art and history. For groups, a “Nooks and Crannies” tour is offered that takes a behind the scenes look at the historic house.

Des Moines Performing Arts is home to some of the best Broadway plays you can find. This afternoon, take a behind-the-scenes tour of the stage and see what goes into a production. If available, do a meet and greet with the cast beforehand.

With plenty of restaurants to choose from, finding the right meal will be effortless. Tonight, enjoy a show at Des Moines Performing Arts.

Day 2:

What better way to start the day than with delicious fresh-baked pastries from Pella –Dutch letters.
Visit the Pella Historical Village and tour the Scholte House and Gardens, the home of Pella’s founder. Stroll through the gardens, they feature two life-sized bronze statues and thousands of flowers.

Pella Opera House is one of Pella’s most elegant treasures. Enjoy a tour of the restored 1900’s Opera House, view the Barton organ, and enjoy a short organ concert.

Arrive at Kalona Historical Village and begin your tour with a cup of coffee or tea and fresh doughnut holes from Kalona Bakery as you learn about the fascinating ways of the Amish Mennonite people. Travel the scenic back-roads to get a sense of the hard work and family ethic that continues to mark the Amish way of life. View their magnificent, hand-stitched Amish quilts at the Kalona Quilt & Textile Museum and watch a noodle making demonstration at Kalona Bakery.

Continue through the scenic countryside to a conservative Mennonite home for lunch and experience a culinary adventure in a living history setting. From home-baked bread to Amish Tapioca pudding the cook sees to it that you never leave hungry.

An Ethnic Tour of Western Iowa

Western Iowa- 2 days

Council Bluffs, Adams County, Elk Horn, Manning, Orange City, Sioux City

Day 1:

In Council Bluffs, tour the beautifully restored home of Civil War veteran and railroad builder, General Grenville M. Dodge. Enjoy a spectacular view at a National Monument from which President Lincoln and General Dodge discussed the transcontinental railroad. Learn about the “cover-up” of a series of murals that were commissioned by a hotelier and created by a relatively unknown artist, Grant Wood.

Then travel to Adams County where we’ll learn about the French immigrants whose “all for one and one for all” philosophy brought them to America to establish an equalitarian community. Enjoy a school tour and lunch in the 1878 communal dining hall.

How did a windmill built in 1848 in Nørre Snede, Denmark end up on the Iowa prairie and why? You’ll find out as we tour the Danish Windmill in Elk Horn and learn about the area’s Danish heritage.

Day 2:

In 17th century Germany, it was common practice for a farmer’s house to be shared by families and their livestock. At the Manning Hausbarn-Heritage Park we’ll go inside an authentic hausbarn built in 1660 that was moved to Manning and today is a unique museum dedicated to the German cultural heritage of the community.

Founded by Dutch settlers, Orange City sought a way to keep their heritage thriving. What began in 1936 as a small celebration blossomed into an annual Orange City Tulip Festival known for its tulips and night show as well as its authentic Dutch costumes, dances and food.

Lost for decades under paint and old wallpaper, the murals created by Grant Wood in 1927 were finally uncovered in 1979. In Sioux City, we’ll see the Corn Room mural and some of Wood’s other work. Enjoy the evening with a Broadway show at the beautifully restored Orpheum Theatre or live entertainment at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City.

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