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International Iowa

Iowans’ roots stretch across the globe, making Iowa a state rich in international culture. But local history also contributes to its cultural wealth. Travelers can explore these sites as they travel south then west  across the state and celebrate its fascinating heritage.


Vesterheim Museum


Vesterheim, the National Norwegian-American Museum & Folk Art School, honors the Norwegian-American experience and exhibits some of the finest in Norwegian folk arts in the country. The museum has a collection of 33,000 artifacts, and its main building includes four fantastic floors of exhibitions. Heritage Park, the Vesterheim’s open-air display, is open seasonally and contains 12 historic buildings. For those who want their visit to be extra-immersive, the museum’s folk art school offers lessons in activities like Nordic cooking, fiber arts, metalworking and “friluftsliv,” a Norwegian approach to enjoying the great outdoors. The museum maintains a close connection with the people of Norway and has received several visits over the years from members of the Norwegian royal family. Vesterheim offers guided group tours and can create customized tours for groups interested in specific topics like immigration, textiles, woodcarving or even behind-the-scenes looks at Vesterheim’s art collection.

Czech and Slovak Museum and Library

Cedar Rapids

This museum celebrates the rich culture of the Czech Republic and Slovakia, offering both an opportunity for visitors to learn about this unique heritage and a familiar touchstone for the local diaspora in Cedar Rapids. The museum is home to an incredible collection of artifacts, fine arts pieces and more. The museum got its start in the 1970s as a fine arts foundation run by second- and third-generation Czech Americans. Since then, its collection has grown to inhabit a much larger space and become an internationally recognized institution. The museum is so lauded that the 1995 dedication ceremony for its current building was presided over by the presidents of the U.S., the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Groups can enjoy an experience package that includes options like guided tours, a film viewing, a guided visit to the library and a traditional Czech lunch.

Old Capitol Museum

Iowa City

Iowa’s former state capitol building is a local icon on the University of Iowa campus and a well-known symbol of the state. UI students know it as a familiar fixture of their college experience, and Iowans across the state know it as an important slice of the past. The Old Capitol Museum is part of Iowa City’s Pentacrest, a grassy four-block stretch of campus that contains five historic buildings. The Old Capitol is smack in the center. This National Historic Landmark is now a museum that houses both permanent and changing exhibits, as well as educational programming and special events. The museum fosters learning and connection among the university student body and the Iowa City community, and it’s a memorable place to visit for tourists and locals. Groups can experience an interactive tour with one of the museum’s gallery guides, who offer engaging and conversational journeys through the museum.

Kalona Historical Village


Kalona has been home to thriving Amish and Mennonite communities since the mid-19th century. Today, its past has been preserved in a vibrant historical village with 12 restored buildings and three museums, including a brand-new Kalona Streetscape exhibit that highlights life in the early 20th century. A stroll through the village is a window into Iowa’s pioneer past. The village’s visitor center houses two nationally known quilt galleries and a wide range of local artifacts and antiques. Step-on tours through the area are a great way to learn about the history of the local Amish and Mennonite communities while taking in views of Kalona’s expansive green countryside. Groups can also visit a Mennonite home for a family-style meal and an educational session about the community’s faith traditions. Don’t miss the Kalona Historical Village Gift Shop, which sells Amish-made goods like baskets, jellies and rugs.

Union Pacific Railroad Museum

Council Bluffs

The Union Pacific Railroad Museum explores 150 years of U.S. rail history through the eyes of the country’s first transcontinental railroad. Located inside a former Carnegie Library, the museum explores the early days of the U.S. railroad system and the American West, as well as the incredible technological advances of modern train development. The museum boasts a robust collection of artifacts, equipment, photos and more. See historic newsreels and hear stories about the daily lives of railroad employees. Explore President Abraham Lincoln’s essential role in bringing routine train travel to the country. Peer at replicas of 1950s train cars and discover the origin of well-known railroad symbols, like the blue-and-white engineer’s cap. No matter which exhibits you choose to linger at, you’re sure to learn something new. The museum can reserve motorcoach or van parking for large groups. The museum offers self-guided or private tours depending on visiting groups’ preferences.