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Lights, Camera, Iowa

Iowa is closer to Hollywood than most people think. Travelers can head west across Iowa to sample stardom with visits to film sets, iconic performance venues and sites honoring the greatest legends in entertainment history.


‘Field of Dreams’ Movie Site


Experience baseball magic on the Dyersville set of the 1989 movie “Field of Dreams.” The original farmhouse and baseball diamond from the film, where Kevin Costner’s character Ray Kinsella encounters ballplayers of the past, are open to visitors from all over the world. The house got its start as a family homestead over a century ago, and now its first floor has been restored to look exactly as it did in the film. On Ghost Saturdays you can catch a performance by the Ghost Players, a team of historically dressed baseball players whose costumes and hijinks you might recognize from the movie. They regularly perform what they call the “Greatest Show on Dirt” right on the movie set. If you build it, they will come — and if you visit, a fantasy baseball world just might come alive right before your eyes.

Music Man Square

Mason City

Mason City is the birthplace of Meredith Willson, the musical talent who brought us the unforgettable tunes of “The Music Man.” At Music Man Square, you can explore the 1912 streets of River City, the musical’s fictional town, where Harold Hill shocked and delighted residents. The streetscape is a re-creation of the set design of the 1962 film version of the musical and includes an ice cream parlor and a gift shop. Music Man Square also periodically hosts special events like sock hops and comedy shows. Along with River City’s charming streets, you’ll find a ceiling display of the musical’s famous 76 trombones, as well as the Meredith Willson Museum, containing artifacts from Willson’s storied life. Also on-site is Willson’s childhood home, a charming restored 1895 Queen Anne. Tours (featuring ice cream, of course) are available for motorcoach groups.

Surf Ballroom

Clear Lake

This 1950s-era ballroom was one of the first in Iowa to host rock ’n’ roll musicians, and it’s now one of the last of its kind in the Midwest. At the height of rock ’n’ roll, the Surf Ballroom hosted legends like Little Richard, Roy Orbison and the Everly Brothers. In 1959, the venue was the site of the final performance of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. ‘’The Big Bopper’’ Richardson before they tragically lost their lives in a plane crash on “the day the music died.” In 2009, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum dedicated the Surf Ballroom as a landmark. The venue still regularly holds concerts and events, including a summer concert series and an annual Winter Dance Party, a tribute to the tour that Buddy, Ritchie and The Big Bopper were on when they played their final concert. Guided tours are offered for groups.

John Wayne Birthplace & Museum

Madison County

From the moment he was born in Winterset, Iowa, John Wayne was destined to become an American legend — and his memory is still honored in Winterset. The John Wayne Birthplace & Museum offers a look into Wayne’s first home, which is restored to look exactly as it did in 1907, the year he was born. Alongside the home is the museum, the only one on the planet dedicated to John Wayne. The museum is home to the largest diversified collection of John Wayne memorabilia in the world, with artifacts from his 170-plus films, including wardrobe pieces, movie posters, scripts, letters, art and one of Wayne’s custom-built cars. The museum also includes a movie theater that contains seats from Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. The museum’s gift shop is stocked with an epic collection of John Wayne souvenirs and memorabilia.

Bridges of Madison County Step-on Tour

Madison County

If you’ve read or seen the bestselling novel, film and musical “Bridges of Madison County,” now is your chance to see the bridges in real life. Madison County is known as the covered bridge capital of Iowa and is home to the largest group of covered bridges in any one region in the western half of the Mississippi Valley. The Covered Bridges Scenic Byway is your front-row seat to these beauties. Madison County’s iconic step-on tours begin at the Madison County Chamber of Commerce’s Welcome Center, where you’ll see clips of the movie and photos from the set. Then, your guide will take you on a journey from bridge to bridge, stopping at each for photo opportunities and in-person exploring. Highlights include the Cedar Covered Bridge, where Oprah filmed a segment of her show in 1993, and the Cutler-Donahue Covered Bridge, a backdrop for an iconic moment between movie characters Robert and Francesca.