What another great year in Iowa! 2016 marked our second anniversary of The Iowa Gallivant and we had an unbelievable amount of views throughout the whole year. Our annual top 20 list is getting harder and harder to complete because of the countless memories we’ve accumulated in our proud home state. We had a great time everywhere we went, but these are the moments that stood out the most. Let’s get to the list!
20: Our Iowa Recipe Quest Series-Cooking with Iowa’s Brews, Wines, & Spirits
The Team Goodvin kitchen got quite a workout with Iowa Recipe Quest this year. The Hy-Vee on North Dodge Street in Iowa City was our official sponsor and supplied us with endless opportunities when it came to this project. From English muffin shrimp pizzas to loaded burgers, you’ll see that we didn’t miss any meals in 2016!
19: Another Couple Rounds of Keokuk
In February, I had the pleasure speaking at an event in Keokuk while staying at the historic and beautiful Grand Anne Bed & Breakfast. August rolled around and we were invited to take a tour on Keokuk’s Mississippi River banks. Every trip here provides us with more Iowa history than anywhere else we look.
18: Iowa City on the Spicy Side
We made a list of some of the Iowa City restaurants that are serving up an inferno! It was quite the expedition and it led to a lot of milk being consumed and stomach lining to grow back. All worth it!
17: The Panora Family Discovers the Town of Panora
The classic story of a family from Ecuador with last name of Panora travels to Iowa because there’s a town named……Panora. We all have a bucket list and this family managed to get one of the goals scratched off this summer. Let this be an open challenge to the rest of the world. Any Algona’s out there?
16: The “Ridiculous” Washington Welcoming Committee
The plan was to meet one of the organizers of Washington’s RAGBRAI committee at one of the local coffee shops. Next thing you know we were getting introduced to half the town! So many of the Washington residents were out in full force for their annual Ridiculous Day celebration and they were all very excited to see us there covering the event… to the point that they invited us to walk with the RAGBRAI float in the parade. An Iowa Gallivant first!
15: Ethiopian Family and Food-Davenport
We headed to the Quad Cities for the Fourth of July weekend and experienced many attractions, events, restaurants, and entertainment while we were there. What stuck out more then anything was the family who operated Taste of Ethiopia. They were crawling with customers and still took time explain the menu to our 10 year old adventurous daughter. They were so friendly and proud of their business and it showed with every smile they displayed.
14: A Very Hot Day at the Johnson County Poor Farm and Asylum
I have driven by this property my whole life and never knew just how historic it was until I stopped in on what was the hottest day of the year in Iowa. The Johnson County Poor Farm Asylum tells the story of how we treated the mentally “ill” and provided work to folks that fell on hard times. Poetry and graffiti etched and written on the wooden walls from some of the inmates is still visible the cells that left me wanting to come back and decipher some of the haunting writings.
13: The Burmese Feast-Columbus Junction
We have traveled to Columbus Junction on occasion for tacos and the endless natural beauty that Louisa County has to offer. This year we discovered one of THE BEST Asian restaurants on planet Earth. Don’t let the name fool you because there is nothing “OK” about it. The food at this Burmese restaurant is absolutely amazing!
12: Our Statewide Taco Tour
We went all around Iowa in search of the Best Hometown Tacos and we had some great ones! We made the difficult decision of having to pick just one place for the award. It was a wild taco ride and not once did we ever get tired of ordering more.
11: Our New Friend Ole, Serving Tables in Shenandoah
Our 2016 Scouting RAGBRAI series brought us to the overnight #2 destination of Shenandoah and a stop at Lu & Al’s Cafe where we met, Ole. She was an all star to us and became one of Gigi’s (our daughter pictured above) favorite people she met all year. There are many reason to visit this Page County town and Ole is one of them.
10: Judging BBQ in Corning
When your cousin calls and asks if you want to drive three hours and judge the food at the annual Corning Battle of the BBQ Cook-Off the answer should always be “Yes.” If you are wondering about attending this two day event the answer should always be “Yes.” Get this BBQ festival on your calendar immediately!
9: The Villages of Van Buren Scenic Drive Festival-Van Buren County
Anytime is good time to visit Van Buren County but one of the best time is in October during their Scenic Drive Festival. The collection of villages puts on quite the show for three days and you can experience everything from flea markets, fried possum tails, turtle soup, a haunted inn, Amish buffet, and much more!
8: Iowa’s Great Pyramids-Avery
Quite possibly the most mysterious of Iowa’s roadside landmarks and attractions. The pyramids are located in rural Monroe County on a gravel road just past a very old wooden plank bridge. The story behind the pyramids is a fascinating one that many of the locals can tell you.
7: The Chief Wapello Trail-Wapello County
We made a couple trips to Wapello County in towns such as Eldon, Agency, and Ottumwa. We found the blue signs as we visited the grave site of the great Chief, on our way to the American Gothic House, and all throughout Ottumwa. The historic importance of this area’s Native American culture, international art community, and the beginnings of the Hawkeye State itself are something as many of us as possible should experience firsthand in the Greater Ottumwa area.
6: Sunrise on the Little River Lake-Leon
Leon was another stop during our 2016 Scouting RAGBRAI series and we setup camp right on the shore of the Little River Lake. We spent the whole day getting to know the town of Leon and Decatur County, but we had no idea what we had in store when we awoke the next morning. Outside our tent was the most stunning sunrise we’ve ever seen in Iowa.
5: Devouring Waterloo
A couple trips to Waterloo and we found more to eat at every turn. Giant gyros, endless pasta, UFO sized pancakes, breakfast tacos, killer BBQ, flaming cheese, and so much more! Our travels even sparked a guest appearance with Aaron Buzza on Travel Waterloo. Watch below!
4: Hurstville Lime Kilns and Interpretive Center-Maquoketa
On the winding roads of Jackson County, you may stumble upon the old ghost town of Hurstville and it’s preserved lime kilns from the mid 1800’s. And just down the road from the kilns are one of the best family activities we did all year. We got a top notch education of Iowa’s wetlands by getting right in them. If you are a lover of nature and history, then you must make the trip to Hurstville.
3: The Littleton Family Memorial and Indian Mounds-Toolesboro
On Iowa’s River Road is a memorial to both the Native Americans laid to rest at this site and the nearby memorial to the six Littleton Brothers who all volunteered their services in the Civil War and never made it back to their home in Iowa. They all lost their lives during the war and their story is something that was unbelievable to me. We’ll be revisiting the Littleton family story in 2017 and bringing even more attention to their service.
2: Christmas in Decorah
Our most recent road trip turned out to be one of the most memorable Christmases that we’ve ever had as a family. Day 1 was getting to know the beautiful cabin we were staying in, visiting the local breweries, and touring Decorah’s famous holiday lights. Day 2 was famous pizza, legendary local wine, shopping local, and much more. We are still beaming from this trip!
1: The Incredible Staff of the Kingsley Inn and Atlas Steak & Smokehouse-Fort Madison
We find so many reasons to make tentative plans to make it back to communities. Our initial visit to Fort Madison was perfect. The staff at the Kingsley Inn were very proud of the property and it showed at every turn. The Atlas is attached to the inn and they cooked up one of the best meals we had all year. Our first visit was so great we decided to have Fort Madison featured in our first online travel show. Watch the video below as we dig into the haunted side of Fort Madison!
There is no way we can thank the state of Iowa enough for all our memories we made in 2016. The Iowa Gallivant has seen an enormous growth spurt this year and its due to all the loyal readers, followers, and fans of our adventures. There’s more to come and you know we have a lot more in store for the world. Thank you and keep gallivanting!
Be sure to read about our Top 20 lists from 2014 and 2015.
Thanks for reading! -JayJay, Monie, Charlie, Leah, and Gigi