2021 T-Bone Trail · Southwest Iowa

Big Portions of Farm to Table w/ A Brand Spankin’ New Hotel: Adams County Rising in SW-Iowa

*I have made many trips to Adams County, and it was a pleasure to return for the inaugural T-Bone Trail in the middle of National Beef Month. Our trip was hosted by Adams County Economic Development. Some of the goods, services, and meals were complimentary and the views expressed are of our own. Let’s Gallivant Adams County!

You’re driving on HWY 148 knowing that Corning, Iowa is just a few miles away. Then the horizon opens up to this and my God. Southwest Iowa’s rural landscape shows a view that creates Adams County majesty. Picture taken from the French Icarian Village.

Adams County, Iowa

Forever Adams County for me. The place in Iowa I return to with the same anticipation I’ve had since I was a small child. Yes, there was a time I was just a little twerp and there’s locals in SW Iowa that can testify to that. I have seen this area in my own way for over 40 years and now I’m observing my children’s memories build with every visit we make here. I’ve always been proud of Adams County. It is today and has been for many years the least populated county in Iowa and it’s one of the reasons why I cherish this region. Every time I return brings back years of memories, family gatherings, and the magnetic pull of Grandma and Grandpa’s farm near Carbon. Now it’s 21st century Adams County and I’m seeing the Main Street community of Corning becoming a model for other small towns everywhere. It’s no secret that I was excited to see Adams County get themselves on the T-Bone Trail, and we saw so much of an area that surprised me once again. However, let’s see what has helped make Corning and this county so great for more years than I’ve been Gallivanting. Let’s see more of Southwest Iowa!

Get Active

Two lakes have been bringing visitors to Corning for a very long time. Lake Binder and Lake Icaria. Both unique in there both ways and appeal to multiple spectrums of campers and outdoorsy recreational styles. Enough about all my days and memories at both of these lakes. Get your Adams County trip planed and start making your own!

Hey, there’s my daughter, Leah!

Lake Binder is very close to everything in Corning. It showcases a long walking trail, camping, fishing, and plenty of timber for that summertime relaxing in the shade. Binder is one of those easy to get to rec areas that gives you a rural getaway feel while it’s just a few minutes to all of Corning’s shops, movie theater, grocery store, and restaurants. That means you can do all the traditional camping activities along with experiencing all the dining and entertainment in town within minutes of each other!

Lake Icaria is a county park about ten minutes from Corning and offers that rural escape you may be looking for. You can get in all that camping, fishing, boating, and swimming you want with the whole family. Lake Icaria also features cabins and large cottages for big groups. Are you looking for a family get together after months and months apart? You may want to get some spaces reserved at Lake Icaria pronto! They’re growing in popularity with each passing season and if you click here, you’ll see why! You know what else is just minutes away from both of these lakes? A place known as Adams County Speedway! Click here and see a thundering video from the races they host on their historic dirt track all summer long!

Beer me again and gain at the Adams County Speedway! The refreshments are always awesome at this track and these are two of the most popular folks you’ll see here!
Get out and see a different track this year and make it to Adams County Speedway if you’re in SW-Iowa. Add to that track list you have and watch the dirt fly here in Corning. This speedway has a lot of history, and it’s locals have been packing the stands for generations. There’s a getaway waiting for all you racing fans and this area has so much to offer you inside the county fair grounds and everywhere else!
A beautiful view of Davis Avenue and Corning’s business district on a late Saturday afternoon.

Shop ‘til you drop! I know what some of you might be thinking…Why is this in the “get active” part. Let’s just say you’ll want to wear some comfortable shoes because Coring is one of the hilliest towns you’ll walkthrough in Southwest Iowa. Now you have another reason to get that wallet out. It’s exercise!

That’s the real deal, Beth Waddle with me! At…the Real Deals-Corning! She showed me all around Adams County and knows how to highlight her hometown. And she wasn’t letting me leave without seeing the retail buzz in Corning!
It’s the T-Bone Trail and Real Deals-Corning has the best artwork for this occasion!

We all know there’s talented artists everywhere, especially in small-town America. Adams County has a phenomenal outlet for local artists and its also been able to lure out of town talent to the area as well. Corning Center for the Fine Arts is smack dab in the middle of the main drag and you just found your next stop to get your home and workplace decorated with some fantastic pieces of art. And all those gifts you need to take care of! You may even get a chance to meet the center’s two resident artists.

Paintings, sculptures, photography, pottery, jewelry and much more are here at that Corning Center for the Fine Arts. They even have works from the area’s elementary kids among all the pieces in the main showroom. Multiple levels of art are everywhere and created by folks of all ages. These places are some of the venues where I feel a strong sense of pride when I get a chance to visit them. The purpose this center serves is priceless and it will just keep inspiring more and more future artists. Something we will always need more of.
Meet Neal Rizzos! Originally from Massachusetts and now a resident artist here in Corning, Iowa. He stands before some of his works and you’ll find that he has come to truly appreciate his time in Adams County and that’s always something I love hearing. There’s so many places all over the world where one can take up residency and Corning is where he and others have landed. Never underestimate the power of inspiration and where it can lead.
Here’s Stephanie Peters and another resident artist here at the Corning Center of the Fine Arts. She’s originally from the Washington, DC area and has lived in several places that have helped her life’s work. Five seconds with her and you’ll easily see how much she loves the natural wonders of the world and especially what’s offered in Adams County. She talked about how great Lake Icaria and the surrounding area is when it comes to the habitat of the local wildlife. That same wildlife is seen in her art and shows a vision of Adams County that could get anyone interested in seeing the area in person for themselves someday. Well done, Stephanie and Neal!
Coffee-up because you could use a break from all that shopping you’ve been doing in Corning. Wait! you can do both at Background’s Coffeebar & Boutique! They have talented baristas making your favorite beverages and sell merchandise made in Iowa! This includes Iowa authors, jewelry makers, artists, and entrepreneurs we all love supporting.
Ok….This is what I like about roaming from shop to shop. Sweet Desires Bakery is one of the staples in Corning and you can’t miss an opportunity to partake in their donuts. Don’t pass this up!

Roadside Attractions & History

Be prepared for beautiful views of Iowa’s farmland when you get to Adams County. Especially when you drive on HWY 148, old HWY 34, and the miles and miles of gravel road all over the county. If you’re an artist, photographer or just plain love getting off the beaten path, then you found your road trip.

The French Icarian Village gives visitors the history of this communal community that settled in Adams County during the 1800s. It also supplies one of the best views in all of Southwest Iowa. Look at the smile you get when you dun a French style beret that’s on sale in the gift shop! School’s in session and you WILL get educated when you’re here. That is guaranteed, my friends. Rita, who’s ringing the school bell, runs a fun but tight ship in the classroom.

Remember that picture from above? You better stop at the French Icarian Village and get some of these pics yourself. I’ve stopped at the village during multiple times of year at different times of the day and have seen some stunning sunsets and so many colors throughout the horizon here. I finally made it inside the building during the latest trip to Adams County.

A picturesque scene from inside the Communal Dining Hall. The hall can also be reserved for meetings and private gatherings and has a big and modern kitchen to prepare meals in. I don’t know about you but I could get used to a relaxing venue like this for a meeting away from the traditional office setting you might see everyday.
Cathy and Theresa put in a lot of work here at the village with all the hostesses supplying a view into what their heritage is all about here in Adams County. None of them skip a beat from the rhubarb patch to the wonderfully preserved buildings and the small cemetery where their ancestors are memorialized.
If you think you’re a Johnny Carson fan then wait until you meet Chris Nelson!

My aunt and uncle once lived across the street from Johnny Carson’s Birthplace and for most of my life it was never seen as a museum. It had residents move in and out and everyone in town knew it was the birthplace of Johnny, but it was business as usual at this Corning domicile. That is until some local citizens came up with a plan and now TV’s most legendary personality has it’s landmark for where he just might have made someone giggle for the first time in his life. And it was right here in Adams County.

The birthplace home is VERY well kept up and our host, Chris Nelson, explained the impact of Johnny’s career and the family’s history in the area in great detail. He raises cattle as a living and still manages to get some time to show a kid from Iowa City around. Be sure to watch the video in the living room while you’re here. It is a television inspired career we’re talking about after all. They have there own collection of Carson materials and memorabilia on display and Johnny inspired gifts for sale too. I’ve never wanted to grab the clicker and watch the Tonight Show so badly in my life then right now as I type. Oh, man! Chris and I should have taken our skateboards out and hit the Carnac Skatepark down the hill!
Though it has been here my whole life, and many years before I was born, it was my first time ever setting foot inside the historic Corning Opera House.
The time has come for beloved venues like this to reopen. Community plays, shows, concerts, weddings and more will once again congregate here at the Opera House. It didn’t always look like this here. It took a major renovation to bring this building back to life and operational. Quite possibly one of theinly Shakespeare inspired “slanted stages” you may find in your life. One of the many historical attributes you’ll discover here.
Old posters and graffiti from past performers here at the Opera House. Countless locals throughout Adams County history have put their costumes on and recited lines from their scripts on the stage here in Corning. With hardworking crews in modern day Corning, there will be generations down the line doing the same.
Adams County Freedom Rock is just steps away from Davis Ave and ready for you to scratch this one off your list!
Take a country drive and get those pictures of the wide open and hilly countryside I’m always talking about in SW-Iowa. When you do there’s a good chance you just might run into the town of Brooks and its bar called The Vault! Fashioned from an old bank and one of my favorite off the beaten path bars in Iowa. You gotta love a place that does a drink special whenever the train goes by!


Another blessing that’s opened up in Adams County! The Corning Hotel was a much needed facility in a Western Iowa area looking to build on its tourism. And what a huge asset this is. Modern, well staffed, beautifully designed and decorated, and the best hub I could think of when staying in the area. Right off of HWY 34 and a very short drive to everywhere in Corning!

Just look at that artwork! The Corning Hotel is dripping with modernization and keeps you comfortable in the lobby as well as your room. Southwest Iowa has it’s new hotel and it’s one of the best in the region. 2260 Juniper Ave 641-418-8190…..Pet friendly too!
You like to workout? The Corning Hotel may offer one of the biggest exercise facilities you’ll ever encounter in your travels when it comes to a place of lodging. They teamed up CHI Health Wellness Center and offer passes for all their guests to utilize everything the center has to offer. Tons of equipment and you can practice your boxing skills while you’re here too. That was a first for us on The Iowa Gallivant!
Just look at that big and comfortable bed right there. Kept incredibly clean and helped get to sleep with ease in front of my large flat screen TV.
I love it when the neighbors make wine! Just down the road from the Hotel Corning is Corning Winery & Vineyards!

The Hotel Corning is a welcomed addition to not only Corning, but the whole southwest region of Iowa. For years travelers who don’t camp had to book rooms in nearby towns driving back and forth to Corning. Now there’ll be streams of visitors that will remember their stay in Adams County from the local hotel and holy smokes does it feel good typing that. There’s many styles of rooms here and you’ll want to keep checking in on The Iowa Gallivant because we have a lot more to say about the Corning Hotel. Even better…….Book your room and get over here! The staff is amazing, and the entire property has a way of keeping you welcomed wherever you’re at. You all did a great job while I was here and I can’t tell you how happy you’re there, Corning Hotel!

Let’s Eat Steak

It’s time for the headliner! We got Adams County on our calendar for the T-Bone Trail and it’s time to feature one of the best farm to table restaurants you’ll experience anywhere. Another 21st century addition to good’ol Corning is Primrose and they gave me another first here in Adams County!

Jill and Joel of Primrose are ready to host you and you’re buddies in Corning! Not only will you have a memorable meal, you’ll also see a professional and entertaining crew while you’re here.
Introducing the Teres Major steak! A very tender and lean cut that’s part of the shoulder. If you like filets then you should give this cut a try. And do it at Primrose in Corning!
The classic New York strip! It’s calling to you….
You may want to plan on ordering one of Primrose’s famous margaritas. These were flying to multiple table every few minutes!

Give me that Teres Major steak again! I love it when I can be introduced to another cut of steak and it’s even better when I can get one at a place like Primrose. Joel Mahr has a culinary talent that I could only fantasize about. The fresh food and amazing talent that goes into the meals at Primrose is all the reason you need to come see Corning. That’s what his legion of followers are doing plus newbies to Adams County every week. They eat at Primrose and then dive into what else the area has to offer day after day.

Hearing Joel explain how they designed the restaurant makes you appreciate the concept so much more. People come to him with obscure ingredients knowing that he may just bite on it and the next thing you know, Primrose has a new innovation featured on your plate. I love these stories when it comes to small town restaurants. They all have their unique ways of telling the tale on why they chose the property and I’m all ears every time I hear that come up. Joel and Jill could have opened a dream restaurant in nearby Omaha, Kansas City, or Des Moines and other metro areas throughout the country. But they chose Corning. That can bring a tear to this big gallivanting heart of mine right there. There’s passion in literally every entrée, side dish, dessert, and beverage poured here at Primrose. This is your destination restaurant right here so make it happen with one of the most memorable meals you may ever have. And buy the kitchen a beer when you’re here! Chef Joel will ring a bell and who doesn’t love that! I wonderer if he learned his technique from Rita a the French Icarian Village? By the way….Click here and watch our video from Primrose and see that Teres Major steak up close!

Bonus Beef

We love our local lockers and processors everywhere! Corning Meat Processing just happened to have a T-Bone ready for a photo-op. My buddy Dave was ready to meet up with me again and it’s always great talking with him. These are places I will always visit and always feel right at home when I’m there.
Stick to your ribs alert! 3 C’s Diner beefed up our lunch with the 3 C’s Burger! Fried cheddar, bacon, pickles, lettuce, onion, tomato, mayo, ketchup, mustard and all on toasted sourdough bread. Wowsers that was a big burger. That’s one heck of way to get people fed and talking about making another trip into Corning!

How many firsts was that for me in one trip to Adams County? More than I expected and I can’t thank Beth enough for showing me around. I have never felt more proud of Corning in my whole life and I’m wondering what’s next for this community. The pull to this area is getting stronger with every new idea developed into someone’s vision of success. Renovations, remodels, and rebirths are happening all around Corning and it’s truly beautiful to see. So much of Adams County feels the same to me, but it has a farm to table twist now. I can always crash at a family members houses when I roll into town or make my way into a brand new modern hotel. I can go to all my favorite sunset sites and now have a new historical outlook at the landscape ahead of me. I can stop wondering what the old Opera House looks like inside and just mosey on in when it’s open. Johnny, I wish you could have sat with me and mowed down a Teres Major and margarita with us. Just know that there’s a group of devoted locals making sure you’ll always have your home ready if you should choose to make your introduction there in spirit. Keep up the great work, Adams County. I know there’s a lot more to see and more growth coming for years to come. I want to buy the cooks a beer again…..

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Thanks again, Adams County! When’s the next potluck at the Carbon Hall?

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