On our recent trip to Iowa, we had a few set locations we had planned to visit: The Maharishi University, Devonian Fossil Gorge, and the U of I Natural History Museum. But there was still plenty of time to wander and find new, unplanned and interesting things. Some of our adventures from wandering:

  • Went to find a Frank Lloyd Wright house in Iowa City. The house itself was a dud – redone too often to be recognized as Wright’s. But we decided to walk the neighborhood and found a house with an insanely gorgeous garden. The gardener working there invited us to wander through and told us there were a network of houses with great gardens, called Project Green. What seemed like a wasted trip turned into a great hour-long conversation and a visit to a number of fantastic yards.
  • Wandering through Cedar Rapids we first passed the Mother Mosque, the oldest mosque in the US! A few blocks away, we ran across a park where a free water-skiing stunt show was about to begin. When this was done, we stretched our legs by walking the edge of the park. At the far end, we discovered an entire neighborhood of houseboats. None of this was planned, but by wandering we had a whole evening of interesting, free entertainment.
  • While looking for lunch near Coralville IA, we ended up at Cafe Muse which offered a “high” tea for two. We munched finger sandwiches, pastry and fruit, all while overlooking a scenic Whirlpool warehouse, brown condos and a cornfield.
  • Downtown Iowa City is terrific college town, with lots of great restaurants, coffee shops and a fantastic book store, Prairie Lights.
  • While wandering a history Iowa City neighborhood, we saw a sign for Plum Grove. In intrigued, we followed it and made a short visit to the Plum Grove historic home.

So the next time you road trip, be sure to include some time to wander. Visit parks, waterways, historic and arts districts, and you’re likely to run into all sorts of interesting (and often free) things to entertain and intrigue you.