All of the details of our mini-vacation to central Iowa+10 of our top traveling tips!
Hello, sweet friends-and Happy Friday!
As promised let’s get to all the details (and photo’s) of our mini-vacation to Central Iowa!
Let me start by saying this trip was totally spontaneous! Michael’s upcoming surgery was really the catalyst. We needed a getaway before he would be down and out for a few weeks. And what better place to go then Iowa?
Williamsburg Iowa was our destination to stay. It was halfway between the two larger cities (Des Moine and Davenport) that had events we had planned to visit.
Travel tip #1-check the surrounding area for places to stay.
Since it was a holiday weekend many of the major hotels were booked or they had hiked up their rates! But the farther out from those locations the cheaper the rates became.
Travel tip # 2-pack a cooler with snacks and plenty of water If you’re driving a long distance.
Michael and I reached our destination just in time to freshen up and then check out the 4th of July festivities in Williamsburg. Since we packed a few snacks and bottled water we didn’t have to stop along the way and had plenty of time to enjoy the rest of our day!
The inn had the best of both worlds as they say. The front part was all city. And the back?
Well, that was all country! Each night Michael and I would walk down to a small pond on the property at sunset. Listening to the frogs and crickets was so relaxing. And we even saw a doe and her two fawns run through the cornfield!!!
Travel Tip #3: Don’t judge a book by it’s cover when researching where to stay!
We do a LOT of research online before booking a place to stay! When I first saw the inn we stayed at online I almost didn’t look twice. Had I done so we would have missed out on a gem! Yes, the rooms were a bit dated in appearance but only because they were theme decorated and furnished with antiques. Our room was also the cleanest I’ve ever been in and the staff and owners were the sweetest folks you’ll ever meet!
Travel tip #4 choose the one thing your hotel/inn/b&B must have and pick the one that has the most positive reviews for that category.
While some people are all about the location or having a pool, I’m all about cleanliness! It is my number one priority. If I find more than two negative reviews based on an unclean room I move on!
The second day of our trip we headed into Des Moine, the capital of Iowa. Our first stop was the Better Homes and Garden’s test garden.
I have been wanting to tour this AMAZING garden for quite some time now and I’m telling you, friends, it didn’t disappoint!
All of the plants were lush and green and almost every one of them was in bloom that day!
Better Homes and Gardens main facility is across the street from the garden and they use this site to test different flowers and vegetables, as well as photographing them for their magazine.
Like every garden, BHG test garden has issues with some plants not producing, or not acclimating to the harsh winters or wet summers that Iowa has. They also have a few cute but naughty bunnies that if you look real close had a recent lunch on these allium plants.
This lovely fountain sits in the center of the courtyard and is surrounded by tables. As we walked through the gardens many people came in from their work downtown to sit at the tables and enjoy a peaceful lunch.
There is also a beautiful koi pond with various types of water lilies and I couldn’t help but sit on the edge and take a recording of the waterfall so I could listen to it later.
Travel tip #5-when planning sites to see on a vacation map out your route-use a GPS app if possible to show traffic delays and call ahead to make sure site is open.
When planning this mini-vacation I checked out the web site for the gardens along with the reviews. While reading the reviews I found out that the garden is only open from 12-2 on Fridays. I also found out that GPS apps take you to the main facility, not the garden. Both pieces of information were invaluable. Since we were traveling on a holiday weekend, I called ahead to make sure they were open that Friday.
After a quick lunch in downtown Des Moine, we headed to our next destination!
I found a popular car show while doing my research and booked our tickets immediately. The Good Guys Heartland Nationals show had hundreds of old vintage cars, swap meets, food vendors and racing. Michael was indeed in heaven!
Travel tip #6-make sure you find something for everyone to do on your vacation.
This vacation was for both of us so I tried to find events, sites, etc that both of us would enjoy. Gardens aren’t Michael’s thing and cars aren’t mine but they key to a successful vacation is a compromise!
On Saturday we headed out for our next destination. For those of you are fans, this town just happens to be the home of Mike and Frank from the American Picker’s show! It’s also the home of their shops where many of the vintage items they pick are sold!
Antique Archaeology is the name of their stores and it literally put this VERY small town on the map!
The vans that Mike and Frank and their crew drive around in were there, but they were not! 🙁 We weren’t actually expecting them to be but it sure would have been awesome to meet everyone!
The town was filled with tourists as you can imagine, and they all congregated to the two shops. Unfortunately, neither one is very large and they are jam-packed with items so it was a bit hard to get around. But for a huge fan of vintage treasures like me, it was worth it!
Travel tip #7-bring a lightweight bag or backpack along on a day trip for carrying purchases, bottled water, and a jacket or sweatshirt in case of inclement or change in weather.
The weather forecast was supposed to be clear and sunny all day on Saturday but just a block after we left our car to walk to the stores it started to pour! Thankfully, I had put our cellphones inside the bag I carried, along with lightweight jackets! Everyone else was running for cover!
Travel TIP #8-Don’t try and schedule too many events into one day trip.
The only event we planned on Saturday was the Picker’s stores. The rest of the day was wide open and I’m so glad it was. We were able to relax and enjoy the scenery and find some things that weren’t on our itinerary but that we enjoyed immensely.
Neither Michael nor I have ever visited a president’s library, but when we saw the landmark sign on our way back to the inn, we just had to stop! This library/museum belongs to Herbert Hoover, who I have to admit neither one of us knew anything about!
That definitely wasn’t the case by the time we left! Sadly, President Hoover didn’t go down as one of the most popular presidents as he was in office only 8 months before the Great Depression occurred. But as a man, he sure had quite the life and will be remembered as humanitarian who was responsible for saving many lives.
Travel Tip #9- Step out of your comfort zone and keep an open mind when choosing places to site see.
Michael and I are more “outdoor” people but we are also history buffs so even though a museum isn’t exactly our cup of tea it ended up being a great stop! We learned a great deal about our 31st president and view some pretty amazing artifacts along the way!
During our travels, we stopped and ate at some pretty quaint and yummy eateries. Saturday evening we hit one of the hot spots in the Amana Colonies which was about a 20-minute drive from the inn we stayed at. We enjoyed one of their beers from their brewery on the back deck before we ate dinner. Unfortunately, our dinner wasn’t all it was pumped up to be in the reviews, and we were VERY disappointed since it was the last evening of our vacation. With that said, we certainly didn’t let it ruin our vacation.
Travel Tip #10-submit honest and detailed reviews on reputable sites so others aren’t misled. Wouldn’t it be nice to know if the eatery has a poor wait staff, serves cold food, or has an unclean environment, etc? It sure is for us!
Wouldn’t it be nice to know if an eatery has poor service, bad food or an uncleanly environment BEFORE you waste your money and possibly ruin your vacation?
Above you can find the apps that we use and recommend for our vacations!
Leaving Williamsburg on Sunday was certainly bittersweet. We so enjoyed our stay and it would have been nice if it had been longer. But we also missed home and of course, Mr. Bentley.
We feel blessed that we live so close to the Northeast border so we can travel into the Hawkeye state whenever we get the chance!
I hope you enjoyed the sites and scenery we saw on this trip! With any luck, we might have one or two more mini-vacations yets this summer!
Wishing you all a FABULOUS weekend!
I’ll see you back here on Wednesday for a new and SUPER yummy recipe post!!!