Surprising Iowa Tourist Attractions

  • Post last modified:August 20, 2020

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Surprising Iowa Tourist Attractions

While driving through Iowa on my way to Denver, found some surprising Iowa Tourist Attractions. First of all, there is the Surf Ballroom. Also, found the Historic District of downtown Ames. Finally, found the Mucky Duck Pub in Ames. Also, found a designated “Prairie Remnant Trail” but not worth further mention, so I won’t! And, of course, the obligatory Welcome to Iowa. Here is a link to another post and another link.

Diamond Jo’s Casino

Didn’t get a picture here. First of all, the casino location is handy to both Minnesota and Iowa. Also, it’s in an area that doesn’t have much other recreation. Furthermore, the area contains two convenience stores, two hotels, and an Interstate 35 Rest Area. Here is a link to Diamond Jo’s.

Surprising Iowa Tourist Attractions

Surf Ballroom

The Surf Ballroom played a major role in music in the 1940s and ’50s. Many performers, bands and orchestras played here. From Guy Lombardo to Benny Goodman to Lawrence Welk. Starting the 1950’s, the Surf Ballroom booked rock and roll performers and country music stars. For example, Willie Nelson is prominently shown as appearing here.

However, the Surf Ballroom’s claim to be well known is most likely for the last performance of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper (J. P. Richardson). Waylon Jennings, a member of Holly’s band, gave up his seat to Richardson as he had a bad cold. As a result, the friendly gesture saved Jennings life who went on to have a successful career in country music. Most noteworthy, Tommy Allsup, a band member, lost a coin toss with Ritchie Valens which saved Allsup’s life. Consequently, the crash created the song “The Day the Music Died” by Don McLean. (Even more, that song became known as both one of the best rock and roll songs as well as one of the worst!)

“The Day the Music Died” by Don McLean

I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride
Something touched me deep inside
The day the music died

The next stop on the Winter Dance Party, Moorhead MN, lived by the axiom “The show must go on”. That led to pulling local artists into the show. As a result, Bobby Vee (from Fargo) got national attention and became a star.

Here are some pictures from the Surf Ballroom

Surprising Iowa Tourist Attractions
Here you are! The Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake IA
Surprising Iowa Tourist Attractions
The wall in “The Green Room”. (Performers waiting to go on.) Thousands of signatures!
Surprising Iowa Tourist Attractons
Booths in the ballroom. Since becoming a non-profit, people donating enough money can “own” their booth.
Willie Nelson in Iowa
Willie Nelson, a prominent performer at the Surf Ballroom. The tour guide told me country music was more popular here than other kinds of music
Surprising Iowa Tourist Attractions
Ritchie Valens picture in the museum area of the Ballroom
Buddy Holly at the Surf Ballroom
Buddy Holly’s picture at the Surf Ballroom (Couldn’t get an angle to remove the glare)
Surf Ballroom performers
“The Big Bopper”
Surprising Iowa Tourist Attractions
Some of the famous names from the past who appeared here.

The Driveby Tourist did not realize the enormous history of this place. So many great musical artists played here.

Surprising Iowa Tourist Attractions

Belatedly, the obligatory picture of Welcome to Iowa

Iowa is here!
Welcome to Iowa!

Ames, Iowa

Ames is the home of Iowa State University. Also, the full name is Iowa State University of Science and Technology. ISU is the largest university in Iowa and the third largest in the Big 12 athletic conference. ISU is a public land-grant and space-grant research university.

Ames has a historic downtown area that is picturesque but you’ve all seen historic downtown areas! My only questions is:

Surprising Iowa Tourist Attractions

Historic Downtown Ames
What are they? At first glance, my thought was “Are they Methodist or Episcopal?”

End of days journey

Rest of day is quiet. Had late lunch at a British Pub. The Mucky Duck. According to the story I heard, there are more pubs in the UK named “White Swan” than any others. Some enterprising owners started naming theirs “Black Swan. From there, these became known as “The Mucky Duck”. Most noteworthy, there are a number of pubs in the US named “Mucky Duck. For example, Captiva Island, FL (link), Houston, TX (link) and Indianapolis, IN (link). Finally, they are all independent.

Uneventful dinner and cheap hotel!

The Driveby Tourist #thedrivebytourist

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Dan Voss

    I didn’t realize Iowa had so many interesting places.

    1. admin

      Guess you have to watch for them!!! (and not everyone would find them interesting. More coming from today’s travels.

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