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99 reasons to love Iowa

Not sure if you’ve heard, but our new pilsner, 99 Pils, hit store shelves and tap lines earlier this year. Named for the 99 counties in Iowa, we felt it would be fitting to pour a pils, sit back, and share a few fun facts about our great state. Here are 99 reasons to visit 99 counties (and have a 99 Pils 😉).

Albert The Bull
Albert the Bull

Where to start! Let’s think big. Have you ever been to Audubon county to see Albert, the Word’s Largest Bull? Or Strawberry Point in Clayton county to see the World’s Largest Strawberry? Carroll county boasts the World’s Largest Bullhead at Crystal Lake. And you haven’t seen anything until you’ve visited Iowa’s Largest Frying Pan in Buchanan county (apparently not the largest in the world, but it has to be close).

Johnson county isn’t only home of the Iowa Hawkeyes, it’s also home of the World’s Largest Wooden Nickel. And Story county not only has Iowa State University, it’s got the World’s Largest Concrete Gnome. Talk about fun facts!

How about the World’s Largest Popcorn Ball you ask? Yep, that’s in Iowa, too – just visit Sac county. We’ve also got the World’s Largest Truck Stop in Scott county and the World’s Largest Swedish Coffee Cup in Montgomery county.

If you’re a nature lover, Iowa does not disappoint! You’ll appreciate the history of Effigy Mounds National Monument and the beauty of Yellow River State Forest in Allamakee county. It’s also home to some of Iowa’s greatest trout fishing. Dubuque county also has some of Iowa’s most stunning views along the Mississippi River. Be sure to hit Nine Eagles State Park in Decatur county, and hop on the Delaware Crossing Scenic Byway in Delaware county.

Ledges State Park in Boone county has gorgeous hiking trails. Explore the caves at Maquoketa Caves State Park in Jackson county. Bonus in Jackson county, you can also visit Iowa’s only island city, Sabula. Or visit Jasper county to take in the beautiful prairie and bison at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge.

Looking for more trails? We’ve got ’em! Better visit Waverly Rail Trail in Bremer county, Rolling Prairie Bike Trail in Butler county, Twin Lakes Trail in Calhoun county, Clinton Discovery Trail, Pioneer Trail in Grundy county, Stage Coach Trail in Poweshiek county and the Union Bridge Trail in Woodbury county. The Iowa River Water Trail in Hardin County ought to make the cut, so should the Des Moines River Water Trail in Van Buren county and the Battle Creek Nature Trail in Ida county. Plus there’s Franklin Grove Heritage Trail in Wright county and plenty of recreational trails in Osceola county.

If you’re in Louisa county, you’ll have to visit Chinkapin Bluffs and the Hoover Nature Trail. Speaking of county parks, Muscatine county has several, including Deep Lakes Park – a great place to camp and fish. And maybe enjoy a 99 Pils or two around the campfire!

If lakes are  your thing, check out Rathbun Lake in Appanoose county, Sun Valley Lake in Ringgold county, Okoboji and Spirit Lake in Dickinson county, Volga Lake in Fayette county, Beeds Lake in Franklin county and Storm Lake in Buena Vista county.

Peace Tree
Peace Tree at Lake Red Rock

Of course you’ve got to visit Lake Red Rock! In Marion county, it’s the largest lake in Iowa and the origin of the actual Peace Tree, Peace Tree Brewing Company’s namesake!

While we’re on the subject of lakes, Clear Lake in Cerro Gordo county is home to the Surf Ballroom, where many famous musicians performed. Speaking of music, Mason City in Cerro Gordo county was the inspiration behind the musical, The Music Man by Meredith Willson.

Many renowned people came from Iowa. Norman Borlaug, who made tremendous contributions to alleviate hunger, hailed from Cresco in Howard county. First woman lawyer in the US? Arabella Mansfield was from Des Moines county.

Baseball great Bob Feller came from Dallas county. JL Wilkinson, who broke racial barriers and signed Jackie Robinson to the Kansas City Monarchs, was from Kossuth county. Olympic gold-medal gymnast, Shawn Johnson, is from Polk county. And world famous wrestler and coach, Dan Gable, is from Black Hawk county (Black Hawk county also has UNI!).

Linn county has a long list of notable people who once called Cedar Rapids home: Zach Johnson, Kurt Warner, Elijah Wood and Ashton Kutcher to name a few.

John Wayne was born in Madison county, and  Johnny Carson was born in Adams county. Jason Momoa, Aquaman, once called Warren county home.

Famed Bohemian composer Antonin Dvorak lived in Spillville (Winneshiek county) for a short time. James Stevens, the author of Paul Bunyan, was born in Monroe county. Vicki Myron, the author who wrote about Dewey the Library Cat was from O’Brien county. And the subject of her book, Dewey Readmore Books, and the library where he lived were in nearby Clay county.

Do you remember the voice of the Trix rabbit? That was Tom Pringle from Lyon county. Trampoline inventor, George Nissen, was from Benton county.

Iowa is such a great place, even fictional characters call it home. Washington county (Riverside) is said to be the future birthplace of Star Trek’s Captain Kirk. And the character Radar on MASH was from Ottumwa in Wapello county.

Wapello county is also home of the American Gothic House and Center, the subject of Grant Wood’s world-famous painting.

While we’re on the subject of famous, we’ve also got infamous. Did you know Adair county not only experienced a Bonnie and Clyde bank robbery, but a Jesse James train robbery, too?

Iowa also has Edinburgh Manor in Jones county, and it’s said to be one of the most haunted places.

Little Brown Church in the Vale

OK, famous places. Have you heard of the Little Brown Church in the Vale? It’s real, and it’s in Chickasaw county. I know you’ve heard of Field of Dreams. That’s in Dubuque county.

Famous in Iowa, Marshall county is home to Taylor’s Maid-Rite. Clarke county is home to Revelton Distilling Co and delicious Revelton Root Beer, proudly brewed by Peace Tree. Templeton Distillery is also in Iowa – Carroll county to be exact. Tassel Ridge Winery calls Mahaska county home. Jefferson county has Jefferson County Ciderworks.

Craft beer fan? (Us, too.) Mills County has Keg Creek Brewing. Worth county has Worth Brewing Co.  And of course Marion county is home to Peace Tree Brewing Co, and we’ve also got a taproom in Polk county, Des Moines’ East Village.

Iowa County has the Amana Colonies, and Plymouth county has Blue Bunny. Looking for a recreational vehicle? Visit Winnebago in Winnebago county.

Did you know Fort Madison in Lee county was the site of one of the most successful government trading posts along the Mississippi? Or that Lucas county had one of the largest coal mines back in the day? Or that Elk Horn in Shelby county supposedly has the largest Danish settlement in the US? And Iowa’s oldest water tower is in Greene county? I know you wanted to know. It’ll help on trivia night I bet.

Let’s continue our 99 county tour with some fun events and interesting places to visit. You can see a tree in the road in Cass county. You might want to visit Snake Alley in Des Moines county, it’s considered the Crookedest Street in the World by locals.

Check out any number of county fairs in Iowa. Some not to miss are Crawford County Fair in Denison, Davis County Fair in Bloomfield, Floyd County Fair in Charles City, Fremont County Fair in Sidney, Guthrie County Fair in Guthrie Center and Hamilton County Fair in Webster City. You could also visit Missouri Valley for the Harrison County Fair, Humboldt to see the Humboldt County Fair or Clarinda for the Page County Fair. Better add Keokuk County Fair in What Cheer to your itinerary while you’re at it!

You can visit the National Hobo Museum in Hancock county, take in the Midwest Old Threshers Reunion in Henry county, and visit the historic courthouse in Mitchell county. The Squirrel Cage Jail and Museum in Pottawattamie county is definitely worth a look. Don’t miss the Matchstick Marvels Museum in Tama county, the Prairie Trails Museum in Wayne county or the Historical Village and Museum in Union county. Palo Alto and Cherokee counties have a one-room school house to see. And the Historical Society Museums in Pocahontas and Taylor counties should be on your list.

Monona county has a pretty cool Veterans Memorial Car Show. We’ve got Tulip Festivals in Sioux and Marion counties, an annual music Shellabration in Webster County, and the ever-famous Hinterland in Madison county. (Did we mention we’re giving away 2 tickets?!)

This list is by no means complete. Iowa is a state we’re glad to call home. All 99 counties. So raise a glass of 99 Pils. Here’s to Iowa, and all its fun facts. CHEERS!