Iowa Spectacular state parks, farms

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Match a tent stay at this organic farm with a pizza night, when pies with locally harvested ingredients are baked in a stone oven. Two off-the-grid tents for overnights are atop elevated platforms in an oak savanna valley; each contains a king bed and LED lighting. Bathrooms and bathhouse are in the barn.

Walking paths weave through 890 acres of gardens to orchards at Heritage Farm, a vast repository for seeds from heirloom plants from Seed Savers Exchange. Explore Norwegian roots during Nordic Fest, July 24–25, at Vesterheim, a national Norwegian American museum and heritage center, also in Decorah.

Sixty-five miles east of Des Moines is a revamped 1930s barn with overnight digs (bunkhouse to king-size bed), an event hall, and a common area with Amish-made furniture and big-screen TV. Weddings happen here. So do pheasant hunts, fishing, and farm tours. Two of seven guest bedrooms are in the farmhouse basement. Each accommodation comes with a private bath (the bunkhouse has two).

The Iowa State Fair, Aug. 13–23, is among the nation’s oldest, biggest, and best. Des Moines also is home to the state’s gold-domed Iowa Capitol, open for tours.

The parks are 160 miles apart, and each has two yurts. Expect one full-size futon, one or two sets of twin bunk beds, electricity, a ceiling fan, and a table with chairs. At McIntosh, up to four per yurt sleep near the shore of Clear Lake, Iowa’s third largest. At Pammel, yurts sleep up to eight and are near a stream with woods; added furnishings are a sofa sleeper and kitchenette. All yurts have fire pits and access to detached bathhouse with flush toilets.

The Clear Lake area is home to Surf Ballroom, where Buddy Holly performed before his plane crashed six miles away in 1959. Tour the ballroom and visit the crash site memorial. Six miles north of Pammel is film cowboy John Wayne’s birthplace, in Winterset, and covered bridges that were film sites for The Bridges of Madison County are in the vicinity.

Photos by Rebecca Ottman, Iowa state Fair and Iowa Tourism office