Mid-West Adventure through IA, MN and NE – August 2023

Last month Gene got some unexpected time off (expiring vacation days) and we decided to do a Mid-West adventure through IA, MN, and NE. The first stop on our trip was in Des Moines, IA. Gene doesn’t remember being there, but I still say we were there together in like 2009 or 2010. Anyway, we started our Mid-West adventure there and it happened to be there during their annual State Fair. It was so amazing and it was extremely organized. They had everything, even parking and shuttles to the site down to a science. I was VERY impressed. Anyway, once inside the fairgrounds, I enjoyed seeing all the animals, especially some of the horse shows. I am going to eventually do a post on the fair, but wanted to share a little bit on this post about its history.

Fair 1

Attracting more than a million people from all over the world, the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines is Iowa’s great celebration, a salute to the state’s best in agriculture, industry, entertainment and achievement. It all began in 1854 and has been held on the Iowa State Fairgrounds since 1886. As I said earlier, it is held in the state capital Des Moines, Iowa and is now an 11 day event every August. The fairgrounds are spread over 450 acres, including 160 acres of campsites. The fairgrounds are filled with carnival rides and vendors during the Fair, and there are A LOT of them, lol.

Fair 2

Besides all the animals, and rides, and shows, you have to check out the Butter Cow. It has been a staple of the fair since 1911 J.K. Daniels sculpted the first one. It is pretty crazy and there was A LONG line, but worth seeing it while checking out the agricultural building. The 4-H club was also in this building and I enjoyed checking out their exhibits.

Fair 3

While there are SO many food options, the one thing you really shouldn’t miss is a bucket of Barksdales Chocolate Chip Cookies. Apparently, cookies in a cup or bucket have been made by the Barksdale family since 1993, and in 2019, the Barksdale cookie business was gifted to the people of Iowa through the Fair. The chocolate chip recipe is a family recipe, and was made by hand for many years. It is a staple of the fair and when the fair was shut down in 2020 because of stupid Xi Jinpang and the pandemic, they still made their cookies for people to come and purchase them while adhering to the strict rules and mandates going on at the time. People really wanted their cookies I guess.  We did get a few things while walking around the fair, and these cookies were on our list. I have to say, they were really good.

spam 1

Well after spending a few days exploring Des Moines, IA (most posts coming) we continued our Mid-West Adventure to Minneapolis, MN. About two hours north on I-35 we stopped in Austin, MN to check out the SPAM Museum. I know, who knew, lol. I had seen some YouTube vlogs and when we saw it was on our route, we made a point to stop and see what it was all about. It was not a huge museum, but it was packed with so much history and information. We were both amazed and surprised.

spam 2

The best part was they had people known as Spambassadors running around with different samples, or as they call them Spamples, lol. I really wasn’t a huge fan of SPAM as I only had it once before and it was barely cooked, YUCK. However, everything they were sampling was so good and I was so shocked to see how many different types of SPAM they offer. I am now a fan of SPAM, lol. Like I said there were so many choices and we couldn’t decide, thus we came home with 5 cans, lol. My favorite is the Hot and Spicy and the Teriyaki. We still have one can left and I am alreadylooking around local stores to see what flavors they have available.

spam 3

SPAM is made by Hormel Foods Corporation and the museum tells the history of the Hormel Company, the Origin of SPAM, and its place in world culture. The museum originated in January 1991 as the Hormel Foods First Century Museum, in celebration of the company’s 100 year anniversary. The name was rebranded and the museum moved a couple of times to its current location in downtown Austin. The best part, besides the Spamples, was that the museum is free! Definitely work checking out while in the area.

MN Capitol 1

Our Mid-West adventure continued onto Minneapolis where we some exploring. The two main things on my list were the State Capitol and Target Field. Both were amazing. The Minnesota State Capitol, which is actually in St. Paul was beautiful. We were lucky enough to be able to join a guided tour and heard a few stories about the Capitols’ history, art, and architecture.

MN Capitol 2

I enjoyed all the marble that was located throughout the capitol. One thing I thought was very interesting I learned was that their dome was marble and the second largest self-supported dome in the world. WOW. I also loved seeing their chambers which apparently you can only see during a guided tour. The grounds were also quite interesting and worth checking out before you leave the area.

Target 1

While in Minneapolis, we also visited Target Field. It was my 22nd MLB ball park and it was quite different from other parks we had been too. I go into more details on my post linked above, but I have to say our tour guide was VERY connected to the baseball world and had met so many players and been on so my trips for MLB. I loved talking to him about my favorite former Twin and Angels player, Torii Hunter. 🙂

Target 2

Target Field is a “newer” stadium opening in 2010 and hosted the All-Star game in 2014. One thing I learned on the tour is that this field is the sixth ballpark for the Twins organization. I remember seeing the Metrodome on a previous trip but never was able to visit. I am so glad we got to take the tour and was able to walk a little along the track and sit in the dugout. Always fun to get to do that at a baseball park. I really enjoyed our visit and hope to see a game there one day.

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden - Spponbridge2

One other thing we had to do while in the area was checking out the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Many people may be familiar with the garden due to the Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture.  There are so many other sculptures. Another one we really liked, called Love, reminds us of the one in Philadelphia in Love Park.

Eventually we left Minneapolis and headed a little south west for our next stop on our Mid-West adventure. We were making our way to Fairmont to see some former friends who now live there, but had to stop in Blue Earth, Minnesota to visit the Jolly Green Giant Museum. Yep, there is a museum dedicated to Green Giant and out from is a 55.5 foot tall Jolly Green Giant. The statue was first unveiled in 1978 and was set on its permanent base on July 6, 1979.

The museum itself, which is quite small, is filled with a lot of history about the company and tells how the statue came into existence. They even have a few videos of the museum. I was hoping for a few commercials from the “old days”, but didn’t see any, lol.  It is very interesting and a great road side attraction to see if you are driving on the I-90 through this area.

NE Capitol

After spending a couple of days with our friends in Fairmont, we slowly started heading home. We stopped in Lincoln, NE for a few days where we visited the Lincoln Capitol building (even though we had been there before), Gene went to the Museum of American Speed, while I caught up on some work.  He said it was a really cool museum and he enjoyed his visit. He was there for quite a few hours, so he must have, lol


We also met with our friend’s son who lives in the area for dinner one night in the Haymarket area.After saying goodbye to him, we hit a couple craft breweries while downtown. This was on a Friday night and while we were sitting outside enjoying our beer, the local high school baseball team won their game and the sky lit up with fireworks. It was a great way to end our trip. One more thing before I end this section, is that Haymarket It is a really cute and we saw this cool piece of art that I had to share.

Sadly we packed up and ended our Mid-West adventure the next morning, but we have some wonderful memories that we will not forget. If you haven’t done your own Mid-West adventure, I highly suggest it. I will be posting more blog posts about the places I shared on this post and will update this post once they are live. In the meantime, please comment below with any questions or suggestions. I would love to hear from you. Happy Travels!

Mid-West Adventure 2


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8 thoughts on “Mid-West Adventure through IA, MN and NE – August 2023

  1. What a fantastic adventure you had through the Mid-West! It sounds like Des Moines, Iowa, and its annual State Fair were an incredible way to kick off your journey.

    Moving on to the SPAM Museum in Austin, Minnesota, it’s amazing how you discovered a newfound appreciation for SPAM. The O.G. of SPAM and not the electronic junk that fills my inbox, LOL!

    Overall, your Mid-West trip/adventure sounds like a delightful mix of history, culture, and fun experiences. Thanks for sharing, and I can’t wait to read more about your upcoming blog posts. Have a great UBC!

    1. Thanks for the comment Paul. Yeah, SPAM was definitely interesting and so glad we were able to visit the museum. However, I think the Iowa State Fiar was the highlight of our trip (besides spending time with some friends). We hadn’t been to a state fair in MANY years. I forgot how much fun they can be! Thanks again for stopping by and for your message. Have a great UBC also. 🙂

  2. Samantha-
    I love how you travel! I have never been to IA, but I have heard of the State Fairs’ Butter Cow!
    I have never been a fan of SPAM either, but I would go to that museum like you did! And the Jolly Green Giant. There are so many cool places I need to see! Fun post!

    1. Thank you Anna. It was a great trip with a lot of fun surprises. Crazy that it was one we hadn’t even planned. I guess, sometimes those are the best ones! Have a great UBC! Thanks again for stopping by and leaving a comment. Samantha

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