12 Best Museums in Iowa You Need to Visit [Update 2024]

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Iowa offers you the chance to deepen your knowledge by exploring different eras while you are indoors. Wandering where that is? The museums. In Iowa, there are different themed museums including science centers, art museums, railroad museums, historical centers and more.

To jot down the best museums when you are making your plan of visiting them, check out this list of the top museums in Iowa.

1. Putnam Museum and Science Center

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Putnam Museum and Science Center is one  of the top museums in Iowa

The Putnam Museum and Science Center is a fascinating museum where you can learn about natural science as well as history. Formerly known as Davenport Academy of Natural Sciences, this museum is home to more than 160,000 historical specimens and artifacts.

One of the major highlights of this museum is the Imax theater which is one of the largest movie screens in the state with the size of 57′ by 70′. Starting from 2002, the theater has become a major part of the museum to attract visitors.

2. Cedar Rapids Museum of Art

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Cedar Rapids Museum of Art

Home to the largest collection of Grant Wood paintings, The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art is a one of a kind museum. You can view the stunning artworks of Wood as the property at 5 Turner Alley used to be the studio and home of the great artist from 1924-1934.

This studio was also the place where the American Gothic, one of the world’s most famous works of art, was painted. Unfortunately, you cannot find this piece when you visit the museum as this painting was purchased by the Art Institute of Chicago in 1930.

3. Figge Art Museum

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To see the most robust collections of art and media in Iowa, you have got to visit The Figge Art Museum. Located in Davenport, this museum celebrates exhibitions of famous and amazing artists of the state. It is also an archive of the impressive works of Grant Wood.

Not only is this museum exhibiting wonderful works of artists, it also has architecturally interesting wings that appeal to visitors. The tours help you to have deeper knowledge of the art history of the state.

These are the best historical sites in Iowa.

4. National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium

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National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium

The National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium is two in one. This popular museum of the state is split between historical and living collections. From the gamut of wildlife of Iowa to the extensive historical records of ancient people, you will get to know all of it from this museums. The livelihood, utensils, artworks and other artifacts will allow you to be educated about Iowa’s past.

5. Iowa Aviation Museum

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Home to the Iowa Aviation Hall of Fame, the Iowa Aviation Museum is a great place to learn about vintage aircraft and the history of aircraft. The museum has preserved airplanes from 1929 to the present ones. Featuring the wonders of air travel transportation, you will get to know a lot of information about the legendary pilots as well. The 1975 Easy Rider Glider is one of the highlight displays of this museum that spikes the interest of all.

6. Iowa Children’s Museum

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Want to take your children to an amazing destination where both of you can bond and learn new things at the same time? The Iowa Children’s Museum in Iowa City offers you a fantastic opportunity. Even though initially this museum was built with adolescence in mind, later its displays and programs were perfect for kids. The intricately designed programs are educational and interactive where the children learn about the history, culture and other aspects of Iowa.

Take a look at these stunning landmarks in Iowa.

7. National Czech & Slovak Museum and Library

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Right in Cedar Rapids, you can find the National Czech & Slovak Museum and Library from where you can learn about the rich heritage, past and present of Czech and Slovak culture. Iowa celebrates the diversity of its people and Czech and Slovak culture is presented and preserved in this museum. You can immerse yourself in the light of the rich community of this state.

8. Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum

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Located in the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site, The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum is a popular spot for visitors. It exhibits a variety of exhibitions that are found in different historic Herbert Hoover galleries. This presidential library is run by the National Archives and Records Administration. The collection in this museum consists of documents and other works from the president’s career in the office.

9. John Wayne Birthplace and Museum

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John Wayne Birthplace and Museum is a notable museum situated in Winterset. John Wayne is one of the most iconic Iowans who made a notable presence with movies. This museum takes you to the childhood journey of Wayne and you can learn insightful information about this famous movie cowboy’s life.

10. Iowa 80 Trucking Museum

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In Walcott, you will find the chance to view the most in-depth trucking museums of the United States, and it is the Iowa 80 Trucking Museum. With a collection of more than 100 trucks, this museum displays all kinds of trucks. Some are gigantic, some are ancient designed ones and more are there to explore. Don’t miss the chance to learn about the long history of trucking and transportation over the years.

11. Union Pacific Railroad Museum

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Union Pacific Railroad Museum takes you back to the history of rail travel. Featuring the famous “America Travels by Rail” exhibit, this museum not only has exhibitions of rail and also has the very significant documents of the Pacific Railway Act, which was signed by Abraham Lincoln in 1862.

12. Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum & Heritage Center

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With more than 25000 pieces of fine art, clothes, folk art, tools and more, Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum & Heritage Center is an incredible place to explore. The history of the state along with the displays that celebrate the settlers of the area can be found here. To know about the background and history of immigration of Norwegians in the state, this is the right spot.

Whether you are interested in exploring the art history of Iowa or you want to know in-depth about the ever-changing trucking industry of the state, these listed museums in Iowa are the ideal spots to visit for a fascinating time.

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