5 Ways to See All Things Red in Iowa

I spied all things red going to Iowa.

During our drive to Des Moines in October, Tom and I played a modified version of the Punch Buggy game. We’d shoutout “red barn” or “red maple” when we spotted something bright red along I-35 North instead of when seeing a VW Beetle.

When it was safe to pull over, we’d take a short detour to capture a memorable red photo of a barn or bridge, which made our drive Des Moines, Iowa, seem short.

It was great fun being a kid and it was fun not being on a tight schedule like during the days of air travel.

If you enjoy site seeing in the fall, here are five ways to revel in all things red during a weekend getaway to Des Moines, Iowa.

#1 Red Barns

A red barn is about as American of a symbol as you can find. It represents  hard work to feed your family and entrepreneurship in its purest form. There are hundreds of barns enhancing the Iowa landscape. If you’re as infatuated with barns as I am, consider participating in the 21st Annual All-State Barn Tour, to be held the last weekend of September 2021. Just call Roxanne Mehlisch at 641-487-7690 for details or check out last year’s virtual barn tour here.

Iowa barn
Red Barn along I-35N in route to Des Moines.

#2 Red Covered Bridges

Originally, there were 19 historic red covered bridges in Madison County, Iowa. Only six covered bridges remain today. Plan your Iowa trip soon while these remaining historic beauties still exist.

  1. Cedar Covered Bridge
  2. Cutler–Donahoe Bridge
  3. Hogback Covered Bridge
  4. Holliwell Covered Bridge
  5. Imes Bridge
  6. Roseman Covered Bridge

The Roseman Bridge, built in 1883, was made famous by the movie Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep made in 1995. It’s located in Winterset, Iowa. Winterset is about 30 miles southwest of Des Moines on I-169.

Tom and I took a step back in time by walking across the vintage-wood timbers of the Imes Bridge. The bridges were covered to prevent weather rotting.

John Wayne was born in Madison County. You can pay your respects to the Duke by visiting the John Wayne Birthplace Museum at 205 S John Wayne Dr, Winterset, IA 50273.

red covered bridge
Tom and I in front of Imes Covered Bridge in Madison County, IA.

#3 Red Sculptures & Gardens

Thanks to the generosity of John and Mary Pappajohn, you can marvel at modern art sculptures just outside of the Des Moines Art Center at 4700 Grand any time of the year for free.

In my opinion the sculptures in Des Moines  rank right up there with the famous shuttlecock at Donald J. Hall Sculpture Park in Kansas City.

After you take in the art, take in the gardens, plant, and red foliage at Des Moines Botanical Garden.

The garden sits on 14 acres and has  more than 1,200 different plant species from around the world in artistic settings designed to explore, explain and celebrate the majesty of the plant world.

des moines sites
(1) Love sculpture by Robert Indiana (2) Des Moines Art Center (3) Painted Steel sculpture by Mark Di Suvero (4) Exterior Des Moines Botanical Garden (5) Rainbow sculpture titled Spectural Liberation (6) Red Hibiscus inside Des Moines Botanical Garden.

#4 A Red State with Gold Capitol

Iowa is a red state. It’s voted Republican in the past two presidential races. While in Des Moines prior to the 2020 presidential election, we saw flag-waving, Trump-promoting parades circle the downtown peripheral and Iowa State Capitol. The Trump-campaigners were peaceful, but loud. Lots of horn action.

Iowa State Capitol
A red sky punctuates the beauty of the Iowa State Capitol located in Des Moines.

Once inside the Iowa State Capitol, we marveled at the murals, inner dome, and statesmanship throughout the 330,000 square foot building with 109 rooms. You can see more stats, facts, and pictures in this visitor’s guide.

While many people think of the color gold, when they think of the Iowa State Capitol, I now think of the color red.

I think of the color red for the state, red for the statues that honor the blood shed protecting our freedoms, and red for the 14 million bricks used to construct the Capitol.

# 5  Seeing British Red

In downtown Des Moines you’ll find a popular British Pub called The Royal Mile Bar. It’s filled with red British flags, ruby-red ales such as Smithwick’s, and amber-colored bourbons and whiskeys.

Wander upstairs and you will find the Royal Mile’s sister pub, the Red Monk. Though the decor looks like a Catholic church where you could whisper your monthly confessions, you won’t receive any penances here. Instead, you’ll receive a menu of 90 Belgian-style beers. You’ll leave quenched and satisfied.

Both the Royal Mile and Red Monk are located at 210 4th St, Des Moines, IA 50309. Both are a great place to watch the Iowa State Cyclones play football in their bright red uniforms.

Des Moines restaurants
(1) Neon red light outside of Ernie’s Boondock bar in downtown Des Moines (2) a Flamingo pink colored Cosmo served at Fresko (3) Pinkish-red and perfectly cooked Salmon at Fresko (4) Red stocking caps and a red painted Des Moines Mural (5) A red ATM outside of The Royal Mile (6) a Fruity red drink made at a Des Moines tiki bar called the Bellhop.

Tom and I had so much fun in Des Moines. This post barely scratches the surface of all we did and saw. You can read more about our Des Moines outings here.

If this inspires you to visit Iowa or another Midwest state, please honor CDC guidelines.  Wear a mask, social distance, and have fun!

Eat Drink DIve salutes the great state of Iowa.


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