Hiking, History and Holidays
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Produced in partnership with the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs
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Whoever you may be gathering with, we want to wish you all a happy and safe celebration. Photo: Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah.

Happy Holidays to You From Our Team!

As the year comes to a close, we at ia want to wish you a happy holiday and a cheery start to 2023. Our gift to you for 2023 is even more great content focused on food and dining, arts and culture, home and garden, and top outdoor spots in the state. Thank you for supporting ia, and we hope you and your family enjoy the holiday weekend and stay warm and safe.
Preparation Canyon State Park in Pisgah offers a perfect hiking spot through the Loess Hills. Other Iowa state parks offer guided treks through the DNR’s First Day Hikes initiative. Photo: Iowa DNR.

Start the Year Off Right With a First Day Hike

Looking for more fitness and ways to get out in 2023? Plan on a strong start with a First Day Hike at an Iowa park.

Seventeen parks throughout the state—including Backbone (Strawberry Point), Ledges (Madrid), Springbrook (Guthrie Center) and Stone Park (Sioux City)—offer guided hikes on Jan. 1. Times vary and some include snacks and beverages to enjoy after the trek.

“First Day Hikes are a popular tradition in state parks, and the Park Passport is a great way for people to enjoy winter hikes,” said Sherry Arntzen, chief of the Iowa DNR’s Parks, Forests and Preserves Bureau.

With the challenge, visitors can check into more than 50 participating state parks and forests on the Park Passport from Dec. 30 through Jan. 1. Every park check-in qualifies for a chance to win a two-night stay at a two-bedroom cabin at Pine Lake State Park in Eldora.

Find a list of guided hikes here.

Grace on Main in Elkhorn has a bright, homey feel inside, making it easy to sample a steaming cheese ravioli or barbecue chicken pizza. Check out their full menu online. Photo: Grace on Main.

Go Green at Grace on Main in Elkhorn

Michael and Ilee Muller first opened Grace on Main in Elk Horn in January 2020. Located at 2105 Broadway Ave., the restaurant specializes in warm, welcoming comfort food, like pastas, pizzas and hot sandwiches. Beyond its small-town charm and modern ambience, Grace on Main recently received the 2022 Sustainability & Innovation Award from the Iowa Restaurant Association.

The Mullers started taking home unusable greens and scraps from the kitchen to feed their dozen chickens, an effort to reduce landfill waste. As the restaurant grew, the Mullers partnered with a local company, Windy Hill Compost, to turn more food scraps into usable fertilizer. In addition to reducing food waste, the Mullers opt for recyclable to-go containers and use solar panels and geothermal heating to power the building. Today the restaurant is powered by 88.5% renewable energy.

To book a table at this Earth-friendly eatery, head to their website once they reopen on Jan. 6 after their holiday break. They serve lunch and dinner Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and offer brunch on Sunday.
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The State Historical Museum of Iowa has exhibits and activities for all ages. During the winter break programming, see screenings of Disney movies featuring work from Iowa natives.

Celebrate Iowa's Birthday at the State Historical Museum

If you’re cooped up next week with the family, consider taking them to the State Historical Museum of Iowa in Des Moines, which hosts a handful of activities to celebrate the state’s 176th birthday on Dec. 28.

The winter break programs Dec. 27-30 include a guided tour of the award-winning exhibit “Iowa’s People & Places,” along with drop-in stations where visitors can make various crafts inspired by state symbols, such as the goldfinch, the oak tree and the state seal. Plus, there are free screenings of two Disney movies: “Encanto,” featuring the work of layout artist and Sheldon native Kendra Vander Vliet, and “Raya and the Last Dragon,” directed by Glenwood native Don Hall.

Most activities are free, but a few require advance registration. Find all the details on the museum’s website.
Zanzibar’s Coffee Adventure on Ingersoll Avenue in Des Moines roasts and sells specialty-grade Arabica coffee. Photo: Duane Tinkey.

Cover New (Coffee) Grounds Around Iowa

This story originally appeared in our 2023 ia magazine. Read it here.

A growing crew of urban and rural coffee roasters is expanding the quality of Iowa’s coffee choices by carefully curating, testing and roasting beans for optimum flavor and depth. Whether you’re curious about how a bean’s country of origin influences the flavor in your cup or want to see and smell the whirring machines at work, local roasters and the coffee shops that carry them have you covered. We chatted with a few coffee creators to learn how they’re perking things up across Iowa.

Brewing artisan coffee can elevate your habit into a hobby, somewhat like enjoying fine wine. Andy Fuchtman, who co-owns four Sidecar Coffee shops and a roasting facility in Black Hawk County, recommends paying attention to the essentials—bean quality, water purity and grinder consistency—as the first step for anyone who wants to improve their at-home preparation. (Swapping a plug-in coffee maker for pour-over is another step toward superior taste.)

To ensure quality control, Nick Yost and the staff at Euphoria Coffee in West Union practice “coffee cupping” every Friday morning. Similar to wine tasting, it involves sampling spoonfuls of fresh brews.

“Cupping is all about your aromatic or taste sensory analysis,” Yost says. “It’s focusing on the flavors and gets people to start understanding what they’re tasting.”

Read the full story online to learn more from coffee experts around the state.
Frank Martinez's mixed-media drawing "Blanco e negro" is on display in Clarinda. Check out the virtual tour. Photo: Clarinda Carnegie Art Museum.

Explore Cuba via the Clarinda Carnegie Art Museum

Cubans cannot easily visit the United States, but their artwork can. A traveling exhibition called “Leaving Isolation: Cuban Art” is up through April 2 at the Clarinda Carnegie Art Museum and showcases a lively range of art from the last three decades.

Most of the contributing artists are in their 40s and 50s and started their art studies and careers around the time when both the island’s sugar industry and the Soviet Union collapsed, plunging the Cuban economy into a tailspin. Many artists had to scavenge for supplies, “everything from pushpins and plastic wrap to woodwork they swiped from abandoned houses,” according to Anne Pagel, the show’s curator.

As a group, the artwork on display in southwest Iowa reflects the artists’ frustration with Cuba’s poverty and political repression but also their abiding affection for the island they call home. As Pagel puts it, “Their deep love for and connection to Cuba, its people and its traditions always float just beneath the surface.”

Nicole Schleif Sinn, BGCCI's chief development officer, says that when children can stop worrying about where their next meal will come from, they can focus on school success.

Connecting Kids With Healthy Food

This story originally appeared in our Nov./Dec. issue of dsm magazine. Read it here.

You may have heard the statistic: In Polk County, 1 in 5 children don’t have adequate access to nutritious foods, according to Feeding America. But behind that number are children who are more at risk to develop poor health—including stomachaches, headaches, colds and fatigue—than their food-secure peers, according to the Food Research and Action Center, a national nonprofit organization focused on eliminating hunger.

What’s more, malnutrition can compromise a child’s brain development, leading to a lifelong lower IQ as well as emotional and behavioral problems, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Recognizing this reality, local nonprofits have stepped up efforts to help the children they serve get the food they need. The Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Iowa’s (BGCCI) Feeding the Future Program, for example, seeks to make sure club members have “consistent access to nutritious foods outside of school time,” says Nicole Schleif Sinn, the organization’s chief development officer.

Offered through all eight club locations, the program started 10 years ago in response to growing insecurity among club kids, Schleif Sinn says. Today, some 2,000 children and teens—all of whom qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches—are served through the program. In 2021, BGCCI served more than 52,000 meals to its members.

Read about another Des Moines organization working to combat children’s hunger here.

Iowa Stops Hunger is an ongoing Business Publications Corp. initiative to raise awareness of food insecurity in Iowa and inspire action to combat it.
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