Inside: Cookies, Art Classes and Fall Colors
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Produced in partnership with the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs
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Cookies & Dreams creates decadent sweets such as the Double Trouble (shown in the center)—half chocolate chip, half triple chocolate and stuffed with a full Oreo and creamy peanut butter. Other flavors include pumpkin spice and caramel pretzel. The business is based in the Quad Cities and recently expanded to Ankeny’s Prairie Trail. Photo courtesy of Cookies & Dreams.

Cookies & Dreams Keeps the Sweets Coming

With flavors like Snickerdoodle Cheesecake and OG Chocolate Chip, Cookies & Dreams’ creations live up to their sweet business name.

Based in the Quad Cities, the business founded by avid baker Stephanie Sellers launched in 2020 and quickly took off. Recently expanding to Ankeny’s Prairie Trail, it also has locations in Coralville and Bettendorf. Counters at all the stores brim with 12 innovative flavors baked daily.

The business has showcased its creations at Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards, New York Fashion Week and the PGA’s John Deere Classic Tournament.

Find the store locations or order prearranged gift boxes here. You can also create your own custom mix.
Melinda Stockwell (left) teaches a class on making letterpress tags and coasters as part of the Villages Folk School. The class is held at Calico Press in Birmingham, north of Keosauqua. Photo courtesy of Midwest Wanderer.

Embrace Your Inner Artist in Van Buren County

Looking for a fall weekend getaway that gets a little hands-on and where you might learn a new skill in the process?

The Village Folk School in Keosauqua might be the perfect fall getaway—as well as the perfect place to make Christmas gifts.

Located in southeast Iowa in the Villages of Van Buren County, the school has classes yet this fall on subjects such as outdoor painting, rug-making, crochet basics and crafting a leather ornament. Some of the classes include materials.

Find experiences that run a half day (such as the leatherwork), a full day or over a weekend. If you’re looking for an overnight, book a room at Hotel Manning in Keosauqua or at one of the chain options in Fairfield, about 30 minutes away. Build in time to cruise the rolling hills—this weekend the area celebrates its Fall Scenic Drive Festival. And make sure to stop by Sunrise Bakery for fruit hand pies, homemade noodles or bread (the owners are Amish).

Find class, pricing and booking information here. For more tourism information, including restaurants and parks, visit the Villages of Van Buren website.
The Mead Shack at East Grove Farms will serve those visiting the Bumbleberry Jam Music Festival. Sip on locally grown and produced mead while listening to local bands. Photo courtesy of East Grove Farms.

Jam Out in Salem to Music and Mead

At East Grove Farms, Iowa’s oldest continuously settled farm, you’re sure to find a lot of history. Settled in 1837 by O.A. and Emma Garretson in Salem, the farm is named after the abolitionist community of East Grove, which the Garretson family was a part of. You’ll also find a lot of handcrafted mead.

East Grove Farms produces a variety of meads made from local honey, elderberries, aronia berries and other alternative crops grown on the property, like heirloom green gage plums, white peaches, apples and persimmons. They are one of only three meaderies in Iowa.

In case you need another reason to go, the farm will host its Bumbleberry Jam Music Festival this Saturday. For a $10 admission fee, guests can hear a musical lineup of Katie Belle and the Belle Rangers, Eric Pettit Lion, Whiskey Friends, and the Nearly Great Horned Owls with Suzanne. Plus, enjoy East Grove’s mead, craft beer by the Grange Brewery and barbecue from Cynful Smokers. The party starts at 5 p.m., and they offer free camping. Visit their website for more info and a list of meads currently offered.
BPC President Suzanna de Baca and dsm Assistant Editor Hailey Allen show the newly unveiled ia cover, shot by Charlie Langton, featuring free-range lambs from Luna Valley Farms in Decorah. Photo: Duane Tinkey.

Have You Heard? There’s a New ia Issue

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! On Oct. 5, we celebrated the release of our 2023 issue of ia magazine. From sky-high drone shots of Okoboji to the stunning fall trails at Effigy Mounds National Monument, find stories on hidden gem shops and noteworthy new attractions around the state in the new issue for the coming year.

Didn’t get a magazine? Find all the stories online here, and subscribe to get your own physical copy sent to your home.
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Historic buildings like the Kirk Apartments, shown here, in Mason City will be haunted with ghoulish tour guides during the Haunted Historic Building Tour. Photo courtesy of Main Street Mason City.

Tour Mason City’s Favorite Haunted Historic Buildings

By Michael Morain
Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

Mason City has so much community spirit, even the ghosts are reliable volunteers. Several have offered to share their stories during the annual Haunted Historic Building Tour on Oct. 22.

Now in its fifth year, the popular walking tour starts with cocktails and ends with dessert. In between, visitors hear from various spirits who recount true tales from the city’s past (and bear an uncanny resemblance to actors from the Mason City Community Theatre).

Each year’s route remains a secret until the tour starts just off Central Park, near the hotel that Frank Lloyd Wright designed in 1908-1909 and the bank John Dillinger’s gang robbed in 1934. And if all those walls could talk, they’d probably brag: Mason City hosted the 2022 Preserve Iowa Summit in June and is ranked by Conde Nast Traveler as one of the world’s 20 best cities for architecture lovers.
A close-up of "The River House Bells" (2021, oil on wood) by Terri McGaffin. McGaffin was inspired by her time spent at Whiterock Conservancy.

Nature Conservancy Inspires Art Exhibit in Sioux City

By Michael Morain
Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

Here and there, Iowa’s famously fertile land produces more than corn and soybeans. The 5,500 acres at the Whiterock Conservancy near Coon Rapids, for example, recently yielded a crop of artwork for “The Whiterock Art Exhibit,” on display through Nov. 13 at the Betty Strong Encounter Center in Sioux City.  

The paintings and pottery were created over the last few years by three artists in residence–Terri McGaffin, Shelby Prindaville and Pauline Sensenig, all of Sioux City–who spent some time strolling the conservancy’s woods and prairies for inspiration. As McGaffin put it, “A visit there is food for the soul.”

To feed your own soul, check out the exhibit, which received an Iowa Arts Council grant, or explore the conservancy yourself. Its quiet trails, campsites and rental cabins are open year-round.
Northeast Iowa’s bluffs bordering the Mississippi River provide some of the top fall foliage views in the state. Now offers optimal peeping at towns such as Lansing, McGregor, Guttenberg and Dubuque. This view is from near McGregor and Pikes Peak State Park.

Fall Colors Start to Peak in Northern Third of State

Through the DNR’s website, you can track the optimal spots to soak in the views as recommended by the state’s top foresters. You’ll find the latest colors statewide and can even sign up to receive weekly color reports.

Peaks start early in the northern third of the state—right about now. Central Iowa typically spikes for viewing the first through third weeks of October, and southern Iowa extends the season to the last half of the month.
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