ia: The best of Iowa arts and culture
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MAY 12, 2022  |  VIEW AS WEBPAGE
Produced in partnership with the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs
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Located in the Historic Park Inn Hotel in Mason City, Frank Lloyd Wright’s only remaining hotel, Markley & Blythe serves upscale American fare amid the Prairie Style setting.


Now open in downtown Mason City, Markley & Blythe is offering one more reason to revisit a Frank Lloyd Wright landmark, the Historic Park Inn Hotel.

With a menu that includes double-cut pork chops, duck pot pies, handmade pastas and more, the eatery focuses on familiar ingredients served in creative ways.

Order from an extensive list of local beers, craft cocktails and New World wines. Dinner is available every evening, and brunch is coming soon. Learn more at Markley & Blythe.

Save the date for June 2–4, when the hotel hosts the Preserve Iowa Summit. Watch a video about the event here.
If a balloon ride has been on your bucket list, make the trip happen this year. Indianola’s Serenity Ballooning is hosting its final season, so get on their books now. Weeknight flights are still available.


Home to the National Balloon Classic, Indianola has several outfitters that offer sky rides, especially lovely when the fields are dressed in their spring green. Through Serenity Ballooning in Indianola, you can enjoy a champagne ride with up to three of your best friends and a pilot, or make it a special anniversary or birthday gift. Find other operators in the Indianola area, including FlyinKOAT.

And mark your calendar for the National Balloon Classic, this year scheduled for July 29 through Aug. 6.

Northwest Iowa’s Dutch mecca hosts its Tulip Festival this year May 19-21.


Now in its 86th year, Orange City encourages all visitors to go Dutch for the weekend.

At this year’s Tulip Festival (May19-21) visitors can sample Dutch delicacies, watch parades, see music and dancers from locals in authentic costumes, tour the town by horse-drawn trolley, take in a performance of "Mamma Mia!" and much more.

While in town, shop for imported tulip bulbs and attend a tulip talk to learn about the beloved bulb. And for more Dutch specialties to take home, Woundstra Meat Market is the place, complete with staff decked in traditional attire. Shop the meat counter for smoked sausages, plus find cheeses and sweet treats.

Learn more about the festival at
An aerialist from Cirque Wonderland performs for attendees at a previous festival. Photo: LaMont Copeland Photography.


Writer: Michael Morain
Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

After the past few quiet seasons, West Des Moines’ Valley Junction is back in business. The farmers market has returned on Thursday nights, the recent Cinco de Mayo festival honored the neighborhood’s century-old Mexican heritage, and this Sunday, May 15, the annual Valley Junction Arts Festival will take over Fifth Street.

“The arts festivals took a hit during the pandemic, so the people who show their work now have an abundance of stuff to sell. They’ve been kind of cooped up this whole time,” says Larry Kaster, event coordinator for the Historic Valley Junction Foundation.

In addition to 50 exhibiting artists from Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin, this year’s event will feature break dancing by the Des Moines Breakers, aerialists from Cirque Wonderland, and a handful of local singer-songwriters. The festival in one Iowa’s 55 designated Great Places is set for 10 a.m.-4 p.m., rain or shine.
Iowa’s parks have many miles of multiuse trails. In most cases, these trails allow access to mountain bikes. As a biker, you’re sure to run across someone on foot or horseback so the rule of thumb is bicyclists yield to hikers and horses.
Photo: Iowa Parklands.


Writer: Matthew Scott

While none of Iowa’s state park trails have trails exclusively for mountain bikers, Banner Lakes at Summerset State Park in Warren County is a park that was designed with mountain biking in mind and one of the best places to ride in Central Iowa.

A favorite equestrian trail system for riding is Brushy Creek Recreation Area near Lehigh. The area has 40 miles of trails and all of them are multiuse. Specifically, try the remote southern trails along the Des Moines River.

If you want something remote with the potential to get lost, try Shimek State Forest, Lick Creek Unit in Lee County. This place will test your mettle your bike. You will encounter deadfall trees, marshy areas, steep ravines pocked with hoof prints, and sometimes dense lush vegetation.

Get more tips—plus Iowa-themed outdoor accessories such as bandanas, maps and stickers—from Iowa Parklands blogger Matthew Scott at

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Held Wednesdays and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. in downtown Sioux City, the farmers market features locally grown produce and flowers, plus baked goods and crafts.


Looking for bison, treats for the pup or fresh asparagus? the Sioux City Farmers Market delivers with a mix of vendors selling goods from the garden as well as handmade creations. The market is now open for the season on Wednesday and Saturdays.

Located in downtown Sioux City at the Tyson Events Center parking lot (walkable from the Warrior, Hard Rock and Stoney Creek hotels), the market has live music, java and sweets to start the day. Spend the rest of your time exploring museums including the Sioux City Art Center and the Sioux City Public Museum and perhaps a hike at the Loess Hills.
Mason City High School will perform at the North Iowa Band Festival, held in Mason City. Photo: Mason City Chamber of Commerce.

Writer: Michael Morain
Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

Set out your lawn chairs early if you want a prime spot to see Mason City’s famous North Iowa Band Festival Parade on May 28. Locals start staking their claims a week out.

“That’s no joke,” festival coordinator Noah Harris says. “Usually it’s a few days early, but sometimes it’s a full week.”

This year’s 83rd annual parade promises at least 10 marching bands among nearly 100 entries – “floats, firetrucks, cars, dogs, all that good stuff,” Harris says. The entry that makes best use of this year’s theme, “Band Fest on Broadway,” will win the Grand Marshal Award, while the best wild-card entry will score the coveted Mr. Toot Award, named for the city’s trombonist mascot.

Harris estimates that 60,000 visitors—about double the local population—will head to town over the course of the festival weekend for concerts, a carnival and a 4-mile run (with 110 cornets right behind). Most events will take place in the heart of downtown’s Cultural and Entertainment District, which includes a new performance pavilion that was unveiled last fall as part of the River City Renaissance Project. Progress marches on.
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