In West Chester, you’ll be in for a rare treat at Hal Colliver's acreage and sign extravaganza. The mecca of antique signs continues to grow from year to year and is a must-stop photo spot for people passing by. The seed and gas company signs along with gas pumps are a reminder of advertising from a bygone era. According to Colliver, he purchased the signs from every corner of the U.S. while working as a truck driver during his career that spanned decades.
Washington boasts small-town charm and was rated as “One of the Best Small Towns in America” three times by author Norman Crampton. A must-see in the area are the Barn Quilts of Washington County in celebration of the agricultural heritage of the area. Over 120 beautiful, folk art, wooden quilt patches are displayed on barns, corn cribs and other significant buildings and can be viewed from the road during a relaxing tour of the country.
If you like having pizza with friends, family, laughter and rustic Iowa charm, then Pizza on the Farm is for you. On a scenic farm near Wellman, Julia McNurlen, owner of Stone Wall Brick Oven Pizza, hosts a pizza-rich event that connects Iowans to their farming roots. It was her grandmother's house, and it has incredible views of the countryside. McNurlen wanted to share the view and offer a unique event. Pizza on the Farm is available most Friday evenings from the beginning of May until late October. Parking is in a pasture dotted with cow pies, so visitors must watch their step, but that is part of the fun.
Regardless of your favorite pizza topping, U.S. farmers had a hand in delivering it to you. In Iowa, ingredients such as sausage, hamburger, pepperoni and cheese are all grown on family farms across the state. Add vegetables and sauce and you have yourself one of America's favorite foods. All hail, pizza farmers!
In northern Washington County, Kalona is home to the largest Amish settlement west of the Mississippi River. At the Kalona Historical Village, visitors learn about the local Amish settlement and discover the great respect the Amish have for family and their elders. The scenic 1800s village also showcases pioneer life in 13 authentic buildings. Each structure was painstakingly restored and is filled with interesting and informative displays depicting the rugged years immigrant settlers spent taming the Iowa prairie.
Kalona Creamery Shop & Deli opened its doors last year in a building, formerly the Kalona Cheese Factory, which was an iconic local establishment that closed in late 2014. The Kalona Creamery Shop & Deli, located on Highway 1, features numerous products made in Iowa including cheese curds, specialty meats and cheeses, pastries, and much more.
Head North to the Amana Colonies
Just north of Interstate 80 and northwest of Kalona is the Amana Colonies area. The Colonies — listed as a National Historic Landmark since 1965 — have been a treasure on the Iowa prairie for over 150 years; welcoming visitors to a unique and wonderful experience. The seven villages of the Amana Colonies offer visitors the opportunity to step back from today’s busy pace, and to relish in the comfort of locally crafted foods, furniture, art and more.
A striking feature of the Amana Colonies is that for 80 years – until the Great Depression – they maintained an almost completely self-sufficient local economy, importing very little from the wider, industrializing U.S. economy. The Amanians achieved this independence and lifestyle by adhering to the specialized handcrafts and farming occupations, which they had brought with them from Germany. Today, Amana is a major tourist attraction known mainly for its restaurants and craft shops, including woodworking shops, wineries and a craft brewery called Millstream.
The Ronneburg Restaurant in Amana is an area favorite. Operating since 1950, the restaurant serves traditional German and American entrees and is known for its famous family-style portions. Whether you want beef, poultry, pork, fish, soup or salad, this menu has something for everyone. You will not leave hungry!
Drive West to Brooklyn and Newton
As you get back on Interstate 80, Fireside Winery can be found just north of I-80 in Williamsburg. Fireside Winery was born from a desire to embrace the “life is too short” philosophy, a long-term passion for wine, and a wish to pass on their farm heritage to their children. For five generations, stewardship of this small corner of fertile eastern Iowa soil has rested with the Wyant family. Few places on earth possess the same perfect combination of geology and climate as this Iowa land. Though corn and soybeans are their primary crops, wine grapes have a long history in Iowa dating back to the 1800s. Now, Fireside is helping to rebuild a wine grape-growing legacy in the rich soils of the area.
Brooklyn is in the heart of Poweshiek County. The county, formed in 1843, was named for the Indian chief of the Fox tribe who signed the treaty ending the Black Hawk War. Brooklyn is aptly named because it is nestled between two brooks, Big Bear Creek and Little Bear Creek. The town of nearly 1,500 is known as the Community of Flags and passersby can catch a glimpse of an 80-foot flagpole from portions of Interstate 80 and historic Highway 6 — an east-west U.S. highway that extends for more than 300 miles across the state.
There are several attractions and historic locations along Highway 6, including an old-time Standard Oil Station dating from the 1930s where you can still get full-service gas; John Wayne Historic Marker; Flag Display, Brooklyn Historical Museum; and the Historic Route 6 Wall Mural, which includes a drive-up to enable cars and motorcycles to pose for a picture.
Newton – about halfway between Brooklyn and Ankeny – has worked hard on community revitalization. Once home to Maytag Corporation and known as the “Washing Machine Capital of the World,” the area fought back after the company left 10 years ago. A big draw is the Iowa Speedway, a 7/8-mile paved motor-racing track. The track was designed with influence from Rusty Wallace and patterned after Richmond International Raceway.
The Iowa Corn 300 is a 300-lap IndyCar race that calls the Iowa Speedway home. The race, sponsored by Iowa Corn Promotion Board and Iowa Corn Growers Association, generates awareness of ethanol and allows racing fans to learn about the benefits of supporting the ethanol industry. One bushel of corn creates close to three gallons of ethanol that can be used to either power a flex fuel vehicle or push an IndyCar to 200 miles per hour!
The home of Maytag Blue Cheese is also right here in Newton. Seventy-five years after the first wheels of Maytag Blue Cheese were made, the family tradition continues. Each wheel is handcrafted on the family farm in the rolling hills of central Iowa. The company is still owned and operated by the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of E.H. Maytag.
And there’s more… Newton is the home of Iowa’s first Maid-Rite franchise. Fred Angell started the concept of the Maid-Rite sandwich in Muscatine, Iowa in 1926. Angell began to franchise his idea, selling the rights to the communities of Newton in 1927 and Marshalltown in 1928.