What the Hell to do in Iowa?

We’re here to answer that age-old question

By Andreas Haffar

You find yourself smack dab in the middle of the United States, feeling deprived of fun and exciting things to do or see. You may ask yourself, “What the hell is there to do and see in Iowa?” We’re here to answer that age-old question by presenting a handful of ideas to save you from your enervating boredom. Prepare for summer in Iowa.

National Balloon Classic

  • WHERE: Indianola (One hour south of Ames)
  • This annual event allows you to soar to the sky via hot-air balloon and join hundreds of balloons from around the world in a nine-day aerial takeover that only acrophobic individuals could pass up. Even if you feel safer with your feet on the ground, the multicolored spectacle is truly captivating. This event usually takes place in late July and lasts until early August. It includes a wide array of entertainment such as live music, food offerings, evening fireworks and their “Night Glow Extravaganza.” Hot-air balloon pilots even compete for cash prizes later on. It costs $5 per person a day and prices vary on hot-air balloon rides.


  • WHERE: Blank Park Zoo, Des Moines (about one hour south of Ames)
  • Every Wednesday during the summer, the animals of Blank Park Zoo work an overtime shift to strut their stuff and show off their natural beauty for an evening of extended festivities. Zoobrew is a 21 and older (sorry underage zoo zealots) casual event with live music from local bands, weekly themes such as last summer’s Spirit of Des Moines, cold, thirst-quenching alcoholic beverage stands scattered throughout and of course the stars of the show, the fascinating inhabitants of the park. But it’s not limited to just nocturnal animals. From Australia to Africa, the zoo is home to 1,184 diverse creatures, most of which are on display during the occasion including the snow leopards and the red panda. Ticket prices are around $13. Doors open at 5:30, the animals usually call it a day around 8, doors close at 8:30 and the event ends at 9.

Festivals, Festivals, oh the Festivals:

  • WHERE: All over this great state
  • Summer is upon us and believe it or not, there’s plenty to do in Iowa. Like the plethora of live music festivals sure to attract your interest. We’ve made a list of some noteworthy ones. These aren’t exclusive to music lovers either, as these festivals have an assortment of activities to partake in.
      • Tree Town Music Festival: (Country) May 26-29 in Forest City  
      • Iowa City Jazz Festival: (Jazz) June 1-3 in Iowa City
      • Prairie Land Music Fest (Folk/Celtic) June 24 in Iowa City
      • Saturday in the Park (Varies Annually) July 2 in Sioux City
      • 80/35: (Indie Rock) July 8-9 in Des Moines
      • 515 Alive: (EDM and Hip Hop) July 22-23 in Des Moines
      • Hinterland Music Festival (Various) August 5-6 in St. Charles
      • River Roots Live (Traditional Rock) August 26-27 in Davenport

To see photos from some of these festivals throughout the summer, follow us on Instagram: @ethos_magazine