The Shrine of the Redemption of the Grotto

Despite its undeserved reputation as a boring flyover state, Iowa offers quite a few historic and beautiful areas to explore. I grew up in Iowa but did not discover (or rediscover) these off-the-beaten-path roadside attractions until adulthood. Here is a list of the best hidden gems in small-town Iowa.


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Top things to do in Iowa: American Gothic House Center – Eldon, Iowa

The iconic American Gothic House Center - best museum and roadside attraction in Iowa

Inspiration for the iconic American Gothic painting by Grant Wood resides in Eldon, Iowa. Located in rural southeastern part of the state, you can take photos in front of the American Gothic house.

American Gothic House Center in El replica painting

Additionally, the American Gothic House Center offers historical fun facts and exhibits about the house as well as Grant Wood.

What’s the address for the American Gothic House Center? Where is the American Gothic House located?

The American Gothic House address is 300 American Gothic Street, Eldon, IA 52554.

How far is the American Gothic House Center from Des Moines, Iowa?

The American Gothic House Center is located 104 miles southeast of the Des Moines International Airport.

How much are tickets to the American Gothic House Center?

The iconic American Gothic House Center - best museum and roadside attraction in Iowa

Tickets for the American Gothic House Center is $5 per person 13-59 years old and $4 for seniors. Children 12 and under and Wapello County, Iowa residents are admitted free. There is no charge for a photo op in front of the American Gothic House. However, props like the pitchfork are not included.

When is the American Gothic House open? What are the hours for the American Gothic House?

Tours of the American Gothic House interior are only available the second Saturday each month from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. You may take photos in front of the American Gothic House year-round, every day of the week.

The American Gothic House visitor center is open Wednesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday 1 to 4 p.m. when volunteers are available. Note that the American Gothic House Center is closed Mondays and Tuesdays as well as major holidays such as Easter and Christmas.

How big is Eldon, Iowa? What’s the population of Eldon, Iowa?

About 800 people call Eldon, Iowa home.

Learn more in my full post: Guide to the American Gothic House Center

Top things to do in Iowa: Buddy Holly Crash Site and Museum – Clear Lake, Iowa

Buddy Holly glasses marker at crash site

For more than six decades, Iowans have maintained the path leading to what’s known as the Buddy Holly Crash Site in a cornfield near Clear Lake, Iowa. This tragic accident also claimed the lives of two other rock and roll legends, The Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson) and Ritchie Valens. The young pilot Roger Peterson also perished.

Exterior of Surf Ballroom with flag, park bench and blue sky

They played their last concert at the nearby Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake Iowa. While this music venue still attracts concerts, it is also home to the Buddy Holly Museum, which also honors The Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens, and many more iconic rock and roll celebrities.

The crash site memorial is tasteful memorial to Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens. You will discover a considerable amount of rock and roll memorabilia at the Surf Ballroom’s Buddy Holly Museum.

What’s the address for the Buddy Holly Crash Site and Museum? Where is the Buddy Holly Crash Site and Museum located?

Memorial at Buddy Holly Crash site in corn field with memorial markers for Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper

GPS will get you into the vicinity of the Buddy Holly Crash Site, which is located in a rural area at the intersection of 315th Street and Gull Lake Road in Clear Lake, Iowa. A prominent marker with giant Buddy Holly glasses directs you to the entrance of the half-mile path that leads to the crash site memorial.

Located inside the Surf Ballroom, the address for the Buddy Holly Museum is 460 North Shore Drive, Clear Lake, Iowa.

How far is the Buddy Holly Crash Site and Museum from Des Moines, Iowa? What’s the distance between the Buddy Holly Crash Site and the Buddy Holly Museum?

The Buddy Holly Crash Site is located 126 miles north of the Des Moines International Airport. And the Buddy Holly Museum at the Surf Museum is located about six miles south of the crash site memorial.

How much are tickets to the Buddy Holly Crash Site and Museum in Clear Lake, Iowa?

Red curtain on a stage at Surf Ballroom and Buddy Holly Museum

Entrance to the Buddy Holly Crash Site is free. A $5 per person donation is suggested to tour the Buddy Holly Museum at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa.

When is the Buddy Holly Crash Site and Museum in Clear Lake open? What are the hours for the Buddy Holly Crash Site and Museum?

The pathway to Buddy Holly Crash Site is open year-round – typically mowed or plowed. I don’t recall lights so you’ll want to visit during the day hours. Also, the crash site is located in a rural setting so can be a little challenging to find at first.

The Buddy Holly Museum at the Surf Ballroom is open year-round Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Additionally, they open on Saturdays 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Memorial Day through Labor Day weekend.

How big is Clear Lake, Iowa? What’s the population of Clear Lake, Iowa?

Clear Lake, Iowa’s population is approximately 7,500 residents.

Learn more in my full post: Guide to the Buddy Holly Crash Site and Museum – Clear Lake, Iowa

Top things to do in Iowa: The Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption – West Bend, Iowa

The Shrine of the Redemption of the Grotto

The Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption holds a very special place in my heart. It’s one of the few places we visited during my childhood so reminds me of my father. I returned to visit as an adult and this beautiful shrine was just as magical as I remembered.

This historic shrine is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and depicts the life of Jesus Christ as well as other major Biblical events. Covering an entire city block, this roadside attraction is constructed with the world’s largest collection of precious and semi-precious gemstones, rocks, shells, and petrified wood. Many are surprised to learn that this beautiful work of art crafted by three men is located in rural West Bend, Iowa and not Europe.

What’s the address for The Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption? Where is The Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption located?

The Shrine of the Redemption of the Grotto

The Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption is located at 208 1st Avenue, NW, West Bend, IA 50597.

How far is The Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption from Des Moines, Iowa?

The Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption is located 146 miles northwest of the Des Moines International Airport.

How much are tickets for The Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption?

Admission to The Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption is free. However, donations are welcomed.  

When is The Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption open? What are the hours for The Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption?

The Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Office hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption also offers seasonal guided tours April through October 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

How big is West Bend, Iowa? What’s the population of West Bend, Iowa?

Although The Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption is off the beaten path, about 100,000 people make the pilgrimage annually. That’s far larger than the actual population of about ~750.

Learn more in my full post: Guide to The Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption

 

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List of the best hidden gems in small-town Iowa: American Gothic House, Buddy Holly Crash Site and Museum, and The Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption

List of the best hidden gems in small-town Iowa: American Gothic House, Buddy Holly Crash Site and Museum, and The Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption

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Twin Cities-based blogger sharing memorable emptynester, solo, family and girlfriend-getaway adventures, as well as my day hiking adventures (including all 66 Minnesota state parks), latest book reviews, and updates on my quest for the best adult mac and cheese. Also two WIPs: historical fiction and psychological thriller

22 comments

  1. As mentioned, I’ve never thought about actually stopping in Iowa to explore, but I forgot all about the Buddy Holly crash site! That would be a cool place to visit for sure.

    1. I love that they continue to honor the rock legend’s memory tastefully at the Buddy Holly Crash Site. Highly recommend.

  2. We have only passed through Iowa with only short stops. It looks like we will need to plan some longer visits on our next road trip through Iowa. The Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption looks like an interesting stop. Great to bring back good memories for you.

  3. I didn’t know American Gothic was inspired in Iowa, and that shrine is amazing! Just added a few destinations to my travel list 🙂

  4. I always forget that the American Gothic House is in Iowa! It’s one of the states I still need to check off, and visiting there would be a great reason to do so!

  5. The Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption is stunning. I love that it made your list of off the beaten path hidden gms in Iowa.

  6. I don’t think Iowa gets nearly the amount of tourism love it deserves. These 3 attractions look like really interesting places to visit. I’d really love to explore The Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption.

  7. Your tips about Iowa’s small towns truly highlights the heart and soul of the Midwest! I would love to have the chance to visit the American Gothic House Center one day – absolutely iconic!

  8. What a wonderful list of hidden gems! They all look fantastic! I’d especially love to explore Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption, it looks so magical! Thanks for the great guide!

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