F is for FOMO: What is there to do in Iowa?

Part I of a II part post

What is there to do in Iowa?

“Going through all the sports articles/clips about the Iowa stuff this weekend is great.”

I looked at my text from my brother and felt my heart break a little. “I wish I would have flown home for it,” I texted back.

Washington, D.C. is my favorite city in this world. I am so happy and so grateful I live here, and have no intentions of leaving. I have a great group of friends, I never use my car, and frankly I think our cobblestone streets are f*cking adorable. If someone I know is visiting D.C., I can rattle off an itinerary on what to see, where to drink, and where to do bottomless brunch. I can’t do that when I describe Iowa.

Whenever I fly home, someone always slides a, “Well, Kara’s never coming back,” into the conversation.

I’ve thought about home ever since the day I left.

D.C. is a beautiful city (and I do truly mean beautiful—you won’t see the pollution here that you see in NYC or SF), and yes, there is an endless list of things to do here. I could eat at a different restaurant or drink at a different bar every night of the week and it would be a year before I hit the same place twice. Here’s the flip side to that coin:

  • Part of my soul dies when I pay rent. I pay $1400 per month in rent, and I share an apartment with a roommate.
  • I don’t use my car, but when I do, chances are I get a parking ticket (I got three last week).
  • Sometimes, since there are so many bars and restaurants, it’s actually hard to think of something to do besides go out to eat, or go out to the bar.

People ask me all the time what there is to do in Iowa, and I never know how to answer it. It’s not like I can list off local tourist attractions or tell them which club to go to. You just eat awesome food and hang out with good people.

So to answer everyone’s question, here’s what you do in Iowa:

1. You know your neighbors.

I live in an apartment building with dozens of people my age, and I could not tell you the first names of the couple next door. My parents have been friends with their neighbors longer than I’ve been alive. When something happens to someone in their network of friends, people come out of the woods with visits, coffee, and food—obscene quantities of food.

2. You actually go outside.

Four-wheelers, gators, boating on the river—we could explore the outdoors because we had the space to do so. We didn’t have to go to a public park to see grass, and didn’t have to go to the beach to get our tan on.

3. You can buy booze at gas stations, grocery stores, and Target.

I know this has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the post, but I felt it necessary to mention it.

4. You do all the things people pay to do in the city.

I went home for Labor Day, and my mom and I picked eight laundry baskets full of apples from our apple tree. In two days, we froze lord-knows-how-many apple pies. While we were apple picking, I told my mom, “You know what I find hilarious? What people in Iowa do for work, people in the city pay to do. They would literally go to an apple orchard and take selfies while picking a dozen apples.”

5. You eat bomb food

BBQs. Bonfires. Potlucks. We may not have Jose Andres’ next restaurant, but you cannot compete with all your friends and family coming together to grill out just because it’s Saturday.

6. You tailgate like a family.

Iowa does not have a single professional sports team, so people rally behind college sports. My brother went to Iowa undergrad and law school, so he breathed Iowa City air for seven consecutive years. Iowa City and the University of Iowa grew up at the same time, so the campus isn’t isolated from the rest of the town. People tailgate in yards, not parking lots; and the outdoor pregame is always chosen over a bar.

Last weekend, I was sitting in a coffee shop when I looked up and saw “Hawkeyes” scribbled across the back of someone’s sweatshirt. I did not think twice about it. I screamed, “Where in Iowa are you from!?” to a total stranger who wasn’t even facing toward me.

With two minutes, I learned this person went to UNI, loved the Hawkeyes, was from Dubuque, and had a brother who also happened to live in D.C. On my walk home, I probably passed—at least—fifty people. I didn’t say hi to a single one of them.

In Iowa, you always say hi to strangers. You always say good morning when you pass someone walking down the street. You always do a one finger wave when you’re driving with one hand on the steering wheel. And you always say, “Go hawks!” when you see black and gold.

That’s just what you do in Iowa.


1 Comment
  1. I have to admit that before I visited Iowa, I always thought it was not worth my time (sorry. Just being honest. Hear me out.) But now that I’ve been there, I can’t wait to go back. By the way, you forgot my favorite part of Iowa: the landscape. 🙂

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For All the F Words
You have flaws. You f-up on a daily basis. And that should be ok.