Is This Heaven? No, It’s the Best of Iowa Pop Culture History
Photo courtesy of Thinkstock
Over the course of two days last summer, we visited one of the most famous sets in movie history, the birthplace of Captain Kirk and the college that Hannah attended for a short time on “Girls.” If you didn't know better, you might assume our summer road trip took us through New York or California, but we were actually in Iowa.
The Hawkeye State has a surprisingly rich pop culture history, which the state has used to its advantage by turning many of these sites into tourist destinations. Here are just a few of our favorites.
The Future Birthplace of Captain Kirk
51 W. 1st St. Riverside, IA
Each year, thousands of Trekkies make the pilgrimage to Riverside to get a look at the future birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk. Riverside earned the privilege of being Kirk's hometown after “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry wrote that James Tiberius Kirk had been born in the state of Iowa. This led Steve Miller, a member of Riverside City Council in the 80s, to declare Riverside was to be the exact location of Kirk's birth.
There is a birthplace marker behind a salon on the town's main drag and another plaque in Murphy's Bar and Grill, just a few doors away, that reads "Captain James T. Kirk conceived at this point on June 22, 2227," making a detour to Riverside, more than worth it.
Little House Park
3603 236th Ave., Burr Oak
If you were born in the 1970s or '80s, chances are you grew up watching the adventures of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her frontier family on “Little House On The Prairie.” Today, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Park & Museum, located along the banks of Silver Creek, welcomes fans to the home where the Ingalls family lived in 1876 when Laura was just nine years old. The Masters Hotel, which the family managed for a short time, is also open for tours.
”Field of Dreams” Movie Site
28995 Lansing Rd, Dyersville
The “Field of Dreams” you remember from the 1989 movie is still intact and has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Iowa. The site is open to the public and free to visit, just beware of the bus tours that seem to pull in and out nonstop. A bus full of tourists can make getting to the bathroom, or taking the perfect photos of the field, nearly impossible.
The Iowa Writer's Workshop featured on “Girls”
This prestigious MFA program was featured frequently on “Girls” in the first few episodes of the fourth season. While Hannah, played by Lena Dunham, didn't last at the school, students who have gone through the program admit the show did nail the experience, for better or worse. Though the episodes were filmed in Brooklyn, not Iowa City, because the University of Iowa simply wasn't having it, the show still managed to capture the essence of IC, which is more than worth the trip, if just for the coffee alone.
”The Bridges of Madison County”
In 1995, Clint Eastwood and Meryl Steep made Madison County, IA one of the most famous destinations in the Midwest. The movie, “The Bridges of Madison County,” based on the best-selling novel of the same name, captured the romance of a simpler time and a simpler place that does still exist today. It's not uncommon to find fans of the movie traveling through Madison County, looking for those covered bridges and hoping to capture a bit of that romance for themselves. The local Chamber of Commerce recently made it much easier for them to find the movie's locations with the addition of this nifty map.
John Wayne Birthplace
205 John Wayne Dr., Winterset
John Wayne may be an American legend now, but his life started out simply in Winterset, where he was born Marion Robert Morrison to Clyde and Mary Brown Morrison in 1907. The family's small, four room home has been meticulously restored and is now adjacent to a new museum with a collection of memorabilia from Wayne's film career. In May, the center celebrates Wayne's birthday with a two-day festival on the property.
“American Pickers” Home Base
15 1/2 Davenport St., LeClaire, IA
One of the History Channel's most popular series is based in LeClaire, a town already famous for being the birthplace of Buffalo Bill. Antique Archaeology is the home base for "American Pickers" and still houses some of their best picks, as well as merchandise from the show. The store is open Monday to Saturday and welcomes everyone to stop in and check it out, even fans who just want to be nosy.
“American Gothic” House
300 American Gothic St., Eldon, IA
The “American Gothic” house doesn't just hold a place in the art world, it also holds a place in pop culture history as everyone from The Muppets to The Simpsons have received the “American Gothic” treatment. The house Grant Wood painted back in 1930 has become an American landmark, open for exhibits, films and, of course, photo ops. Want to know what other pop culture gems are hiding in Iowa, visit the official Iowa Travel Guide.
More by Christine Bord
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