Editor’s Note: During this period of social distancing, Group Tour magazine will continue to provide group travel inspiration. Many attractions and destinations are closed at this time; please contact them directly for updated information.

Iowa’s scenic byways deliver unique art, history and attractions for group tours. A group travel itinerary has been developed for each of the 13 scenic byways.

For example, groups can step into the stories of authentic American heroes and cultural icons in south central Iowa with the Covered Bridges Scenic Byway itinerary. Visit the John Wayne Birthplace & Museum in Winterset. The city is the covered bridge capital of Iowa, with the highest concentration of covered bridges west of the Mississippi. The bridges were the setting of the 1992 novel The Bridges of Madison County and the 1995 movie of the same name. Book a guided tour to view six of the original 19 covered bridges located throughout Madison County that have been preserved. Fans can visit many of the set locations, including the Roseman and Holliwell covered bridges.

Madison County Iowa covered bridge
Covered bridge, Madison County, Iowa
Credit: Iowa Tourism Office

Or experience Iowa’s river towns by following the Mississippi River between the state’s southern and northern borders along Iowa’s portion of the Great River Road National Scenic Byway. Tour the Figge Art Museum in Davenport and the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium in Dubuque. Effigy Mounds, Iowa’s only national monument, has 200-plus American Indian burial mounds, many in the shape of animals known as effigies.

While exploring Iowa’s scenic byways, it’s also possible to take an art tour. Thanks to the Byways of Iowa Public Art Initiative and more than 100 project partners, 16 public art installations have been set up in 15 small towns — from Anamosa to Winterset.

Each community chose a theme for its art project, then sought artists with local ties to help make the visions three-dimensional — many of which are hands-on and interactive. In Belle Plaine, make music in the sound park. In Guttenberg, find the hidden main street map on the giant metal walleye. Grab a box lunch and picnic in the shade of Maquoketa’s wooden gables.

For more information, visit bywaysofiowa.org.