Guild Wurst Tavern ~ Coralville, Iowa

While visiting friends in the Iowa City area, they offered to take us out to a newer restaurant in the area: Guild Wurst Tavern. Guild Wurst Tavern is located on the Coralville Strip and is so much cooler than it looks on the outside!

Guild Wurst Tavern is also home to the Boot ‘N Flute Brewery and the inside is completly done up like an old German Tavern. They also have lots of unique art for sale on their walls.

Andrew and I aren’t beer drinkers, so we didn’t indulge in any of their home brews, but rather looked further into the food on the menu. I opted to go for their pretzel rolls which were served with beer cheese sauce and Andrew went with the grilled cheese with Gouda and Cheddar. He also opted to add bacon to his sandwich and had a side of beans.

My pretzels rolls were super tasty and so much bigger than I was expecting! These five rolls quickly filled me up and the beer cheese sauce was superb! Andrew also really enjoyed his grilled cheese and bacon sandwich and said the beans were top notch as well! It’s probably a good thing we no longer live in the Iowa City area, because otherwise we would probably come here all the time!

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Dunnings Springs ~ Decorah, Iowa

Dunnings Springs is a beautiful little park in Decorah, Iowa. This visit brought an interesting adventure though!

You can usually access Dunnings Springs my turning into their park road and parking along it. On this particular visit, (when we were already trying to beat a nasty storm approaching,) we had to park across the way from the main park road as it was blocked off. That was just fine as it really is a short walk up the park road.

As we got out of our car, we quickly realized why as we could already hear the water rushing in the creek. I assumed it was far too wet to park along the areas that you normally could. This was part of it, but they also were doing work on the pedestrian bridge in the park and they needed space for their work vehicles. My guess is the bridge needed some help due to the huge amount of water the springs were putting out this year!

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Like many visits before, we snagged some photos from down below the springs, but unfortunately due to the bridge work, couldn’t climb any higher on the other side to get upper level photos seeing as how they were working on the bridge! No matter what it was a fun time as that’s the most water I’ve ever seen at the springs!

If you are ever in the area, definitely visit this picturesque spot! It’s a must visit in the area!

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Mabe’s Pizza ~ Decorah, Iowa

On our way down towards Iowa City from Austin, MN, we stopped by my college town of Decorah, Iowa to visit some of my old favorites. Our first stop was Mabe’s Pizza for a tasty lunch.

Mabe’s serves thin crust pizza, which normally isn’t my favorite, but their pizzas are just so flavorful that I can’t resist always stopping in when we are in the area. What I also like is that you can get a personal sized pizza, so Andrew and I can both get a single serving for ourselves instead of having to try to split half and half.

This worked out especially well on this visit as I opted for a standard cheese and Andrew opted for the Chicken BBQ.

As always, we both really enjoyed our pizzas and ate every last bite! I highly recommend stopping in if you are ever in the area!

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American Gothic House ~ Eldon, Iowa

On our way to our friend’s house in Southern Illinois, we decided to take a slight detour off our course from Des Moines to Saint Louis and visit the American Gothic House in Eldon, Iowa as it only added a few minutes to our trip overall. I’d stopped in once before on my own, but Andrew had never been. We were battling the rain and storms all morning, but luckily had a slight break to allow us to snag a few photos.

The American Gothic House has a small visitor center that is part museum and part gift shop. Both times I’ve stopped I haven’t had a chance to do the museum part, so I can’t say much on that aspect of the center.

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The American Gothic House itself is located just outside the center with a walkway out to it from both the gift shop, or just off the parking lot, so you could stop by to visit without the center being opened.

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We posed for a few goofy pictures of our own before heading into the visitor center to grab our appropriate attire.

Inside the visitor center they have the proper costumes for you to don should you want more authentic American Gothic photos to more accurately depict Grant Wood’s famous painting. The guides inside will also offer to take photos for you, although on our day, our volunteer was rather cranky. Maybe it was the weather or maybe she was annoyed we didn’t have time for the museum and just wanted a photo op, either way, she was far less friendly than the lady the first time I ever visited.

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Despite her crankiness, we did get our photo, and that’s what really matters. This is a fun little roadside stop and for me is worth the detour to be able to replicate Grant Wood’s famous painting. That being said, don’t use Google Maps to get you there, as it won’t lead you to the appropriate place, but rather just follow the signs in town. Eldon isn’t that big, so you’ll find it no problem once you make it to town!

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Days Inn & Suites by Wyndham Des Moines Airport ~ Des Moines, Iowa

Over Memorial Day Weekend, we made a trip down to visit friends in Southern Illinois. We left after Andrew was done with work, and knew we would only make it part way so we booked a hotel in Des Moines, Iowa for the night. We opted for the Days Inn near the airport as it was budget friendly, closer to the south end of town for an easy getaway the next morning, and part of our Wyndham rewards program.

The parking lot for the hotel is a little interesting to get into, as it’s behind another hotel and off of a busy street that is rather difficult to make a left turn on when heading south. It also is a very unique building as it appears to be two separate hotel buildings that were joined in the middle to create a hotel twice the size of a normal Days Inn.

We got lucky, and after checking in, our room was in the same building as the lobby, so it was just a short elevator ride up to our room. Upon entering, the bathroom was to the left, and a small closet containing a luggage holder was on the right.

We had a king size bed that faced the TV set. It was later when we arrived to town, but if I remember correctly we did watch a little bit of TV before turning in for the night.

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I did find it awkward that despite the closet in the entry area, there was a separate rod on the one side of the bed, along with the ironing board. Why not just stick it in the closet? Just past the TV there was also a desk. As you can see, the lighting in the room really was not helpful in getting decent pictures.

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The one other thing the room had to offer was a cozy chair on the other side of the bed. As you can see, for us it turned into a luggage holder for the night!

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The Days Inn near the airport worked for the night, and would be a great place to stay if you need to get there the night before a flight or the night a flight returns as they offer transport to the airport, (which is right across the street), and also have deals for leaving your car parked there. It worked for a cheap night stay for us, but I wouldn’t want to stay here long term.

Our breakfast selection was good, and we did end up staying a little longer in the morning while we waited for a storm to roll through. The weird thing was they were broadcasting previous news and weather when we were trying to get updated weather info from the local news channel! The hotel also has a pool, but since it was in the other building, we never ventured over to check it out.

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Days Inn ~ Sioux City, Iowa

We experienced our first hotel stay with our dogs when we moved from St. Louis to Groton. Without dogs (and with stops) driving non-stop takes about 14 hours and that just seemed crazy knowing we’d have both dogs and one of us driving a U-Haul, so we decided to make Sioux City our pit stop for the night.

Lots of things played into how we picked our hotel for that night. The first is that we are Wyndham Rewards members, so we wanted to find something in their chain of hotels. The second was that we needed somewhere that would allow two larger dogs in a room for a night. Most of the Wyndham properties in Sioux City limited it to a combined weight of 30 lbs. The Days Inn had nothing listed weight wise, and when I called and explained our situation they completely understood and told me “sometimes small dogs make even bigger messes than big dogs anyways.” The third thing we needed to make sure of was that they had room for a U-haul in the lot, which they assured me they did.

Upon arriving at the hotel around dinner time, I went into the lobby to check us in. As I waited my turn behind a few other construction workers, I grew slightly concerned as the front desk had a sign listing the 30 lb rule. Not sure if this is something they chose to list after I had booked our room, or if they always have the sign displayed, but don’t necessarily follow it. Either way they didn’t question me on the size of the dogs, just gave me the price of my room with the two dogs added in.

Our room was upstairs, but at least right off the stairwell, so it made it easy to bring the dogs in the side door and get right up to our room. I wasn’t sure how they would be with all the noises hotels may have, but as you can see below, they settled in just fine.

The great thing about this Days Inn’s location is it is near several gas stations, which allowed Andrew to take both my car and the U-haul to fill up so it was ready for morning. It also has several fast food joints located nearby so Andrew also brought us both back some Culver’s to the room so we didn’t need to worry about leaving the dogs alone. A Taco Bell was right in our backyard and a Burger King was also attached to a gas station nearby if you were looking for other options.

If you are staying in the area for a longer time (or without dogs to keep track of), they also had a nice pool area right off the lobby, along with a breakfast nook. I can’t remember if we ate their breakfast or not, or if we just grabbed something to bring up to our room and that’s why I’m not remembering. The nice thing was that given it’s proximity to another restaurant, there also was a nice grassy patch in between the hotel lot and theirs for the dogs to relieve themselves.

If you are looking for a cheaper place to stay in Sioux City, I do recommend the Days Inn. It was easy to access and had all the comforts you need for a short stay.

 

Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge ~ Council Bluffs, IA/Omaha, NE

Before making our official move to South Dakota, Andrew and I spent two days driving both our cars up to our new home to leave one there before driving back to St. Louis to load all our belongings unto our U-haul. This allowed us to not have to pull one of the cars behind the U-haul.

The trip up along I-70 and I-29 was fairly uneventful minus the fact that it was July and my car had no AC, so I was stopping every hour just to cool down and unstick myself from the driver’s seat! While traveling up, I realized just how close we came to entering Nebraska, a state I had never visited.

Knowing Council Bluffs, IA and Omaha, NE share a pedestrian bridge over the river, on our way back to St. Louis, we opted to stop by and cross the bridge, to say in we had now made Nebraska another official state visited in our book. We thought we were going to be thwarted by the weather for a bit, but we got lucky and had a break in the storms right about the time we reached Council Bluffs.

Due to recent flooding during our visit we weren’t able to access the bridge via the way Google Maps advised. We wound up having to park in a newer apartment complex area near Tom Hanafan River’s Edge Park. To me, this actually seemed more ideal as the other location by the casino that Google wanted us to use would have been a much longer walk to the bridge.

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At 3000 ft long, the bridge is quite impressive. It doesn’t take long to reach the Iowa/Nebraska border over the Missouri River.

On our way back off the bridge on the Nebraska side, I discovered this fun little sign about how the bridge really is named “Bob.”

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While on the Nebraska side, we spent a little time exploring the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Headquarters and Visitor Center. We’ve visited several places along the Lewis and Clark Trail before, so it was fun to see it’s headquarters.

Back on the Iowa Side, we spent a bit more time exploring the River’s Edge Park to the best of our ability given the flooding. One neat thing we were able to check out was the River’s Edge Pavilion and Rooftop Deck. You get a great view of the Omaha skyline from there.

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The park is also supposed to have several water features, including a splash pad, and a light show that is performed every half hour after dusk on the green space. We already have plans to visit Omaha for a longer amount of time this coming March and hope to check out the light show then!

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Holiday Inn Express and Suites~ Coralville, Iowa

Normally when staying at hotels, Andrew and I tend to lean toward Wyndham properties. We are members of their rewards program and they are usually the most cost effective for our budget, even if they aren’t always the “nicest” hotels on the block. However, over Memorial Weekend, since we were back preaching for our vicarage church, the church put us up in the Holiday Inn Express, and I’ve got to say, our experience has me seriously considering them the next time we need a hotel stay, because the perks just might be worth the extra money for the night.

Church had already picked up the hotel keys for us, so we didn’t have to deal with the check in process, so I have no opinion on how well that process works. When we first made it to our room I was immediately impressed with how spacious it was.

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The bathroom was located directly to the left before you reached the closet in the above picture.

Andrew really appreciated the height on the shower head, since many hotels have shorter shower heads installed and it makes it tricky for a taller guy like him to shower comfortably.

After walking past the closet, there is a nice seating area with a couch with large ottoman and a small table for two. This table would come in handy if you were staying there for awhile and wanted to take advantage of the next feature…

…the kitchenette! As you can see the cupboards were well stocked with a nice assortment of dishes, and they even provided a small bottle of dish soap to rinse the dishes after use. We made use of the fridge as we had leftovers from our Satay Platters at Blackstones.

Beyond the living area was the King bed and a nice area to place our suitcases. There also was a desk and large TV.

We were on one of the upper levels so we had a nice view out our window of the parking lot and hotel next door. This hotel is also located right by the mall, so if shopping is your thing, this is a great place to be! Plus there are lots of great chain restaurants nearby, but personally I suggest heading into downtown Iowa City for some good local restaurants.

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The final awesome aspect about this room was that the temperature was controlled by a wall thermostat instead of just trying to control it on an AC wall unit.

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I don’t have any pictures of the area as it was quite busy with it being Memorial Weekend, but the breakfast was also super good for a hotel breakfast. They had a great selection of eggs, a breakfast meat, biscuits and gravy, several cereals and fruits, and even a pancake machine. They also had an indoor pool, but again, due to several families utilizing the hotel, we did not use it ourselves.

We had a great stay and would gladly stay again and look forward to staying at Holiday Inns in the future!

BlackStones~ Iowa City, IA

Over Memorial Weekend, Andrew and I had the joy of revisiting our vicarage congregation in Iowa City, as Andrew was invited to preach for the services. Of course, being back in Iowa City meant we had to hit up our old favorite restaurants that we loved during our year living there. For some reason, I never wrote up a blog post about BlackStones which is so weird because it’s the first local restaurant we ever had the chance to eat at! So here is our long overdue post about our favorite Iowa City restaurant!

BlackStones is an upscale contemporary restaurant found on the far east side of Iowa City. While the decor and feel of the restaurant are upscale, the prices are still very reasonable for what you receive in food portions. Our first time there was when we initially visited our congregation, so members from the church had reserved a private room for our party of 10. I believe they have two private rooms. They also have a bar area and two or three main dining areas with tables and booths.

During our first visit, we ordered a few Satay Samplers as appetizers for the tables to share. I also ordered a burger and Andrew tried the Mac and Cheese. It was all fantastic. We took family there various times when they visited and also went there for our own special occasions for date nights. Always we’d come back to starting our meals off with the Satay Sampler.

Now what is the Satay Sampler you may ask? You are served three skewers of meat: chicken, shrimp, and beef. The chicken and beef are both seasoned and various Asian sauces are drizzled over the platter. There also is a pile of seaweed served in the middle of the plate for added presentation, but my mom usually enjoyed eating her way through that as well.

This sampler alone could be your meal if you didn’t want to share with anyone. For a few times, Andrew and I would order one to share and each order a side of Mac and Cheese or Fries to go with it, but on our most recent visit, we each just ordered the Satay Sampler. Neither Andrew and I are shrimp fans, but they will gladly accommodate and let you choose another beef or chicken to sub in the shrimps place. I personally love the beef the best so I subbed in a second portion of that.

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This is hands down my favorite meal to eat in Iowa City and anytime we visit I will gladly return to BlackStones. There is often a wait during the dinner hour, but it is so worth the wait!

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Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen ~ Coralville, Iowa

As everyone who has ever been part of a moving process knows, it’s easiest to eat out for a last meal before moving. We had driven past Cheddar’s multiple times in our year of living in Iowa City and always intended to stop in, so our last night in Iowa City seemed as good of time as any.

While it is technically a franchise restaurant, their locations seem to be few and far between, so I figured a review was in order, especially since it was such a wonderful meal!

Andrew was driving, so this allowed me to order a drink. Those who know me, know I rarely order a drink at a restaurant anyways (usually to keep the budget down), but a move seemed to be reason to celebrate as we would begin Andrew’s last year of schooling. The Maui Margarita seemed right up my alley; it was a nice mix of strawberry, mango, and even a little kiwi. We also ordered an appetizer of Wisconsin cheese bites. They were some of the most delicious cheese curds I have had up to that point.

For our main course, I ordered the Homemade Baked Potato Soup and Andrew got Chicken Tenders. We both were very happy with our entrees, but nothing could top those cheese curds…except perhaps the dessert we chose to order.

For dessert, we couldn’t say no to Cheddar’s Legendary Monster Cookie. We ordered it without chopped nuts or the cherry seeing as how we don’t like either. It does take a little longer to cook, so plan accordingly, but it is so worth the time you wait!

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We really enjoyed our last meal in the Iowa City area and would gladly go to another Cheddar’s should we stumble upon another one!

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