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Places To Visit During Fall and Halloween In Iowa

With fall colors at their peak in Iowa, and Halloween around the corner, it's a great time for some spooky adventures and fall foliage visits.  

In this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe explores both beautiful and spooky fall excursions with travel writer Megan Banister as she shares her favorite must-see fall destinations. But first, a look at the newly reopeneed Cedar Bridge – one of the six famous covered bridges in Madison County. 

Spooky Iowa Destinations

  •   ​Roseman Covered Bridge (Winterset) It's rumored this famous bridge is haunted. Legend has it that in 1892, two sheriffs cornered a county jail escapee on the bridge. The man is said to have let out a shriek, floated through the roof and vanished. He was never to be seen again. 
  •   ​Oakland Cemetery’s Black Angel (Iowa City):  The eight-and-a-half-foot tall statue at the Oakland Cemetery in Iowa City has been a source of mystery and local folklore. It's rumored anyone who touches or kisses the black angel will die.
  •   ​Villisca Ax Murder House (Villisca): On June 10, 1912, eight people were killed in their sleep in their home in Villisca, Iowa. The town was rocked by an eerily staged crime scene and a complete lack of suspects. To this day, the crime remains unsolved. 
  •   ​Mason House Inn (Betonsport): Built-in 1846, this historic inn on the banks of the Des Moines River was once a hospital and a station on the Underground Railroad during the Civil War. Now, thanks to its history, there are reports that it hosts more than 100 "friendly" ghosts. 
  •  Drake Municipal Observatory (Des Moines): Students have reported feeling like they were being watched while in the basement and noticed ghostly corrections on their observation logs.  It's believed the ghost of Dr. Robert Morehouse, Drake University's first chairman of the Department of Astronomy and Physics haunts the observatory. 
  • Edinburgh Manor (Scotch Grove): Opened as a poor farm in the mid-1800s, many workers are believed to have died in farming accidents. After the farm was demolished, the Edinburg Manor was built in its place and used as a home for people with mental illness and disabilities. One particularly evil spirit is called "The Joker," and is known to be violent, throwing plates across the room and attempting to choke visitors.   
  •   ​Hotel Blackhawk (Davenport): This newly renovated historic hotel has a bit of a seedy past, including a haunting or two. Cary Grant was staying in the hotel in 1986 at the time of his death and is rumored to have been seen around the property after his death. 
  • Matsell Bridge (Viola): Local legend says that if you drive onto the Matsell Bridge at night and shift your car into neutral, an unknown force will push you to the other side. Some have also reported mysterious handprints appearing on car bumpers and on the back windows. Locals say the ghosts are easily angered and may try to break windows or push cars off the bridge.
  •   ​Mathias Ham House (Dubuque): This historic home turned museum is plagued with a variety of mysterious activities. Visitors report feeling cool breezes, noticing objects move unaided from room to room, flickering lights, and hearing disembodied sounds like footsteps, scooting furniture, and music from the inoperable organ. 
  • Lover's Leap (Columbus Junction): Built-in 1904, the original bridge on this site collapsed in 1920, though neither person on it was injured in the fall. However, visitors sometimes report hearing screams in the canyon. Legend also goes that a heartbroken Native American woman leaped from the cliff to her death after her lover died in battle. She is said to be buried at the bottom of the canyon, and sometimes she can be heard weeping in the empty woods.

Hidden gems in Iowa to see this fall

  •   ​Ledges State Park: Just four miles south of Boone, Ledges State Park is 1,200 acres of outdoor space featuring towering trees and a sandstone gorge. Other area things to do include: Alluvial Brewing, Center Grove Orchard, and Great Plains Pizza
  • Driftless Area Scenic Byway: Enjoy the beauty of northeastern Iowa along this 144-mile byway that traverses Allamakee and Winneshiek counties. Area things to do include: Peake Orchard, Empty Nest Winery, and City Meat Market
  • Glacial Trails Scenic Byway: This scenic 36-mile drive explores rural towns like Peterson and Linn Grove in northwestern Iowa. Area things to do include: InnSpiration Vines & Wines, Historic Fort Peterson Blockhouse, Prairie Heritage Center and Dog Creek Grain Bin Cabins
  • Great River Road + Mississippi River Valley: Take the "Best Drive in America" along the Mississippi River to see the fall colors. Area things to do include: Effigy Mounds National Historic Monument, Breitbach's Country Dining, Fenelon Place Elevator, and Harvestville Farm Mercantile.

Guest include:

  • Heather Riley, Executive Director for the Madison County Chamber of Commerce. 
  • Megan Banister, Founder of Olio in Iowa and freelance travel writer.
Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa
Katelyn Harrop is a producer for IPR's River to River and Talk of Iowa