Iowa secrets, fun travel destinations, and structural popcorn balls?

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Iowa has secrets! Some are hidden in plain sight like a few mysterious concrete structures in a popular kids area at the Iowa State Fair. Megan Bannister, author and editor of Olio in Iowa is a walking encyclopedia of Iowa’s craziest stories and tells us the most famous destinations in Iowa!

Famous destinations in Iowa to visit

Megan Bannister with the World’s Largest Ball of Twine in Cawker City, Kansas

The author of Iowa Supper Clubs and her second book, Secret Iowa has fascinating stories collected all over the state. She explains why Audubon’s “Albert the bull” can beat up New York City’s Wall Street bull, why Sac City should consider making bridges out of popcorn balls, and how the world’s largest wooden nickel was made in protest to speed limits.

Bannister also discusses the world’s largest truck stop in Walcot, Iowa and explains all the amenities like screen printing an on-site dentist, dog wash, and even tire flipping competitions they have every July. Then, there’s the world’s largest concrete gnome in Ames that almost lost its title over a technicality. And don’t forget the world’s largest Swedish Coffee Pot in Stanton!

Here’s the breakdown of famous destinations in Iowa:

World’s Largest Truck Stop

City: Walcot, Iowa

The stop is the largest by square footage and acerage and supports around 5000 people per year. They also have an annual truckers jamboree every July. They have tired flipping and celebrate the most decorate rigs.

The World’s Biggest Truck Stop has a dog wash, dentist, laundry, facilities, on site screen printing, and a movie theater. And that’s just scratching the surface.

World’s Largest Concrete Garden Gnome.

City: Ames, Iowa

Installed as an earth day celebration, the world’d largest concrete garden gnome is named Eldwood. Because he was almost beat out by a gnome in another state, they reclassified him as the world’s largest concrete gnome to maintain the title.

Swedish coffee pot

City: Stanton, Iowa

The world’s largest Swedish Coffee Pot used to be a water tower, painted to look like a coffee pot, but after plans to remove it, was concerted into the world’s Largest Coffee Pot with an added spout and handle. It’s a Swedish town after all!

The coffee pot is an nod to the Foldgers Coffee spokesperson, Virginia Christine who was from Stanton, Iowa and was featured on the coffee cans and commercials.

Albert the bull

City: Audubon, Iowa

The world’s largest bull, named “Albert the Bull” was created from funds the local community, led by the local Jaycees. It was a node to the thriving cattle industry in the town. To cattle industry.

Albert was featured in the movie Beethoven, was a clue on jeopardy, and at 15 feet tall, he’s bigger than the Wall Street Bronze bull. Albert is certainly belongs in our list of famous destinations in Iowa.

Ball of Popcorn

City: Sac City, Iowa

Sac City is presently on their 4th ball of popcorn after being repeadatly beat by Boyscouts in Indiana. It’s real popcorn, and it lives in a shed with plexi glass windows.

The city attempted to blow up a previous ball of popcorn with dynamite, hoping popcorn would shower down on the audience, but instead it was so strong it just broke in two.

We should hire Sac City to make popcorn bridges and roads. Perhaps those would last longer than our current roads?

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World’s Largest Cheeto

City: Algona

The World’s Largest Cheeto lives at Emerald’s Fine Foods and Libations. The original owners found the silver dollars sized Cheeto and listed it on eBay—shockingly it soon reached over one million dollars before eBay removed it from the site.

A local DJ in Alogna started a campaign to bring it to Iowa, which was eventually successful. Today it sits on its own purple velvet pillow.

World’s Largest Wooden Nickel

City: Iowa City

The World’s Largest Wooden Nickel was created as protest art against a speed limit. The inscription on it says don’t tread on me.

Iowa Largest Things

You can see all Iowa’s largest things at Olio in Iowa »

Famous locations in Iowa

Other unexpected travel destinations are Cedar Falls and The Villages of Van Buren.

Cedar Falls has a traditional ice house that uses Amish methods to preserve winter ice through the whole year. If you go check it out make sure to stay at the Blackhawk Hotel. Museum is open, ironically in the summer because in the winter it’s not heated.

Villages of Van Buren near Burlington. It features a local artist community and local artisans; they have a blacksmith, ceramicists and a wooden boardwalk that connects all their shops.

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World’s Largest Wednesday

Bannister is the creator of World’s Largest Wednesday on TikTok, which has over 8 million views. She also posts them on Instagram Reels and soon YouTube Shorts.

The videos are 30-45 seconds featuring one of the world’s largest things. She records all of these videos herself.