Even most folks in the USA rarely give much thought to this quintessential farm state in what's sometimes dismissively termed "flyover country" (between the more "interesting" East and West Coast) of the Midwest. Yet every four years in late January and early February (and this year, culminating today), this becomes a hotbed of presidential politics as Iowans gather to make their choice for each political party's presidential candidates, and this first contest of the election year is heavily scrutinized and its tea leaves read exhaustively for signs of potential winners in November. Then after tonight, Iowa will likely slip back into its sleepy status until February 2024.

Furthermore, this state is relatively sparsely populated (just 3. 2 million) and doesn't have any dramatic scenery or huge major landmarks - natural or manmade - to draw heavy tourism. But it does offer a hearty slice of this country's bucolic heartland and the kind of "Americana" captured by painter Grant Wood, whose American Gothic farm couple became an icon of the 20th century, the same vibe celebrated by movies like Field of Dreams and Bridges of Madison County (and going back to the early 1960s, The Music Man). That includes charming small towns and cities (some of which have grown more sophisticated than you might expect), lovely nature reserves, and even a few attractions you won't find anywhere else in the world. Welcome, then, to the "Hawkeye State"; here are some of its highlights:

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