When the weather takes a turn for the better, that means it's road trip season. One of the best places to start a road trip is in the central midwest and when it comes to the center of the country, Omaha is a pretty great place to start. The drive between Omaha, Nebraska, and Iowa City, Iowa, is far more scenic and fun-filled than many people might realize, and there's plenty to fill this almost four-hour drive with.
The stops in between Omaha and Iowa City are the perfect way to extend the trip and turn what could be a very boring day trip into an all-day affair. The route might seem like a straight shot east but we've got all the stops you can make to add some excitement and scenic beauty to the trip.
Start At Omaha And Stop Off In Elk Horn: 1 Hour
About one hour into the trip, the sign for Atlantic and Elk Horn will come up along Interstate 80. This is an interstate that drivers should become familiar with since a majority of the trip will take place on it. The detour into Elk Horn is well worth it, and road trippers will be happy to continue following the rolling hills and gorgeous, lush green farmlands as they pull into this small city.
Danish Windmill & The Museum Of Danish America
One of the first things that newcomers to Elk Horn will notice is the Danish windmill that takes up residence on the road into town. The town is of Dutch origin so there are nods throughout Elk Horn, and the Danish Windmill is home to a small gift shop visitor's center, making it a great place to stop for pictures, get snacks, and grab some souvenirs. The Museum of Danish America is the perfect way to learn more about Elk Horn and spend some time wandering around its unique exhibits.
Enjoy Rolling Hillsides And Stop In Des Moines For Lunch: 1 Hour, 15 Minutes
The drive back to Interstate 80 from Elk Horn is pretty scenic and features even more rolling hills the closer road trippers get to Des Moines. This is a great time to crank up the tunes and start deciding where to stop for lunch in one of Iowa's best cities.
The Iowa Taproom
The Iowa Taproom has more than 2,000 reviews on Google with a rating of 4.6 stars, and it also happens to be home to more than 100 regional craft beers. For those who are planning on splitting this four-hour drive in half, Des Moines is a great place to stop for the night and, if you do, be sure to swing by this taproom. American fare is the taphouse specialty, and nothing goes better with an Iowa brew than a good burger.
The Stuffed Olive
The Stuffed Olive is a fun stop and while it is a martini bar, this restaurant also specializes in tapas which happens to make for the perfect lunch. With four locations total throughout the region, it's easy to see how The Stuffed Olive has gained such a reputation with small plates like Nashville Hot Chicken Sliders, Seared Tuna Tartar, Crispy Cauliflower & Romanesco with Gochujang sauce, and Mini Chimis served with fresh pico de gallo. Entrees in the style of elevated comfort food, such as beef brisket and fries, build-your-own mac 'n cheese, and grilled salmon tacos. Still hungry? Follow it all up with a dessert, such as a macaroon flight.
Zombie Burger + Shake Lab
On the opposite side of the Des Moines River, road trippers will find a unique, albeit quirky restaurant called Zombie Burger. This restaurant is sporting a theme that's exactly what it sounds like - the entire menu features dishes named after the undead (and popular zombie pop culture references) such as The Walking Ched, T-Virus, The Negan (a vegan burger), 28 Days Later, Undead Elvis, and Juan of the Dead (a Southwest-style burger). Aside from gourmet burgers, Zombie Burger also specializes in some pretty epic milkshakes - also named after popular horror movies! Zombie Unicorn, Human Centipeach, and Zombie Bride Wedding Cake are just a few of these awesome offerings.
Straight Onto Iowa City: 1 Hour, 45 Minutes
From Des Moines, Iowa City is under two hours. Travelers might opt to get breakfast in Des Moines before heading out if they're staying overnight or get dinner in Iowa City once they arrive if they're doing it all in one day.
For a quick snack and fuel-up, cities such as Brooklyn (not to be confused with the one in New York City) or Williamsburg are easy enough to find from Route 80 by following the signs.