A Football Road Trip through Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, & Minnesota [4 Day Itinerary]

Teddy is a huge Penn State football fan so we took a trip to see Penn State play on the road in Iowa during the 2021 football season. Rather than just going to the game and coming home, we decided to make it into a mini road trip. Below is an overview of where we went over the 4 days and what we enjoyed along the way!

Day 1 – Minneopa State Park, Albert Lea, & Waterloo

  • We flew from Philadelphia into Minneapolis in the early AM
  • We drove toward Minneopa State Park in Mankato to see a bison herd as well as a waterfall in another part of the park
  • We then drove south for a few hours and stopped in downtown Albert Lea at Main Street Family Restaurant for lunch. It was about 3:45 PM, so a very late lunch, but it was quite good.
  • We had been seeing a large amount of grain bins but not many silos during our drive through Iowa, so we did some Googling to figure out why it was so different than we were used to in Pennsylvania. We learned that silos are more for fermented pasture grasses and are found on livestock type farms. Grain bins on the other hand are to store dry grains like corn, soybeans, and wheat on grain farms and grain elevator sites.
  • Since we had lunch so late in the day we didn’t end up getting any dinner but checked into our hotel in Waterloo, Iowa overnight.

Day 2 – Game Day in Iowa City, Iowa

  • Today was game day so we stopped at Cabin Coffee Co in Waterloo to start off our day. We grabbed coffee and breakfast sandwiches and teddy had the best sausage biscuit sandwich of his life.
  • We drove into Iowa City and parked for the game and headed to the PSU Alumni Association Pep Rally before the game started. We snagged our seats in the stadium and got ready for the game to start.
  • The game started at 4pm EST and unfortunately Penn State lost but it was an enjoyable game to watch and the fans were great.
  • By the time the game ended, it was already dark out, so Teddy and I drove outside of town to grab dinner before staying overnight in Le Claire.

Day 3 – Le Claire, Galena, Red Wing & La Crosse

  • We woke up in Le Claire and realized our hotel had a view of the Mississippi River which we hadn’t known since we drove in the dark the night prior.
  • We picked up coffee and breakfast at Cody Coffee in Le Claire and we thought this place was so cool. Since Buffalo Bill Cody had grown up in this town, they had historical information about him all over.
  • From Le Claire, we drove north and on our way we saw a sign for a county fair so we stopped. We ended up spending most of the morning exploring Galena, Illinois. I had never heard of this town previously but it was historic and had so many different shops and restaurants. We took our time walking the streets and then had lunch at Galena Brewing Company.
  • We then continued our drive north up the River Road to La Crosse and visited Granddad Park with incredible overlook views of town. It was quite windy but worth the drive and walk to the lookout.
  • For sunset, we drove further north into Red Wing, Minnesota and drove to Memorial Park. It’s an overlook of the town and has a parking lot and open area where you can take in the beautiful colors as the sun goes down.
  • We had a late dinner before heading to our hotel in town for the night.

Day 4 – Minneapolis

  • We drove from Red Wing toward Minneapolis since we had an afternoon flight. There was a pretty waterfall in the city so we headed to Minnehaha Park to check it out. It was shocking that such a beautiful waterfall was right in the city. We found this park to be such a gem on our trip.
  • We drove through the city to Quixotic Coffee and grabbed coffee for the road before continuing on toward the airport. We made a detour into the Mall of America for lunch and then headed to the airport for our flight back to Pennsylvania.

Teddy’s favorite things we did on the trip include watching a game in Kinnick Stadium, sunset in Red Wing, and the waterfall in Minnehaha Park. For me, I loved Galena, Illinois and checking out the various historic buildings and antique shops. I also liked seeing the bison herd in Minneopa State Park and the lookout from the top and last but not least, Cody Coffee in Le Claire.

Compared to other road trips we’ve taken like the New England, the Southeast, the Southwest, and our Rocky Mountain trip, this was a different type of trip. There weren’t these huge destinations to go to or these incredible natural features. On this trip, it was more about the small towns, the farm views, the Mississippi overlooks, and just exploring a new area.

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