It might seem odd that a small city in landlocked Iowa would bear the name Atlantic, but there is an enjoyable story that explains it. Local legend has it that the founding fathers believed themselves to be the same distance from both the Atlantic ocean on the eastern seaboard of the US, and the Pacific ocean on the western, and the name was decided on the toss of a coin. Whatever the truth of the matter, Atlantic certainly occupies a pleasant part of Iowa, and one that is well worth a visit.
Atlantic is around an hour to the east of Des Moines, and an hour to the west of Omaha in neighbouring Nebraska. This is a homely, welcoming community, with several enjoyable, family-friendly activities nearby as well as quite a few quirky attractions – Atlantic is home to one of the largest and oldest Coca Cola bottling plants in the US. The principal shopping area, Chestnut Street, is especially attractive during Christmas, when hundreds of white lights are strung up in the trees to form an enchanting illuminated canopy.
Where to stay in Atlantic
If you’re planning a visit to Atlantic soon then you’ll find there is plenty of good quality and inexpensive accommodation available in and around the city, whether you’re looking for Atlantic hotels near the airport, chain hotels or friendly guesthouses. You can also find several golf hotels in Atlantic, as that’s a major pastime in the area, with some four courses in the vicinity.
There is also a wide range of luxurious or cheap hotels in Des Moines, and plenty of good value hotels in Omaha too. Stay in either city, and you can easily make a day trip over to Atlantic.
Things to see and do in Atlantic
The city is surrounded with scenic walking routes, with the best-known being the T-Bone Trail, beginning in nearby Pymosa and which is also very popular with cyclists.
Atlantic has regular farmers’ markets, which are a great opportunity to stock up on local produce, and if you’re into your fresh vegetables, then you might want to investigate one of the city’s more unusual destinations, McCurdy’s Pumpkins. More than a dozen types of pumpkin are grown on this farm, including Jack-O-Lantern pumpkins and miniature pumpkins. You can head out into the fields with a wagon to pick your own, and there’s also a corn maze onsite where children can spend a few happy hours.
There are also a handful of interesting cultural diversions around Atlantic, such as the Cass County Museum in Griswold, 15 minutes away by car, where there are various antiques and historic artefacts on display in a 19th century bank building. In Lewis, which is 10 minutes by road, you can visit Hitchcock House and view the secret basement room that was once used to hide runaway slaves making their escape to the northern states on the Underground Railroad.
The annual AtlanticFest in the summer sees crowds of people descend on downtown Atlantic for a morning pancake breakfast, followed by a series of fun, family-friendly events. Hotels in Atlantic can fill up around this time so it is worth booking your room ahead of time.
People staying in Atlantic will often make the short journey over to Des Moines, the state capital of Iowa, where there are a number of interesting cultural and heritage attractions. Of particular note is the impressive State Capitol building with its five golden domes, as well as the Science Center of Iowa, which has a series of hands-on learning displays.
If you are heading over to Des Moines from Atlantic, then you can make a diversion along the way to Winterset, and explore the John Wayne Birthplace Museum. It stands adjacent to the childhood home of the “Duke”, who was born here in 1907. Besides original scripts, wardrobe items and other memorabilia, there is a cinema where you can watch clips from the actor’s career in seats that once belonged to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.
In the other direction from Atlantic, cosmopolitan Omaha has the Henry Doorly Zoo, once voted the best in the world, and other attractions include the historic Old Market. If you have the family with you, the Omaha Children’s Museum is a great place to keep them entertained for a few hours and it has plenty of educational elements too.
Omaha and Des Moines both provide exceptional shopping opportunities if you’re in the mood for browsing the rails, as well as green space in parks and around lakes for some fresh air.
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