Why You’ll Regret Traveling to Iowa for the Bridges of Madison County

Whenever I plan a trip to visit family, I look around to see what else I can see and do while I’m there. This past weekend, I headed to Des Moines, Iowa and so I began my search. There are only three things Iowa is known for… cornfields, the Field of Dreams (also a cornfield) and the Bridges of Madison County.

Now, I’m not one to knock cornfields. My very first blog (way back in 2002!) had a “Corn Watch” photo feature, where I’d take pictures of corn wherever I went. I went to the Corn Palace in South Dakota. I even married the son of a corn farmer. Going out of my way to see corn is a pretty ridiculous notion. So, we were down to one option – the Bridges of Madison County.

(Note – if I had been on my own, we’d be down to TWO options which would include the self-proclaimed “Future Birthplace of James T. Kirk,” Riverside, Iowa. But I’m a big wuss when it comes to pushing things that might be brought up in therapy by my children later. I am fairly certain “my mom made us drive to some tiny city in Iowa cause some nerd from TV wasn’t born there yet” is just begging to be professionally analyzed.)

On the surface, it seems like a great choice.  Less than an hour from Des Moines, it would be a quick car ride.  It was also the peak for autumn leaf color, so we the pictures should be phenomenal right?  I mean – people travel to Iowa JUST to see the bridges!  There’s a book, a movie, and a song?  Score!

Yeah, guess what… they are bridges.  I mean, they are sorta pretty.  But if I had traveled to the middle of Iowa to see them, I’d be regretting my trip.  Hardcore.

There are six bridges, and we drove to see four of them.  It is possible the other two I didn’t see were magical, candy-filled and totally worth it.  But I doubt it.  Half of them weren’t even over water!  What kind of so-called bridge is that?

And the pictures… they turned out ok I guess.  But, in their foresight, they put signs up on the middle front of the bridge saying what the name of the bridge is.  Not cool, Madison County.  It makes them look trashy, as does the hundred years of graffiti people have graced them with.

So, if you are in Des Moines anyway, you might as well go hit the bridges if you have a lot of extra time to kill. But if you hit the Iowa border solely to see the bridges, be ready for some instant regret and feeling of letdown.  And romance?  None, repeat none, to be had.

Bottom line: I think Iowa is doing itself a disservice by touting these bridges as a destination. I think there’s a TON of charm in the state (like Winterset – Home of the coolest small town park ever! ) but it is hard to fall in love if you were let down by hype.