The Oregon Trail

The honey-producing and hog-butchering center of Sioux City (pop. 82,396) is not most people’s idea of a vacation treat, but it does offer a few diversions to the road-tripping traveler. Grain elevators and huge brick warehouses fill the riverfront district, an immaculately restored City Hall dominates downtown, and the gorgeous brick and glass-block Sioux City Art Center (225 Nebraska St., 712/279-6272, Tues.-Sun., free) includes pieces by Grant Wood, Salvador Dalí, David Hockney, and James McNeill Whistler. Downtown Sioux City has recently been enhanced by the move here of the Sioux City Public Museum (607 4th St., 712/279-6174, Tues.-Sun., free), which fills a nicely converted former JCPenney store with comprehensive and engaging displays tracing the Native American, pioneer, and agricultural histories of the area.

Lewis and Clark buffs will also want to stop south of Sioux City at the Sergeant Floyd Monument, where a 100-ft (30-m) stone obelisk marks the place where expedition member Sgt. Charles Floyd—the Corps of Discovery’s only fatality—died of appendicitis in August 1804, two months after setting off from St. Louis. Besides the historical homage, the site offers a great panorama of the Missouri River. Fact collectors might want to know that this little-known marker was among the first official National Historic Landmarks in the United States (92 other markers were declared at the same time). The nearby Interpretive Center (daily, free), built in 2002 to honor the 200th anniversary of Lewis and Clark, offers an excellent introduction to the fascinating story of the expedition.

Where to Eat and Stay in Sioux City

Part of the general renaissance of midsize American downtowns, the newly renovated two-block section of Sioux City known as Fourth Street Historic District, just east of the railroad yards around the intersection of 4th and Court Streets, boasts a large selection of restaurants, brewpubs, live-music clubs, and specialty shops in a restored commercial district built between 1889 and 1915, many in the Richardson Romanesque style.

Just south of historic 4th Street, dine on delicious hot dogs at the beloved Milwaukee Wiener House (301 Douglas St., 712/277-3449). The best in-town lodging option is probably the pleasant, clean, and modern Stoney Creek Hotel (300 3rd St., 712/234-1100, $100 and up). The usual chains line the I-29 exits north and south of town, and there is also the chance to get lucky at the Hard Rock Hotel Casino (111 3rd St., 712/226-7600, $150 and up).

Map of the Oregon Trail through Iowa.
Map of the Oregon Trail through Iowa.

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