Up next: Two vacations that couldn’t be more different (so much so that you will know immediately which one is right for you). And it all comes down to other people—as in, how many do you want to be around? One destination gets you solitude, serenity, and morning birdsong in a temperate rainforest. The other is a Midwestern Mardi Gras, a glorious mash-up of loopy Americana and serious barbecue.
Iowa State Fair, Des Moines
There’s no sugarcoating it: This is pure insanity, deep-fried yet wholesome. The fair runs from August 13 to the 23, and has all of the staples: Ferris wheels, live music, livestock competitions, farming lessons for the kids (how to milk a cow!) and barbecue. But this is the Iowa State Fair—the granddaddy of them all, with apologies to the OC Fair—so it’s also crammed with delightful and (in)famous oddities: a life-sized Butter Cow, the Boulevard of Dairy Breeds, and “Heritage” competitions both strange and wonderful (Best Beard, Ladies’ Husband Calling, Cow-Chip Throwing). Then there’s the cuisine. Would you prefer a deep-fried Twinkie, an “Ultimate Bacon Brisket Bomb,” or both? Admission is $11 for adults, $5 for kids, and free for 5 and under. Click here ( for more information, including a list of all “Food On-a-Stick” dining options.