The Altoona Area Historical Museum features various exhibits telling the history of Altoona, Iowa, and the Southeast Polk area. Exhibits are changed and updated to help tell more stories, and provide a fresh new experience. Below are just some of the exhibits you will find in our museum. If you are interested in visiting our museum, please contact us to schedule a tour. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are open by appointment only right now.
One of the most popular exhibits in our museum is our Adventureland history display. This exhibit continues to grow along with the growing resort complex. In 1971, few people could imagine how quickly Altoona would grow after Jack Krantz announced plans to construct a $9 million theme park, hotel, conference center, and campground just outside Altoona. The theme park opened in 1974, delayed after a tornado damaged part of the park just before it was set to open. The Grand opening was held in May 1975. Adventureland has grown to be one of the largest resort complexes in the Midwest, featuring world-class roller coaster and entertainment. This exhibit features photographs and videos of the park through the years, as well as souvenirs and signage from the park.
Following the success of Adventureland, Altoona was the perfect site for a house track. After plans to construct a horse track in Bondurant fell through, the planners turned their eyes to Altoona. The land just east of Adventureland park was perfect for the facility. Prairie Meadows later filed for bankruptcy, but when casino gambling was added, Prairie Meadows was able to pay off its debts and has been profitable ever since. Prairie Meadows has given back more than $1 Billion in taxes and donations to Iowa organizations, including the Altoona Area Historical Society. This exhibit features the different parts of the facility, and its history from a race track, to the world’s first combination horse track/Casino, and the addition of the conference center, hotel, and restaurants.
Altoona Kitchen Band
Featured in LIFE magazine, CBS News, the Iowa State Fair, trips to Hawaii, and all over the U.S, this band of musicians from Altoona became well known for quirky outfits and instruments made from kitchen items. Every member had a kazoo of course! The group was formed as a way to help promote the upcoming centennial celebration in 1968. After the celebration, the group decided to keep it up and help raise money for various projects around the community. In the exhibit, see the homemade instruments, from the coffee can drum set, to the toilet seat banjo!
Altoona’s oldest family-owned business still operates in Olde Town Altoona. The Burget family has long been a part of Altoona history. The family business has grown and developed over the years, but still provides quality animal feed to the people of the Altoona Area. Check out items from the Mill’s 125-year history in Altoona, including parts of the old mill building, and photographs of how the business has changed.
Originally put together for Altoona’s 150th birthday in 2018, part of our Celebrate Community exhibit remains on display! See items from past Altoona celebrations including Altoona Balloona, the Altoona Centennial, Altoona Palooza, RAGBRAI, and Altoona 150! The exhibit also includes the founding documents of the city of Altoona and items from some of the biggest additions to our community like the grand opening of the Outlets of Des Moines. The original exhibit featured a rare William Stone copy of the Declaration of Independence, which was on loan from the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. That copy was donated to the State by then-Altoona resident Mary Thornton-Davenport. She was a descendent of Matthew Thornton, the last person to sign the Declaration of Independence. This was only the second time that this copy of the Declaration of Independence was ever put on public display. And for all of those National Treasure fans who were wondering if we checked for a treasure map on the back, we are happy to say that when we checked, we found “Altoona” written on the back!