Iowa’s Field of Dreams is one of those places that reminds you America is a pretty good place after all. We might argue about politics and masks and whether the sky is blue, but when it comes to baseball in a cornfield, well, that’s something that is so all-American that Norman Rockwell should have painted this scene.
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Where the heck is Dyersville, Iowa?
Dyersville, Iowa is out there in the middle of cornfields in fly-over country. You’ve really got to work at it to find Dyersville, population 4,000, on a map, and make a bit of an effort to get there in person. But that’s what makes this experience so magical.
Bringing The Field of Dreams to Iowa
So you have got to wonder, why in the world did they make a movie starring some pretty big names out in the middle of Iowa? That’s about as nutty as plowing under a cornfield to build a ballfield because a voice in your head told you to.
You can find the answer to just about every question about making this movie at a fun little museum on Main Street Dyersville called “If You Build It.” There was first a short story called “Shoeless Joe Jackson Comes to Iowa,” written by W.P. Kinsella, a guy from Edmonton Alberta. So they sort of looked at places in Canada to film, but the corn grows taller in Iowa.
But here’s the real reason: Kinsella wrote the short story, which later became “Field of Dreams,” while attending the prestigious Iowa Summer Writer’s Workshop. And there were some very passionate people with the Iowa film office that were determined to make this happen.
It’s a fun story about how volunteers with the Iowa film office went searching for just the right house in just the right cornfield. The house had to face the west, so the setting sun would illuminate it just right.
The little museum explains the Chicago Black Sox scandal of 1919, which was the basis of the story. It also explains who key characters are, like Shoeless Joe Jackson, and a bit about the actors who played them. It’s really fun when it gets to some of the extras and the real people of Dyersville who played them in the movie. Take time to explore and read. It’s well worth the money.
Then walk around the side of the building and get a shot of this:
Visiting the Field of Dreams Movie Site in Iowa
When we pulled into the parking lot at the Field of Dreams, which is just a grassy field, we saw license plates from across the country – from Delaware to Oregon. People were tailgating right there with picnic baskets and blankets. The vehicle that pulled in next to ours carried a grandpa from nearby Dubuque Iowa and his grandkids from Florida. They were equipped with bats and gloves and balls, and they took off running toward the field. Grandpa trailed behind with a big smile on his face.
This is it. This is the exact field that Hollywood built in 1989 for Kevin Costner and Ray Liotta to play ball on. The Lansing family, which, at the time, owned the farm on which the movie was shot, opened the baseball field to the public at no charge. It remains free of charge for fans to run the bases, hit a few balls and walk in the cornfield, although a $20 donation per carload is suggested.
The bleachers where James Earl Jones and Amy Madigan cheered on the team are exactly the same. Climb up to the very top row, over on the right, and look for a heart carved with “Ray loves Annie” on the inside. Kevin Costner did that during a break in the shooting.
While I was sitting there, a woman from Colombia asked me to take her picture. That’s not a typo. It wasn’t Columbia, Missouri or Columbus, Ohio. It was Colombia, the country in South America.
What to Do at Iowa’s Field of Dreams
The best thing to do at the Field of Dreams is run the bases, to throw a ball, to “stare down a big league pitcher, then just as he goes into his wind up, wink.” Walk out on the field and peek into the cornfield to see if you see James Earl Jones in there. He never came back and told us what he found.
The farmhouse is open for tour, but we got there too late and all of the tours were filled for the next couple of days. You can spend the night in the Kinsella house, but the price tag begins at $500 a night. We were quite comfortable at the Dyersville Comfort Inn for just a few dollars less.
The movie site includes a small snack bar so grab a hot dog and a Coke and enjoy the fresh Iowa air and sunshine. There’s barn filled with souvenirs. What you cannot do, unfortunately, is walk through the cornfield to the adjacent major league field, where the first MLB game on the site was played in August 2021.
The field built for the movie is not regulation size. To bring it up to MLB standards would have destroyed some of the historic aspects of the site. So MLB built another ballfield about a quarter of a mile away, including stadium seating for 8,000.
If you want tickets to future MLB games promised at the site, good luck. Here are the details.
Other Things to Do in Dyersville, Iowa
Dyersville really is a lovely town. It’s a place where you can tell people take pride in their property and community. But one thing that makes it remarkable for rural Iowa is the St. Francis Xavier Cathedral Basilica, which has served northeast Iowa since 1862. There are 64 of the most beautiful stained glass windows and a cross that includes marble from St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
And you know, Field of Dreams is not the first movie to come from this area. Textile Brewing Company is located in a former pajama factory that is said to have been the inspiration for the book that led to the 1957 movie “The Pajama Game,” starring Doris Day. The décor includes original mannequins, sewing machines and other artifacts from the building’s factory days.
Overall, Dyersville and Iowa’s Field of Dreams is worth the effort to get here. You will leave with a smile on your face and a good feeling inside.