Seth Varner and Austin Schneider are on a mission to visit each of Iowa’s 939 incorporated towns this spring and summer! Varner and Schneider are both sophomores at the University of Nebraska Omaha and have a passion for learning more about the Midwest.

When Seth was a young child, his father was interested in learning more about their ancestors and was actively working on their family tree. After doing research online, Seth and his dad set out and visited 20 or 30 small towns in Nebraska to see the places that their family once lived. They visited the local cemeteries and churches and photographed them as they went along. Seth recalls taking photos of the cool murals in the towns he visited and said that it was always a fond memory of his.

Fast forward 10 years and the covid-19 pandemic had just begun to shut things down. Seth and Austin were both sent back to their hometown of Wahoo, Nebraska due to the nationwide lockdowns. They quickly realized that there was not much for two college students to do in their town. Remembering how much fun he had visiting small towns when he was a child, Seth and Austin decided to make the most out of the situation and decided to visit all 531 incorporated towns in the state of Nebraska to keep themselves busy and to ultimately learn more about their home state.

Austin and Seth at the Council Bluffs Public Library 

After visiting the first 100 towns in Nebraska, friends and classmates kept asking Seth and Austin to see photos from their travels. They decided to make an Instagram page to share their photos. Seth’s mom was a Facebook user and urged them to document their travels on a Facebook page, too. After creating the Facebook page, they shared one of their posts on Nebraska Through the Lens Facebook page and received thousands of followers! Their page continued to grow, and they started focusing on taking more photos to post online.

After successfully visiting all the towns in Nebraska, they decided to keep the fun going and explore their neighbor state of Iowa. Seth and Austin created another Facebook page called Visit939Iowa and headed off on their journey.

Being the western gateway to the state of Iowa, Seth and Austin started their Iowa adventure in Council Bluffs! They visited the Council Bluffs Public Library, the Riverboat on the Missouri River mural, had a delicious BBQ dinner at Boxer BBQ, among other stops. Luckily for us, they live close to Council Bluffs and have plans on coming back to visit the Squirrel Cage Jail and tour our amazing collection of public art.

The goal of this project is to encourage other people of Iowa to go out and explore all that their home state has to offer. After they conclude their travels by the end of August, they plan on writing a book detailing the history of all the towns and some fun facts.

Browse their Council Bluffs images below and be sure to follow Seth and Austin on their journey by following Visit939Iowa on Facebook! They love receiving recommendations from local Iowans, so if you know of a great spot to visit other places in Iowa reach out to them!

This post was originally published on April 6, 2021 on the Unleash Council Bluffs blog.