There are some movies that awaken a sense of nostalgia just by uttering their titles. That’s what led Adam and I to take a lengthy detour from Iowa’s highways as we drove into the state’s cornfields, eventually parking at the entrance to one of the most famous movie sets: the real-life Field of Dreams.
Field of Dreams, a wildly popular Kevin Costner film that explores what it means to find your passion and chase it at all costs, resonated with a few generations. Little kids who watched the film were captivated by its mystique and the blurring of history and the present day, wide-eyed as they watched a man transform his backyard into a baseball field. Many grown-ups loved that, too, and might have also found themselves a bit misty-eyed as they wished for one more game of catch with their dads on some hot summer evening. Adam and I both watched the movie as kids, glued to screens on separate coasts, and although it’s not a movie we watch in our regular rotation its certainly one we’ll pause to enjoy if it’s on TV on a Sunday afternoon.
Field of Dreams was filmed in the small town of Dyersville, Iowa, and three decades later it remains a magnet for cinema and baseball fans alike. If you’re wondering what it might be like to step out onto that field, where the corn grows as high as you do, and ask, “Is this heaven?” just to be told, “No, it’s Iowa,” we’re glad to share some of the reasons this might be a destination for your bucket list!
What Is the Field of Dreams?
The simplest way to explain the Field of Dreams is to call it a movie set. Instead of filming the movie on a sound stage, it was filmed on location in Iowa, and today it looks exactly as it did when the cameras first started rolling.Based on the novel Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella, the plot of Field of Dreams is as much about magic and following your dreams as it is about one of America’s favorite pastimes. When scouting locations to film the movie, it took representatives from the Iowa Film Office weeks before they received a tip that the spot they were looking for was in Dyersville, a small town in Dubuque County. The land was owned by local farmer Don Lansing, who eagerly signed on to let the production team alter and film on his property. Some minor modification to his home were made, which included the addition of a wraparound porch and a picket fence. Some major modifications to his land were also made, including the construction of a full baseball field nestled within his corn stalks. The filming schedule brought famous stars like Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones to the field, and when the last scene was complete and the last production truck rolled away, it wasn’t long before all eyes were on Dyersville when it appeared in theaters across the country. That could have been the end of the magic created by the movie, but it wasn’t—not for the Lansing family, not for Dyersville, and certainly not for America.
Visitors began to seek out the farm to see the movie set in person, and Don Lansing gave away memorabilia and sold t-shirts as souvenirs. Tens of thousands of people arrived in the years immediately following the film’s release; many wanted to play catch on the diamond made famous by Hollywood, but what could be dismissed as a simple tourist destination brought out the same childhood joy kids felt during little league games or playing catch in the backyard after dinner. A trip to the Field of Dreams was a chance to return to a simpler time.
Field of Dreams was nominated for three Academy Awards in 1990, including Best Picture, and it’s often listed among the best sports movies ever made. In 2017, it was added to the US National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, which identifies films that are deemed, “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” With its reflection of American culture, themes connecting history to fantasy, and the beautiful field with the tall Iowa corn as its backdrop, the site has clear connections to all three categories.
Visiting the Field of Dreams in Iowa
We prioritized a visit to the Field of Dreams when driving through Iowa, and we were impressed with every part of our time there. If you are planning to make the trip, here are a few tips to help you make the most of your visit.
► It’s free
That’s right: visiting the Field of Dreams won’t cost you any more than the gas money you’ll need to drive to the site. Since the field first opened to visitors in 1989, there has been no admission fee, and there are no plans to add a charge for those who make the journey to see it.
► Bring a Few Dollars AnywayThe Field of Dreams largely operates on donations, gift shops sales, and concession sales from The Stretch, which sells traditional baseball food and beverages like hot dogs and sodas. The gift shop has plenty of fun souvenirs like shirts, mugs, and collectibles, and we left with more than we expected. Donations can be made in cash at the entrance or by credit card when making a gift shop or snack purchase, and even a small donation can go a long way to preserving the destination for visitors, lovingly referred to as Dreamers, who will visit in the future.
► Check for special events
The Field of Dreams hosts special events that may alter—or enhance—your visit. While the field itself is usually open from sunrise to sunset, it also hosts little league games and other events that may bring more crowds to the site. On the day we visited, just before sunset, dozens of families arrived with coolers and picnics to watch a screening of the movie adjacent to the field itself: a very memorable opportunity for all involved. Other events, like Ghost Saturdays that welcome a comedy troupe to the field, also bring in plenty of guests. Check online or by calling to see if an event might coincide with your visit.
One additional note: on August 12, 2021, an official MLB game will be played in Dyersville adjacent to the Field of Dreams. Although many people expected the actual movie site to host the game, the field itself isn’t quite at the regulation size, nor could if offer enough seating for the number of people who will attend. Add that to the fact too many baseballs would go missing in the cornfields and it makes sense that a brand-new field was built not far from the movie site. A path through the corn connects both locations.
► Prepare for a game of catch
The Field of Dreams has bats, balls, and a few gloves onsite, but consider taking your own to be sure you aren’t delayed as you wait for them to be freed up by others. Most of the families we saw arrived armed with all of the gear they needed to immediately launch into a game of catch or batting practice, and the whole field echoed with the sound of cracking bats, groans of anguish when a catch was missed, and peels of joy when a play was perfectly executed.
► Take a house tour
The farmhouse on the property is as famous as the field, and tours are offered during the day. The 30-minute tour sheds light on the Lansing family as well as the film and the novel it is based on, and it’s a great way to round out your visit. Unlike simply visiting the field, the tour requires an admission fee.
► Stay the night
If you are looking for the ultimate Field of Dreams experience, you can rent the farmhouse and stay onsite as if you were a member of the Lansing or Kinsella families. Sleeping up to seven people, a stay at the farmhouse offers access to any events that may be taking place onsite as well as a gift basket. If you are traveling with a group, staying at the house can be as economical as it is convenient; most hotels are at least a 30-minute drive from the location, so if you plan to stay for evening activities you’ll enjoy a shorter commute and a chance to consider yourself part of film history by staying on the property.
► Time Your Visit
The Iowa corn grows tall, but it doesn’t grow year-round. Visit in the summer or fall for the classic photos and experience of enjoying the field just as it appeared in the movie. Our visit in late June featured corn high enough to engulf us for the practically required photos of us emerging like baseball ghosts onto the field. The corn is usually harvested by early November.
► Have fun
Really: have fun. Let your inner child run free during your visit. Play hide-and-seek in the corn. Run the bases with reckless abandon. Laugh loudly. Cheer for friends (and strangers!) when they get a hit or slide into home. The Field of Dreams is about turning the ordinary into the extraordinary. Let yourself be part of the joy. If you can’t make the trip to visit the field in-person, the movie site has a 24/7 Live Field Cam that lets you experience a virtual visit from anywhere in the world!
More Information: FieldOfDreamsMovieSite.com/field-cam
Hotels Close to the Field of Dreams Movie Site
If you’re looking for more options on places to stay, the closest big city to the Field of Dreams movie location is Dubuque, Iowa. Located about 25 miles from the movie site, Dubuque will have plenty of hotel options to choose from. We use Booking.com to find hotels when we travel—take a look below to find some great deals on hotels close to the Field of Dreams.
Enjoy the Field of Dreams!
As Adam walked around to capture a few last photos in the fading daylight, I sat on the bleachers and watched families make the most of their moment on the Field of Dreams. I found myself transported back to the days when I played softball in my hometown. I was never the best player, but I was on the best team: our fantastic and supportive coach helped our star players shine and helped those of us with, shall we say, fewer natural abilities find the fun in the game and the meaningfulness in our contributions to a team effort. I remembered standing at bat, hearing people cheer my name even though I was more likely to strike out than end up with a hit, feeling like just being there was fulfilling my role in something important, something bigger than myself. I also remembered the last game of my last season when, to the surprise of everyone, I made two outs in an inning followed by a shocking grand slam that pushed the team ahead and won us the championship game. For a moment, under the lights, I could picture 12-year-old Stephanie grinning ear to ear as the crowd’s cheering became almost deafening. It took one Field of Dreams to remember another. It made me smile. It made me want to call my parents.
Whatever dreams might connect you to the world of baseball—perhaps your own team experience as a child, or perhaps a love of watching the pros take the field every summer, or maybe the movie itself—you’ll find the Field of Dreams is a very happy place to relieve them and make more. If you build it, they will come. If you erect this field, the people will visit. If you invite them to dream, to be young again or young still, they will do it. And they will be glad for that moment.
More Information: FieldOfDreamsMovieSite.com
We love visiting places that were filming locations in movies and TV shows. Here are a few more we’ve written about!
* From time to time, our travels are directly impacted by a service or company. In this case, we visited the Field of Dreams Movie Site in Iowa. This post includes our candid review of our experience. We selected this location based on our own research and travel needs; we were not offered and did not receive compensation of any kind from them or any other party in exchange for our review. Learn more about our travel philosophy here.