Small Town Tour of Fame: Corning

Words by Vonnie Pratt
Small Town Tour of Fame: Corning, Iowa

Travel to southwest Iowa for the next stop on our small town tour of fame and experience the friendly environment of Corning, Iowa. Best known as the birthplace of famous television host Johnny Carson, this tiny town has a population of just over 1,500 people. From the speakers playing music lined along Main Street to the welcoming faces you see everywhere you turn, it doesn’t take long to realize this small town has more to offer than initially meets the eye.

Small Town Tour of Fame: Corning, Iowa
Courtesy of Kayla Hartman

“I love the small town feel. Everyone knows each other and watches out for each other,” Jessica Wilson, life-long Corning resident, says. 


One of Corning’s most underrated attractions is the Corning Opera House. Before you turn your nose up at the word ‘opera,’ know that the building provides more to the community than the name implies. It’s a place that holds all sorts of events and acts as a gathering space for the Corning community. Visit on the weekends to catch live shows and performances. 

Small Town Tour of Fame: Corning, Iowa
Courtesy of Kayla Hartman

De Heaton is the Executive Director of the Opera House. 

“We do live entertainment that varies from rock ‘n’ roll to country to jazz to blues to dances to community plays,” Heaton says. 

You can also support local artists at the Corning Center for the Fine Arts, where regional and national artists showcase exhibitions and retail sales at galleries. Be amazed at all kinds of art, including paintings and multimedia pieces. A unique aspect of the arts center is the ‘Artist in Residence’ program. The Corning Center of Fine Arts provides an opportunity for the artist in residence to sell their pieces in the gallery. The program also provides housing and support for the artist. 

If you want to venture outside and enjoy quality time in nature, travel one mile northeast of Corning to Lake Binder. Grab your best lures and catch black bullhead or largemouth bass. Hike on scenic trails around the lake. Then finish the night sleeping under the stars at the Lake Binder Campground.

Small Town Tour of Fame: Corning, Iowa
Courtesy of Kayla Hartman

Corning has mouth-watering meal options for every occasion. Are you looking for comfort food that will leave you stuffed to the gills? Primrose is the place for you. Try their ‘Shipley’s Lamb Bolognese, made with ground lamb, cavatappi noodles, garlic-herb cheese and pistachio. Top it off with their chocolate ‘Pot au Creme’ or ‘House Made Ice Cream’ for dessert. 

The packed parking lot at Three C’s Diner shows just how good their classic American food is. The “Best of Southwest Iowa” award-winning tenderloin and burger will leave you wanting more. Dine in, enjoy your food in the beautiful outdoors at one of the picnic tables, or take it to-go. 


Spend the night at The Corning Hotel, a modern yet small-town 33-room hotel. Vibrant walls and furniture brighten the spacious accommodations. Do you have a furry friend? No worries, the hotel offers a pet-friendly room!

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