Plan a weekend of wine tasting, golf, spa treatments, caving, boating or hiking at one of these unique getaways in Iowa. Spend a few days relaxing with a view of the Iowa Great Lakes, visit the flea markets, explore the Crystal Lake Cave just south of Dubuque, plan a romantic wedding, or play a game of mini-golf with the family. In the summer, attend outdoor concerts, hike along scenic trails with views of the Mississippi River, or simply relax surrounded by calm country views. Driving times from Des Moines to some of the best Iowa destinations are included to help you plan your trip. Photo: Tomasz Zajda/Fotolia
» Four Mounds Inn - 3 hours from Des Moines
»Brookstone Lodge and Suites - 2 hours 20 min from Des Moines
»Hotel Julien Dubuque - 3 hour
»Mason House Inn - 2 hours 20 min
»Kingsley Inn - 2 hours 50 min
»Belmont Hill - 2 hours
»The Blackhawk Hotel - 2 hours
»Okoboji Boulders Inn and Suites - 3 hours 15 minutes
»Romantic Getaways in Iowa: Wilder Park - 2 hours
»Victoria's Vineyard Bed and Breakfast - 20 minutes
»Iowa House - 40 minutes
»Adventureland Inn - 20 minutes
»Miss Spenser's of Longview Farms
»The Cottages at Stoney Creek - 20 minutes
»The Inn at Okoboji
»Quiet Walker Lodge Bed and Breakfast Inn
»Boulders Inn and Suites
25 Best Iowa Weekend Getaways & Destinations
- Four Mounds Inn - 3 hours from Des Moines, Photo: Four Mounds Inn
- Brookstone Lodge and Suites - 2 hours 20 min from Des Moines, Photo: Brookstone Lodge and Suites
- Hotel Julien Dubuque - 3 hour, Photo: Hotel Julien Dubuque
- Mason House Inn - 2 hours 20 min, Photo: Mason House Inn
- Kingsley Inn - 2 hours 50 min, Photo: Kingsley Inn
- Belmont Hill - 2 hours, Photo: Belmont Hill
- The Blackhawk Hotel - 2 hours, Photo: The Blackhawk Hotel
- Okoboji Boulders Inn and Suites - 3 hours 15 minutes, Photo: Okoboji Boulders Inn and Suites
- Romantic Getaways in Iowa: Wilder Park - 2 hours, Photo: Wilder Park
- Victoria's Vineyard Bed and Breakfast - 20 minutes, Photo: Victoria's Vineyard
- Iowa House - 40 minutes, Photo: Iowa House
- Adventureland Inn - 20 minutes, Photo: Adventureland Inn
- Miss Spenser's of Longview Farms, Photo: Miss Spenser's of Longview Farms
- The Cottages at Stoney Creek - 20 minutes, Photo: The Cottages at Stoney Creek
- The Inn at Okoboji, Photo: The Inn at Okoboji
- Quiet Walker Lodge Bed and Breakfast Inn, Photo: Quiet Walker Lodge Bed and Breakfast Inn
- Boulders Inn and Suites, Photo: Boulders Inn and Suites
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Tomasz Zajda - Fotolia.com
More Iowa Destinations
Des Moines, IA
A weekend getaway to Des Moines in Iowa will reward you with a variety of interesting and informative attractions to suit the whole family. A great way to start your exploration of Des Moines is to take advantage of The Capitol Tour, a free tour of the imposing Iowa State Capitol building and its grounds. The building dates back to 1886 and boasts a beautiful dome covered in gold leaf. To see some historic Iowa homesteads, you can visit Salisbury House & Gardens (which houses an art museum, library, and concert venue), and Terrace Hill, the official residence of the Governor of Iowa, which was built for Benjamin Franklin Allen in 1869.
Other interesting attractions include the Des Moines Art Center, which has a diverse collection of big-name artists, the Des Moines Performing Arts, which are based at the Des Moines Civic Center, and The Science Center of Iowa, which includes a planetarium and an IMAX theater. Blank Park Zoo, the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, the Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden (where visitors can admire 22 display gardens), and the Pappajohn Sculpture Park are just a few of the great outdoor attractions available. When you have worked up an appetite you can head to the Downtown Farmer's Market in the Historic Downtown Court District of Des Moines to sample some amazing local produce.
More Places to Visit: Dubuque, IA
Plan your next Iowa weekend getaway to Dubuque, the oldest city in Iowa, which offers a good selection of attractions to explore. The vibrant Mississippi River Waterfront is a great place to stroll along the river, listen to a concert, visit the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium, or board a riverboat for a fun ride with Dubuque River Rides on the Mississippi River.
If you're tired of walking, take a ride on the Fenelon Place Elevator or jump aboard a horse-drawn carriage for a narrated tour of the historical sites in the city offered by Dubuque by Carriage. Some other interesting attractions include the Dubuque Museum of Art, which features both national and regional art collections as well as works by local aspiring artists, and the Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey, where you can satisfy your sweet tooth with mouth-watering candies produced by the resident nuns.
Outdoor enthusiasts will be pleased to know that there are some excellent hiking and biking trials in the Mines of Spain State Recreational Area, (which also features a bird and butterfly garden), and there are more options along the 26 mile Heritage Trail, which runs from Dubuque to Dyersville. You can also explore Crystal Lake Cave and take a pleasant stroll around the Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.
Iowa Destinations: Iowa City
You can look forward to an action-packed weekend getaway in the Iowa City Downtown District, where a wide variety of activities and attractions will keep you occupied just about around the clock. You can visit three interesting museums within just two city blocks, starting with the Old Capitol Museum on the campus of the University of Iowa Pentacrest. Just around the corner you will find The University of Iowa Museum of Natural History, and a short walk away is the University Of Iowa Museum Of Art, which features both permanent and visiting exhibitions.
If you're interested, take some time to appreciate the performing arts at the Riverside Theatre and at the Englert Theatre, and if you are in the mood for dancing you can head to one of several nightclubs, including The Eden Lounge and Nightclub, The Union, or Studio 13.
The Ped Mall (aka Pedestrian Mall) is packed with a wide variety of shops, galleries, and boutiques selling just about everything you can imagine, from eclectic artworks to funky clothing and household articles. The mall is also a bustling entertainment venue which stages several festivals throughout the year including the Iowa City Jazz Festival in July, the popular Friday Night Concert Series from May to September, and the Iowa Arts Festival in early June.
Iowa Weekend Destinations: Okoboji
Okoboji is nestled along the shores of Spirit Lake, the largest of Iowa's Great Lakes, in a particularly scenic area and offers a huge variety of family attractions. To get out onto the lake you can rent a boat, canoe, kayak, or paddle board from Okoboji Boat Works or enjoy a narrated steamboat cruise on the Queen II excursion boat. You can choose from many other active water sports including water-skiing, parasailing, and wakeboarding or hike and cycle along more than 20 miles of trails.
Families can spend a few exciting hours at Arnolds Park Amusement Park (which has rides for all ages) or at Boji Bay Fun House and Pavilion. If you enjoy mini golf head for Pirate's Cove Adventure Golf or Treasure Village Family Theatre and Mini-Golf. In addition, there are 8 golf courses for serious golfers to enjoy. Okoboji has several interesting and unusual museums to visit, including The Higgins Museum, which documents the history of national banking in the United States, and the Iowa Great Lakes Maritime Museum where you can relive the era of the steamboat. The Pearson Lakes Art Center showcases a variety of art including a permanent Russian Impressionist collection, and Art on 16th features work by local artists.
Places to Visit in Iowa: Waterloo
The riverside city of Waterloo in Iowa's Cedar Valley offers many diversions to keep weekend visitors happy and engaged. Start by exploring the vibrant Downtown Museum District where you will find a selection of unusual museums, including the John Deere Tractor & Engine Museum, the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Dan Gable Museum, and the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum. To learn all about the origins and development of Waterloo and the Cedar Valley you can visit the Grout Museum of History & Science and the Ice House Museum, while younger visitors will enjoy the Little Red Schoolhouse Museum and the Bluedorn Science Imaginarium.
There are plenty of outdoor activities, and you might want to start with a pleasant stroll through the Cedar Valley Arboretum & Botanical Gardens or a brisk hike or cycle along the Cedar Valley Trails, which link downtown attractions to peaceful wooded green spaces. Hartman Reserve Nature Center also offers good hiking and cycling trails that double as snow-shoeing and cross-country trails in winter. Indulge your passion for the arts at the Hearst Center for the Arts & Sculpture Garden, the UNI Gallery of Art, or the Riverloop Amphitheatre and Arts Mall. Children can have hours of fun at the Lost Island Water Park and Palmer's Family Fun.
Iowa Destinations: Ames
Ames is home to Iowa State University and has many attractions to offer weekend visitors, including a chance to tour one of the most beautiful campuses in America. At The Ames/ISU Visitor Information Booth on campus you can get maps and brochures and book a campus tour. There are several (free!) campus attractions to visit, starting with the Brunnier Art Museum, the Christian Petersen Art Museum, the Farmhouse Museum, the Art on Campus Collection, and the Elizabeth and Byron Anderson Sculpture Garden.
History buffs can visit the Ames Historical Center or take a walking tour of the Old Town Historic District. Ames has a very vibrant arts scene, which you can enjoy at the Ames Community Theatre (ACTORS, Inc), the Art House on State, and the Iowa State Center, while music lovers can attend a show by the Ames Town & Gown Chamber Music Association or the Central Iowa Symphony Orchestra. North Grand Mall is the place to go for shopping, while Reiman Gardens provides an opportunity to stop and smell the roses in a superb 17-acre botanical garden. When you are ready for some exercise you can visit any of the 35 parks and recreation areas in the city, which offer jogging and cycling trails, fishing, and picnics.
Iowa Day Trips: Davenport
Davenport is located along the banks of the Mississippi River and offers visitors a great variety of both indoor and outdoor attractions to fill your weekend. A logical place to start your tour of Davenport is the Quad Cities Visitor Center, which is located alongside the river in Downtown Davenport, the heart of this bustling city. Once you have collected the necessary maps and info, you will find yourself within walking distance of several prime attractions, including the Figge Art Museum, the Putnam Museum of History and Natural Sciences (which includes an IMAX theatre), and the historic Adler Theatre, which hosts an array of entertainment, including Broadway shows, comedians, and symphony concerts.
Other must-see attractions include the Bereskin Fine Art Gallery and Studio, the Vander Veer Botanical Park (a beautiful leafy oasis with a children's playground), the Bucktown Center for the Arts where local artists are showcased, and the Village of East Davenport where historic buildings now house a collection of interesting shops and restaurants. Foodies will find plenty to enjoy, including the Freight House Farmer's Market, the Artisan Grain Distillery, the Great River Brewery, and Chocolate Manor. Sunderbruch Park Trail offers outdoor enthusiasts great paved trails for hiking, jogging, or cycling, and you can also hike, cycle, and camp at West Lake Park.
Straddling both banks of the Cedar River, Cedar Rapids is an upbeat and vibrant destination for your next weekend getaway. This riverside city has some fine museums to visit, and if you are interested in the cultural history of Iowa a good place to start would be the African American Museum of Iowa followed by the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library.
Historians can make their way to the History Center, the Iowa Masonic Lodge and Museum, and the Cedar Rapids Area Genealogy Library, while art lovers should not miss the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art. At TCR (Theatre Cedar Rapids) you can watch shows by talented locals, or you could attend an Orchestra Iowa show at the historic Paramount Theatre.
Nature and outdoor enthusiasts have several options in Cedar Creek. You can go hiking or cycling along the Cedar Greenbelt National Recreation Trail or the Cedar Valley Nature Trail, explore Indian Creek Nature Center and Linn County Conservation, or play a round at one of several golf courses in the area. To combine fun and education, families can take the children to Old MacDonalds's Farm (Bever Park's Children's Zoo) and Wickiup Hill Learning Center. Sports enthusiasts can watch amateur baseball, hockey, and indoor football, and for shopping there is the NewBo City Market.
Clear Lake is a pleasant lake-side town offering visitors good beaches, plenty of water sports and outdoor activities, and a number of interesting museums. There are several beaches to choose from, including Clear Lake City Beach, which has a splash pad and children's playground. If you prefer to swim in a pool the Clear Lake Aquatic Center is suitable for all ages and has a few water slides for extra fun.
To really appreciate Clear Lake you should get out onto the water. There are several public jetties that visitors can use to launch their own boats or you can hire one from Clear Lake Boats. You can even learn to sail at CLYC's Sailing School. If you can tear yourself away from the lake you can stroll through the lovely Central Gardens of Iowa or go hiking in Clear Lake State Park or McIntosh Woods, which also offers a great selection of seasonal winter sports. The Clear Lake Fire Museum and the Iowa Trolley Park Railroad Museum are both popular for families, and the Clear Lake Arts Center offers a variety of workshops and exhibitions. Music lovers usually make a pilgrimage to Three Stars Plaza, the Surf Ballroom, and the Plane Crash Site, all of which pay homage to the legendary Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and JP “The Big Bopper” Richardson.
Iowa Destinations: Bellevue
Bellevue is situated along the banks of the Mississippi and prides itself on giving visitors a genuine riverside experience. As the name suggests, Bellevue has remarkably scenic views of the river and surrounding countryside, and the majority of attractions revolve around enjoying outdoor pursuits in pristine surroundings. Strolling along the banks of river and watching the tugs and boats go by is one of the most popular and relaxing occupations, but you can also be more energetic and go cycling or jogging along the Bellevue Rivervue Trail.
At Bellevue State Park you can really get back to nature; the park has campsites, many miles of timbered hiking trails, a lovely butterfly garden, and a nature center, and it is known for excellent bird watching. Spruce Creek Park and Pleasant Creek both offer campsites and a boat launch for water sport enthusiasts.
Bellevue has a rich historic background, and there are a number of historic buildings to see on a self-guided walking tour of central Bellevue, including the Dyas Hexagonal Barn (1921), the Jackson Country Courthouse (1845), and the Potter's Mill (1843). There are several restaurants where you can enjoy a meal overlooking the Mississippi, and Bellevue hosts a substantial number of annual festivals, including the Jackson County Pro Rodeo.
There is never a dull moment in Sioux City, and regardless of whether you are into history, the arts, or the great outdoors, you will find plenty to keep you busy. Families are particularly well catered to in Sioux City - you can start your adventure at the Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center where kids can have hours of fun at the Discovery Forest Nature Playscape and visit the Raptor House. The LaunchPad Children's Museum offers interactive fun learning, and at the Long Lines Family Rec Center children can learn swimming, golf, and tennis.
There are several interesting museums to explore, starting with the Mid American Museum of Aviation & Transportation, the Sgt. Floyd River Museum & Welcome Center, and the Railroad Museum Sioux City. Once you have learned all about transportation you can visit the Sioux City Art Center (free!), which features permanent collections and a hands-on area for children or watch a show at the Lamb Productions Theatre or the beautifully restored Orpheum Theatre, home to the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra. For a really different movie experience you can make your way to the Promenade Cinema, which features 14 screens, stadium seating, and great sound. Sports fans can watch the Sioux City Musketeers or the Sioux City Bandits in action at the Tyson Events Center.
Iowa Destinations: Pella
Situated in central Iowa, Pella was established by the Dutch in 1847 and still reflects a strong Dutch heritage; it is one of the few places in America where you can see a real Dutch windmill and acres of tulips. Soak up the atmosphere of “America's Dutch Treasure” as your listen to the Klokkenspel (animated musical clocks) or stroll through the Pella Historical Village/Vermeer Mill, where you can tour the 1850's working Vermeer Mill and explore the adjoining Historical Village.
There is plenty to delight art lovers at the Joan Kuyper Farver Art Gallery and the Mills Gallery at the Lubbers Center for the Visual Arts - Central College. At the Pella Community Arts Center you can experiment with hands-on art, or you can make your way to the Joan Kuyper Farver Auditorium or the Kruidenier Theatre Center to watch a theatrical production. Music lovers can attend the Pella Opera House or take in a recital at the Douwstra Auditorium - Central College.
Hiking, cycling, and jogging enthusiasts can get some exercise on the 14-mile Volksweg Trail, the Eagle Lair Loop, or the Howell Station Prairie Trail. If you love festivals you should plan your visit to coincide with the October Herfst Feest (Harvest Fest) or Tulip Time in May, when Pella celebrates with parades, Dutch costumes, and a lively atmosphere.
Burlington has all the necessary attractions to ensure an action-packed weekend break for the whole family. There is plenty to do with children, starting with an indoor water park, go-karts, laser games, and more at Fun City - Hucks Harbor Waterpark, adjacent to the Catfish Bend Casino. The Mediapolis Aquatic Center and the West Burlington City Pool are popular summer attractions, both of which have large pools and water slides, and Ballocity provides year-round fun for younger children.
Educate and entertain the kids at the Burlington Fire Department Museum and the Garrett Phelps House Museum, which incorporates the Medical Memories Museum. For outdoor enthusiasts there are several good recreational areas where you can camp, boat, fish, and hike. Daredevils will enjoy the SkyTrail, an exciting zip-line experience, and the Wildlife Lakes Elk Farm is fun for all ages. At Starr's Cave Nature Center & Preserve you can explore three caves and interactive exhibits.
If you enjoy history you can stroll through the Heritage Hill Historic District and visit the Heritage Center Museum, the Mississippi Valley Veteran's Museum, and the Mediapolis Museum. A visit to the Burlington Capitol Theater and the Art Center of Burlington will add a touch of culture to the weekend, and the Westland Mall is the place to go for shopping, dining, and entertainment.
LeClaire occupies a scenic river-side position on the Mississippi River, offering a variety of historical attractions and outdoor pursuits. LeClaire was established by river pilots in the mid 19th century, and the Cody Road Historic District showcases a collection of historic homes that were all built between 1850 and 1870, reflecting a variety of architectural styles. Although many of the houses are now private homes, a tour of the Historic District is a highlight of any visit to LeClaire. Dawley House (currently the Crane and Pelican Cafe) and McCaffrey House (currently the Grasshoppers Gift Shop and Vintage Vine Wine Cellar) are open to the public.
Other attractions include the Buffalo Bill Museum and Lone Star Steamer Display, and along the popular Libations Lane you can visit the Green Tree Brewery, the Mississippi River Distilling Company, and the Wide River Winery.
Avid photographers and nature lovers can enjoy excellent bird watching at Lock and Dam # 14 where bald eagles and pelicans rule the roost. Twilight River Boat Cruises offer another great opportunity to enjoy enviable bird watching and a nostalgic journey while cruising upriver to Dubuque on a genuine Mississippi River Boat. LeClaire's Historic Downtown offers interesting and eclectic shopping and several dining venues.
Mount Pleasant is nestled in the midst of post-card pretty farmlands, rolling hills, and babbling streams in southeast Iowa. The city has a proud agricultural heritage and a strong cultural ethos that combine to make it a great weekend getaway destination. You can learn all about Mount Pleasant agricultural history at the Midwest Old Threshers Heritage Museum or visit the Theatre Museum of Repertoire Americana, which is a treasure-trove of artifacts celebrating early theatrical productions in America. In nearby Salem you can visit the Lewelling Quaker Museum, which documents the anti-slavery movement.
Mount Pleasant hosts several annual festivals, including the 5 day Midwest Old Threshers Reunion and the Red Flag Horseless Carriage Tour in September, while the Midwest Central Railroad provides special themed train journeys for families and children in October. Nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts can have hours of fun walking, hiking, cycling, or canoeing through the Oakland Mills Park and Nature Center. Both shoppers and history lovers can enjoy strolling through Mount Pleasant Downtown, where many turn-of-the-century buildings are now home to a diverse selection of shops and restaurants, and you can round off your day with a production by the Mount Pleasant Community Theatre Association or the Southeast Iowa Symphony Orchestra, which is based at Iowa Wesleyan College.
|From Des Moines, Iowa To||Driving Time|
|Dubuque, IA||3 hours|
|Algona, Iowa||2 hours 20 minutes|
|Indianola, Iowa||30 minutes|
|Bentonsport, Iowa||2 hours 20 min|
|Fort Madison, IA||2 hours 50 min|
|Cedar Rapids, Iowa||2 hours|
|Cedar Falls, IA||2 hours|
|Milford, Iowa||3 hours 15 minutes|
|Allison, Iowa||2 hours|
|Altoona, Iowa||20 minutes|
|Ames, IA||40 minutes|
|Johnston, IA||40 minutes|
|Marion, IA||2 hours 10 minutes|