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, 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.

1. Four Mounds Inn - 3 hours from Des Moines

Four Mounds Inn - 3 hours from Des Moines
© Four Mounds Inn

The Four Mounds Inn in Dubuque is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and offers three different lodging options, all located on the banks of the Mississippi River in a Dubuque Landmark Site that has been preserved since 1808.

The Grey House and The White House were both built in the early 20th century, and can be rented by room, or as a unit for a large gathering - with exclusive access to all the rooms and kitchen during your stay.

The Marvin Gardens pine cabin was built in 1954, and can sleep up to four people at a time. Each room is equipped with large comfortable beds, and astounding views of the neighboring historic buildings and trails.

A delicious hot breakfast is served each morning. Visitors can trek through the Four Mounds Hiking Trails, and explore the various outbuildings and monuments that are located in the park, including the four Native American burial mounds that give the park its name. If you are looking for affordable Iowa destinations, the Four Mounds Inn is a good choice.

2. Brookstone Lodge and Suites - 2 hours 20 min from Des Moines

Brookstone Lodge and Suites - 2 hours 20 min from Des Moines
© Brookstone Lodge and Suites

Brookstone Lodge and Suites is located in Algona, Iowa, and features many different rooms to suit every need. Guests can choose from modern style rooms or suites, all of which feature a microwave and refrigerator, coffee maker, ironing board and hair dryer en suite.

Travelers will also find a business center located in the building, which includes a guest computer for easy printing and faxing. A complimentary pass to Anytime Fitness is available for those wishing to stay active during their stay. Coin laundry facilities are available on-site for guests’ convenience. A large continental breakfast is served each morning, and includes hot items like eggs and sausages as well as traditional fare like cereal, yogurt, fresh fruit, pastries, and more.

The property is close to Ambrose A. Call National Park, which protects within it a beautiful old-growth forest- perfect for nature-loving travelers. (Phone: 515-200-0030).

3. Hotel Julien Dubuque - 3 hour

Hotel Julien Dubuque - 3 hour
© Hotel Julien Dubuque

Hotel Julien Dubuque offers 133 spacious and elegant rooms to guests, with a variety of suites to suit every traveler, including those looking for spa getaways in Iowa. Each room comes equipped with luxury linens, pillow-top mattresses, complimentary Wi-Fi, LCD HDTVs, a walk-in shower, and spa-quality bath products. Hotel Julien Dubuque also offers specialty suites complete with Whirlpool baths, king-sized beds, and oversized rooms that comfortably sleep up to four adults.

The Potosa Spa is located on the lower level of the hotel, and their complete menu of services will ease tension and encourage relaxation. Their treatments are inspired by the Native American Medicine Wheel, and include signature services only found at this location.

After your spa treatment, dine on American cuisine at Caroline’s Restaurant, or opt for cocktails and appetizers at the Riverboat Lounge. Located in the heart of downtown, guests can walk to the Mississippi River, or to Asbury Plaza shopping center. (Phone: 563-556-4200). More places to visit in Iowa

4. Grand Harbor Resort and Waterpark, Dubuque

Grand Harbor Resort and Waterpark, Dubuque
© Grand Harbor Resort and Waterpark

Perfectly located on the Mississippi Waterfront, the Grand Harbor Resort offers easy access to many Dubuque attractions. That said, there is so much to do at the resort that you may never want to leave. For many visitors the Waterpark is the prime attractions, featuring a wide variety of exciting rides, slides and splashes. The indoor waterpark is fun all year round and there are activities for all ages. The guestrooms are spacious and modern offering free Wi-Fi, Coffee Maker, Microwave and Mini-fridge for your convenience. Your dining requirements are taken care of by the Tony Roma Restaurant where you can feast on delicious ribs, steaks, sea foods and more.

Grand Harbor Resort and Waterpark, 350 Bell St, Dubuque, IA 52001, 563 690 4000

5. Mason House Inn - 2 hours 20 min

Mason House Inn - 2 hours 20 min
© Mason House Inn

Mason House Inn & Caboose Cottage is a charming bed and breakfast located in historic Bentonsport, Iowa. The hotel was built in 1846 by Mormon craftsmen, and the nine rooms and suites are all decorated in a unique themed style, intentionally void of any technology to encourage guests to relax and embrace the antique theme.

Adventurous guests can rent Caboose Cottage, formerly a working RS&P caboose, which now has a kitchen, dining area, and bedrooms that sleep up to 4 people. Most rooms in the house feature handmade quilts, carved bed frames, and other traditional handiwork, in addition to modern comforts like pillow-top mattresses and complimentary Wi-Fi.

A country breakfast is served by the proprietor each morning in the 40 foot dining room. Mason House Inn is centrally located between Chicago, St. Louis, Omaha, Kansas City, and Minneapolis, and is the perfect distance away for a relaxing weekend retreat. (Phone: 800-592-3133).

6. Kingsley Inn - 2 hours 50 min

Kingsley Inn - 2 hours 50 min
© Kingsley Inn

With modern comforts and superior service, Kingsley Inn is an integral part of the Fort Madison community. Each room is appointed with luxury and comfort in mind, and while each are decorated in a unique style, all rooms and suites include amenities like HD televisions, deluxe bedding, and generously sized bathtubs.

The Kingsley Inn High Tea offers the perfect combination of savory and sweet fare, along with delicate teas, every Saturday by reservation only. Stay & Play packages are available, which include the hotel booking as well as a round at Lake Cooper Golf Club, plus other activities, and dinner at the club restaurant. Although the hotel restaurant is currently closed for remodeling, when they reopen, Atlas Steak and Smokehouse Restaurant will focus on bistro cuisine such as steak, fish, and house-smoked bacon.

Fort Madison is a vibrant community, and is also the home of the longest double deck swing-span bridge. (Phone: 319-372-8747).

7. Belmont Hill - 2 hours

Belmont Hill - 2 hours
© Belmont Hill

Belmont Hill Victorian Bed & Breakfast in Cedar Rapids is a stunning 1882 National Register home that has been renovated into a beautiful vintage getaway. The three guest rooms have been updated to include all the modern comforts like central air conditioning, satellite television, high speed Wi-Fi and private baths, while still staying true to the Victorian aesthetic of the original home.

Recycled wood elements and historic brick walls make each room cozy and completely unique. The wooded grounds and spacious perennial gardens of the house are the perfect place for a quiet walk.

Belmont Hill provides an indulgent breakfast for guests, complete with fresh juices, fruit, and a selection of delicious pastries. The breakfast table is set in traditional style, complete with fine linen, china, crystal, and a roaring fireplace. Its central location in Cedar Rapids is close to many attractions like the Amana Colonies and the Kalona Amish Community (Phone: 319-366-1343).

8. The Blackhawk Hotel - 2 hours

The Blackhawk Hotel - 2 hours
© The Blackhawk Hotel

As the oldest operating hotel in Iowa, the Blackhawk Hotel has a longstanding tradition of excellence and customer satisfaction. A large variety of rooms and suites offer something for every price range, however all accommodations come with high speed Wi-Fi, TV and DVD players, and coffee makers.

Many suites overlook pre-Civil War era historic Main Street, and come with other luxuries like whirlpools, exposed brick walls, and expansive sitting rooms. Guests can unwind with a cocktail at The Stuffed Olive martini lounge, which is tucked away in a quiet corner of the hotel lobby. Soho Sushi Bar and Deli is a unique restaurant that serves both classic New York deli fare and California sushi plates.

The hotel is centrally located in the Cedar Falls downtown area, and is close to the Performing Arts Centre, the Ostler Regent Theatre, and the Cedar Falls trails that are just steps away (Phone: 319-277-1161).

9. Okoboji Inn and Suites - 3 hours 15 minutes

Okoboji Inn and Suites - 3 hours 15 minutes
© Okoboji Inn and Suites

Located Milford, Iowa, right next to the Iowa Great Lakes, Okoboji Inn and Suites provides the perfect atmosphere for any trip, whether it be a fishing excursion, family outing or romantic getaway.

Every room comes equipped with amenities like a 32-inch plasma HD TV, rollaway beds, and complimentary high speed Wi-Fi. Spacious suites come with indulgences like whirlpool tubs and luxury bedding. A hot breakfast is served each morning, and guests can cook for themselves at the outdoor grill and fire pit, complete with picnic seating.

The Emerald Hill Golf Course is located right next to the hotel, and special package pricing is available for golfers who want to try out this beautiful and challenging course.

Enjoy the outdoors at the nearby Horseshoe Bend County Wildlife Preserve, or take in a show at one of the many different indoor and outdoor concert venues around the Iowa Great Lakes region. R (Phone: 712-338-4424).

10. Wilder Park - 2 hours

Wilder Park - 2 hours
© Wilder Park

Close to Allison, Iowa, Wilder Park hosts many different types of wildlife, and has options to suit every camper. Wilder Park has 52 campsites, 24 of which can be booked in advance for a small fee per day.

Campsites with electricity and full hook-ups are available, as well as traditional tent camping sites. A shower house, three storm shelters, and a dumping station are all included in the site fees. A mini-golf course is perfect for little ones, while parents can enjoy the full golf course as well as two fishing ponds, baseball diamond, and beach volleyball courts.

A summer concert series on the outdoor stage within the park is a fun evening activity for the whole family, to cap off an adventurous day on the hiking trails. Wilder Park boasts 8 miles of paved biking and hiking trails, as well as beautiful prairies teeming with wildflowers. If you are looking for cheap Iowa destinations, tent camping at Wilder Park is a good idea. (Phone: 319-267-2245).

11. Victoria's Vineyard Bed and Breakfast - 20 minutes

Victoria's Vineyard Bed and Breakfast - 20 minutes
© Victoria's Vineyard

Located on the edge of an 80 acre farm and vineyard, Victoria's Vineyard Bed and Breakfast is the perfect getaway for those seeking a night away from the city. Ideally situated on the outskirts of Des Moines, this rustic B&B offers two rooms to its guests: the Master Bedroom with en-suite whirlpool, pillow top mattress and large windows, and the Lower Level Bedroom which features the same comfortable bed and an attached bathroom.

The sitting room, as well as the vineyard, pond and hardwood forest on the property, are available for guests to enjoy. The vineyard is the ideal venue for a wedding of up to 500 people. There is a large event area by the pond, complete with a beautiful gazebo, parking, water and electricity.

A house-made breakfast is served daily. Boarding for horses is also available. For guests on their way to Aventureland Amusement Park or Prairie Meadows Casino, Victoria’s Vineyard B&B is situated five minutes from both (Phone: 515-967-1980).

12. Iowa House - 40 minutes

Iowa House - 40 minutes
© Iowa House

Iowa House in Ames is one of the most unique lodgings in the area. The former fraternity house that was renovated in 2008 now boasts 15 unique rooms that can sleep up to 35 guests.

Complimentary Wi-Fi, whirlpool tubs, and pillow-top mattresses make rooms cozy and welcoming, and their large variety of rooms and suites make it the perfect choice for families. Iowa House is decorated in a style that mixes past, present, and future, with quilts by Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon quilter Helen Paine adorning the walls.

A gourmet country breakfast is served each morning, with tasty treats from local bakeries completing the spread. Visitors to Iowa House will find themselves close to amenities and activities like the Furman Aquatic Centre, and many different golf courses. Its proximity to Iowa State University makes it the ideal choice for parents or visitors to the school. (Phone: 855-292-2474). Things to Do in Iowa

13. Adventureland Inn - 20 minutes

Adventureland Inn - 20 minutes
© Adventureland Inn

Adventureland Inn and Resort, located in Altoona, Iowa, is the official hotel of Adventureland Park. Their huge variety of rooms and suites, many of which are wheelchair-accessible, make this the perfect choice for any family getaway.

A full service campground is also available for tent and RV camping, with access to the water park amenities inside the hotel. The Adventureland Resort boasts three large pools, playful water park features, and two arcades. For adults, the swim-up bar is the perfect place for a cocktail or snack, before relaxing in one of the two hot tubs in one of the covered tropical courtyards.

The Parkview Restaurant serves a traditional breakfast, while the Central Park Restaurant and Lounge serves delicious American favorites. A trolley takes guests right to Adventureland Park. Adventureland Inn is a cheap weekend getaway option near Des Moines. (Phone: 515-265-7321).

14. Miss Spenser's of Longview Farms

Miss Spenser's of Longview Farms
© Miss Spenser's of Longview Farms

Miss Spenser’s of Longview Farms Bed and Breakfast is a unique and luxurious country getaway, nestled in the prairies right outside of Des Moines. Guests can choose between the Room with a View Suite, which boasts a stunning view and 700 feet of luxury including a sunroom nook, kitchenette, and king-sized bed, or the 400 foot Garden Room, with the same amenities as well as a view overlooking the garden.

Fireplaces in each suite add to the evening’s romantic ambience. A full breakfast is served each morning in Miss Spenser’s Tearoom, which can also be reserved by guests for the full English afternoon tea experience. Complete with gourmet teas and delicate tea fare, guests will be transported to the rolling English countryside- without ever leaving Iowa!

Longview Farm is very close to the walking trails in Hickory Hills Park, where guests can walk while savoring amazing sunset views. (Phone: 641-342-1547).

15. Romantic Cabin Getaways in Iowa: The Cottages at Stoney Creek - 20 minutes

Romantic Cabin Getaways in Iowa: The Cottages at Stoney Creek - 20 minutes
© The Cottages at Stoney Creek

The Cottages at Stoney Creek Hotel are ideal for a week-long getaway, offering at least 500 feet of living space, as well as fully stocked kitchens that allow you to cook and eat independently.

Although every practicality is taken care of, cottage suites feature luxurious amenities like whirlpool spas, flat screen televisions, stone fireplaces, and oversized bathrooms. Complimentary hot breakfast starts the day off right, and complimentary appetizers and cocktails are served every weekday evening. Guests have access to the fitness centre and sauna 24 hours a day.

There is also an indoor/outdoor pool and whirlpool. Located near Adventureland Park, the Blank Park Zoo, and Iowa State Fair Grounds, the Cottages at Stoney Creek are the perfect choice for atmosphere that is both luxurious and comfortable. (Phone: 904-277-0916).

16. The Inn at Okoboji

The Inn at Okoboji
© The Inn at Okoboji

Located along the beautiful shores of West Lake Okoboji, The Inn at Okoboji offers traditional resort accommodations and full service facilities for every occasion. All rooms include amenities like a mini-fridge, in-room coffee, Wi-Fi, and direct lake access.

The family-friendly suites are spacious, and include options like a whirlpool tub, wet bar, and fireplace. The Landmark Cafe serves a full menu, or guests can opt for poolside beverages and appetizers at the Lakeshore Lounge and Grill. Enjoy a swim in either the indoor or outdoor pool, or rent a boat for a day of activity on the lake.

Docks for both fishing and swimming are the perfect place to spend an afternoon. The Inn Golf Course is a moderate 1440-yard, 9-hole course where players can work on their accuracy, or spend a day out with the family. Rooms are quite affordable. (Phone: 712-332-2113).

17. Mont Rest Bed and Breakfast, Bellevue

Mont Rest Bed and Breakfast, Bellevue
© Mont Rest Bed and Breakfast

Famous for offering remarkable views of the beautiful Mississippi River, the Mont Rest B&B is a popular choice for romantic weekend getaways. Recalling a more gracious era, the historic Mont Rest was built in 1893 and still retains many of its original features. The 13 beautiful guestrooms are the last word in charm and elegance, featuring luxuries like whirlpool baths, fireplaces, heated towel rails and beautiful bed linen. Mont Rest offers regular themed dinners including their fun Murder Mystery dinner on most weekends. They also do wine-pairing dinners in summer and couples can book a private romantic dinner in advance should they wish.

Mont Rest B&B, 300 Spring Street, Bellevue, IA 52031, 563 872 4220

18. Historic Park Inn, Mason City

Historic Park Inn, Mason City
© Historic Park Inn

Famous as the last remaining hotel in the world which was designed and built the renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright, the Historic Park Inn is a must-visit destination for all architecture enthusiasts. The inn was built in 1910 and was originally known as the City National Bank and Park Inn. After undergoing a massive renovation in 2011, the Historic Park Inn now operates as a 27-room boutique hotel. Each of the guestrooms has been individually designed to combine some original features with all the modern facilities that today’s discerning travel demands. The 1910 lounge is the ideal place to enjoy a cocktail and admire the original 100-year old billiards table.

Historic Park Inn, 15 W. State Street, Mason City IA 50401, 641 423 0689

19. Cobblestone Inn & Suites

Cobblestone Inn & Suites
© Cobblestone Inn & Suites

The Cobblestone Inn & Suites sits right on the Mississippi River in the city of Fort Madison, and mixes historic elegance with modern conveniences.

Each room is stylishly appointed with modern furniture and elegant bedding, as well as conveniences like complimentary Wi-Fi and 50-inch HD televisions. An exercise room equipped with television will allow you to keep up to date while working out.

Any business needs can be taken care of at the front desk, with convenient complimentary printing, message, and fax services. A complimentary hot breakfast is served each morning. For travelers in town to visit the Lee County Speedway, or Sheaffer Memorial Golf Course, the Cobblestone Inn & Suites offers special discounts and rates to these nearby activities.

Fort Madison also hosts the Tri-State Rodeo each year, and other events like the Festival of Lights and Old Fort Days make this an ideal year-round vacation spot. (Phone: 844-263-4640).

20. Bridges Bay Resort, Arnold’s Park, Lake Okoboji

Bridges Bay Resort, Arnold’s Park, Lake Okoboji
© Jo Panuwat D/

Bridges Bay Resort is located on the shore of Lake Okoboji, where it offers visitors a great base from which to explore the area and enjoy a wide range of activities. The resort is ideal for both couples and families; you can choose from traditional hotel-style rooms with balconies, condo’s with full kitchens, boat cottage rentals and beautiful privately rented luxury condos. The resort has on on-site indoor water park where children of all ages can enjoy splashes, slides and rides all year round. During the warmer months the whole family can enjoy the large outdoor pool with swim-up bar. There are several outfitters offering water sports on the lake.

Bridges Bay Resort, 630 Linden Drive, Arnold’s Park, IA 51331, 712 332 2202

21. King’s Point Resort, Storm Lake

King’s Point Resort, Storm Lake
© King’s Point Resort

Scenically nestled on the edge of Storm Lake, King’s Point Resort is an excellent option for a family getaway in Iowa. Visitors will find everything they need for a fun escape right on site including water sports on the lake, an indoor and outdoor water park and a nine-hole golf course (with a mini-golf course) just across the road. You can choose from a selection of accommodation options including beautifully appointed hotel rooms and suites (many of which offer lake views) and their popular lake-view Sun Rise Cottages, which are fully self-catering. The kids will never be bored at King’s Point; regardless of the weather they can have year-round fun in the indoor water park.

King’s Point Resort, 1520 E. Lakeshore Drive, Storm Lake, IA 50588, 712 213 4500

22. Grandstay Hotel and Suites, Pella

Grandstay Hotel and Suites, Pella
© ercan senkaya/

Located just minutes from historic downtown Pella, The Grandstay Hotel and Suites at Bos Landon Golf Club, is a centrally-located base from which to enjoy all the activities and attractions of the Pella area. The hotel offers many on-site amenities including a heated indoor swimming pool and a fitness center. The rooms and suites are very comfortably appointed, offering a small fridge and microwave, free Wi-Fi, cable TV and individual temperature control. Some of the suites have whirlpool baths as an extra little luxury. While golfers enjoy a round at the 18-hole championship Bos Landon Golf Club non-golfers can explore downtown Pella.

Grandstay Hotel and Suites, 2508 Bos Landon Drive, Pella, IA 50219, 855 455 7829

23. Lakeside Hotel and Casino

Lakeside Hotel and Casino
© Lakeside Hotel and Casino

Located right on the shore of West Lake in Osceola, the Lakeside Hotel and Casino is a popular getaway destination for couples and families. The resort has a variety of accommodation options including rooms and suites as well as an on-site RV park where glamping enthusiasts can set up camp. The RV sites are fully serviced and have Wi-Fi access and great views. The hotel has an indoor swimming pool and a fitness room. However, the casino is the main attraction for most visitors, offering 600 slots and video poker machines as well as several table games. You can enjoy a wide variety of musical entertainments and events at their outdoor amphitheater.

Lakeside Hotel and Casino, 777 Casino Drive, Osceola, IA 34758, 641 329 3298

24. Hotel Winneshiek, Decorah

Hotel Winneshiek, Decorah
© Hotel Winneshiek

Hotel Winneshiek is an historic landmark property located in the heart of Decorah, offering visitors a nostalgic trip down memory lane. Surrounded by stately architecture and rich heritage, guests are welcomed to a haven of elegance and made to feel like family. The guestrooms and suites are a study in refined elegance featuring queen or king beds and luxury linens, coffee makers, and premium toiletries. After a busy day of exploring all the interesting attractions of Decorah you can return to the Hotel Win Bar to relax over a cocktail, craft beer or glass of wine while you enjoy a sharing platter of flatbreads and other treats.

Hotel Winneshiek, 104 E. Water Street, Decorah, IA 52101, 563 382 4164

The 25 Best Iowa Weekend Getaways near me today according to local experts are:

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, 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). 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), 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, 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.

Cedar Rapids

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

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 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.

Sioux City

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

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, IA3 hours
Algona, Iowa2 hours 20 minutes
Indianola, Iowa30 minutes
Bentonsport, Iowa2 hours 20 min
Fort Madison, IA2 hours 50 min
Cedar Rapids, Iowa2 hours
Cedar Falls, IA2 hours
Milford, Iowa3 hours 15 minutes
Allison, Iowa2 hours
Altoona, Iowa20 minutes
Ames, IA40 minutes
Johnston, IA40 minutes
Marion, IA2 hours 10 minutes