Camping Gems - Iowa
Western Skies Scenic Byway
Head into the countryside west of Des Moines and travel through stunning prairies, golden fields, and wide-open blue skies. This region has Danish villages, windmills, gorgeous apple orchards, and nature preserves.
Lake Ahquabi State Park
Looking for a secluded, beautiful lake for fishing and boating? Head to Lake Ahquabi to angle for crappie, bluegill, redear, sunfish, and bass. Wildlife watching and mushroom hunting are favorite spring activities.
Cedar Valley Nature Trail
Work off some of that extra energy on the scenic 52-mile trail that follows the tracks of the former Cedar Rapids to Waterloo railroad run. Don't feel like walking? Then take your bike or wait till winter and dig out your cross country skis. (Boyson Road, Hiawatha, IA, 319-398-3505)
DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge
The refuge is comprised of 8,358 acres in Iowa and Nebraska and lies in the Missouri River Valley floodplain on a former meander of the Missouri River. Each year, especially during the fall, spectacular flights of ducks and geese mark the changing seasons along this traditional waterfowl flyway. An interesting assortment of warblers, raptors, shorebirds, and other bird life can be observed also.
Seminole Valley Farm
A visit to Seminole Valley Farm and its sister attraction, Usher's Ferry, can transport you back into early 1900s Iowa farm life as you tour a farmhouse, barn, garden, summer kitchen, and smokehouse. Open May - October. (1400 Seminole Valley Rd NE)
River Bluffs Scenic Byway
You'll see breathtaking bluffs, forested hill tops, and lovely winding roads on this scenic byway in northeast Iowa. Learn more about the Native American history and the mounds that dot the byway, watch for eagles, and explore this picturesque regions (known as Little Switzerland).
Pella Tulip Time Festival
A visit to Pella will make you feel like you've been magically transported to an Old World Dutch Village. In May, take in the Tulip Time Festival, when the town is a blaze of color and the residents don traditional Old World costumes and celebrate their rich heritage. Before leaving town you'll also want to stop by Wyatt Earp's boyhood home at 507 Franklin Street.
Lake-to-Lake State Park Bike Route
Take an afternoon or a full day to explore the Lake-to-Lake bike route. This 50-mile trail connects Pine Lake State Park with George Wyth Memorial State Parks.
Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad
Railroaders won't mind making the drive to Boone (near Des Moines) between Memorial Day and October 31. Here you can hop on one of their diesel, electric, or steam engines trains for a lovely 14 mile journey through the Des Moines River Valley. (800-626-0319)
Ledges State Park
With sandstone ledges that rise 100 feet above the Des Moines River Valley, this is one of the most scenic parks in the state. Hike the trails up and down steep slopes to scenic overlooks and get a view of Pea’s Creek “canyon.” This is also a great spot for fishing and canoeing.
Camping Gems - Things to Do in Iowa
Explore the prairies and wildflowers at Pine Lake State Park.
Tour the woolen mills, bakeries, and homemade quilts of the Amana Colonies.
Ride a leg of the Lake-to-Lake State Park Bike Route, a 50 mile route connecting Pine Lake and George Wyth Memorial state parks.
Fish for Kentucky striped bass at Lake MacBride State Park.
Meet the ducks, cats, and petting-zoo animals at Cedar Rapids' Bever Park.
Visit Pella in May for the amazing Tulip Time Festival.
Hike the Devil's Backbone at Backbone State Park in eastern Iowa.
Go bird watching at the Coralville Reservoir.
Watch the geese fly at the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge.
Drive the picturesque River Bluffs Scenic Byway.
Camping Gems - Places to Go in Iowa
A group of German immigrants left their homeland in 1842 for the promise of religious freedom offered in southeastern Iowa. Here you'll find museums explaining the Amana lifestyle, wineries, furniture makers, woolen mills, wonderful bakeries, stores full of neat crafts, a wonderful quilting supply store, and some of the best German food you'll ever find.
Lake of Three Fires State Park
Hiking, hunting, boating, swimming -- this Taylor County park has it all. Set in southwest Iowa, Lake of Three Fires offer excellent fishing as well as mushroom, berry, and nut harvesting. Tour the hiking and horseback riding trails, explore the lake, or enjoy a picnic lunch with a view.
Iowa's destination city has plenty of family fun to offer. Take a trip to Adventureland Park, Sleepy Hollow Sports Park, or enjoy a ride on the ponies at the Heritage Carousel of Des Moines. The city also has plenty of nightlife, live music, and fabulous restaurants.
Sylvan Runkel State Preserve
Set near Onawa in the Loess Hills Prairie, this preserve offers a fabulous taste of western Iowa. You can hike the ridgetop, explore the prairie grasses and wildflowers, and photograph circling hawks. The preserve also includes forest and wetland areas.
Lake MacBride State Park
If fishing is your passion, you need to stop at Lake MacBride. This is one of the few places in Iowa where you can fish for the "other" bass variety -- Kentucky spotted bass. The park has plenty of boating opportunities (rentals are available right on the shore) and miles of multi-use trails. Head here for hiking, biking, or wintertime cross-country skiing.
Des Moines Botanical Center
Here you will be treated to a 150 by 80-foot dome which houses 15,000 tropical and subtropical plants. Along with the plants, you'll see tiny hummingbirds and their free flying buddies flitting overhead. Outside you can explore the herb garden, the Japanese dwarf tree collection, a cactus garden, and garden style river walk landscaped to attract butterflies. (909 E River Drive, 515-242-2934)
Pine Lake State Park
With gorgeous territorial views of the forest, river, and farmlands, this state park is a terrific place to explore with the family. Set in north-central Iowa, Pine Lake offers excellent catfish and smallmouth bass fishing, miles of hiking trails, and plenty of boat ramps. Serious bikers will want to ride a leg of the Lake-to-Lake State Park Bike Route, a 50 mile route connecting Pine Lake and George Wyth Memorial state parks.
Camping Gems - Places to Eat in Iowa
Ox Yoke Inn (G Street, 800-233-3441)
The Red Avocado (319-351-6088)
Cafe Dodici (319-653-4012)
Motley Cow Café
Linn St. Café
Lincoln Café (Mt. Vernon)
Taki Japanese Steakhouse (2677 86th St, Urbandale)
Flying Mango (4345 Hickman Rd)
Cafe Di Scala (644 18th St)