Summer 2018 is coming to an end. It’s a fact. Like most families, we are scrambling trying to fit in all those things that were on “summer must do list.” There were a few things like sleep in, eat dinner downstairs around the TV, play board games that were slam-dunk easy to check off the summer to do list. However, there was a moment of where did the summer go? How did we almost miss our summer ritual? We talk about our summer day trips all the time. Yet, we almost let summer slip by without taking our favorite day trip to visit Okoboji, Iowa.
Okoboji is a big summer tourism area close to our home in 605 land. I went to college in Iowa two hours south of Okoboji. During one of my college summers, I spent my time working at a YMCA camp. I got to know my way around and learn about the atmosphere and the great people that call the Iowa Great Lakes home. The Iowa Great Lakes are glacier-carved lakes that cover approximately 15,000 acres. The area boasts a beautiful venue for summer boating, kayaking, paddle boarding, and fishing. There is great food, shopping galore with unique boutiques, beaches to cool down after a long day exploring the area, and finally, no trip would be complete with visiting the charming and quaint Arnold’s Park Amusement Park.
I am going to share with you four can’t miss activities that my family always say is a must when we visit Okoboji.
1. Arnold’s Park Amusement Park. Arnold’s Park Amusement Park is in the center of the Iowa Great Lakes region. It is home to the amusement park, restaurants, beach area, and shopping. Arnold’s Park is home to The Legend roller coaster. It is believed to be the 13th oldest roller coaster in the world carrying some of its first passengers in 1927. Today, in 2018, riders young and old enjoy the thrill of the wooden roller coaster. Other rides at the amusement park include bumper cars, tilt-a-whirl, Ferris wheel, and log flume. We have been bringing the boys to the park since they were old enough to ride the kiddie rides. It brings a sense of nostalgia to visit the park. Even though there is technology throughout the park, you can get the feel of the history that is preserved throughout the park. We talk and share our family memories from our previous trips. The boys remembering the first time they were tall enough to ride certain rides or when they won a game on the midway or when a certain someone got sick on one of the rides. My boys love to take in the excitement and fun that Arnold’s Park shares with its visitors every day.
2. West Lake Okoboji is spring fed that gives off a beautiful shade of blue. It’s not quite the blue of the Caribbean waters. But, for the Midwest on a beautiful summer afternoon, nothing beats it. It is easy to pack up swimming gear, towels, buckets, shovels, goggles, football, snacks, drinks, and sunscreen to hit one of the many beach areas. Ok, that takes a little planning I do admit. However, it is worth it to find a spot at one of the beach areas to park your gear. Both D and P love to splash around in the water finding rocks, playing catch, or digging in the sand. We’ve spent many afternoons soaking up the rays while the boys played in the water. We’ve found the area to be family friendly and always appreciate that the fact that you don’t have to go far for changing facilities.
3. Iowa Great Lakes Maritime Museum. You can view interesting artifacts and immerse yourself in the lore of the Iowa Great Lakes at the Maritime Museum. There is a rare collection of antique wooden boats to look at and inspect up close. Also, you can view a boat pulled from the depths of West Okoboji. The Museum is free of charge. When the boys were younger, it was a nice break to come inside out of the sun for a bit while we looked at the cool boats. Something new for visitors to peruse is some of the retro ride parts, signs and other souvenirs left from Arnolds Park’s earlier days. We had a blast looking at the retro ride parts. Old bumper cars, the rolling barrel, and the restored wooden slide. It only cost $1.00 (or an all-day wristband to Arnold’s Park_ to take a trip down the slide. The boys thought it was adventurous!
4. Nutty Bar Stand. It is a summer tradition to stop by the Nutty Bar Stand. We eat our nutty bars so fast that by the time I think to take a picture they are gone. It is square of creamy vanilla ice cream on a stick, dipped in a light coating of chocolate, and rolled in nuts. The line to visit the Nutty Bar Stand is usually one of the longest we find all day in our journey. I promise you its worth the wait. No matter, if we sit down inside the nutty bar stand to watch as other visitors purchase their treat or stroll with our treat in hand down by the beach we hear the same comment “I can’t wait for a nutty bar!” Everyone knows what they are and it is a delicious treat before you leave the Arnold’s Park area.
Some other can’t miss places in Barefoot Bar and Grill at Parks Marina, Godfather’s Pizza in Arnold’s Park, The Three Son’s store for all of your Okoboji clothing needs, and Goodies candy store just in case you still need some sweet treats. Okoboji is our summer day-trip tradition that gives us the feeling that we are away from home without being too far from home. We have many fond memories of our visits that leaves with the sweet summer feeling.
All my best to you,