Never been to Iowa before? Not sure where to start? Here are five popular destinations guaranteed to entertain all ages with fun activities, outdoor exploration, excellent shopping and delicious dining.

Okoboji: A Summertime Staple

Iowa’s resort region features five blue water lakes and more than 70 miles of shoreline ideal for outdoor activities like fishing, boating and camping. Kids delight in the rides and games at Arnolds Park Amusement Park. Families relax together at beautiful state parks lining the lakes and at full-service resorts. Friends enjoy the nightlife at open-air concerts and lakeside restaurants. Take in a local theatre show at Okoboji Summer Theatre, watch butterflies dance on the lake breeze at Dickinson County Nature Center or take a cruise on the Queen II excursion boat to round out your stay.

The Loess Hills: A Geologic Gem

The Loess Hills are a unique geological formation of quartz silt that creates extraordinary landscapes of steep bluffs, narrow ridges and rolling hills for over 200 miles along Iowa’s western edge. Tour the entire length while driving the Loess Hills National Scenic Byway. Stop in Council Bluffs to take in the area’s history at the Union Pacific Railroad Museum, the Squirrel Cage Jail and the General Dodge House. Experience the true wonder of the Loess Hills by climbing the observation tower at Hitchcock Nature Center, hiking Preparation Canyon State Park or biking the Wabash Trace Nature Trail.

five popular destinations
Des Moines: Urban Adventure

Iowa’s capital city is the crossroads of the state’s culture. Visitors can experience the best of the state’s agricultural heritage by attending events like the weekly Des Moines’ Farmers Market (May-October) and the annual Iowa State Fair (August). Pair those events with the urban excitement found at boutique shopping districts like the Historic East Village and Valley Junction. Or take the kids on an adventure at the Science Center of Iowa, the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, the Blank Park Zoo, Living History Farms or the country’s largest skatepark. Immerse yourself in art and culture at the Pappajohn Sculpture Park or Des Moines Art Center.

Decorah: Outdoor Charm

This charming town in the middle of Iowa’s Driftless Region offers a host of outdoor activities. Explore waterfalls at Dunnings Springs Park and Siewers Springs State Park. See the famous Decorah bald eagles and their nest. Paddle the Upper Iowa River, which winds through town. And bike or walk the 11-mile Trout Run Trail loop, which connects all these outdoor opportunities. Then, head downtown for boutique shopping, fine dining and to learn about Decorah’s heritage with a visit to the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum. Make sure to stop at Toppling Goliath Brewing, which has been ranked one of the world’s best.

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Amana Colonies: A Handcrafted Escape

The seven villages known as the Amana Colonies were founded by German Pietists in 1855. The people maintained a self-sufficient, communal society until the 1930s. Today, the restaurants, craft shops, wineries and a brewery share the history and culture of those German immigrants. Delight in handcrafted goods at the Amana Woolen Mill and the Amana Furniture and Clock Shop. Dine family-style at the Ox Yoke Inn or Ronneburg Restaurant. Sip on bold flavors at Ackerman Winery, Millstream Brewing or Amana Coffee & Tea. Visit during one of the huge annual festivals like Maifest or Oktoberfest for a truly unique experience.