This post is sponsored by Travel Iowa but all opinions are our own.
Whether you are looking for a fun summer Midwest weekend getaway for the family, friend group or just a romantic couple of days for you and your favorite person, Okoboji, Iowa, has something for everyone! Maybe you’ve never considered Iowa as a vacation destination, but there is so much more to Iowa than meets the eye!
We recently wrapped up an incredibly fun summer road trip from Chicago to Okoboji, Iowa (7-hour drive from Chicago), located in the Northwest corner of Iowa! Also known as Iowa’s Great Lakes area. In case you don’t already know, Okoboji’s main attractions are its glacier- carved lakes which span a total of 15,000 acres including Iowa’s largest natural lake, Spirit Lake and five interconnected lakes; West Okoboji, East Okoboji, Upper Gar, Lower Gar, and Minnewashta. There’s so much fun to be had in Okoboji, Iowa and enjoying the beautiful expansive lakes is just a part of what makes this destination a perfect shoe-in for any summer vacation roster!
Want to know what we got into while there? Hint* We only spent about an hour or two on a boat or on the water during our entire visit and our weekend was jam- packed with fun activities, good food, and stellar views. Here’s a breakdown of what to do, where to eat, and where to stay in Okoboji, Iowai!
Things to do in Okoboji, Iowa
Have a Lake Day – On or near the water
Whether you choose to rent a boat, jet skis, or hang out at one of the many beaches, you’re sure to have a good time. We suggest heading to Okoboji Boat Works for all your lake day desires. They make Okoboji Iowa boat rentals easy so you can enjoy cruising in one of their power boats or pontoons. Or if you’d rather take a back seat, you can book one of their many public cruises scheduled every Saturday between 1pm and 5pm.
Visit the Fish Shack
We enjoyed spending time at the Fish Shack at Okoboji Boatworks. Open to the public year-round, the Fish Shack doubles in the winter as the “World’s Largest Fishing House.”. But in the summer the walls come down and it takes weekly cruises around West Lake Okoboji. When not cruising, it’s a fun spot to enjoy a drink and watch boat traffic. We enjoyed a couple of bloody mary’s while watching the boats cruise by.
Be a kid at Arnolds Park
Arnold’s Park was built in 1889 and is one of the longest operating amusement parks in the world! So cool, right? They have lots of fun rides for kids and the kid in you, along with amusement park food, like fresh (made right in front of you) donuts, walking tacos (my personal favorite), and more. The park is one of the most treasured destinations in the Iowa Great Lakes region.
Visit the Classic Car Museum
This was one of Ryan’s favorite things to do in Okoboji Iowa. They feature ‘Days Gone By’ of the Iowa Great Lakes, Arnold’s Park and downtown Spencer. During a guided tour you will be able to browse vintage storefronts while taking a relaxing stroll through the old Arnold’s Park boardwalk, enjoying the evening scenes of West Lake Okoboji, and lots of fun illusions built into the murals that are painted on the walls!
Join the Party at Barefoot Bar
This place is a huge entertainment venue with palm trees, live music, and bars!
See a Free Show at Arnold’s Park Free Summer Concert Series
We were lucky enough to see Jake Owen while we were here. It was an epic summer concert and the views of the sunset and lake from the lawn were to die for. Check the schedule to see who’s performing next!
There’s so much to do in Okoboji and we only wish we had enough time to do it all. If you’re looking for other fun activities, check out a list of things we would have loved to do if we had a bit more time to explore and play!
- Go to a performance at Okoboji Summer Theater
- Superior 71 Drive-in Theater
- Rent a Polaris from Okoboji Motors Sports
- Visit one of the many museums in the Arnold’s Park area:; Maritime Museum, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Arnold’s Park Museum (take a few rides down the giant slide, trust us 😉 )
Where to eat in Okoboji, Iowa
If you’re a regular around here, you probably know that we are foodies at heart. So, one thing we must do when visiting a new destination is scope out the best places to eat. If you’re like us, don’t worry. There’s plenty to choose from with the variety of Okoboji Iowa restaurants and here are a couple of our favorites!
This is a must go to spot if you love a good burger and craft beer! Ryan and I couldn’t stop making ‘happy tummy’ noises while eating here. Their burgers are stellar, and you get a front row view of the boat traffic on the water plus live music. If you rent a boat, you can also pull right in, dock your boat, and have a bite to eat until you’re ready to head back out on the lake.
Have a lakeside dinner and cocktail at Snappers like we did. The food is fresh, and the ambiance is literal vacation vibes. It’s bright and colorful and you can choose from intimate indoor seating or plentiful outdoor dining. We sat at the bar which connects to their open- air interior and loved mingling with the bartender and other guests while enjoying a solid meal! They also have games on their patio/lawn!
Whether you’re looking for an incredible coffee spot for a quick grab- and -go coffee and breakfast or if you want to sit and cozy up for a while, visit TOPOG Coffeehouse. They are located just outside of Arnold’s Park and have awesome coffee and some of the best bagels we have ever had (the cream cheese was magical). I ordered the Vanilla rLavender Latte and it was so good!
We visited Father’s Day weekend, so when Sunday rolled around, we wanted a fresh and yummy breakfast without the wait. Cue, Nektar! Their fresh and made- to -order smoothies/bowls, pressed juices, and decadent toasts (and other baked treats) were exactly what we didn’t know we needed. Everything was delicious and Ryan even needed to get their secret to perfectly scrambled eggs!
Looking for other places to eat? Here are a few more Okoboji Iowa restaurants and places you don’t want to skip when you visit.
- O’Farrell Sisters – Amazing breakfast diner
- Tavern At The Park – inside The Inn Hotel
- The Nutty Bar Stand – a local favorite for ice cream
Where to Stay in Okoboji, Iowa
We can’t say enough great things about our stay at The Inn Hotel! While there are plenty of Okoboji Iowa hotels to choose from, this one was absolutely perfect. From the spacious room and comfy bed, to the unique and retro decor, it was the perfect place to retreat after a long day of exploring. The staff was courteous and attentive, they have an on- site restaurant (mentioned above), huge pool deck with bar and lounge chairs, and it’s right around the corner from Arnold’s Park, the lake, and all the shops!
We hope you have as awesome of a vacation or Midwest weekend getaway in Okoboji, Iowa, as we did! It’s a real gem in the Midwest and we think more people need to know about it! Whatever your reason for visiting we know you’ll have the best time. Interested in seeing more? Take a drone flythrough of Okoboji!
Jacquie & Ryan
If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy our Fun Day at the Iowa State Fair!