Image of Iowa road trip ideas

Who doesn’t love a good road trip? Luckily for central Iowans, we’re situated among some of the most beautiful and fun cities in the Midwest — some might even say the country! From kayaking in scenic lakes to visiting funky breweries, there is plenty to keep you busy all summer long. Here’s a list of recommended drivable vacations, sights to see, and enjoyable activities compiled by Two Rivers associates.

1. Iowa City

Stay at the Graduate Hotel, grab a beer at Big Grove Brewery, do some shopping in the Pedestrian Mall, and bring a little Napa flair to your trip with a glass of wine at Walker Homestead.

2. Upper Iowa River

Soak up the sun with some kayaking and canoeing on one of the most beloved rivers in the Midwest. It’s even been nominated for inclusion in the nation’s Wild and Scenic Rivers Program!

3. Bluffton

For some of the most scenic camping Iowa has to offer, look to Bluffton. Plus, it’s near the amazing hiking and biking trails of Decorah.

4. Nine Eagles State Park

One of southern Iowa’s most picturesque state parks, Nine Eagles State Park is the perfect spot for some hiking and a picnic.

5. Lake Okoboji

Looking for glacier-carved lakes and an amusement park? Okoboji, Iowa, has you covered. Enjoy everything from the rollercoaster at Arnolds Park to jet skiing in one of the five interconnected lakes.

6. Dubuque

Dubuque, Iowa, is exploding with things to do, but our associates say you must visit Backpocket Brewing & Beercade and Eagle Point Park overlooking the Mississippi River.

7. Decorah

From rich Norwegian history to a vibrant main street to an award-winning brewery, Decorah, Iowa, has tons to offer. Plus, it’s home to Trout Run Trail and Whippy Dip ice cream!

8. Ledges State Park

Hike steep slopes and take in scenic overviews at Ledges State Park near Boone, Iowa.

9. Effigy Mounds National Monument

Contemplate the mystery of more than 200 mounds, including 31 in the form of bear and bird effigies, at Effigy Mounds National Monument near Harpers Ferry, Iowa.

10. McGregor

Wander the historic downtown and explore Rivertown Fine Books before heading to the trails at nearby Pikes Peak State Park, which offers majestic views of the Mississippi River.

11. Clear Lake

If you’re into lake life, Clear Lake, Iowa, is the place to be. This buzzing city off I-35 offers lake cruises, lakeside festivals, and the Surf Ballroom & Museum. Our associates highly recommend kayaking on the lake!

12. Village of Gays Mill

You can’t talk Village of Gays Mills, Wisconsin, without mentioning apple orchards. Make sure to visit during the Apple Festival!

13. Eldon

Take a quick trip to Eldon, Iowa, to pose in front of the house that inspired one of the most iconic pieces of American art, American Gothic.

14. Maquoketa Caves State Park

One of eastern Iowa’s most popular outdoor destinations, Maquoketa Caves State Park is full of interesting geologic formations surrounded by beautiful forests.

15. Amana Colonies

Whether you come for the German food and fruit wines or to browse the array of historical shops, you’re sure to have a memorable time at the Amana Colonies.

16. Kansas City

From barbecue and baseball to museums and zoos, Kansas City, Missouri, is always a fantastic time. Best of all, it's usually a little warmer than Iowa, so you can get a jump start on summer fun or extend patio time in the fall.

17. Loess Hills

With its unique geological formations, the Loess Hills is a must-see Iowa region. Our associates say you should add some extra beauty to your trip by visiting the Loess Hills Lavender Farm.

NOTE: Due to wildfire on April 13, 2023, Loess Hills State Forest is closed until further notice.

Pack your bags and get ready to hit the road! If you want to stick around central Iowa, check out our list of 25 spring activities to make you happy you’re in Iowa. And if you have questions about our agency or living or working in Iowa, give us a shout. Reach out today.