Iowa Travel Recommendations

Iowa is a great place to visit, filled with beautiful views and fun things to do with kids. Most of our favorite places are just a few hours from Des Moines, perfect for day trips. If you want incredible memories with your family, grab a sheet of paper and start making plans right now!

Iowa Travels with Kids

Budget-Friendly Family Adventures

Travel Tips for Parents

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American Gothic House, Eldon

This is such a fun stop, we’ve actually done it twice! You can get your picture taken in front of the house (costumes in different sizes are provided), but there is also a small museum with a short video about artist Grant Wood and a gift shop with kitschy souvenirs.

Close by: Rock Island Train Depot and park

Covered Bridges of Madison County, Winterset

We enjoyed visiting the bridges in the spring, but I think it would be even more fun in the fall! Stop by the visitor’s center for a map and a photo opp with the John Wayne cut-out before you go adventuring. 😉

Don’t miss: Clark Tower in Winterset Park

Fenelon Place Elevator, Dubuque

Kids will love riding the shortest, steepest railway in the world! While you’re waiting to take your ride down, enjoy the view of the Mississippi River — and once you get to the bottom, take a few minutes to window shop before going up again.

You might also enjoy: the Dubuque Town Clock (an easy walk)

Iowa Travel * With Kids

We love traveling as a family because it allows our children to experience real-world learning. A couple of tips for you:

Be on the lookout for fun roadside attractions, and be sure to take advantage of visitor center employees who usually have great tips and activity ideas for kids.

Consider starting a family travel journal to save memories and mementos.

Field of Dreams Movie Site, Dyersville

If your kids have seen Field of Dreams, they will love checking out the movie site. You can take pictures in front of the house, play a pick up game of baseball with other visitors, and re-enact scenes in the corn (if you visit in the summer).

We combined this stop with a trip to Dubuque (see above). 

The Music Man Square, Mason City

Continuing the movie theme, your kids will enjoy a visit to The Music Man Square. This is a great trip for cold or rainy days, since all of the activities can be enjoyed indoors! Be sure to watch the movie first, so that your children can recognize the major characters and locations they’ll see. Our kids especially loved the scavenger hunt and enjoying a yummy scoop of ice cream.

Close by: Clear Lake City Park, Buddy Holly Crash Site

Riverboat Twilight, Le Claire

Our family travels have taken us all over the Midwest. We have crossed the Mississippi River in Le Claire, Wisconsin and Dubuque, Iowa, but our favorite memory of the famous river happened in Le Claire. Earlier this year, we took a boat ride on the magnificent Riverboat Twilight, traveling north for about 45 minutes before turning around and heading back. 

Be sure to check out the Freedom Rock right by the loading zone and see if you can find the clever geocache nearby.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum, Burr Oak

When you think back on the Little House books or TV show, you might not remember the Ingalls family ever living in Iowa. The reason for that is simple: Laura didn’t include the Burr Oak years in her children’s books. Nevertheless, you can still tour the old Master’s Hotel and the small gift shop. Our tour guide did a great job engaging with our kids and making the experience special for our little Laura fan.

This location will only take you an hour or so. If you or your children love learning more about Laura Ingalls Wilder, be sure to read more about our longer family trips to the Ingalls Homestead in De Smet, South Dakota and Rocky Ridge Farm in Mansfield, Missouri.

Our family loves to take day trips and weekend adventures all around Iowa. I hope this list of places to visit gives you a place to start!

Click here to read all of our family adventure posts, and be sure to join us on Instagram for all our travel updates.

Where will your Iowa travels take your family?