Family Travel

5 min read

Iowa's Secret Family Fun: 5 Must-Do Unique Adventures

Ever wonder what hidden gems Iowa holds for families? Buckle up! We're about to unveil five unique activities that'll turn the Corn State into your own playground of wonder.

Tobi Miles
December 13, 2023

There are plenty of fun things to do in Iowa, but it can be hard to find great family activities. That’s especially true if you don’t know where to start. Luckily, we found 5 unique family activities in Iowa that offer fun for the whole family.

The best family activities in Iowa are at Adventureland which features over 100 rides. The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium is also great for families because there is so much to see and it’s educational. Reiman Gardens and Maquoketa Caves State Park are great family activities as well, especially if your family likes to explore nature.

Your family may also enjoy the many escape rooms throughout Iowa, and the teamwork is fun and memorable. Iowa features a variety of activities that range from thrill rides and museums to botanical gardens and cave parks. Whether you’re a local or plan to visit soon, you will want to check out these 5 unique family activities in Iowa.

What Are the Best Family Activities in Iowa?

1. Adventureland

Look no further than Adventureland for the best family fun you can find in Iowa. Located in Altoona, Iowa, Adventureland is home to over 100 rides that offer something for everyone. Thrill seekers will appreciate The Monster which has given guests adrenaline rushes since 2016.

The 101-degree drop is enough to get anyone’s heart going. Other intense thrill rides include The Outlaw, Tornado, and Space Shot which lets guests free fall from a 200-foot tower after a fast ascent. Don’t worry, however, as there are plenty of rides at Adventureland that are perfect for children and aren’t as intense.

Rides like the Dragon’s Nest, Draken Falls, and Shakin’ Bacon are among the many kids’ rides at Adventureland. You can also enjoy a fun round of bumper cars with the whole family at Frantic Freeway in the park. Adventureland alone is worth the trip to Iowa, and you can get your tickets here.

2. National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium

The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium is a great family activity that people of any age can enjoy. It’s a great way to learn about the wildlife the Mississippi River is known for and see the magnificent animals up close. You will also see some incredible aquatic animals from the Gulf of Mexico as well as a Red-Tailed Hawk, Bald Eagle, and barn owl.

This attraction is just as much of an aquarium as it is an impressive museum. You can also absorb history in a historic log cabin and feed fish the Wetland. The Wetland is populated with beavers, blue herons, muskrats, Canadian geese, and more.

The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium may not offer the thrills of Adventureland, but it’s a great place for a relaxed and educational day. You can find the museum in Dubuque, Iowa. While you’re there, check out the Mississippi Riverwalk in Dubuque to look at the river from a different perspective.

3. Maquoketa Caves State Park

Iowa has plenty of natural beauty to boast, and Maquoketa Caves State Park is a testament to this. Maquoketa Caves State Park is home to 13 breathtaking caves. The pine trees and large bluffs immerse you in the woods and let you soak in your surroundings.

Even novice hikers can explore many of the caves at the park without feeling overwhelmed. You can hike along 6 miles of smooth trails, but you don’t have to complete the trek if that’s too much for your family. The “Dancehall Cave” is the highlight of the park which measures 800 feet long.

Some of the caves are much smaller, however, so you should only explore them if you have spelunking experience. Maquoketa Caves State Park is also a great campsite for families if you want to settle down after exploring all day. You’ll have fun whether you explore the caves or simply hike and soak in the beauty.

4. Reiman Gardens

You can find one of the best gardens in Iowa not far from Iowa State University at Reiman Gardens. Reiman Gardens features over 6,000 plants that you can get up close and personal with. Each of the plant collections is unique and includes many plants that aren’t native to Iowa.

There are 26 gardens to check out throughout the property. Reiman Gardens spans 17 acres, and you will find plenty of butterflies throughout. The countless pollinator plants throughout the gardens attract butterflies that make the experience feel magical.

It’s a great family activity because there is plenty to see, and you can easily spend a lot of time there without seeing every plant. Reiman Gardens holds special events and changes the theme each year, so you can have a unique experience each time you visit.

5. Escape Rooms

Escape Rooms have never been so popular, and there are plenty of great ones throughout Iowa. That said, Escapology in Cedar Falls may be the best of them. They have four unique all-ages escape rooms as well as a “Kids Mode” room for children between 7 and 14.

The themes of the rooms you must escape from include a lost city full of treasure, a mansion whodunnit, to a unique medical setting. Some of the rooms are best suited for teenagers and adults, but younger children will enjoy the Kids Mode room.

Breakout Games in Des Moines features 7 rooms to choose from. Escape rooms are great for families because they require teamwork, and they are great bonding experiences. Most escape rooms rank the games they offer by difficulty, and that comes in handy when you bring your kids.

Is Iowa Family Friendly?

Iowa is a family-friendly state for visitors and residents alike. There are plenty of great family activities that range from theme parks and zoos to parks and laser tag arenas. Iowa has 83 state parks to explore, and many of them are family-friendly.

There are currently 254 museums in Iowa for your family to check if you enjoy fun education. Locals will appreciate that Iowa was named the 9th best state to raise a family in. Cities like Des Moines and the surrounding cities are particularly great for families and are packed with activities.

Des Moines, Dubuque, and Cedar Rapids are the best vacation spots for families in Iowa. They are all family-friendly and affordable, and you can find plenty of activities no matter how old your kids are. The best time to visit Iowa with family is from May to June and September to November.

So, What Are the Best Family Attractions in Iowa?

The best family attractions in Iowa are Adventureland and the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium. You can also enjoy some of the best natural beautiful Iowa has to offer at Maquoketa Caves State Park and Reiman Gardens. Iowa has incredible escape rooms in Ames, Des Moines, and Cedar Falls. However, Escapology in Cedar Falls is the best because it has the best options for families with young children.

Article updated:
January 5, 2024

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