Total Family Fun in Okoboji, Iowa

When my mom called to ask me what I thought about our extended family vacationing in Okoboji, my initial reaction was: Oko-what? Where’s that?

“Iowa,” she told me calmly.

This is what went through my head: “Iowa? Iowa?! What is there to do in Iowa??? Plant corn?”

When I am wrong, I will admit I am wrong, and I admit I was wrong about Iowa. Our family vacation in Okoboji was incredibly fun. So much fun that I have recommended the area to friends who are also guilty of thinking of Iowa as “flyover country.” So fun that I can’t wait to go back some day to see the things I missed the first time around.

After a quick three-hour drive from St. Paul (well, sort of quick, we were traveling with a toddler and a baby), we arrived at Fillenwarth Beach, a family-owned resort on West Lake Okoboji. Each family had a separate cabin, and each cabin had a full kitchen, air conditioning units, a gas grill out on the deck, and a DVD player in the living room. The cabins are a little outdated, but clean and comfortable. On our first night in town, we enjoyed a nice grilled dinner and explored the resort. My oldest son, Adam, was very excited about the playground and outdoor swimming pool. The adults were more excited about the Sun Runner Cocktail Cruise. 

The next afternoon, my husband and I tried to reserve a paddleboat (the resort offers free use of rowboats, paddleboats, and canoes on a first-come, first-serve basis) but they were all checked out. It was a beautiful, sunny late August afternoon, so we joined my mom, brother, niece and Adam in the pool (my dad, sister-in-law, and our youngest son, Ben, were relaxing at the cabin).  Later that day, a few of us went on the Million Dollar Home Cruise (we learned which business owners have multi-million dollar homes with lakefront property), then went over to Arnolds Park, a five-minute walk from our resort. We ate at Maxwell’s Beach Café and witnessed a beautiful outdoor wedding, but it was way too windy that day to go on any amusement park rides. I’d love to check out the rides and mini golf when I return (I’m especially intrigued by the Legend Roller Coaster, the 13th oldest wooden roller coaster in the U.S.). After the wee ones went to bed that night, my brother, sister-in-law, husband and I walked to some of the bars in town (I highly recommend Pirate Jack’s on the pier by Arnolds Park, and the fun establishments along Broadway).

On our last day in town, we swam in the indoor pool, played ping pong in the lodge, lawn games, board games, brought Adam to the playground, met some really nice people who stay at Fillenwarth every summer, grilled another delicious meal, went shopping at The Central Emporium, and just enjoyed one another’s company. It was a great summer vacation, with just the right mix of water, dining, local attractions, shopping, and a fun nightlife.  

Visit Okoboji during the weekend of June 22-23 for the Smoke on the Water BBQ Competition and Musicfest in Preservation Plaza at Arnolds Park, on the shore of West Lake Okoboji.