We recently spent a three-day weekend in Okoboji in northern Iowa that draws a lot of vacationing families because of the lakes. There were some hits and some misses. Here are some of my family’s favorite Okoboji restaurants that I’d recommend if you have kids in your group.
Disclosure: We were hosted by Vacation Okoboji. Some meals were complimentary; some we paid for ourselves.
Best Okoboji restaurants for families for breakfast
Arnolds Perk was my favorite, just because the coffee was so good, and the power breakfast sandwich was filling and delicious.
I rarely go to a restaurant twice on a trip, but we visited Arnolds Perk twice in three days. It’s just a charming place to sit and relax.
We also had breakfast at the well-known diner O’Farrell Sisters. We got there right before the rush (so, 9 a.m. on a Saturday). Parking wasn’t great, so I imagine finding a spot once a lot of people are there is difficult.
The Friends with Benedicts selection were great (and funny), and I tried the Cake Bene (which included the restaurant’s famous pancake).
The pancakes are pretty good. They also have “famous cinnamon rolls,” so we split one between the four of us. (Yes, I’m a sucker for items on menus listed as “famous”).
By the way, this place apparently delicious pie that I forgot to order to go. People in the know tell me I could’ve eaten said pie at breakfast and not been judged, but I feel like we indulged plenty already with the pancake benedict and cinnamon roll.
Lunch restaurants in Okoboji
Most of the restaurants in this post could easily be the go-to for lunch. But there’s only one restaurant that stands out for lunch not only for food but for the most pleasant service: Tweeter’s.
I ordered a salad at Tweeter’s because I knew I’d want dessert (grasshopper pie, please). A lot of people were ordering taco salads, but I just stuck to a simple Caesar salad. The garlic bread served with it was delicious.
FYI: The kid’s meals come with a chocolate or strawberry sundae.
We also had lunch outside Arnolds Park Amusement Park at the popular Bob’s in Arnolds Park. The view was perfect.
I wish I could say that it was a great lunch, we ordered Bob Dogs and chips thinking that’d be quick. They’re hot dogs.
For whatever reason, the wait was about 45 minutes. The kids were able to play at the beach, at least.
Tip: They’re known for their Bob Dog, which is just a hot dog. But, if you get one with “everything,” it’s topped with loose meat, onions, ketchup and mustard.
While we didn’t eat at Barefoot Bar, I’d say it’s pretty kid-friendly. This famous spot on the lake is the famously “no shoes, no shirt, no problem” kind of place.
It’s a little confusing ordering at Barefoot Bar, as you can get your drink order taken at the table, but for food, you’ll need to go to the counter. There are a couple counters.
I loved the atmosphere, with the tiki huts, live music and palm trees, but was a little peeved that they’d charge for water. I can only imagine how hot it gets in the middle of summer.
This is the place that has the slide into the lake. Kids were drawn to it like moths to a light, even though the water temperature was cold.
Best restaurants in Okoboji for dinner
The best pizza we had was the BBQ Chicken at Pub 19 Bar & Grill, a restaurant situated on a golf course. We went on a particularly busy Friday night, so the wait was long. We waited on the patio and enjoyed the view, at least.
One night, we had dinner at Snappers Turtle Bay Café, which was a short walk from Barefoot Bar. This fairly new restaurant was pretty casual with yard games to keep the kids busy while waiting.
We had to stalk tables to get one in the sun by the water. For whatever reason, we got a table quickly but the wait for food was long.
Okoboji Store is one restaurant we really want to go to, but didn’t carve out time. It’s another one of those waterfront popular spots, with live music. I guess we’re saving it for next time.
Finding ice cream in Okoboji
There are surprisingly few places to get ice cream or treats in Okoboji, at least in the areas we visited. Nutty Bar is pretty iconic for the area, so we had some Nutty Bars during a break from Arnolds Park Amusement Park. It’s right outside the front of the park. Service was quick.
A Nutty Bar is pretty much a cube of vanilla ice cream, dipped in chocolate and rolled in peanuts. You can get cones there, as well.
Family-friendly places in Okoboji to enjoy local beer
I love trying local beers and wine while on vacation (responsibly). Throughout the weekend, I enjoyed trying various West O Beers. You can visit the brewery, which is located in Milford near West Okoboji Lake.
We almost made it to the brewery, actually. The plan was to get dinner to go and bring it to West O. We heard there were games to occupy kids while adults enjoy beverages.
We’ll have to go next time, because I liked all the beers I tried throughout the weekend.
All the waterfront restaurants and bars in Okoboji
With five interconnected lakes, you can imagine Okoboji has some restaurants with epic lake views.
Here’s a list of all the restaurants where you can dine with a view:
- -Barefoot Bar
- -Bob’s In Arnold Park
- -Dry Dock Lounge
- -Godfather’s Pizza (the Arnold’s Park location)
- -Hi-Point Sky Lounge
- -Main Event Bar & Eatery
- -Okoboji Store Bar & Kitchen
- -Pirate Jack’s
- -Snappers Turtle Bay Café
- -The Gardens
- -The Ritz
- -Water Edge Grille
- -Woude’s Bay Bar
Plan your Okoboji trip
I go into details of some of our favorite things in Okoboji in these posts: