14 Awesome Iowa Road Trips For The Summer

I’m always up for a weekend getaway, and Iowa has become my reliable, go-to state. Iowa cities provide an inexpensive vacation, and all within just a few hours from Omaha. Here are a few of my favorite, memorable vacations in Iowa, plus recommendations from Iowa travel bloggers.

Is it a day trip or a weekend trip?

So, good question. How far away are these places from Omaha? And should you plan just a day or a weekend? I almost always plan overnight trips, even to nearby towns in Iowa.

I typically plan overnight stays for anything more than a two-hour, one-way drive from Omaha. But, to help you decide, here are the distances from Omaha:

Elk Horn – 65 miles from Omaha

Audubon – 80 miles from Omaha

Lake Icaria – 85 miles from Omaha

Sioux City – 100 miles from Omaha

Des Moines – 135 miles from Omaha (so much to do, I’d recommend more than a day)

Estherville – 190 miles from Omaha

Okoboji – 200 miles from Omaha (definitely an overnight – but you’ll want a whole weekend there)

Ottumwa – 220 miles from Omaha (definitely an overnight trip)

Clear Lake – 250 miles from Omaha (definitely an overnight trip)

Decorah – 330 miles from Omaha (definitely an overnight trip)

Summers are for road trips! If you're looking for a Midwestern destination, here's where to road trip in Iowa, with tips on what to do in each city and what to see. Iowa has wide-open spaces, amusement parks, and quirky attractions.

Closer Iowa road trips

Looking for places closer to Omaha for a quick getaway? I recommend exploring southwest Iowa. Here are a few notable places and things to do:

Hitchcock Nature Center in Honey Creek

Hikes in the Loess Hills in southwestern Iowa

14 unique trails in Pottawattamie County, Iowa

Wabash Trace Nature Trail in southwestern Iowa

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Need an inexpensive but fun summer getaway? Here are 13+ Iowa road trips this summer, with tips on what cities to visit, what to do, where to eat, and what's not-to-miss.

6 thoughts on “14 Awesome Iowa Road Trips For The Summer”

  1. I live in La Vista, and enjoyed your post about places to visit in IA. Do you have a similar list for NE? I retired 01012020, and would like to set up a “See Nebraska” travel wish list.

    • Thanks! I have a Nebraska Bucket List post that is my travel wish list, but I’d love to write a Nebraska road trip post. Good idea!

  2. I would offer my hometown area of Villages of Van Buren (county). Bentonsport is especially travel worthy with lots of vintage crafts and a haunted B&B!

    Lacey State Park just across the Des Moines river from Keosauqua is also worth a visit. Grew up taking it for granted – now I realize what a gem it was/is!

    And you really need to visit Cantril for the Dutchman store. Greatly expanded since I grew up but virtually everything you might need and lots of things you didn’t KNOW you needed! We especially love looking through their dried goods (fabric), candy, spices and shoes!!

    FInally Milton has a terrific dairy. Makes WONDERFUL cheeses. Samples available (at least usually)

    Definitely an overnight and perhaps a laid-back weekend.

    We usually leave on a Friday night and stay in Des Moines – cause you’re right so much in Des Moines. Then travel southeast to Van Buren then back to Centerville/Moravia for a night at Honey Creek Resort on Rathbun lake.


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