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14 Iowa Road Trip Destinations For 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.

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Want some more ideas? Check out this list of 10 of the most charming small towns in Iowa!

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.

Iowa destinations near Omaha

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:

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.

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Wednesday 17th of June 2020

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.

Cindy Ladage

Monday 15th of June 2020

What a great roundup of cities! I’ve been to about half need to plan for more!


Wednesday 17th of June 2020

I would've guessed you'd have been to more than half!

Marilyn Griffith

Sunday 14th of June 2020

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.


Sunday 14th of June 2020

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!

Val - Corn, Beans, Pigs & Kids

Friday 12th of June 2020

So many great places to visit! We've actually been thinking of doing a road trip across Iowa for our family vacation this year so this will be a great post to refer back to. Thanks for letting me contribute to this post as well.

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