July 9, 2018

Tips For Visiting Blank Park Zoo In Des Moines

Blank Park Zoo is a hidden gem that’s a bit off the beaten path in Des Moines, Iowa. My family is most familiar with the downtown area and, of course, Adventureland; however, we decided this summer, it was time to pay this zoo a visit. I’m glad we did! I just wish we had allowed more time to explore – we visited on the last day of a great weekend in Des Moines.

Headed to Des Moines, Iowa? Here's why you don't want to skip a trip to Blank Park Zoo if you're going with kids! #thisisiowa #zoos #familytravel

Disclosure: Our trip was hosted by Catch Des Moines. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

You can explore the zoo in an afternoon – there are 22 acres of exhibits and facilities to see.

Indoor rainforest at the zoo in Des Moines
The zoo in Des Moines has an indoor rainforest with a low-hanging rope bridge.

Here are some of the things we discovered at the Des Moines zoo:

Not-to-miss animal encounters

Blank Park Zoo loads their summer days with animal encounters, keeper chats, feedings and more. You can see a schedule here. They are, of course, subject to change. We caught one of the Look & Learn educational programs near the penguins. It’s held daily at 11 a.m. If you arrive to the area at 10:45, you can watch the penguins being fed and then you’re just a few steps away from the animal program.

There are other encounters for an additional fee. My kids begged and begged to ride the camel, so we forked over the $6 each for them to ride.

Des Moines Zoo Camel Ride
For an additional fee, kids can ride a camel at the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines, Iowa.

A few of the other activities that are an additional fee include feeding parakeets ($2 for a feed stick, $1 for admission only), the train ride ($2.25 per person or $2 for members), and the carousel ($2.25 per person or $2 for members). They also had a face painting stand, which seemed like a sweaty mess waiting to happen.

One of my favorite add-ons was the giraffe feeding, which I thought was reasonably priced. My daughter and I also fed giraffes for $2 a treat (which was actually like several lettuce leaves). I thought it was more fun getting up close to giraffes than camels, but my daughter may have a different opinion about it.

Feeding giraffes at Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines, Iowa
Feeding giraffes at Blank Park Zoo was an additional fee but definitely a memorable experience.

Behind the Scenes Tours

I can’t vouch for how a one-on-one tour with a zoo keeper and animal goes, but Blank Park Zoo has several different Behind The Scenes Tours that sound awesome. Sign me up for the sea lion and penguin experience, pronto.

Note that each tour has a different age restriction, so younger kiddos might not be able to take some of the tours. Prices for non-members are $50 for kids younger than 11 and $100 for kids 12 and older.

If your family loves incredible animal encounters and small-group tours, check out Tanganyika Park in Kansas!

Most unique ways to see animals

I appreciate it when a zoo finds an interesting way to get you (safely) close to animals to observe them. Two of my favorites were at Blank Park Zoo.

There’s an underwater viewing area for the sea lion exhibit that was one of our favorites. The animals would swim past the windows frequently.

Des Moines Zoo Seal Viewing Window
The seal exhibit had above water and below water viewing areas. We especially enjoyed watching the animals swim underwater.

My kids liked crawling through the prairie dog tunnels and popping their heads into the bubble in the exhibit. Only attempt crawling through them yourselves if you don’t mind looking super awkward.

There’s also an area called the Australia Adventure. In theory, this exhibit sounds awesome – the animals, like a wallaby, roam freely as you walk the trail. However, the trail was closed the day we visited, so I’m not sure how many animals one would actually get to see in the exhibit. If you’ve visited and got to walk the trail, let me know how it was!

Best kids play area

Des Moines Zoo Kids Area
Inside the Kids Kingdom at the zoo in Des Moines, you’ll find a petting zoo and wooden playground.

Having visited many Midwest zoos, there always seems to be a playground of some sort planted somewhere within. Blank Park Zoo has a fantastic space that’s tied in with its petting zoo. Don’t skip Kids Kingdom, with plenty of room to climb and play.

Playground at Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines, Iowa USA
The playground at the Blank Park Zoo could be a destination in itself. It keeps kids busy for a long time.

And so you don’t have disappointed kids, you’ll need a $1 per food cup so your kids can feed the goats and llamas.

How to get a discount to Blank Park Zoo

If you have a membership to a zoo that belongs to the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, you may get 50 percent off or event FREE admission to the zoo. For example, Omaha zoo members receive 50% off admission, while members of the Lincoln Children’s Zoo get FREE admission. Visit this AZA Reciprocal Admission Program page for more details and to check to see if your zoo participates. It’s also a good idea to call ahead to be sure.

I’ve written about the benefits of reciprocal programs for zoos, museums and botanical gardens, so check it out!

Want to explore more of Des Moines?

Living History Farms in West Des Moines, Iowa
My son liked the interactive exhibits at Living History Farms in West Des Moines.

This is the second time we’ve visited Des Moines with the kids. If you’re interested in seeing what there is to do in West Des Moines (like the Living History Farms), check out this post. To learn more about downtown Des Moines attractions, read this post.

To plan your own Des Moines family getaway, start with the Des Moines Bucket List.

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June 21, 2018

Family-Friendly Outdoor Activities Near Council Bluffs

There is a wealth of outdoor activities near Council Bluffs for you and your family to explore. From historical exploration and culture to sports and recreation, Iowa has something for everyone. Here are a few of our favorites.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Unleash CB. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Hitchcock Nature Center

Honey Creek, Iowa is home to Hitchcock Nature Center in Loess Hills, a formation of hills that provides refuge for animals. Hitchcock is situated on 1,268 acres in Loess Hills, and the activities that you can experience with your family will exceed your expectations. One of our favorite things to do at Hitchcock is climb the 45-foot observation deck. Looking into the horizon, you’ll see a 360-degree view of the natural beauty of the Missouri River Valley, the rolling Loess Hills, and the Omaha skyline. Keep walking and take a hike in the gorgeous park while you watch for the variety of birds that live in the area.

The tower at Hitchcock Nature Center in Honey Creek, Iowa.

Hitchcock offers events all year round for children, adults, and families. Hiking clubs, Yoga in the Park, tours of Loess Hills, and even an Insect Club are some of the upcoming events. (There are additional costs for some events.) Park hours are 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, and admission is only $3 per car.

Related post:

Botna Bend Park

Another Pottawatamie County treasure is Botna Bend Park, an incredible 119-acre park in Hancock, Iowa. Canoeing, tubing, or kayaking on the Nishnabotna River will have you booking this excursion every year. It’s so easy to get in the water with Rubber Duck Outfitters. They’ll bring everything you need to float or boat from Hancock to Oakland.

What really puts Botna Bend on the list is the elk and bison you’ll see in the park. Bring your camera and snap some shots of these magnificent animals. Like the Hitchcock Nature Center, admission is just $3 per vehicle.

Western Historic Trails

Take a bike ride or walk along the historic trails to trace the paths of the early explorers, including those who traveled the Lewis & Clark, Oregon, California and Mormon Trails.

The Western Historic Trails Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The center has displays about four trails that have passed through the area: Lewis & Clark, Oregon, California and Mormon Trails

Start at the indoor Western Historic Trails Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa to plan your outdoor excursions and routes. These sites expand outside of Council Bluffs.

Wabash Trace Nature Trail

On the south end of Council Bluffs, you’ll find the Wabash Trace Nature Trail, a 63-mile crushed limestone trail. The trail has a $1 daily fee to use the trail. It’s ideal for biking and walking, and also home to the weekly Thursday night Taco Ride. If you join in the ride, know that it gets dark on the Taco Ride, so bring a light.

Lake Manawa State Park

Lake Manawa State Park is located within Council Bluffs and feature a large lake for boating and fishing, mountain bike trails, and a sandy beach. The large, wooden playground, Dreamland, is under construction.

Related post: 10 Things To Do This Fall In Council Bluffs

Zipline at Mount Crescent

Take your family to the fastest zipline in Nebraska and Iowa at Mount Crescent Ski in Crescent, Iowa. The ride starts with a ski lift ride followed by a 1600 ft (the length of 5 football fields) high flying zip. Starting at $45 per rider, each person will receive two zip line rides with their reservation. Before you zip, look around the observation deck and the scenic views of the area. View the wildflowers, hills, and wildlife as you soar through the air on your fantastic ride.

Ziplining at Mount Crescent in Crescent, Iowa.

In the winter, Mount Crescent is home to the only downhill skiing hills near the Omaha metro area.

Ditmars Orchard

In the fall, Ditmars Orchard is the place to be for apple picking, pumpkin patch browsing, and navigating the corn maze. There are annual special events at the orchard, as well, including hot air balloon glows, kite flying, and live music festivals.

A balloon glow at Ditmars Orchard in Council Bluffs.

It’s one of the closest apple orchards to the Omaha metro area, and one of my family’s favorites!

With all the outdoor activities in Western Iowa, one summer will not be enough to experience them all. Luckily, Iowa’s parks and recreation centers are open year round for your enjoyment. Come see all that Western Iowa has to offer!

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June 20, 2018

Where To Stay Near Adventureland

Our long weekend in Des Moines, Iowa this summer included a day at Adventureland. Since the theme park was the main reason we were making this trip, it made sense to stay at a place nearby like Fairfield Inn & Suites. If you’re looking for a hotel near Adventureland, here’s what our stay was like.

Disclosure: Our weekend in Des Moines was hosted by Catch Des Moines. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Fairfield Inn & Suites Near Adventureland

This Fairfield Inn & Suites is technically in Altoona, Iowa, but simplicity’s sake, we’ll say it’s in Des Moines, since most of us out-of-towners think Adventureland is in Des Moines. The important thing is that it’s super close to Adventureland, right?

If you’ve stayed at a Fairfield Inn & Suites before, you are familiar with this Marriott brand hotel. It’s comfy and family-friendly and affordable. The bonus with this particular location is that it’s new, so everything is pristine and fresh.

The lobby of the Fairfield Inn and Suite near Adventureland.

The amenities I expect from a Fairfield are consistent the Marriott brand line of hotels: Complimentary hot breakfast, comfortable beds, small pool, and a hip, modern-looking lobby. This location also had a hot tub and a lake view. There’s an outdoor patio by the lake that will be nice eventually, but since this is such a new hotel, there still is some landscaping to do. There’s a door to the patio from the pool area.

This hotel had a nice touch for those who’ve spent a day outdoors in the summer: Cucumber-infused ice water in the lobby. If you’ve sweated your way through Adventureland in June, this is a refreshing and pleasant surprise to arrive to.

What I liked about the hotel

As a parent, I liked the convenience of walking down to the lobby for a hot breakfast, as well as having a variety of food to choose from. Fresh fruit is always a welcomed option at these breakfasts.

The view from the dining area in the Fairfield Inn & Suites.

I also liked the proximity to Adventureland. It wasn’t as near our other destinations that weekend, like Blank Park Zoo or downtown Des Moines, though. We’ve stayed at a hotel in West Des Moines on our last visit, and if you know the area, that’s even further from Adventureland. Anyway, after a long day at Adventureland, it was great to drive just about a mile to get back to our room.

The rooms themselves are great for families, spacious enough for a family of four. We had two queen beds, plus a pull-out couch. The “suite” area of the room consisted of that couch, plus a desk and TV.

This is what happens when your 6-year-old art directs the photo of a hotel room. You can see the suite area with the pull-out bed couch in the background.

There’s a small toiletry and snack store located in the lobby, in case you forgot necessities. I opted to head to the nearby Target, though, for things I had forgotten.

What the kids liked

As usual, the pool was the biggest hit with the kids. It’s not very deep, so it was good for my little ones. The hot tub was their second favorite area.

What’s near the hotel

The Fairfield Inn & Suites is in a new commercial development in Altoona. It includes the Outlets of Des Moines and the Bass Pro Shop, plus a few restaurants. You could feasibly walk to all of them, but we did not. It looked like there could be a walking path constructed down the road, connecting the hotel to the nearest restaurant, Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse.

If you’re wondering about nearby restaurants, I was more satisfied with the variety and unique dining experiences in downtown Des Moines. The restaurants closest to this hotel are all chains, which may or may not be what you’re looking for. We tried to go to Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse one night since they had provided some coupons to hotel guests, but the wait was too long for our kids to stand patiently.

Here are some distances to note:

Outlets of Des Moines – Walkable

Adventureland – Less than 2 miles

Target – Less than 2 miles

Nearest movie theater (Cinemark) – 2 miles

Downtown Des Moines (includes Science Center of Iowa, Fongs Pizza, Des Moines Farmers Market, Pappajohn Sculpture Park, Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, state capitol building and more attractions) – About 10 miles

Blank Park Zoo – About 16 miles

Living History Farms – 18 miles

 

If you go

Fairfield Inn & Suites Altoona

 

Where: 460 Bass Pro Drive NW, Altoona, Iowa

Website

 

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June 14, 2018

How To Stay Cool At Adventureland

Adventureland in Iowa is a quintessential summer destination for families. We planned a whole day at the park during a recent weekend in Des Moines. Before we left, I asked Oh My! Omaha readers on Facebook for their cool-off tips (see the post here). Those tips helped when we visited on a 95-degree day!

Disclosure: Our visit to Des Moines was hosted by Catch Des Moines. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Ways to stay cool at Adventureland

Start early – Get there when the park opens, since mornings are going to be the coolest part of the day. You get the added bonus of short lines for the popular rides. Many recommend arriving about half-hour before the park opens to get a good parking spot and get to the front of the line of your favorite ride.

See a magic show – This was, by far, the most useful tip from a reader. The theater is in Sheriff Sam’s Saloon, and the A/C is a hit of relief in the middle of the day. It doesn’t hurt that the kids find this show highly entertaining. Shows were held on the hour starting at noon, and they rotated shows.

The A/C is cranked on high at the magic show venue in Adventureland. It doesn’t hurt that the show itself is very entertaining for kids. The magic show is held in Sheriff Sam’s Saloon.

Coolest bathroom – I’m using cool literally here. Head to the penny arcade for bathrooms with the A/C cranked on.

Browse the stores – Several stores had signs on the door to “Come in and cool off.” Take that as your cue to go in and browse for as long as it takes to lowery our body temperature. My kids were particularly fine with browsing the toy store.

The look says it all – TOYS. The toy store at Adventureland is a great place to cool off, but if you have kids in tow, good luck leaving without a new stuffed animal friend.

Don’t sweat the old time photos – Two readers recommended doing the souvenir old time photo first thing in the morning. Can you imagine how hot it would be putting on one of those Victorian gowns at 3 p.m. on a July afternoon?

Swim up bar – Shanon K. pointed out that there’s a swim up bar for adults in the waterpark area. It’s called the Sand Bar. That sounds like one of the best ways to cool off in the summer. And by the way, they’ve thought of the kids, too – there’s the Pint Sized Pub with a kid-size stools to sit on in the water. They serve icees, smoothies, non-alcoholic cocktails and a variety of food.

Consider a cabana – Reader Sara U. had some great tips regarding cabanas at the Adventureland water park. First off, if you rent one, it comes with a safe to store supplies. The island cabana not only keeps you covered in the sun, but it also comes with towels, a waitress and a $25 food and beverage credit. “Well worth it as the food was very good and delivered right to you,” she said.

A giant bucket of water to cool you off at Adventure Bay at Adventureland. Photo courtesy Catch Des Moines

Ride the water rides – I’ll have to take everyone’s word for this one. We visited on a week day in early summer, so the water park was closed, and unfortunately, so were the few water rides inside Adventureland. I was really looking forward to being splashed on the Raging River, but it was undergoing some maintenance all day during our visit.

Know when to ride the water rides – Timing is everything with water rides, since everyone wants to ride them during the hottest part of the day. Raging River’s line can be longer than an hour. And tip for the family who gets soaked on the Raging River, there are family drivers for $5 at the end.

Bring water bottles – Most outside food and drink are not allowed, but we could bring in water bottles and refill them throughout the day. Look for water bottle stations in the park. We were able to add ice cubes to our bottles at the Oktoberfest tent (might help that the adults in our group also bought beer).

Find the shade – The park has a lot of trees making it very easy to find a shaded spot to sit. Lisa C. recommended heading toward The Dragon rollercoaster or The Outlaw for shady spots.

Find this shade tent near The Monster at Adventureland.

Park & waterpark in one day tip – Since you get two parks for the price of admission, many fit in both in one day. One reader, Sharice S., shared her family’s itinerary: “We usually enter the park and do the rides all along the left side (ferris wheel, swinging pirate ship, Raging River, Dragon, Saw Mill, etc.) of the park and usually reach the waterpark by mid-afternoon. Then we spend a couple hours swimming and cooling off, and then make our way back to the front on the other side of the park (Monster, Tornado, Storm Chaser). We usually eat at River City Food for lunch and smoothies from the pint size pub in the back of the water park in the late afternoon.”

If you go to Adventureland

Where: 3200 Adventureland Drive, Altoona, Iowa

Calendar of hours

Tip: Do some online investigating before you go and you can score tickets at a discount in advance. If you do show up without pre-purchased tickets, you may get a AAA or military discount if you qualify. I’ve also spotted discount coupons at Hy-Vee.

Related post: Get more Des Moines travel ideas on the post My Des Moines Bucket List.

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June 7, 2018

Best Family Getaway To Des Moines

A weekend in Des Moines, Iowa, was the perfect way to start summer for my family this year. Over the course of three days, our getaway to Des Moines included thrill rides, feeding giraffes, and visiting a few downtown attractions. Here’s how you can have an affordable and fun weekend in Des Moines.

Disclosure: Our trip was hosted by Catch Des Moines. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Things to do in Des Moines with kids

Adventureland – We arrived first thing in the morning to Adventureland and enjoyed super short waits for the roller coasters and other rides. It turns out, having near 100-degree weather was a benefit, and meant we had close to no waits all day.

We arrived at Adventureland right when it opened to enjoy no waits for rides like The Dragon. Adventureland is in Altoona, Iowa, and near Des Moines.

We didn’t go to the waterpark attached to Adentureland—it wasn’t open. But, what’s good for you to know is that it’s included with admission and looks like the oasis you need on a crazy hot summer day.

Top rides for the kids were the Galleon and the Dragon. Top show was the magic show. I rather liked the magic show, too, but more because the A/C was full blast.

Blank Park Zoo – This charming zoo isn’t near any of the others on this list, but will be a highlight for your family, especially if you have little ones. It’s easy to fit in a visit under three hours. There is a lot of shade there, and plenty of opportunities to get up close to animals. They also had frequent animal feedings and keeper talks. There are some extras that you can add to make the visit extra special. We fed giraffes and rode a camel.

Feeding giraffes at Blank Park Zoo was an additional fee but definitely a memorable experience.

Science Center of Iowa – In the heart of downtown Des Moines, the Science Center of Iowa is a wonderful, indoor place to explore. It was a rainy morning, making it a perfect spot for us to retreat to. My kids are at the ideal age to really begin to dive into activities at the science center.

The science center is located in downtown Des Moines. Families can easily spend several hours there.

Downtown Des Moines Farmers Market – We timed our visit to the science center to coincide with the Saturday morning farmers market (it’s pretty much right in front of the science center). This is a giant farmers market, and we didn’t see it all. We sampled some food (and wine), as well as tried fresh watermelon.

The Des Moines Farmers Market in downtown Des Moines was the largest I’d ever been to. There were vendors selling produce, clothing, wine and more.

Pappajohn Sculpture Garden – We first visited this sculpture garden during the Des Moines Summer Arts Festival a few years ago. It was nice to return without the crowd. My kids enjoyed the wide open space to run, and I liked seeing some impressive works of art. It’s fairly close to the Science Center of Iowa. We walked it, but it wasn’t without a fair amount of complaining, so I’d recommend driving.

Not far from the sculpture garden are some water features that kids enjoy dipping their feet in. It’s good to know about if you’re there on a hot summer day.

Playing in the water feature in downtown Des Moines is not a bad idea when it’s nearing 100 degrees.

Additional ideas: We visited Des Moines two years ago, and enjoyed visiting Living History Farms. It wasn’t near our hotel this time around. If you’re looking for a FREE option with the kids, the Iowa capitol building is a good one. The law library is impressive, with spiral staircases you’ll want to get a picture of.

An interactive exhibit at Living History Farms in Des Moines.

Kid-friendly restaurants in Des Moines

Fong’s Pizza – This was, by far, the star restaurant for our family. Try their legendary crab rangoon pizza. The kids ordered from the kid’s menu and stuck to the familiar. Parents, there are some tasty mixed drinks served in kitchy glasses.

Fongs Pizza’s most well-known pie is the crab rangoon pizza. It’s delicious and lives up to the hype.

Zombie Burger – This is one we went to on our last visit. The food is also delicious the menu is funny, and you can pretty much expect a wait. The only drawback is that the zombies may not appeal to some younger kids.

I tried the Dead Moines Burger from Zombie Burger in Des Moines, Iowa.

Iowa Tap Room – I wanted to like this place more than I did, but I’m chalking it up to bad timing on a busy Friday night. It is kid-friendly, though, and there was one bartender who was phenomenal with our kids while we waited to be seated.

Drake Diner – On this trip, we enjoyed the hot, complimentary breakfast at our hotel. But on our last visit, the Drake Diner was a great breakfast spot.

Where to stay in Des Moines

Fairfield Inn & Suites – We stayed at a new Fairfield Inn & Suites in Altoona, very near Adventureland and the Des Moines Outlets. It also put us within about 10 minutes of downtown Des Moines.

The view from the dining area in the Fairfield Inn & Suites. The hotel is near Adventureland and Des Moines Outlets, as well as the interstate.

As mentioned earlier, it had a hot, complimentary breakfast each morning, so it’s a good option for families. There’s a pool, workout center, and it’s facing a nice pond. The area is still be developed, and I imagine the pond is going to eventually have a walking path around it.

Des Moines family vacation

* * * * *

Driving to Des Moines? Plan stops along the way! Here’s my Pinterest board with things to do in Des Moines with kids:

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May 31, 2018

Things To Do In Orange City

Orange City, Iowa landed on my radar after its annual Tulip Festival was mentioned in a conversation earlier this year. The more I looked into the festival — tulip gardens, the Dutch letters, the volksparade — I made up my mind to go see it this spring. So I did (and it was fun). But, there’s more to the town than its tulip festival, so read on for more things to do in Orange City, plus my recommendation on which hotel to stay in.

Disclosure: My stay was hosted by Orange City Chamber of Commerce. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Things to do in Orange City

Landsmeer Golf Course -The 18-hole, prairie-style course sprawls over 160 acres of rolling Iowa hills, and features bent grass greens and bluegrass fairways. It’s a public course and looks beautiful.

Windmill Park – This beautiful little park has a charming garden with a little water feature and, no surprise, a windmill or two. If you’re traveling with young kids, this park has a great playground, too. In the summer, the Orange City Arts Council has free performances in Windmill park every Wednesday, as well as games and a treat.

Windmill City in Orange City has a picturesque walking path, as well as a playground and bandstand.

Shop City Centrum – The local shops around the City Centrum have a lot of good finds. I was too busy scoping out the festival to do much shopping, but I wanted to venture into Craft Central, where they have crafts (obvs) as well as Dutch souvenirs. Additional shops that were recommended to me, and thus, I’m sharing with you: Hands Around The World, handmade items from around the world, and Next Door Boutique.

I spotted wooden clogs (and plush clog slippers) while browsing stores in Orange City.

Walking tour – The free downtown Orange City walking tour is divided into two parts: Windmill Park and the city’s Centrum. Download the walking tour here. The famous tulips you’ll see in Windmill Park, by the way, are replaced by annuals when not in season.

Orange City Municipal Aquatic Facility – Here’s the place to cool off at during the summer. In addition to the pool, there are some water features for kids to play in.

Try Dutch treats – In the Midwest, if a town is known for its Dutch heritage, it’s an almost sure bet that there are some Dutch pastries sold there. Little White Store is the place to find poffertjes, which look like little pancakes. I found Dutch letters at the Dutch Bakery.

Wonder no more why they call these things Dutch letters. I got this one at The Dutch Bakery in Orange City. Photo courtesy Kevin Reiner

Pumpkinland – This seasonal attraction has a pumpkin patch and corn maze.

Windmill visitors center – This is one giant photo opp, as well as serving as a helpful starting point to exploring the city. If you stay at the Hampton Inn, you pass it frequently. If you’re not, it’s good to know that this is not located in the Centrum.

Where to stay in Orange City

I touched upon the Hampton Inn during the Orange City Tulip Festival earlier in May. Here’s why I recommend it:

Comfortable rooms – My family of four slept well during our stay, and my husband and I were able to get some work done in the room. There was a mini fridge in the room, which is helpful for leftovers or if one happens to purchase some local beers to sample.

Hot, complimentary breakfast is served daily in the lobby at the Hampton Inn in Orange City.

Complimentary hot breakfast – I’ve stayed many times at Hampton Inns when traveling, so I’ve come to anticipate the variety of food offered at breakfast. The kids enjoyed the waffle maker, of course, and pastries. I tried an omelet there (not made-to-order), and the healthier, fresh options like fruit. Coffee and tea is available around the clock in the lobby.

Kid-friendly pool – The biggest hit at a hotel for my kids tends to be the pool. At this Orange City hotel, the pool is a rectangle that never gets too deep. I enjoyed the views from the pool – there’s a lake behind the hotel.

Orange City hotel pool

The Hampton Inn & Suites in Orange City pool had a nice view.

Location – Orange City is an easy-to-navigate town, and it took us only minutes to get to the Centrum for the festival. The hotel is also not far from the golf course and is next door to the Prairie Winds Event Center.

Hampton Inn Orange City

Where: 914 Eighth St. SE, Orange City, Iowa

Hotel Website

Distance from Omaha

Orange City is located in Sioux County, Iowa. It’s about 140 miles from Omaha, most of which is via Interstate 29.

Along the way, you’ll pass by LeMars, the Ice Cream Capitol of the World. If you have time to stop, you should visit the Blue Bunny Parlor. It’s on my Iowa Bucket List, but its hours didn’t work into our road trip itinerary.

There’s an easy trail from the nature center to a nature play area at Stone State Park in Sioux City, Iowa. Photo courtesy Kevin Reiner

Coming from Omaha, you also past by Sioux City. I’ve written about things to do in Sioux City for couples, but after our recent pit stop, I think I’m due to write about Stone State Park and its nature center. It’s a kid-friendly learning space and there’s an easy, but lovely hike to a nature playground. If you need to stretch your legs, I recommend here (it’s not right off the interstate, but I promise the detour is worth it).

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