June 24, 2019

4 Great Columbus Restaurants For Kids

On a recent foodie trip to Columbus, Ohio, we discovered some great restaurants. Not only are these great foodie places, but these Columbus restaurants are great for kids! Read on for ideas on where to go for breakfast, lunch, dinner and, of course, where to get the best ice cream in Columbus.

Planning just a day for the family in Columbus, Ohio? Here are restaurant recommendations for breakfast, lunch & dinner (plus ice cream, of course). These are great Columbus restaurants for kids! #FamilyTravel #Columbus #Ohio #tips

Recommended Columbus Restaurants For Kids

Let’s start with a great breakfast place since breakfast is said to be the most important meal of the day!

Belgian Iron Wafel Co. offers flights, which allows you to order three different waffles of your choice. This is perfect for families to share! Everyone gets their waffle of choice and it helps to keep the cost down.

Where to eat in Columbus, Ohio with kids - Have breakfast at Belgian Iron Wafel Co.
Photo courtesy Small Town Living USA

Even though Belgian Iron Wafel Co. does not have an official kids menu, they do offer their delicious original wafels (plain waffles with no fancy “green stuff” that kiddos tend to hate).

Their Chicken & Wafels are another huge favorite with the young crowd.

Where: 19 W. Russell St.

Where to eat with kids in Columbus, Ohio - Try the lunch buffet at the Mexican restaurant, El Rodeo.
Photo courtesy Small Town Living USA

If your family likes Mexican food then you will most definitely love El Rodeo. They have one of the best lunch buffets we have ever seen. The buffet is perfect for even the pickiest little ones.

If menu ordering is more to your liking then you will find tons of scrumptious options to enjoy also!

Their table-side guacamole is a huge hit with their customers. They roll the cart up to the table and prepare your own dish of fresh guacamole.

This is so much fun for children to watch. Who am I kidding? Adults love watching them prepare our guacamole also!

Where: 3133 Stelzer Road

Favorite restaurants in Columbus, Ohio for families - Try a variety of pizzas at Flyers Pizza & Subs.
Photo courtesy Small Town Living USA

The pizza place that made the favorite Columbus restaurants list for kids is Flyers Pizza & Subs.

They offer traditional cheese pizza for the plain jane pizza eater in your family. For more daring eaters, mix it up by choosing from four different styles of pizza crust, eight sauces and 29 toppings.

Where: Flyers Pizza & Subs has eight locations on the outer belt of Columbus.

Where to get dessert in Columbus 

Good ice cream in Columbus for kids - Johnson's Real Ice Cream is a Columbus staple with several locations
Photo courtesy Small Town Living USA

What do you say we take a little break from meals and have some ice cream? We had some amazing ice cream from Johnson’s Real Ice Cream.  

Sydney had the Cookies & Cream in a waffle cone and I had their Fudgy Dessert. Both were amazing (of course we had to taste test each other’s goodies)!

They also make their own specialty ice cream cakes.

Where: There are several Columbus locations. The main location is at 2728 E. Main St., Bexley, Ohio. 

Related post: Planning a trip through Ohio? Check out this guide to Cincinnati, Ohio with kids. It has recommendations on where to eat, where to stay and where to play in Cincinnati.

About the guest bloggers

Hello to all you food lovers out there! My name is Stephanie and I am the mom part of Small Town Living USA. My daughter, Sydney, makes up the daughter part.

Small Town Living USA is a mom and daughter team, Stephanie and Sydney

Just as the name implies, we love all things small town. We both live in a two-traffic-light town. Even though we love small towns, you will still find us traveling to the big cities in search of food.

Did I mention that we love food? We love to cook, bake, dine out and go on foodie travel adventures. 

We hope you enjoyed seeing a tiny few of some of our favorite Columbus restaurants for kids. Thanks so much Kim for letting Small Town Living USA share some of our favorite foodie places for kids on Oh My! Omaha. We had a blast! 

Planning a family vacation to Columbus, Ohio? Here are recommended some Columbus restaurant for kids. #familytravel #Ohio #eatlocal

Like this post?

Subscribe to the FREE twice a month(ish) e-newsletter sharing family travel ideas, giveaways and more! Subscribe here.

June 17, 2019

Best Okoboji Restaurants For Families

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.

Headed to Okoboji for a family vacation? Here are some of the best restaurants in Okoboji for families to visit while you're there! Get tips on where to go in Okoboji for breakfast, lunch, dinner and ice cream treats. #Iowa #Okoboji #Guide #FamilyTravel

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.

Where to eat in Okoboji - Arnolds Perk is a family-friendly coffee shop. The decor inside is colorful and comfortable.

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).

Popular restaurants in Okoboji - O'Farrell Sisters is a long-time favorite of breakfast in Okoboji. Expect a wait if you arrive after 9 a.m.

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.

Okoboji restaurants for families - Tweeter's is a comfortable restaurant with a kid's menu and tasty dessert.

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.

Bob's in Arnolds Park overlooks a beach in Okoboji, making the wait for lunch more manageable.

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.

Lakefront Restaurant in Okoboji - Barefoot Bar is a popular restaurant on the lake. Kids enjoy the slide that dumps kids into the lake.

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.

Restaurants in Okoboji - Pub 19 Bar & Grill is located on a golf course. They're pizza is great, making it a nice place to go with kids.

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.

Where to get ice cream in Okoboji - Nutty Bar is a long-running ice cream shop near Arnolds Park Amusement Park in Okoboji.

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.

Waterfront restaurants in Okoboji - Bob's in Arnolds Park has patio seating with a view of the sandy beach and lake in northern Iowa.

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
  • -Kazarellis
  • -Main Event Bar & Eatery
  • -Maxwell’s
  • -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

Want to plan an Okoboji trip for your family? Start with this guide to Okoboji in the summer (with kids) and get more inspiration from my Iowa Bucket List.

I go into details of some of our favorite things in Okoboji in these posts:

Tips for Visiting Historic Arnolds Park

Where to stay lakeside in Okoboji

Going to Okoboji with kids? Here are kid-friendly restaurant suggestions for breakfast, lunch, dinner and ice cream. Read on for the best Okoboji restaurants for families, including which are waterfront. #Iowa #Okoboji #Guide #familyfriendly

Like this post?

Subscribe to the FREE twice a month(ish) e-newsletter sharing family travel ideas, giveaways and more! Subscribe here.

June 14, 2019

Guide To 24 Hours In Scottsdale With Kids

You’ve planned 24 hours in Scottsdale, Arizona, and you’re vacationing with kids. Whether you want to play indoors, outdoors or a bit of both, there are a lot of things you can do in Scottsdale and nearby. Here’s how to spend a day in Scottsdale, with my tips on things to do, kid-friendly hotels and restaurants. Scroll to the end for a sample Scottsdale one-day itinerary.

Have just a short amount of time for a family getaway to Scottsdale, Arizona? Here's a guide to 24 hours in Scottsdale, including fun things to do, good restaurants, and family-friendly hotels. #familytravel #Scottsdale #Arizona #Guide

Disclosure: I was hosted by Experience Scottsdale for a portion of my trip, and some of the places I visited were during Bloghouse Scottsdale. Some meals and admission were comped; while others were out of pocket. This post contains affiliate links, which means that at no additional cost to readers, if you click the link and make a purchase, I receive a small fee to compensate for the recommendation.

Where to stay in Scottsdale

Scottsdale, “The West’s Most Western Town,” is the fifth largest city in Arizona. Being near the state capitol, Phoenix, the choices of hotels can be a bit overwhelming. I’ve stayed in two different hotels (and toured another) and each would appeal to a different type of family.

Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Bungalows is a luxury resort featuring bungalows and a gorgeous main pool (plus a few other pools). They have dine-in movies at the pool on Saturday nights.  

Where to stay in Scottsdale with kids - Andaz Scottsdale has several pools, including one where they show movies on Saturday nights.

There are lawn games scattered throughout the property, as well. From certain parts of the property, you can see Camelback Mountain.

This hotel appeals to an art-loving family. The design is artful throughout (there’s even an Instagram guided walk there).

Hotel in Scottsdale - Andaz Scottsdale has lawn games throughout the property. In the background is Camelback Mountain.

They also feature works by local artists from Cattle Track Arts + Preservation include items used in the restaurant, artwork in the lobby, and occasional art-making sessions for guests of the hotel.

Plus, it’s also a pet-friendly hotel.

The Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch makes it hard for kids to want to leave. The pool area alone is noteworthy (they’ve dubbed it the “water playground). There’s a slide, sandy beach area, and the Fun Zone with a climbing wall and giant games. There are free bicycles to ride, including kids bikes, as well as gondola rides for an additional fee.

The resort offers Camp Hyatt, a children’s program for ages 3-12, that teaches kids about the region’s flora, fauna, culture and geography of the area. And, my favorite program of the hotel (that will also fascinate kids) is the naural way the hotel rids the hotel of pesky birds: They have a live hawk or falcon on the resort to deter the pest birds from hanging around.

Scottsdale hotels for families - The Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch has a water playground with a water slide, sand beach and a whole lot of pool.

There are several restaurants, but SWB stands out with its southwestern cuisine. I had a superb “Wine Me, Dine Me” dinner there, though I’d say it’s the kind of experience is best for adults. SWB is family-friendly. While I was there, they were advertising a kids-eat-free promo.

The Phoenician is a high-end luxury resort that’s alluring to families with a big travel budget. It has a kid’s program, pools, splash garden and a treehouse (with a waterslide). While I was on a tour there one night, they were playing a movie on a big screen at one of the pools.

Things to do in Scottsdale with kids

The big draws to this desert city include spas, golf and fine dining. I don’t know about yours, but those aren’t exactly big draws for my kids. Being Midwestern folk, we wanted to see the Sonoran Desert!

If you’re visiting during the summer, start your day early when it’s “coolest.” I recommend kayaking the Lower Salt River, which is close to Scottsdale. This picturesque river is easy to navigate and calm, so it’s enjoyable for all ages.

Things to do with kids in Scottsdale - Kayak the Lower Salt River and with some luck, see wild horses

I kayaked with Arizona Outback Adventures, and would recommend their guides. We saw wild horses crossing the river and our guide pointed out a ton of birds.

Tip: Get an early start to your kayak trip to avoid loud crowds of tubers on the river, especially on the weekend.

Other outdoor activities in Scottsdale include: Hiking, go on a bike ride or horseback ride, or take a hot air balloon ride. The McDowell Sonoran Conservancy is a popular place to go for hiking and biking (and rock climbing if you’re that kind of family). It’s the largest city-owned preserve in the U.S.

Just outside of Scottsdale is the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. It’s gorgeous. Saturdays in the summer they have flashlight tours in the evening.

Scottsdale activities for kids - Visit the nearby Desert Botanical Garden and experience the Sonoran Desert. The trails are easy to hike with kids.

Scottsdale and its neighboring cities have quite a few other water activities families will enjoy. Probably the biggie for families is the Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Phoenix waterpark located in nearby Glendale, Ariz.

Kid-friendly indoor things to do in Scottsdale

On my recent trip to Scottsdale, I only visited one museum, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. I highly recommend a visit there, especially if you can visit by mid-October to see the three temporary exhibitions.

Indoor things to do in Scottsdale - View special exhibits at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, such as "Mutual Reality: Art on the Edge of Technology."

My favorite of the exhibitions was “Mutual Reality: Art on the Edge of Technology,” which ends Oct. 6, 2019. It’s highly engaging and most likely to appeal to younger museum goers. I loved interacting with exhibit pieces.

OdySea in the Desert is a large collection of attractions in Scottsdale that probably could take a day to explore with kids. It includes the OdySea Aquarium, Butterfly Wonderland, Laser + Mirror Maze, Paradise Earth, Pangaea: Land of the Dinosaurs, and the temporary exhibit “Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition.”

If you’ve got a car and your kids are younger than 10, you could spend the afternoon at the Children’s Museum of Phoenix. My kids loved it there, especially the large climber and the Noodle Forest.

Where to eat in Scottsdale with kids

Head to the vibrant Old Town Scottsdale for an abundance of family-friendly restaurant choices, plus cute shops and photo opportunities.

Farm & Craft is a darling restaurant focused on sustainable, healthy food. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, and there is a kid’s menu. This is the place to go for fresh food.

Kid-friendly restaurant in Scottsdale - Find fresh, sustainable food at Farm & Craft in Old Town Scottsdale. The restaurant has a kid's menu/

The Mission is a restaurant that would be good for families for lunch or brunch (though no kid’s menu); kids may be out of place at dinnertime with the candle-lit tables. Their menu is modern Latin cuisine. Order the guacamole – it’s made tableside.

Hula’s Modern Tiki is another Old Town Scottsdale restaurant to keep on your radar, especially if you’re traveling with older kids. While, there is no kid’s menu, you can order tacos or sandwiches to be shared. And, don’t skip dessert. The key lime pie was tasty.

Restaurant in Old Town Scottsdale - Hula's Modern Tiki, where the dessert is pretty festive.

Hula’s is near the popular ice cream shop, Sugar Bowl, which has been around since 1958. You can’t miss it – it’s in a pink building.

Hash Kitchen has four restaurants in the Scottsdale/Phoenix area, and I went to one located near the Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch. While its claim to fame is having the largest bloody mary bar in Arizona, it’s a family-friendly place for breakfast or brunch. They do have a kid’s menu.  

Culinary Dropout has several locations including one in Scottsdale. It’s a fun place especially if you have older kids. We went for lunch at the Farmer Arts District and played games like cornhole in the Yard Area. It’s got a cool vibe, but keep in mind that after 6 p.m. on Thursdays through Saturdays, the gaming area is open only for the 21 and older crowd.

Where to eat in Scottsdale with kids - Culinary Dropout has several locations around the Phoenix/Scottsdale metro, including one in Scottsdale.

If you’re prepared to travel for food, drive to Phoenix to dine at Rustler’s Rooste Steakhouse. Sure, it’s a pure tourist magnet that’s big on atmosphere and not so much fine dining…but kids will love it. Where else are you going to get the option of using a slide instead of stairs to get to the dining room? Be sure to order some fried rattlesnake for an appetizer.

Sample one-day Scottsdale itinerary for families

Sonoran Desert view in Arizona

Breakfast – Be one of the first for breakfast at your hotel or Hash Kitchen, which opens at 7 a.m.

Morning – Kayak the Lower Salt River with Arizona Outback Adventures. See huge Saguaro cacti, a variety of birds, and, with some luck, wild horses. Bring towels, as you’ll want to play and cool off in the water.

Lunch – After paddling, we asked AOA to drop us off at a restaurant in Old Town Scottsdale. You’ll want to pick one you’ll feel comfortable smelling like the river. We went to Farm & Craft.

Afternoon – Shop and look around Old Town Scottsdale before heading back to your hotel for an afternoon at the pool.

Dinner – You may be tired from your day, so consider dinner at your hotel, if there is a restaurant. SWB at the Hyatt Regency is a good option. No hotel restaurant? Go somewhere fun like Rustler’s Rooste Steakhouse.

There are so many fun things to do in Scottsdale, but if you only have a day, here's a guide to choosing what's best! Read this post for tips on family-friendly things to do outdoors, indoor activities (for hot days) and hotel recommendations. #Tips #Arizona #Scottsdale

Want to explore more of Arizona?

Check out this guide to Tucson with kids! You’ll find tips on good hiking trails, as well as adventurous options like a zip line experience.

I’ve got an entire Pinterest board dedicated to Arizona family vacation inspiration, too.

Like this post?

Subscribe to the FREE twice a month(ish) e-newsletter sharing family travel ideas, giveaways and more! Subscribe here.

June 4, 2019

Guide To Okoboji In The Summer With Kids

Okoboji is one of Iowa’s biggest tourist magnets each summer, with its glacier-carved lakes being the main attractions. Built around the lakes are summer staples like a historic amusement park, waterside bars and restaurants, and a ton of kid-friendly activities. It’s the perfect Midwestern summer destination.

We had a lot to see and do and only three days to do it. (I’d recommend adding an extra day or two to fit it all in at an enjoyable pace.) Want to visit? Here’s my guide to visiting Okoboji in the summer with kids.

Disclosure: Our trip to Okoboji was hosted by Vacation Okoboji. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own. 

All the fun things families can do in Okoboji, Iowa this summer - There's plenty to do on the lakes, but read up on outdoor adventures, indoor recreation and kid-friendly dining options. #Guide #Midwest #FamilyTravel

Where is Okoboji?

First off, let’s talk about how Okoboji is more than a single city (though there is the city of Okoboji). When I started planning a trip to Okoboji, I was looking at a map of Iowa, trying to figure out where exactly I should be staying to get the “Okoboji” experience. Turns out, it’s not that simple.

Guide to Okoboji in the summer - Fun things to do with kids outdoors include fishing

Okoboji is a region in northern Iowa and consists of several towns on the edge of the Iowa Great Lakes. Pretty much, you’re in “Okoboji” if you stay somewhere along the lakes of West Okoboji, East Okoboji, Upper Gar, Lower Gar, Minnewashta, and the largest natural lake in Iowa, Spirit Lake. Most of the lakes, except Spirit Lake, are interconnected.

For our trip, our lodging (Crescent Beach Family Resort) was in Wahpeton. It was on West Okoboji Lake, which is a pretty blue, spring-fed lake. Depending on your preference, you can stay within walking distance of a lot of attractions or find a place a little outside of the hubbub.

Kid-friendly lake activities in Okoboji

By far, the lakes are the draw for this region, so you’ll likely spend a lot of time out on the water or near it. I paddled the lake with the kids during our stay, since our hotel allowed free use of their equipment. Our hotel also had standup paddleboards and paddleboats.

You’ll find places to rent speed boats and pontoons around the region, plus places that will do parasailing.

Okoboji in the summer means a lot of time on the water - One popular activity for families is canoeing

The Queen II is a famous boat excursion that leaves from Arnolds Park Amusement Park. It’s about an hour long. My kids were impressed with the boat and excited to ride it…for about 5 minutes. I bought some snacks and got another complaint-free 10 minutes out of them. After that, they were not interested in the narration and the remaining 45 minutes were long.

Guide to Okoboji in the summer - Hour-long tours aboard the Queen II are held several times most days

On shore, there are several beaches to play in, including a pretty popular one right by historic Arnolds Park Amusement Park. Our hotel had a private one that my kids enjoyed. Public beaches include:

  • Gull Point Sate Park on the southwest shore of West Lake Okoboji
  • Arnolds Park City Beach off Highway 71 in Smith’s Bay on West Lake Okoboji
  • Arnold’s Park Amusement Park Beach on West Lake Okoboji
  • Orleans Beach on the southwest shore of Spirit Lake
  • City Park on the south shore of Silver Lake at Lake Park
  • Emerson Bay State Park at the Emerson Bay campground on West Lake Okoboji
  • Okoboji Boat Works Beach in Smith’s Bay on West Lake Okoboji
  • Marble Beach on the western shore of Big Spirit Lake
  • Terrace Park Beach in Brown’s Bay on West Lake Okoboji
  • Pikes Point State Park on the northeastern shore of West Lake Okoboji
Playing at the beach in Arnolds Park in Okoboji. This beach is near Arnolds Park Amusement Park and Bob's in Arnolds Park.

Fishing is another big thing to do in Okoboji, by boat and by land. We didn’t seek out any special fishing holes, and instead, just enjoyed being steps from our hotel room and fishing.

More things to do outdoors in Okoboji in the summer

You can’t write about Okoboji and kids and not talk about Arnolds Park Amusement Park. This historic amusement park was a hit with my kids. We went at the start of the season and enjoyed no lines on some of the biggest attractions, including The Legend, the 13th oldest wooden rollercoaster in the U.S.

Guide to Okoboji in the summer - A visit to the Okoboji region isn't complete without a day at Arnolds Park Amusement Park

Tip: Get the all-day pass for your kids if they’re in grade school or older. My kids loved riding the same favorite rides over and over again, and paying for each ride would’ve racked up a high price otherwise. They particularly loved the Rock-O-Plane, which they stayed on for three rides in a row (the perk of going early in the season!).

Outside Arnolds Park Amusement Park is Harmony Park, a small grass patch in a shopping area with musical instruments to play. It’s a low-key place in the shade, and just right for a break from rides.

Playing the instruments at Harmony Park located near Arnolds Park Amusement Park

If you’ve got bikes, bring them! I found the Okoboji region to be incredibly bike-friendly, with miles of bike path to get you to various attractions. With the kids, we traveled from Dickinson County Nature Center the short distance to Pearson Lakes Art Center, and then onward to Tweeters. That route was really easy for all abilities between the first two stops. Between the art center and Tweeters, though, you’ll cross Highway 71 twice at crosswalk, and end with a brief stint on a sidewalk. Not ideal, but it was fine for our kids to manage.

Things to do Okoboji in the summer with kids (besides being on the lake) - The area is surprisingly bike-friendly with plenty of bike trails.

Our hotel had a large, old playground on property that my kids got to enjoy for a hot minute. If we had an additional day there, I think we’d have carved out more time to play there and probably did a round of putt putt (free at the hotel).

We missed quite a few activities that my kids were hoping to do, actually, including putt putt golf at Treasure Village and the go carts at Arnolds Park Amusement Park.

Kid-friendly indoors activities in Okoboji

The weather isn’t always going to be sunny and blue skies. We found that out on our third day when it was pouring buckets. One of our favorite indoor stops was free: The Dickinson County Nature Center. It has a lot of hands-on activities for kids, including a neat sand table. My kids love animals, so they enjoyed looking at the displays and playing the activities at many of them.

Guide to Okoboji in the summer - If you're traveling with kids (and even if you're not), plan a stop at the free Dickinson County Nature Center for several hands-on exhibits

The nature center had a large honeycomb to climb through. It entertained the kids for a good 30 minutes.

Tip: If isn’t raining, don’t miss the outdoor nature playscape at Dickinson County Nature Center. There are things to climb on, a tunnel to crawl through, and a sandbox.

The Pearson Lakes Art Center is another free option for families. If you’ve got young kids, head downstairs to the ArtSMART room. My kids loved playing with the blocks and putting on a short play with the costumes.

Guide to Okoboji in the summer - The ArtSMART room at the Pearson Lakes Art Center is a fun indoor option, especially on rainy days.

Don’t leave without seeing the art center’s collection of Russian Impressionist art. This was a hidden gem that you’ll be surprised to find. It’s the second largest collection outside of Russia, and it’s impressive (if you love Impressionism).

The large Russian Impressionist collection at The Pearson Lakes Art Center is a good indoor activity and doesn't take too long.

The Iowa Great Lakes Maritime Museum, located outside Arnolds Park Amusement Park, is also free. While the maritime portion may or may not appeal to the little ones, you’ll want to go in anyway because it’s home to old amusement park items like the giant wooden slide from olden days at Arnolds Park Amusement Park (I believe, technically, it’s in the Arnolds Park Funhouse Museum). If you have a day pass to the amusement park, you can go down it repeatedly, which my kids did. You can also pay a couple dollars to slide down it if you don’t have the day pass.

Take a ride down the indoor slide at the Iowa Great Lakes Maritime Museum. The wooden slide was once located in Arnolds Park Amusement Park.

It’s a tall slide and looks pretty intimidating at the top, but it’s not nearly as fast as you think it would be. It was totally manageable for my 7-year-old, at least.

Okoboji Classic Cars is part museum, part art gallery, and 100% designed to appeal to car fanatics. It’s a little pricey, and you have to take the tour, which could be a disaster with an uninterested kid. Still, even I was impressed with the collection and I’m only mildly interested in cars. Kids are given a scavenger hunt to complete during the tour, which was enough to please my kids.

Okoboji Classic Cars is part museum, part art gallery. It's a good rainy day activity in Okoboji since everything is indoors.

Family-friendly restaurants in Okoboji

Okoboji has A LOT of restaurants, but it’s not too easy to figure out which ones you’d want to bring your kids to. I go into details about the restaurants we visited in this post, but until then, here are the restaurants we liked the most during our trip:

Arnolds Perk Coffee House was my favorite place for breakfast, 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 did visit Arnolds Perk twice. It’s also just a charming place to sit and relax.

Another good option is O’Farrell Sisters, just get there early to avoid a wait.

Everyone's going to tell you to try breakfast at O'Farrell Sisters, and they're going to tell you to get the pancakes and/or the cinnamon rolls. But it's a small place, so get there early.

The most friendly service we had was during the lunch hour at Tweeter’s Bar & Grill. The menu if huge – burgers, salads, Mexican, etc. They have a kid’s menu.

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. I loved the atmosphere, with the grass-thatched huts and palm trees, but was a little peeved that they’d charge $2.50 for water. After that, I decided not to even check the price of pizza.

Looking for a good outdoor restaurant for families in Okoboji - The Barefoot Bar is a popular place for boaters and families visiting the area. It has a slide that goes into the lake.

Bob’s in Arnolds Park is a popular spot for families who are spending the day at Arnolds Park Amusement Park. We went on a Sunday and the wait was very long. Luckily, there’s a beach right in front of the restaurant, so the kids were kept occupied.

For dinner, we found most places had a long wait, so go prepared to keep your littles occupied. The best pizza we had was the BBQ Chicken at Pub 19 Bar & Grill, a restaurant situated on a golf course.

We also had dinner at Snappers Turtle Bay Cafe, which was a short walk from Barefoot Bar. To keep the kids occupied here, there are a few yard games set up on Astroturf. It did the job.

There are surprisingly few places to get ice cream or treats in Okoboji, at least in the areas we visited. Nutty Bar Stand 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 restaurants in Okoboji - It's not summer without ice cream. The Nutty Bar Stand is a long-time favorite ice cream stop for families vacationing there. It's near Arnolds Park Amusement Park.

Plan your Okoboji trip

Want to plan an Okoboji trip for your family? I’ll go into details of some of our favorite things in Okoboji in these upcoming posts:

Best restaurants for families in Okoboji

Tips for visiting Arnolds Park Amusement Park

Where to stay lakeside in Okoboji

Okoboji has been on my bucket list for years. Read this Iowa bucket list post to get inspiration to round out planning a trip to the Hawkeye State. Want Iowa travel inspiration that’s less bucket list and more realistic for a family? We spent about a week exploring central Iowa, riding a train, staying in a yurt and playing in lakes during what I call the Great Iowa Road Trip.

Planning a trip to Okoboji in the Iowa Great Lakes region? Use this guide to get ideas on kid-friendly things to do there, both on the lake and indoors. Plus, read up on recommended Okoboji restaurants for families. #Iowa #VacationOkoboji #familytravel

Get travel inspiration in your inbox!

Subscribe to the FREE twice a month(ish) e-newsletter sharing what’s new in Omaha, family travel ideas, giveaways, and more! If you subscribe now, you receive a FREE guide to family dining in Omaha! Subscribe here.

May 20, 2019

Fun Things To Do With Kids In Springfield

Springfield, Ill., offers a great variety of things to see and do, especially attractions and sites related to Abraham Lincoln and Route 66. Whether you’re planning a family visit or just passing through, here’s a list of fun things to do with kids in Springfield.

Kim’s note: This is a guest post written by Oh My! Omaha friend, Cindy, from Traveling Adventures of a Farm Girl. I asked her to write about Springfield and all the fun things families can do with kids when they visit. If your family enjoys U.S. history, especially presidential history, you’ve got to visit Springfield!

Things to do with kids in Springfield, Illinois - This guide includes Abraham Lincoln historical sites, Route 66 quirkiness, and restaurant suggestions. #familytravel #illinois #guide

Where to learn about Abe Lincoln in Springfield

Springfield offers an array of sites to visit to learn about Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States. He lived in this Illinois city from 1837 to 1861, before moving to the White House as president.

The most amazing site of all related to Lincoln is the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

Fun things to do with kids in Springfield, Illinois - Learn about the 16th president at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum
People visiting Springfield, Ill., usually seek out all-things Abraham Lincoln. One place to visit in the city is the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum. Photo courtesy Cindy Ladage

Kids will also enjoy Union Station, which is part of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, especially the brand new exhibit, “All Aboard: America’s Love of Railroads.” The display marks the 150th anniversary of the first transcontinental railroad, a project championed by Lincoln.

Downtown, families will enjoy taking pictures of the cool murals that grace many buildings and the lovely bronze statues of Honest Abe and his family that dot the downtown landscapes. While the Lincoln Law Office is not totally open to tour, you can go inside the first floor of the building where the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau is located. Here you can get tips and may even be able to receive a parking pass for your visit.

Be sure to stop by the Lincoln home and its visitor’s center. The home in Springfield is the only home that Abraham Lincoln ever owned.

If weather is fitting don’t forget Lincoln’s New Salem Historic Site. While this is a bit of a drive from Springfield, it is a village where kids can interact and see amazing log cabins and early pioneer life where Lincoln spent his early years.

The Lincoln Tomb may be too somber, but getting a chance to rub Lincoln’s nose is fun for kids of all ages. Lincoln Memorial Garden & Nature Center is located around Lake Springfield and offers easy trails to walk and a chance to view Lake Springfield. There is also a fun gift shop and interactive little nature room as well.

Route 66 stops in Springfield

A bit of Route 66 may be in order. Stop by the Cozy Dog Drive In and try this fun treat that was invented in Springfield.

If you want heartier fare that is still kid-friendly, D’arcy’s Pint has a Springfield invention, a horse or smaller pony shoes (hamburger, ham or other meat, covered with French fries and cheese sauce). While not especially healthy, it is quite tasty!

Then there is also Charlie Parker’s Diner in the Quonset hut with the giant pancakes for a breakfast bonus! This award-winning restaurant also has amazing horseshoes, as well.

More kid-friendly attractions include the Route 66 Drive In and Knights Action Park. Route 66 Drive In is a quintessential drive in movie theater. Knights Action Park is a water park, theme park and a drive in move theater.

There are many hotels to choose from in downtown Springfield. The Route 66 Hotel & Conference Center has a fun little car display in the hotel lobby.

These are just a few of the family fun things to do in the Land of Lincoln. Springfield’s Old State Capital is another wonderful historic stop. Find your way to the Illinois Capital and check it out!

Springfield, Illinois is famous for Abraham Lincoln so read this post to find out all the fun places to take kids to learn more about the 16th president. Beyond history, get the scoop on drive in movie theaters, a water park, and family-friendly restaurants. #Guide #Springfield #Illinois #USA #familytravel

About the author

Cindy Ladage is farmer’s wife, a presenter and an award winning journalist and columnist for “Farm World.” In 2018 and 2016, she won the American Women in Communications Clarion award and has been a bronze winner and finalist in the North American Travel Journalists Association.

Ladage writes for antique tractor and collector publications and specializes in travel stories for several publications like Senior News & Times of Illinois and more. Her travel blog is Traveling Adventures of a Farm Girl, where she
shares her travels on the back roads and byways. In her writing, Cindy shares her passion for preserving agriculture and promoting agri-tourism and rural areas. She is also an author of children’s books and adult fiction as well. Ladage lives on a farm in central Illinois and has three grown children and two grandchildren. She is retired from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency where she worked with the Illinois Radon Program.

Get travel inspiration in your inbox!

Subscribe to the FREE twice a month(ish) e-newsletter sharing what’s new in Omaha, family travel ideas, giveaways, and more! Subscribe here.

May 17, 2019

Best Things To Do At Lake Icaria

I’ve learned that there are two types of Midwestern people: Those who love Lake Icaria and those who haven’t been there yet. Lake Icaria is an expansive county park in southwestern Iowa with a lot of things to do around (and on) the beautiful lake. It’s a big draw to Adams County, and it keeps improving with new cottages and updates to the current ones. We visited Lake Icaria, as part of Iowa’s 99 Parks campaign, which highlights one park in each of Iowa’s 99 counties. In this post, I’m going to tell you about all the things you can do at Lake Icaria, like all the lake activities, the disc golf, the food options, and what it’s like to camp or stay overnight in a cabin there.

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

Things to do at the southwestern Iowa park Lake Icaria - Get details on camping and cabins, lake activities, and other kid-friendly things to do at the lake. #Iowa #Midwest #familytravel #camp

Things to do at Lake Icaria

Lake Icaria is located in southwest Iowa near the town of Corning. It’s a quick getaway from Omaha, making it an ideal weekend trip. The big draw is the 650-acre lake, obviously, and the activities you associate with lakes like fishing, water skiing and tubing.

I’m told the lake is bustling in the summer with boats, but not jet skis. There’s even a party cove where boaters will drop anchor to hang out for the afternoon. You’ll find giant mats floating on the water in the summer.

Things to do at Lake Icaria - Play at the sandy beach
The beach is a popular spot at Lake Icaria in the summer. In the spring? Not so much.

Lake Icaria has a small sandy beach and a roped-in swimming area. My kids love playing in the water, so I can see my kids wanting to spend hours there on a summer day. The day we were at the lake, it was about 60 degrees, so we did not get in the water.

One of my favorite things to do at a park is hike, and Lake Icaria has more than 6 miles of trails. You might be tempted to just stroll the lakeshore, but there are paths through prairie, through trees and over bridges.

Things to do at Lake Icaria - Hike one of the wooded trails
One of the wooded trails near the beach at Lake Icaria.

It was raining for most of our visit, so we didn’t do much hiking. When it was dry, however, I tried to get my kids to go on a hike, but they were far more interested in the playground near our cabin. Shortly after we arrived, they found the playground, made friends, and started a game of hide and seek.

Things to do at Lake Icaria - Play at the playground
There’s a small playground near the cabins at Lake Icaria. It was a hit with my kids.

And for those who can throw a frisbee, Lake Icaria has an 18-hole cage disc golf course. I can’t aim a frisbee, so I didn’t even consider trying this activity.

Things to do at Lake Icaria - Play disc golf on the 18-hole course
Lake Icaria has an 18-hole disc golf course.

I printed out the Family Fun Pack and Get Moving Guide from 99 Parks and brought them with us. Each guide inspired several activities for us! The Family Fun Pack had educational activities including a sensory scavenger hunt and a family photo challenge. The Get Moving Guide had more than 15 games and activities. Some required materials so check before your trip so you can bring along what you need.

Lake Icaria fishing

If you fish, this lake is a walleye fisherman’s dream. The lake is also stocked with largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie, wipers or channel fish. Kids can take part in popular fishing contests on Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.

Things to do at Lake Icaria - Fishing from shore or by boat
Fishing for walleye and other fish is a popular activity at Lake Icaria.

Of all the things we could do at the lake, my kids were most excited about fishing. We fished from the rocky shore, and following the first cast, my son caught a large-mouth bass. It was possibly the smallest baby large-mouth bass ever, but he was still pretty excited.

You can fish from a boat at the lake, so you can bring your own or rent. The marina offers pontoon rentals for $45-$55.

If fishing’s not your thing (yet), download the Fishing 101 Guide from 99 Parks that will not only tell you how to catch a fish, but how to prepare it.

Food trucks & rentals at Lake Icaria

The county parks website is pretty helpful preparing you for what to expect; however, it didn’t mention everything you’d find at Lake Icaria. There was an unexpected (and pleasant) surprise I learned thanks to the helpful camp host. She let us know that every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, you’ll find a food truck near the beach (seasonally). So, if you’re like me, and you struggle getting a campfire started, dinner won’t be a bust. 

Things to do at Lake Icaria - Find the food truck at the beach
There’s a food truck at the beach every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Lake Icaria (seasonally).

I checked the food truck calendar for May, and there was a nice variety! A surprising variety, actually. The food truck hours as of this post were: Fridays, 4 to 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Sundays, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. That’s right – they have breakfast options at the park on Sundays!

There was barbecue truck when we were there. My kids preferred roasting hot dogs over a rack of ribs for dinner, but we did get a small breakfast to share at the food truck on Sunday morning. We had a slice of quiche with brisket in it and pancakes.

Depending on your campsite, the beach may or may not be within walking distance. The beach is pretty near the marina which is Lake Icaria’s go-to spot for all the thing you forgot. You can get your fishing license there. The marina is also where you’ll go to rent items, like pontoon boats, kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddle boards.

Camping at Lake Icaria

There are a few options for overnight stays at Lake Icaria: Cabins, family cottages and camping/RVs. First, I’ll tell you about the camping options.

There are two camps sites: Timber Ridge Campground and Lake View Campground. Timber Ridge is shaded by mature trees and is newly renovated with full-service or electric/water sites. It’s drawback is that there isn’t a view of the lake. Lake View features has that view for most campsites (and some waters edge tent sites), plus it has full-service, electric, and all new restrooms and showers. 

There were a lot of RVs the weekend we visited, and I imagine when the weather’s warm, you’ll see more of a balance of tent campers.

Cabins at Lake Icaria

I once thought we were a camping family, but over time, I’ve learned that we are 100% cabin lovers. So, we stayed the night in one of the lakeside sleeper cabins.

Lake Icaria lakeside cabin - The view from the porch of Cabin 14
There are a couple of lakeside cabins at Lake Icaria, some with water and bathrooms, and some without. This is the view of Cabin 14, a cabin without water.

If you’re looking at the staying in a cabin, you have two choices: Full-service cabins with water (i.e., sink and toilet) and sleeper cabins that don’t have water. Other than that bathroom perk, they all have the same accommodations. Both cabin types sleep up to 6 with two bunk beds and a pull-out couch; they also have a fridge and microwave; and they have heat and air conditioning. If you stay in a cabin, you will need to bring your own linens, utensils, and pots and pans. These cabins are seasonal, and not open during the winter.

Staying at a cabin at Lake Icaria - The inside of a sleeper cabin that sleeps 6
The lakeside sleeper cabin is a one-room cabin with two bunk beds and a pull-out couch.

Our cabin was a beautiful lakeside sleeper cabin that felt private and well-situated. The cabin had an amazing view, but the parking lot was further from the cabin, so we had to walk about 50+ yards. Not a huge problem, but if you’ve got a lot of stuff, it can be a trek.

Staying at a full-service lakeside cabin at Lake Icaria means you get water and a bathroom.
The full-service cabins aren’t much bigger than the sleeper cabins, but they do have a second room with a sink and a bathroom.

There is a NEW option at Lake Icaria. The Family Cottages are two new, large, home-like cottages that have their own little cove on the lake. They’re beautiful, sleep a lot of people, and frankly, offer a lot of amenities that I think families are going to love. During our tour of one of the cottages, my 7-year-old daughter described it as “first class.” When we return to Lake Icaria, I’m definitely going to book one of these.

There are two Family Cottages at Lake Icaria. They sleep two to three families and can be booked for a week at a time. They’ll be available year-round starting Memorial Day.

Each Family Cottage is full-service, with linens included and a kitchen that’s ready for you. Unlike the other two cabin types, the cottages have TVs, a dining area, and several sleeping rooms for a little more privacy. The Family Cottages have their own boat dock, as well. The deck, I think, is one of the highlights of those cottages!

While the other two cabin types are open for short-term stays, like a weekend, the Family Cottages are open for week-long bookings from Friday to Friday. A weekend booking might open up, but you’ll only know the week of an available weekend. Family Cottages are open year-round.

Things to do at Lake Icaria - Stay in one of the new Family Cottages that sleeps 2-3 families
The Family Cottages at Lake Icaria have a fireplace, TVs and other comforts not available in the smaller cabins in the park.

After staying in the sleeper cabin and then touring the full-service cabin and Family Cottage, I can say that the cottages are definitely my kind of “camping.” That’s to say, it’s basically staying in a well-furnished home with the perk of having a gorgeous lake outside your door.

To book a cabin or campsite, visit mycountyparks.com.

Looking for a great outdoor getaway in Iowa? Check out this family-friendly guide to Lake Icaria, a popular park for camping, boating and fishing in southwest Iowa. Get details on where to stay, what to do and what kids love best. #Midwest #Guide #FamilyTravel

Exploring more of the 99 Parks

Iowa’s county parks offer an abundance of outdoor adventures, and depending on what you’re looking for — whether you want to fish, horseback ride, relax or hike — there’s a park in Iowa to fit your needs. For Omaha residents, I say you start with looking at the parks in western Iowa, including:

The 99 Parks campaign takes you to a different county park in each of the 99 counties of Iowa. Hitchcock Nature Center is found in Pottawattamie County.
The tower at Hitchcock Nature Center in Honey Creek, Iowa.

Southwest: Mormon Trail Park in Bridgewater, Lake Icaria in Corning, Fremont County Campground & Golf Course in Sidney, Pony Creek Park in Pacific Junction, Hacklebarney Woods in Villisca, Pierce Creek Recreation Area in Essex, Poe Hollow Park in Mount Ayr, Sand’s Timber Recreation Area in Blockton and Three Mile Lake in Afton

West Central: Littlefield Recreation Area in Exira, Swan Lake State Park in Carroll, Cold Springs Park in Lewis, Yellow Smoke Park in Denison, Nations Bridge Park in Stuart, Willow Lake Recreation Area in Woodbine, Peters Park in Rodney, Hitchcock Nature Center in Honey Creek and Nishna Bend Recreation Area in Harlan

Northwest: Buena Vista County Park in Peterson, Featherstone Memorial Park in Manson, Martin’s Access in Cherokee, Scharnberg Park in Everly, Kenue Park in Okoboji, Tuttle Lake Recreation Area in Dolliver, Joe Sheldon Park in Humboldt, Moorehead Pioneer Park in Ida Grove, Smith Lake Park in Algona, Lake Pahoja Recreation Area in Inwood, Dog Creek Park in Sutherland, Hawkeye Point Campground in Sibley, Lost Island – Huston Park in Ruthven, Five Ridge Prairie in Westfield, Meredith Park in Mallard, Hagge Park in Sac City, Sandy Hollow Recreation Area in Sioux Center and Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center in Sioux City.

If you’re interested in Loess Hills hikes, I suggest parks like Hitchcock Nature Center, Willow Creek Recreation Area and Five Ridge Prairie.

Your turn: Are you planning any trips to Iowa this summer?

Get travel inspiration in your inbox!

Subscribe to the FREE twice a month(ish) e-newsletter sharing what’s new in Omaha, family travel ideas, giveaways, and more! Subscribe here.