With 90% of their land used for agriculture, there was a chance Iowa would choose the Nickname the Corn State. Luckily for all the people of Iowa, the official nickname for Iowa is The Hawk Eye State. And not because of Colonel Hawk Eye Pearce, the surgeon from MASH, who it turns out never actually lived in Iowa (or anywhere because he was a fictional character), but instead the name refers to Black Hawk, leader of the Native American Sauk tribe, which was relocated to Iowa after fighting with settlers.
All that to one side, though, 90% of the land in Iowa is indeed used for agriculture. I didn’t just make that up. Luckily though Iowa packs an awful lot into the remaining 10%, including some quite remarkable engineering achievements. Snake Alley, the most crooked street in the world, is a perfect partner for the Fenelon Elevator, the steepest, shortest train line in the world. The Kate Shelley High Bridge across the Des Moines River is America’s highest and longest double-rail trestle bridge.
Other things to visit while in Iowa include the Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium, where visitors learn about the important role the River had in the development of the country. The Pappajohn Sculpture Park speaks to Iowa’s involvement with the arts, and the dramatic limestone formations of the Maquoketa State Park are just magnificent to see. Movie fans can visit the vintages bridges featured in the movie The Bridges of Madison County and the film set of the movie Field of Dreams where on Friday nights ‘ghost’ games are hosted on site.
So, we know there’s lots to see, let’s look at the best resorts in Iowa:
1. Honey Creek Resort
Honey Creek Resort is situated on the banks of the Rathbun Lake, and provides for an outstanding array of accommodation choices. From Lodges overlooking the lake, to free-standing cabins and a huge number of powered RV or tent sites, the Resort provides for travelers from every walk of life.
There are plenty of amenities and programs available to fill the day, including lake activities (of course) which include canoe, stand-up paddle board, and jetski hire, and an indoor water park which is available for use all year round. The resort also incorporates an 18-hole championship golf course at The Preserve. If those activities don’t suit, the operators run other programs on a daily basis to ensure any stay at Honey Creek is worth remembering.
2. Waterloo/Lost Island Resort
The Waterloo KOA RV Resort is operated in partnership with the Lost Island Waterpark in Waterloo, Iowa. The resort provides a broad range of accommodations, including Deluxe Cabins, as well as powered RV and tent sites. The distinction of this park, however, is that guests receive a discounted entry to the Waterpark. The park is built on 24 acres of land and is a genuine highlight destination for visitors to Iowa, incorporating over 15 attractions, including water slides, rides, and a wave pool, as well as regular entertainment on site.
Once you’ve exhausted yourself at the waterpark, the Resort is also located in close proximity to the South Hills Golf Course, and the Isle of Capri Casino. Guests can access numerous nature trails in close proximity to the Resort, or stay on-site and take advantage of the Disc Golf course, or the lake where kayaks, canoes, and paddle boards are available for hire.
3. Lakeshore RV Resort and Campground
Located on Lake Oelwein in the Northeast of the state, the Lakeshore RV Resort takes full advantage of the magnificent surroundings to provide a peaceful and enjoyable experience. Shuffleboard, disc golf, mini golf, and basketball are complemented by the lake which provides for swimming and boating activities.
The Resort is restricted to RVs and tent sites, however, the current operators have been on hand for the last 25 years, and their attentiveness to their guests has built a culture of repeat visits. The site has access to a number of nature trails for walking and is within close proximity to a number of Amish settlements, as well as the Mississippi River Museum. With plenty to see in the surrounding areas, the Lakeshore RV Resort serves as a perfect base camp.
4. Newton KOA Resort
The Newton KOA Resort is only 30 minutes out of Des Moines and includes multiple campsites spread across a very textured landscape. Guests of the Resort can swim in the below-ground pool, or fish in the specially-stocked fish pond (make sure you don’t mix those two up). There are a number of playgrounds on-site, and nature trails that have been linked to the camp.
The main feature of the Newton KOA, however, is the involvement of the operators. All summer they provide Ice Cream sundaes from the Community Area, and on Saturdays, they cook pancakes for all the guests of the park. These are both fabulous ways to develop the camp community and to bring the guests together. This type of engagement from the operators is quite rare and provides for a very welcoming, family atmosphere.
5. Des Moines West KOA RV Resort
With a range of deluxe cabins and powered sites, the Des Moines West KOW Resort is located in Winterset, which is the birthplace of John Wayne, and the location of the Bridges of Madison County. With a fully stocked fish pond for catch-and-release fishing activities and a swimming pool along with a countless array of activities for guests, the Des Moines West KOA is highly regarded.
As for accommodation, you can decide to choose between RV sites, cabins, and tents, each giving you a distinct experience you won’t forget. After a full day of visiting local sites and attractions the resort includes the Hunt Brothers’ Pizza shop, as well as a number of BB facilities and camp kitchens scattered around the site. Weekend activities are planned throughout peak periods, making the Resort an excellent destination for families.
6. White Rock Resort
With a number of character cottages and campsites spread across the 5,500-acre White Rock Conservancy, a stay at this resort is a unique experience. From rooms in the historic farmhouse to self-contained cottages and low-impact campgrounds, the Conservancy offers accommodation that will match any budget and any need.
The love of nature and conservation that would lead someone to visit the park is catered for with the activities available while staying, with hiking, horse rides, fishing, and mountain biking stand-out experiences at White Rock. If you’re one who always wanted to embrace the natural beauty of Mother Nature, I don’t think there’s a better place than here.
7. Grand Falls Casino Resort
The Grand Falls Casino and Golf Resort is a uniquely luxurious destination in Iowa. The hotel, which boasts rooms of four levels of escalating elegance, also includes indoor and outdoor pools and spas, and a state-of-the-art fitness center. The Casino has multiple dining options and is a destination in its own right.
The Resort also sports an 18-hole championship golf course designed by the legendary Rees Jones, who has over 100 courses under his belt. The Falls, as the course is known, incorporates a 30-foot waterfall through its heart, which flows into a 12-acre lake, and represents a truly glorious playing experience.
8. Sandbar Beach Resort
The Sandbar Beach resort is situated on Spirit Lake and includes 15 cabins that have absolute water frontage, with each being blessed with the marvelous views the location provides. Designed with the fishing enthusiast in mind, the Sandbar Resort provides access to one of the best fishing lakes in the region.
Fishing and paddle boats are available for hire from the reception area, and the beach upon which the cabins have been constructed is an excellent swimming location, with a shallow depth. This resort is minutes away from numerous other attractions including 4 golf courses, Arnolds Park Amusement Park, and exotic restaurants. What’s not to like?!
9. Cutty’s Okoboji Resort
Cutty’s resort operates a range of cabin accommodations, with a large supply of RV and Camping sites. The cabins are self-contained, with linen included in the cost. The camp is neat and clean, with the cabins aligned in a Lodge-style format. The camp has a pool and an on-site restaurant to serve the guests.
During peak season the operators arrange regular art and craft and festival activities which should keep the family entertained between sight-seeing and fishing adventures. So if seeing beautiful glacier-curved lakes are on the agenda, this is the place to be!
10. King’s Pointe Waterpark Resort
Built around a truly magnificent timber and stone lodge, the King’s Pointe resort in Storm Lake incorporates hotel rooms and self-contained cabins. There is a fine dining restaurant on the grounds, and overall the resort exudes an air of grace and elegance. The rooms are finished with contemporary styling and can accommodate up to 5 guests.
The Sunrise Cottages are able to sleep up to 10 people and continue the standard of sophisticated grace set by the hotel rooms. The highlight of the Resort however, is the associated waterpark, which includes both indoor and outdoor activities and works to shine a light on the inadequacies of an on-site pool.
11. Grand Harbor Resort and Waterpark
Located in Dubuque, the Grand Harbor Resort includes hotel accommodations and an inside waterpark to allow for wet and wild family entertainment all year round. The hotel boasts over 190 rooms decorated with a minimalist contemporary feel, and a Tony Roma’s family restaurant inside the complex.
In addition to the waterpark, the hotel has a fully equipped fitness center. With function rooms and a business center with printing and internet connectivity, the Grand Harbor makes a perfect destination for a corporate event or a wedding and family gathering.
12. Hole N’ The Wall
The Lodge is available all year and makes for a picturesque winter destination. Northwestern Iowa is a beautiful location to spend your next big family event or vacation. Hole N’ the Wall Lodge does not rent out the Lodge Huts by individual rooms like hotels do. They actually only rent the facility as a whole for private venue events like weddings, family reunions, retreats, and more.
With a real wild west feel, complete with Game Room, the kids, big and small, will love the variety of arcade games. And for the adults, there are pool tables, an electronic dart board, a foosball table, air hockey, table tennis, Big Buck Hunter Pro, and a wet bar.
13. Cedar Valley Lodge
The Cedar Valley Lodge is positioned perfectly on the bank of the Yellow River inside the Yellow River State Park. Built around a central timber and stone Lodge building, there are multiple accommodation options available to guests. The central Lodge building (5 bedrooms) is supplemented by The Log Home (with 5 bedrooms) and the Cabin on the River (4 beds) to make the Cedar Valley lodge a perfect getaway for large families.
The character of the accommodations, mixed with the majesty of the Yellow River State Park make the Lodge an all-weather destination. Snowmobiling and Cross Country skiing are possible during winter, and fishing, hiking, and mountain biking during the warmer months. Added to these features, the Ladyluck Riverboat Casino is situated 10 miles south of the Lodge.
14. Riverside Casino and Golf Resort
The Riverside Casino and Golf Resort complex incorporates a world-class hotel for guests. The hotel includes rooms scaled across four levels of opulence, each decorated with a practiced eye to capture a tone of luxury and contemporary polish. The hotel has three pools, a fitness center, day spa, and several restaurants.
The attached golf course is an 18-hole championship course, stretching 7400 yards, designed by Rees Jones and adding to his collection of over 100 courses across the United States. The award-winning course is designed beautifully around the landscape and meanders its way around 2 rivers, and several man-made lakes.
15. Arrowwood Resort & Conference Center
The Arrowwood Resort is built around the Conference center, and while the corporate focus of the resort is clear in its styling and amenities, it nonetheless represents an upscale and enjoyable holiday destination. The resort itself has its own awarded restaurant, and enjoys access to the 27-hole Brooks National Golf course, which is been cleverly designed to capture 3 different golf course styles.
Guests can also enjoy the services of the on-site hairdresser and shop for ball gowns in Elegance Boutique. Overall Arrowwood represents a complete holiday experience while being central to a number of regional destinations.