8 Family-Friendly Things to Do at Lake Okoboji
I have lived in Iowa the majority of my life and I have not once made a visit to the Lake Okoboji area. Shocker, I know! It had definitely been on my bucket list, so this past Memorial Day we made a long weekend trip and explored all the things to do in Lake Okoboji. Of course, the weather was not the greatest (unseasonably cold and some rain), but we discovered there is so much to see and do in the area besides swimming and boating. Here are 8 family-friendly things to do at Lake Okoboji in Iowa.
About Iowa Great Lakes
Before we get started I wanted to explain that Lake Okoboji is just one lake in the area of several. A lot of people think of Lake Okoboji as one city on one large lake, but it is not. The Iowa Great Lakes include Iowa’s largest natural lake, Spirit Lake, and five interconnected lakes: West Lake Okoboji, East Lake Okoboji, Upper Gar, Lower Gar, and Minnewashta. In addition to multiple lakes, there are multiple towns that make up this area including Okoboji, Arnold’s Park, West Okoboji, Wahpeton, Milford, and more.
Arnold’s Amusement Park
When we arrived at Arnold’s Park I was surprised to see that it was not just an amusement park. The entire area is referred to as Arnold’s Park which includes the amusement park, museums, restaurants (including Arnold’s Perk, must-stop), miniature golf, and more. We headed to the amusement park on a Saturday morning during their weekly farmers market which was fun! Just like any Farmer’s Market, you could purchase gifts, fresh produce, a Bloody Mary, and more.
Arnold’s Amusement Park was so much fun and definitely a hit for the kids. If I had to describe it, it would be larger than your common carnival, but smaller than Adventureland. It had one large roller coaster, then tons of smaller rides. The kids loved the funhouse and ran through it several times. I loved the large Ferris Wheel. It was a fun way to get a great view of the Okoboji area. You could easily spend an entire day riding the rides, over and over again. One thing to note is that entrance into the park is FREE, but if you want to ride rides you need to purchase wristbands.
Arnold’s Park Museum
The Arnold’s Park Museum is super fun and I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun the kids had too! This museum houses the old Funhouse Toys. It was fun to see some of the really old rides that children used to ride years and years ago including the barrel and sugar bowl. The kids were shocked that was even a ride. It is free to enter the museum, but if you would like to go down the slide or play any of the pinball machines or other games you need to purchase tokens. Definitely worth it!
There are so many great places to eat in the Lake Okoboji area, but Barefoot Bar is a must when you visit. Barefoot Bar sits in the Parks Marina area right one the lake with several other restaurants. They offer such a fun vibe, good food, delicious cocktails, and a playground for the kids! It was a great place for the kids to play and make friends while we enjoyed our food and drinks. They also have live music too!
Bouncelandia is every child’s (possibly adult’s) dream come true! The Bouncelandia attraction is the worlds largest bounce house covering over 13,000 square feet and towers over 32 feet above the ground. This was our last stop before we headed home and it was perfect for the kids to burn off all their energy before a car ride. The inflatables include one giant “ninja” course, then there is another large inflatable with basketball hoops, and more. They even have a Twister inflatable! This is a must visit attraction while you are in the Lake Okoboji area. A fun place for everyone in the family.
East Lake Park
East Lake Park is a cute park right next to East Lake Okoboji on the main road that runs in between all the towns. The kids had so much fun playing and using their imaginations on the Minnie Queen.
The Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum
I was not 100% sure if the kids would be interested in The Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum, but it was actually pretty cool! It is connected with the other free museums in Arnold’s Park. This museum goes into detail about artists and bands that have traveled and performed in Iowa specifically Arnold’s Park over many years. The kids had fun listening to music, checking out the guitars, and even playing around with an old jukebox.
The Maritime Museum was very neat to walk through. It holds collections of really old, antique wooden boats, parts, and much more. It was interesting to read some of the old stories of the boats and artifacts. A lot of them having to do with the Lake Okoboji area. Monte’s favorite was a pre-WWII boat they had discovered in June of 2020 at the bottom of Lake Okoboji. They believe it may have been at the bottom of the lake for nearly 50 years.
Marble Beach State Park
If you are looking for a place to camp while visiting Lake Okoboji check out Marble Beach State Park. The campground was wonderful to stay at. It does have a swimming beach (I would not recommend swimming there), but they have great options for fishing, a wonderful bike trail that runs by, and more.