I’ve been dying to make this road trip for nearly two years and we finally decided that the kids were old enough to spend all day on the road visiting small towns, hiking for miles, and enjoying an iconic Iowa landmark. One Saturday morning we packed up the minivan with everything we thought we possibly might use (swimming gear, towels, baby wipes, Kleenex, a few changes of clothes for all of us, clean underwear, bottled water, DVD’s, and our Road Trip playlist on the iPod) and off we went. Our two destinations for the day were Maquoketa Caves State Park and the Field of Dreams in Dyersville. However we had a lot more stops and photo ops than just those two places! My favorite part of the adventure was driving through the small towns (some of which had been abandon and I failed to get pictures of) and the countryside.
The obligatory road trip pictures right before we left.
True story: I kinda blanked on taking money to the bank last week so we had to make a pit stop at a bank location in Marshalltown, IA (about an hour away from Des Moines). Then the kids decided they needed a snack. They requested ice cream, but given it was only 8:30 a.m. no ice creams hops were open. So we made our way to the Hy-Vee in town and purchased Gatorades, grapes, and coffee from their Starbucks. As we were paying I noticed the ad on the grocery divider advertising this “new” movie! I had to giggle. Only in small town Iowa.
There was also a stop at a small town Walmart for kid friendly, super washable nail polish. It kept all three kids (yes, the boys too) busy for an hour and half.
Yes, our whole family has road trip shirts. We are officially that family.
One of the cutest moments of the day: someone bought their Husky puppy hiking and Harrison was VERY concerned about the “wolf on the trail.”
The caves and trails were magnificent! Going into our little adventure, I thought for sure that Elizabeth was going to be scared, but all three loved crawling through the caves with their flashlights! Most of the caves we went into were crawling room only caves so we got more muddy than I was expecting, but overall it was an amazing experience.
Not only were the cave formations awesome, but the fact like they felt like we were in air conditioning on a 90 degree day was one of my favorite parts!
Getting a good look at the floor of the cave.
We spent most of our time hiking from cave to cave. We didn’t do any of the strictly hiking trails that the park offers, but we still managed to fit in around 2 miles of hiking/walking/climbing.
This was one of the sliding on your belly caves. Elizabeth had no interest in crawling along the floor of the cave on her belly, but happily sat in the opening telling people if they could go in or not.
As much as they loved exploring the caves, climbing on the rocks was just as fun for them. The boys even stated that they couldn’t wait for us to take them rock climbing.
The biggest cave we went in had lighting built in. As much as I wanted the natural cave experience, it was kind of nice to easily see where we were headed!
The boys took it upon themselves to peek in and explore every nook, and cranny at the park.
A picture of the bracelets we all had to wear to allow us entrance to the caves (you get the bracelet once you’ve listened to the short orientation on White Nose Syndrome).
Beautiful Iowa cornfields as we drove down a dirt road. We then happened upon a Monastery hidden in the hills and cornfields, a Trappist Casket, and then a ghost town.
After a few hours of hiking and exploring, we made the short drive to the Field of Dreams in Dyersville. We had been told from numerous people that you couldn’t go on the actual field (or in the house, but that I expected). When we arrived there was a field full of families playing their own baseball game. I was instantly disappointed that we didn’t bring our own bats and gloves to join in the game. Going back to Dyersville is already on next summer’s To Do List just so we can play a game on the field. Instead we played on the bleachers and walked in the cornfield. We were only there for about a half hour, but that was the perfect amount of time to snap pictures and enjoy the scenery.
* I will say, for those of you who plan a visit, that if there’s a scheduled event they do not let you on the filed. Also, the land and house is lived in and maintained by the current owners. Pretty awesome that they set up picnic tables in their backyard and let people walk in their corn fields. Please be respectful of their property as the owner is pretty awesome about everything.
When ya gotta go, ya gotta go. This is the reason we carry an emergency frog potty in the minivan!
Max declared this the “coolest rest area we’ve ever peed at!”
This was a long day trip at 14 hours, but the kids did a great job in the car and really enjoyed themselves. For any nature lovers or kids who love to explore, this is just the day trip for you! Want to make an entire weekend of it? Check out staying at Grand Harbor Resort in Dubuque (along the Mississippi and a short distance from both Maquoketa Caves and Field of Dreams). There’s tons of fun things to do in Dubuque and the hotel water park ranks as one of my kids’ favorites (read more about our times in Dubuque here and here).
About the Author
Ashlen Sheaffer is a proud Des Moines resident who was born and raised here. Ashlen wears many hats: mom, wife, daycare provider at her in-home daycare, blogger and co-owner at The Kidsperts, children’s book author, and co-director and producer for the upcoming play Expressing Motherhood play. In her free time Ashlen enjoys exploring all Des Moines has to offer, road trips, and adventuring all with the kids in tow. Ashlen is super excited to be able to share some of her family’s adventuring with other Iowans and get other families out into the community.