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Your guide to Okoboji
All About Okoboji
In northwest Iowa, right along its border with Minnesota, sits a chain of interconnected glacial lakes that are the focal point for the small resort town of Okoboji. Vintage Americana is the vibe here, with hand-dipped ice cream cones, a restored amusement park built in the 1800s that has retained its charm, a museum dedicated to classic cars, and a Great Lakes Maritime Museum with antique wooden boats.
There’s more to this area than historic storefronts and quaint main streets, though, and the locals have done a measured job balancing the old with the modern: Craft breweries have gained popularity, public yoga classes are often held on beaches and even on paddleboards, and the Pearson Lakes Art Center hosts visual art exhibits across six different galleries along with independent films. And although the area is jam-packed with attractions, the natural world is never far from reach. There are more public beaches than you can count on two hands, and well-groomed trails are easily found in Pikes Point and Gull Point state parks.
When is the best time to stay in a vacation rental in Okoboji?
The lakes come alive in the summertime when hot daily temperatures make swimming and boating possible, and the town celebrates with a fireworks show every Saturday night. Each August, the Blue Water Festival is held in town to help raise awareness for watershed protection, and conservation groups, exhibitors, and musicians are invited to help get the public fired up about the local lakes. The crisp and breezy fall lures an influx of hikers and mountain cyclists to the trails, and art-lovers come to experience a local art festival that combines scenic drives with open studio tours. In winter, you can expect more than 30 inches of snow, and spring ushers in the return of the fishing season.
What are the top things to do in Okoboji?
Just five minutes to the south of Okoboji is Arnolds Park, where you’ll find the quirky Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, the lakeside Promenade, and bumping bars and nightclubs. The biggest draw is Arnolds Park Amusement Park, an attraction founded in 1889 with about 30 rides and attractions to enjoy, including one of the oldest wooden roller coasters in the world.
Gull Point State Park
With one of the best beaches in Okoboji, this state park provides winning views of West Okoboji Lake and amenities like a playground. In the middle sits the large Gull Point Lodge, which was constructed for the public in 1933. The self-guided hiking trails here are great for beginners as they’re just over one mile each.
Okoboji is surrounded by water, and while you’re visiting, you have the opportunity to see at least four different lakes: West Okoboji Lake, East Okoboji Lake, Center Lake, and Big Spirit Lake. Local outdoor outfitters and boat shops rent out kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, and motorboats for use on all of the lakes, and you can also fish for local favorites like walleye and perch from public docks. For another protected beachfront, check out Pikes Point State Park on West Okoboji Lake.