The state of Iowa probably isn’t the first destination that pops into most folks’ heads when they start thinking of vacation trips. While it may not have the name recognition of, say, Hawaii or the Caribbean when it comes to having a good time with the kids, Iowa boasts some excellent family getaway opportunities and the lodgings to match.
Several of the resorts on this list even qualify as travel destinations in and of themselves thanks to the bevy of attractions and services they offer.
So let’s dive right in; here are the 7 best Iowa resorts for families.
1. Grand Harbor Resort and Water Park
The Grand Harbor Resort in Dubuque, Iowa is one of those resorts that practically qualifies as a vacation destination all on its own.
It is located near the center of town, right on the Mississippi riverfront, and within walking distance of many of the city’s more interesting local attractions. It has 193 rooms and suites available for booking, and each room has a view of either downtown Dubuque, the bluffs above the town, or the Mississippi river.
The resort offers a wide variety of amenities for its guests such as free wi-fi and newspaper, as well as a complimentary breakfast — Note: The breakfast may be temporarily discontinued due to COVID-19 restrictions.
They also offer a free business center for those days when you just have to check-in and do some remote work for the office and a free shuttle to and from the airport. Guests at the resort also gain access to the resort’s fitness center for no additional charge.
The main attraction at Grand Harbor is the one from which it derives its name: a full-sized 25,000 square foot waterpark complete with indoor/outdoor slides and tube rides, waterspouts, a lazy river, and a pair of gigantic hot-tub whirlpools.
What’s best is that depending on the day, everybody in the family can get special admission rates. You can check the calendar on the park’s official page for information on admissions and operating hours.
Other attractions at the resort include an arcade, a laser maze, the Kidz Club where children can engage in crafts and games, and the well-known Tony Roma’s restaurant and bar.
2. Wildwood Lodge
The Wildwood Lodge in Clive, Iowa bills itself as “Northwood’s Boutique Hotel”, and strives for a more homey feel than some of the larger resorts on this list.
Rooms range from single-room two-bed affairs to two and three-room suites, and all have their own unique look and feel, usually swaying towards the ‘rustic’ look. A few of the rooms come with bunk beds for a unique hotel experience, and they even have a dedicated Boardroom suite for the business traveler.
The amenities at the Wildwood Lodge are fairly simple, and yet also somewhat unique among resorts. They offer an expanded hot breakfast, which means everyone in the family can find something to enjoy.
The lodge also features a large indoor fireplace and resting room, a spacious outdoor fire pit, an indoor pool, and spa, as well as complimentary board games in the main lodge room.
The Wildwood is very much trying for a cozy, family-focused experience as opposed to the wilder and woolier resorts. Guests also gain access to the 24-hour gym and hot tub.
Perhaps the most unique feature of the Wildwood is that it is pet-friendly.
The resort welcomes dogs of all sizes and according to their website, “are looking forward to pampering your furry friend.” Dogs receive a complimentary treat and letter of welcome upon check-in, and complimentary clean-up bags are available at the front desk. However, if you and your family bring your pet, know that you will be charged an extra fee.
The Wildwood Lodge is about a fifteen-minute drive from downtown Des Moines.
3. Ramada Tropics Resort and Conference Center
The Ramada Tropics Resort and Conference Center in Des Moines, Iowa is located in Des Moines North just a short distance from the 35 and 80 freeways.
The resort offers a variety of amenities specifically geared towards families, including suites and oversized rooms for larger families, daily housekeeping, and free wi-fi.
Parking is also free on the grounds for registered guests, and the resort is also pet-friendly, so your furry friend is welcome there. A complimentary hot breakfast is also provided by the on-site restaurant. Note: The breakfast may be temporarily discontinued due to COVID-19 restrictions
The Ramada Tropics also boasts a large 18,000 square foot indoor waterpark and Tiki bar. The waterpark features a 40-foot pirate ship and slides, a pair of 160-foot tube slides, and an 18-and-over-only hot tub for when you want to relax while your kids enjoy the rest of the park. The park is open nightly from 4 pm to 9 pm and on weekends from 9 am to 10 pm, which makes the job easier for every parent when talking their kids into going to sleep.
4. Wasserbahn Waterpark Smock Hotel and Resort
Located in Williamsburg, Iowa, the Wasserbahn Waterpark Resort is a prime destination for a family vacation.
The resort is set a short distance off the I-80 and is just a short drive away from several different local attractions, including the Amana Colonies and the Stone Creek Golf Club. The resort offers a variety of room and suite options to fit your needs, and guests have access to on-site laundry rooms, fitness centers, and the business center.
Other amenities at the Wasserbahn include the sprawling indoor waterpark which features two 4-story slides and a zero-depth kiddie pool for the little ones. A miniature golf course and movie theater are also available on-site, as well as a video arcade.
The Wasserbahn also regularly hosts live entertainment, from comedy shows to live music, which are made available to guests at the resort.
5. Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center
Set right in the center of the Great Lakes region of Iowa, the Arrowwood Resort features a variety of attractions and amenities for any family vacation. Its primary claim to fame is the sprawling 27-hole Brooks Golf golf course, featuring a full 18-hole course and a short 9-hole half-course.
The resort offers four types of rooms, from single rooms to 2-room suites that come with a whirlpool tub in the bathroom. The hotel is also pet-friendly, so your fur children can come along for the family fun.
Amenities at the resort include an indoor pool and ‘water playland’, which while not as extensive as the other resorts in this list, still include two large play areas for children, water cannons, slides, and a ‘water walk’. Access to the indoor playland is available to all guests at the resort. Also on-site is the Salon of Okoboji, a full-service salon available to guests by appointment and walk-in.
The unique feature of the Arrowwood Resort among the others on this list is that the resort is a registered sanctuary with the Audubon Society, an American association whose mission is to protect birds and the places they inhabit. Allowing little children and people of all ages to learn and educate themselves about the fauna around them.
The Brooks golf course is home to Ospreys and a variety of other wildlife that you are almost certain to encounter during your stay.
Because Arrowwood is centrally located in the Great Lakes area, there are quite a few local attractions within easy access of the resort.
6. Honey Creek Resort State Park
Perhaps the most unique of the resorts on this list, the Honey Creek Resort is a 105-room lodge and conference center set right on the shores of Rathbun Lake and just a couple miles outside the borders of the Honey Creek State Park.
It is a resort for those who enjoy getting out into nature, and offers a wide variety of activities and amenities for you to engage in on your family vacation.
If you prefer something a bit more substantial than one of the rooms at the lodge, the resort has several cottages for rent that offer scenic views of the lakeshore, full-sized kitchens, and indoor fireplaces.
The Honey Creek resort offers a plethora of activities for your vacation. The Hotel is set on the beach of Lake Rathbun and access is granted to all guests. There is an indoor waterpark featuring two-story slides and hot tubs for the adults to relax in, and admission is included in all overnight stays. The resort also boasts an 18-hole championship golf course for the golf aficionado in the family.
What truly makes this a unique getaway is the Honey Creek State Park from which the resort draws its name.
The park is an 825-acre wildlife and nature preserve and offers miles of hiking trails, fishing, and more. One highlight is the opportunity to view the many species of birds and wildlife that call the park their home, a perfect experience for the family looking to get in some nature-time before returning to the city.
7. King’s Pointe Waterpark Resort
Billing itself as the “Pointe of Family Fun”, The King’s Pointe Waterpark Resort is located in Storm Lake, Iowa, and has been built specifically with family entertainment in mind. Amenities at the resort include room service and dry cleaning, and free parking for whatever vehicle you use to reach the resort, from cars to RVs to even boats, thanks to the resort’s location right on the waterfront.
The resort boasts two full-sized water parks, a 20,000 square foot indoor park, and a 50,000 square foot outdoor park. Both parks require admission to access, and if you’re one of those lucky ones with miniature versions of yourself, the park congrats you with children four and under getting in free.
Other attractions at King’s Pointe include miniature golf and a 9-hole half-course across the street from the resort, as well as bike and boat rentals at the resort itself, and the local attractions nearby such as the AWAYSIS Lighthouse which offers amazing views over Storm Lake, as well as ample opportunities for fishing, swimming, and other activities.
While you may not consider Iowa a top resort destination, you can’t go wrong with one of these family-friendly resorts. Whether you’re looking for a close-to-home getaway or a cross-country trip, Iowa has a lot to offer families in the way of outdoors adventures and cozy fireside retreats.