Oh, Iowa. You gave us many memories. J.O. did the majority of his apprenticeship throughout Iowa, so we know this state pretty well.
Places to Rest Your Head
- If you’re traveling to Des Moines, we found our favorite campground to be at Griff’s in Altoona, Ia. There are pull through sites, full hook ups, 30 & 50 amps, laundry, a banquet hall, a game room, a nice lake to view and walk around and they are open YEAR ROUND with running water. A major bonus!
- Further North by Parkersburg, IA, we stayed at L Brandt’s Crazy Acres. They have a man fed lake that you can fish on, cabins to rent, a full petting zoo, an on site restaurant and bar, an ice cream store and a supplies store. They do not offer full hook ups, but for free someone will come by and pump your tanks whenever needed. They also had some of the best brisket and it came from their farm. Great monthly rates and close to various vineyards.
- Fort Dodge, Ia is not one of favorite places. It’s just not a pretty area to visit. However, if you find that you have to work there, the only place to camp was at the County Fairgrounds. At least we we able to watch people practice for a rodeo in the horse rings.
- When J.O. was working near Council Bluffs, Ia, it was winter, so there were not many options for us. The only winter campground we could find was the I-29 campground. They keep a select amount of slots open for winter camping, but they also have a shower stall if you want to just use that. It fit the bill when we were in a pinch. Otherwise, we stayed at the Super 8 in Council Bluffs. They had weekly rates and allowed dogs. Also, the Pilot Truck Stop was a block away and they had the best all day breakfast. Greasy and oh so bad for you good.
- Down by Red Oak, Ia is a beautiful area. We spent an entire summer at the Viking Lake State Park. Giving the option for full hook ups and lake views was really nice. They also had traditional camp sites. Miles of trails to hike, a lovely lake where you can rent a boat or just fish. We had to move sites every two weeks in order to be allowed to stay the entire summer, but that was fine. Even if you just go for a day, I recommend it.
- Living over an RV full time in the winter comes with it’s challenges. When J.O. was working in Walnut, IA, we had extreme slim pickings for a place to stay. Luckily we found one…kind of. It was on old campground behind the Econo Lodge. We had no water and our power source was extremely unreliable. But, the people that ran the hotel were extremely kind and would let us use a room to shower in and watch their TV in the lobby. Yes, this is where we lived an entire winter with no running water. So, if you’re in a bind and in the area, this place works.
- Clear Lake, Ia is a lot of fun in the summer. With a great venue for music, artists like Jonny Lang perform there regularly. We first stayed at Oakwood RV on the lake and then moved because of pricing. We lived in the Orchard Mobile Home Park. The park was well kept and close to town. The rates were reasonable and you paid your electric bill separate. Because it was a mobile home park, there were obviously all the amenities.
- Before I started to travel with J.O. full time, he once stayed in Polk City, IA at the Big Creek State Park. He told me that he would recommend it to anyone.
- Iowa City is such a fun college town! We first stayed outside of town at the Lake McBride State Park and really enjoyed the scenery. Unfortunately, they would not allow us to stay longer than two weeks and it was too far of a drive from J.O. work. But, it’s a beautiful park and if you’re interested in a full hook up site, you need to book online. When we decided to move, we hung our hats for a summer at the Sleepy Hollow Campgrounds. Although the sites were not graded very well (every now and then a bit of a wash out would occur and we would have to reposition to stay level) it was a great campground. Extremely family oriented. They had a lake to fish, a pool to swim in, volleyball, basketball, a general store that served ice cream and a laundry room. They also did hay rides, fireworks, crafts and you could order a pizza from their kitchen and have it delivered to your site. GREAT PLACE. Full hook ups, 30 & 50 amp, traditional camping, pull through sites and monthly rates (you just pay electric).
- We would often have to go to Indianola, Ia we would stay at the county fair grounds because they were open year round. We would only every have to be in town for no longer than two nights, so it was a place where we could be in and out and get an economical rate.
Place to Go & Things to Do
- There is so much to do in Iowa in the summer. Outdoor activities are abundant. From boating to fishing a lake is always near by! Hiking along trails in state parks was one of our favorite things to do. All of the state parks we stayed at had wonderful trails. Just remember to check for wood ticks when you’re done!
- Iowa City is a great city year round. Because it’s a college town, there is always something going on. In the summer time there are fabulous water parks at most of the community centers and they are super affordable! They also had a great farmer’s market in the heart of downtown.
- Down by Iowa City is also a small german town called, Amana. We would often go there on the weekends to walk around and stop in at the Millstream Brewing Co. They have a nice deck to sit on and would often have a live polka band!
- To many’s disbelief there are actually a ton of wineries in Iowa. Our favorite is the Summerset Winery in Indianola. It’s nestled in the hills and they offer many award winning wines. This was a must stop for us every time we passed through.
- If you want some fun on the water, head up to Okoboji. It’s a crazy fun town on the lake. A lot of Iowans have cabins here.
- Remember the movie, The Bridges Of Madison County? Well, you can go see some of those famous bridges. Even though many of them unfortunately burnt down, there are still some that remain.
- Heading down I-80, you may want to stop off the Atlanitc exit and then the Walnut exit in the winter. Both of these small downtowns put on an excellent display in the Christmas time. Atlantic will string all off their trees with lights and the city of Walnut puts up a huge light Christmas tree in the center of their cobble stone main street. Both are like something out of a story book and warm your heart in the holiday season.
- If you are lucky enough to be down in Des Moines durning August, go to their state fair. Especially if you like country music. They have great concerts and of course all the fried food you can imagine.