By Alyssa L. Ochs
The kids are out of school, the parents could use a break, and everyone is craving a change of scenery. Summer is the most popular time of the year for travel in Iowa, and you can plan many different types of trips throughout our state’s distinct regions. Many people think of wine and craft beer trails as adult-only adventures, which is mainly true. However, you can still embrace your love for locally made beer, wine and spirits if you have kids and as part of a family vacation in Iowa this summer.
Here are some ideas for summer family fun in Iowa, with a few highly recommended and kid-friendly craft beverage stops along the way.
Iowa Summer Fun for Families
Outdoor recreation opportunities are abundant in Iowa and wonderfully paired with craft beverages for some refreshment after a day out in the wilderness. For boating and water sports, head to the Iowa Great Lakes around the town of Okoboji.
You can rent a family cabin at Lake Icaria, hike along the lake at Lake Macbride and find some peace and quiet at Briggs Wood Park. Some of the best kid-friendly hikes that are a mile or less but still scenic and adventurous are the Wildcat Cave Trail in the Wildcat Cave Wildlife Area, Table Rock Loop in Ledges State Park and Bridal Veil Trail at Pikes Peak State Park.
Fishing is a favorite pastime among Iowa families, with the top fishing spots of Green Valley Lake in southwest Iowa, Lake Ahquabi in central Iowa and Black Hawk Lake in northwest Iowa. It’s also fun to play a round of mini-golf with the kids at an Iowa mini-golf course, such as Lost Island in Waterloo, Pirate’s Point in Storm Lake or Derby Grange in Dubuque.
If it feels too hot, humid or rainy to be outside, there are still plenty of opportunities for fun with your family in Iowa. You can visit some of the many fascinating museums throughout the state, such as the Union Pacific Railroad Museum in Council Bluffs (southwest region), the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque (northeast region) or the Science Center of Iowa in Des Moines (central region). There’s also the option of riding on the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad, which offers fantastic train rides in the summer months in central Iowa. In addition to taking a ride, your kids can learn more about trains at the James H. Andrew Railroad Museum in Boone.
Many families choose to make one of the following Iowa cities their home base to explore the broader areas.
These destinations have an abundance of attractions that travelers of all ages can enjoy:
• Sioux City
• Des Moines
• Cedar Rapids
• Iowa City
Family-Friendly Breweries, Wineries & Distilleries in Iowa
One of the latest and greatest trends in the craft beverage industry lately is the move towards family-friendly and inclusive environments that are community gathering spaces just as much as local watering holes. However, some beverage businesses don’t allow kids at all or at least aren’t very welcoming to little travelers or family pets.
We’ve rounded up a list of breweries, wineries and distilleries that are known for being family-friendly and would make fun stops along the way of your next Iowa vacation.
• Big Grove Brewery, Iowa City: Large open space for families, dogs allowed on the patio, street-food style menu.
• Firetrucker Brewery, Ankeny: Kids are welcome, the staff is friendly, great patio, family-friendly games on the event calendar. (Featured Advertiser – page 20)
• Kinship Brewing, Waukee: Welcomes kids and dogs, off-leash dog park onsite, space for stroller parking, perfect for an afternoon out .
• Gezellig Brewing, Newton: Cozy environment, pet-friendly patio, coloring books and games provided to entertain kids.
• Crawford Brew Works, Quad Cities: Kid-friendly until 10 pm, dog-friendly patio with a fire pit, seating available for larger groups, rotating food trucks.
• The Hall, West Des Moines: Family-friendly Monday night bingo, multiple food options to choose from, many games available, indoor and outdoor spaces. (Featured Advertiser – page 23)
• Iowa Grape Vines Winery, Maquoketa: Welcomes kids, offers root beer and ice cream for kids, onsite vineyard tours available. (Featured Advertiser – page 15)
• Cedar Ridge Winery & Distillery, Swisher: Kids are welcome, delicious pizza on the menu, patio and lawn spaces, live music onsite.
Tips for Visiting Craft Beverage Businesses with Kids
Even in family-friendly craft beverage establishments, there are still rules to adhere to and etiquette to follow. Remember these tips during your travels to have the best vacation experience and support local businesses respectfully and responsibly.
• Choose conveniently located beverage stops in areas with family-friendly attractions.
• Call ahead to confirm that kids and dogs are allowed.
• Choose outdoor seating areas with games to play and space to move around.
• Pick places that serve food or have food trucks.
• Don’t treat the business like a playground and only stay for a limited time.
• Clean up toys and games before you leave.
More Iowa Summer Ideas and Inspiration
If you love trying local drinks but want to plan a well-rounded trip that the whole family will enjoy, consider basing your travel route around a craft beverage trail in a particular region of Iowa. The I-80 Wine Trail, Scenic River Wine Trail, Central Iowa Beer Trail and Western Iowa Beer Trail are just a few examples of trails that allow you to visit multiple businesses and find plenty of fun, non-beverage-related stops along the way. There are some excellent kid-friendly resorts in Iowa that are perfect for summer vacations and will provide you with all the comforts of home, plus amenities like outdoor pools, free breakfasts and games.
If you plan to stop at breweries, wineries and distilleries during your family vacation, it is paramount to sip samples in moderation or take turns sampling and driving for everyone’s safety. But the big takeaway is that it is definitely possible (and a lot of fun!) to have the best of both worlds with a summer vacation in Iowa and find local things to do that everyone can appreciate together.
For more travel tips and inspiration about all things Iowa, visit our website at www.trails-tales.net