Being home for the summer means finding things to do around town that are affordable and fun. In Iowa, there are a lot of different things to do that will definitely keep you and your friends entertained without spending crazy amounts of money! Here are 20 ways to spend a summer in Iowa on a budget.
1. Cedar Rapids Freedom Festival
From June 15 to July 4, Cedar Rapids throws festivities to celebrate the Fourth of July. Admission is simple; buy a button from Hy-Vee, Casey’s General Store, or a Freedom Festival Event for only $5. The Freedom Festival button provides admission to any and all festivities that are part of the festival. Total bang for your buck
2. Visit the Field of Dreams
Iowa may not seem like the most exciting place, but it is home to an old movie set. Located in Dyersville, Iowa, the Field of Dreams baseball field is open for touring throughout the summer months. The best part: admission is FREE, which is something everyone on a budget loves to hear.
3. Take a trip the the 61 Drive-In Theater
Grab a group of friends and spend your evening at the 61 Drive-In Theater, located 5 miles south of Maquoketa. Admission is $8, which may initially seem pricey, but your admission is good for both movies being shown that night. Essentially, you’re getting to watch each movie for about $4, and have the unique experience of enjoying it from the comfort of your vehicle.
4. High Trestle Trail
Have fun biking, hiking, or simply exploring the High Trestle Trail. The trail includes a half-mile long, 13 story bridge that was built on a former railroad bed which once belonged to the Union Pacific Railroad. The bridge features 41 “frames” surrounding the trestle bridge that look truly extraordinary when lit up at night.
5. Fenelon Place Elevator
Located in Dubuque, Iowa, the Fenelon Place Elevator boasts claim to the shortest and steepest scenic railway. For only $3 for a round trip, you can see the beautiful views of the Dubuque business district, the Mississippi River, and three different states!
6. Iowa City Jazz Festival
Fan of jazz music? The Iowa City Jazz Festival is a three-day affair of free live jazz music. Bring your own blankets and lawn chairs and come enjoy free music (and fireworks on the last night) on the Pentacrest lawn at University of Iowa.
7. Alley Art Tour
Enjoy unique art? Take a visit to Le Mars, Iowa. Pick up a walking tour brochure and take a stroll around downtown to experience art created by local artists.
8. Iowa State Fair
A staple to the state, the Iowa State Fair is always a big attraction year after year. A little pricier compared to other activities on the list at $8 for admission (if you buy your tickets in advance) and $1 per credit for rides, but the money is well worth it for this event. Plus, there are free music events at various areas at the fairgrounds if thrill rides aren’t quite your thing.
9. Iowa Walk of Fame
Ever wondered who were notable people from Iowa? Located in Shenandoah, Iowa, the Iowa walk of fame displays 126 Iowans who have impacted the state, the nation, or even the world. Take some time to see all those who have helped make a difference in one way or another.
10. Historic U.S. 6 Route
Grab some friends and take a nice road trip along the Iowa portion of the Historic U.S. Route 6. Route 6 is the longest highway ever created, stretching from Massachusetts to California, and Iowa’s portion is home to some unique stops. See the world’s oldest ice cream fountain or the 16-foot gas station man, as well as some cute local eateries and shops.
11. John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park
Pack yourself a picnic and take a day to explore the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park. Open from dawn until dusk and located near downtown Des Moines, the park is a great place to spend some time. If you somehow grow bored from looking at the 28 different sculptures located at the park, take a stroll through downtown Des Moines.
12. Treehouse Camping at John 15 Vineyard
Big fan of camping? In Scranton, Iowa, there’s a unique “Treehouse Camping” area where guests can camp on a deck among the trees. Complete with firepit, picnic tables, a tent for up to 8 guest, private area for hiking, and showering facilities available at the conference center. Only $30 for four guest per night, with each additional guest being only $3, this would be a great trip opportunity for a group of friends.
13. East Park Disc Golf
This 9-hole disc golf course is open year round and doesn’t charge admission, a total bonus for those on a budget. The course is complete with plenty of water hazards and great scenery. The first hole starts at the top of the south steps of the park.
14. NewBo District
Located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the NewBo district offers plenty of unique, locally owned stores. While many parts of the district draws from Iowa’s rich Czech heritage, many aspects of the district incorporates both new and old to create a vibrant and fun environment for all ages. Take a trip to Great American Popcorn Co, experience Illuminations Healing Arts Center, or watch a show at the CSPS building (students who bring their student IDs get a discounted rate). Take some time and enjoy the culture of the NewBo district, found in the center of Cedar Rapids.
15. Villisca Axe Murder
Are you a fan of the supernatural and things left unsolved? One night in June of 1912, a family and two houseguests were found in their beds, having been brutally murdered with an axe. The murder or murderers were never found. The house in Villisca, Iowa is now said to be haunted and a tourist attraction for guests hoping to get a taste of the supernatural. Admission for a day tour is only $10, thrill seekers welcome.
16. Dunnings Springs Park
Located minutes from downtown Decorah, this park has plenty of hiking trails, beautiful scenery, picnic spots, and most importantly, a magnificent 200-foot waterfall.
17. Spook Cave
Spook Cave takes guests on a boat ride tour of a cave near McGregor, Iowa. The natural rock formations located throughout the cave are pointed out to viewers on the guided tour. The best part: there’s no walking involved for this tour, a total bargain for only $12 per guest.
18. Reiman Gardens
Admirers of nature’s beauty are welcome. The 17 acre botanical gardens feature a wide array of plants in various shades. Admission is $8 for endless exploration of the natural beauty of plants, as well as seeing near 800 butterflies in the Christina Reiman Butterfly Wing.
19. Rancho Deluxe: The Original Bicycle Garden
This unique and ever-changing “art garden” is open year-round and is free for admission. The always evolving art garden features items from the community’s history, including old street signs, bike racks, and old school gates. Located in Mason City, this art garden is certainly one of a kind.
20. Bridge Observation Deck
Due to the completion of a new bridge, an old bridge in Keokuk has been converted into an observation deck to view Lock and Dam #19, as well as offering views of the Mississippi river, the Illinois and Victory Park. There’s no admission fee and plenty of sights to view and appreciate.
Do you have any other things to do around Iowa this summer that are fun and cheap!? Share in the comments below!
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