Boone, Iowa is an outdoor lover’s hidden gem in Iowa. No matter the season, you’ll find something fun to that will keep you active and entertained. Here are my favorite things to do in Boone in the summer, winter and every day in between.
Where is Boone, Iowa?
Boone is a small town in Iowa, about 20 miles west of Ames and 50 miles north of Des Moines. For the geographically-challenged, that makes it located in north central Iowa.
The population of Boone is just over 26,000 people, and it’s the county seat for Boone County. It’s located near the Des Moines River, as well as immense amounts of farmland.
1. Ski & snowboard at Seven Oaks Recreation
Address: 1086 222nd Drive, Boone, Iowa
What Iowa lacks in mountain ranges, the state’s ski resorts make up for with well-maintained trails. Seven Oaks Recreation in Boone offers 11 runs, including a beginner hill and a pretty sweet railyard for snowboarders. There are two triple chair lifts and three surface lifts.
Seven Oaks offers complimentary beginner lessons as well as private lessons for more in-depth instructions. For the complimentary lesson, everyone learned the basics like stopping and the correct way to get up after you fall.
2. Snow tubing at Seven Oaks
Address: 1086 222nd Drive, Boone, Iowa
For less of a winter workout and just as much fun, Seven Oaks Recreation also has a tubing hill. Due to its popularity, tubers have timed passes.
There’s a lift to get tubers up to the top of the hill, which is a great convenience.
3. Ride a train
Address: 225 10th St., Boone, Iowa
Whether you love rail history or you have a kid obsessed with trains, Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad is a Boone favorite for visitors. It was created in 1983 to preserve the scenic section of the former Fort Dodge, Des Moines and Southern Railroad hat winded through the Des Moines River Valley.
My family fell into the “obsessed kid” category. A steam locomotive pulls the excursion trains, and a diesel locomotive powers the dinner & dessert train.
The 1920s rail car we rode in for the excursion train ride was not air-conditioned, though there are enclosed dinner train car options that have both AC and heating. On a regular ride, formal meals aren’t served, but there is a concession car with snacks and beverages.
The ride is out and back, about an hour and a half ride. Each car has a volunteer who’ll share interesting facts about the train and the area you pass through. Ours shared the story about Kate Shelley on the way back to the station.
The highlight has to be crossing the 156-foot-tall Bass Point Creek High Bridge, which you’ll do twice since it’s an out-and-back ride. If you’re afraid of heights, this will be the ultimate low.
Tip: For two weekends in September, they host a “Day out with Thomas”, October has a “Pumpkin Express” and in November and December, “The Santa Express” rolls.
4. Attend the annual festival, Pufferbilly Days
Pufferbilly Days, an annual event celebrating Boone’s railroad heritage, is held over three days in late summer. This year, it’s planned for Aug. 5-7, 2022.
Events include a carnival, parade, car show, and several contests. It’s considered one of Iowa’s Top 5 community festivals with over 30,000 attendees.
5. Visit James H. Andrew Railroad Museum
Combine a visit to James H. Andrew Railroad Museum with a ride on the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad. They’re essentially located the same spot!
The train depot is home to the museum, and admission is included with your train ticket.
6. Take a float trip
When the weather warms up, the Des Moines River becomes the recreation haven for paddlers. You can find outfitters, including Seven Oaks Recreation, who’ll rent canoes, kayaks and tubes.
River activities peak between June and Labor Day Weekend.
7. Catch a race
Address: 1481 223rd Plaza, Boone, Iowa
Boone Speedway is for the adrenaline junkies passing through Boone. The 1/3-mile dirt racetrack is open from mid-April to early September, and includes the two-day World of Outlaws Late Model event July 8 and 9, 2022, and the IMCA Speedway Motors Super Nationals Fueled by Caseys Sept. 3-10.
More things to do near Boone
There are a few more activity highlights I wanted to mention that aren’t in Boone, but are close enough.
8. Take a hike
Address: 1515 P Ave., Madrid, Iowa (4 miles south of Boone)
Ledges State Park is a special little park hidden among cornfields. Its name is inspired by the sandstone ledges that tower 100 feet above the Des Moines River.
It’s a great park for hikes, and offers a 4-mile trail system that winds through steep slopes and scenic overviews. One of the most memorable parts of the park is Peas Creek along the Canyon Road. The creek is typically ankle deep and people typically wade through it…and cars pass through it.
Camping is available at Ledges State Park.
9. Bowl, old-school style
Address: Hotel Pattee, 1112 Willis Ave., suite A, Perry, Iowa (about 30 miles south of Boone)
Hotel Pattee is a charming historic hotel in the town Perry. When the hotel opened in 1913, it offered the latest craze in recreation, a two-lane bowling alley in the lower level.
The Oley Olson Bowling Alley has been updated since then, and you can now bowl there with fully-functioning lanes and automated scoring. Current prices $12.50 per person per hour, and includes shoe and ball rental.
The hotel has more than 40 individually decorated rooms. If you’re traveling with kids, be sure to request one of the themed family suites!