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13 Things To Look Forward To In Iowa This Summer

Iowa summers are always memorable, whether you plan lazy lake getaways or full days at theme parks. This summer is going to be big one, particularly because there are some big things to look forward to in Iowa. Read on for the list of grand openings and major events planned around the state.

Artist rendering of two new rides at Adventureland Resort: Flying Viking and Draken Falls
Illustration by Alex Payne/courtesy Travel Iowa

Adventureland Resort in Altoona will unveil two new rides in the summer of 2023: The new Flying Viking roller will soar over, under and around the new log flume Draken Falls. The theme park also announced a new eaterie, Potato Patch with loaded fries, as well as a new summer concert series and Kids Fest on Sept. 2 & 3.

About $22 million in renovations at Harrah’s Casino & Hotel Council Bluffs are underway, and one of the first big things to look forward to is the opening of Guy Fieri’s Kitchen + Bar inside the hotel. It’s the city’s first celebrity chef restaurant. No opening date has been announced, but word is that it’s soon. My guess is that it will open around the start of the Stir Concert Series this summer. First set of shows are Willie Nelson & Family (May 19), Bret Michaels (May 20), and Jake Owens (June 10).

Fieri’s restaurant is going to add a lot to the Council Bluffs’ restaurant scene!

RAGBRAI riders on hilly roads in Iowa
Photo by Anne-Lawrie/courtesy Travel Iowa

The country’s oldest, longest and largest multi-day bicycle ride celebrates its 50th anniversary this summer. RAGBRAI crosses across the state July 22-29, starting in Sioux City and ending in Davenport. Overnights will be in Storm Lake, Carroll, Ames, Des Moines, Tama-Toledo, and Coralville. 

The DeLorean in the exhibit "POPnology" opening in May 2023 in Dubuque, Iowa
Photo by Johann Talarico/courtesy Travel Iowa

National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium in Dubuque is celebrating its 20th anniversary, and to begin with, it will reopen with 12 new aquariums. They’re also opening a temporary exhibit, “POPnology,” over Memorial Day Weekend. It’s described as “blending past, present, and future and fusing science with pop culture. Books, movies, and television shows are a window to incredible tomorrows.” The highlight: It will have the DeLorean, made famous in “Back to the Future.”

Related post: 20 fun things to do in Dubuque 

Exterior of Indian Creek Nature Center in Cedar Rapids, which turns 50 in 2023
Photo by Eric Hart/courtesy Travel Iowa

Indian Creek Nature Center turns 50 in 2023 and as a celebration, the nature center in Cedar Rapids will host its first ever BioBlitz June 25 through July 1. BioBlitz is a community effort to document as many living things as possible in a certain area. It’s free to participate and the information gathered will benefit the Nature Center in support of education and land management decisions.

There’s a lot to do indoors and outdoors in Cedar Rapids. Check out this list of great things to do in Cedar Rapids.

Don’t miss these annual summer festivals

And then there are the festivals and fairs planned this summer. Communities in all regions plan festivities that celebrate music to native-born sons and daughters. Here’s just a sampling of those annual events:

  • Glenn Miller Festival in Clarinda, June 8-11, 2023. Clarinda is the Birthplace of Glenn Miller, and the event includes live performances from bands from around the world, and of course, the World Famous Glenn Miller Orchestra. The festival is always held the second weekend in June.
  • Le Mars, the Ice Cream Capital of the World, celebrates Ice Cream Days June 14-17, 2023. There are plenty of activities planned beyond eating ice cream.
  • Amana Colonies Wurst Festival is June 17, 2023. The Amana Colonies keeps the German tradition alive with making sausages, and this festival celebrates it. It’s also been voted Best New Festival in Iowa. 
  • It’s the 25th year of the Des Moines Arts Festival, and this huge event will be showcasing nearly 200 visual artists, as well as live performing arts. The event in downtown Des Moines will be June 23-35. It’s Iowa’s largest and most prestigious arts and cultural event, and it’s free.
  • Wallace Farm in Orient offers Pizza on the Prairie on Friday evenings in the summer. The pizza’s handmade and baked in a brick oven and the toppings are farm-fresh veggies and local meats. Plus, there’s live music and cocktails. 
  • The awe-inspiring National Balloon Classic is held every year in Indianola featuring more than 100 hot air balloons and nine days of festivities. This year, the event is July 28 through Aug. 5, 2023.
  • Each August, the Great River Tug Fest is a giant tug-of-war across the Mississippi River. It will take place in LeClaire Aug. 10-12, 2023. There is always an entire weekend of activities planned. 
  • The Iowa State Fair is the single largest event held in Iowa each year. This year’s dates are Aug. 10-20, 2023, and as usual, it’s held at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines. Grandstand Headliners include For King + Country and The Chicks.
The Iowa State Fair midway at dusk in Des Moines
Photo courtesy Iowa Tourism

There are many more annual events that are scheduled for this summer in towns and cities throughout Iowa. Before planning a trip, double check to make sure you don’t miss any new surprises!

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