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Exploring The Best Parks In Council Bluffs

Nothing beats time spent at a park. Explore Council Bluffs, Iowa, by visiting some of the city’s best parks. Whether you want to enjoy the playgrounds, run through the spray grounds, or have a picnic with a nice view, you’ll find what you’re looking for at these parks in Council Bluffs.

A pelican playground piece and public art in the background at Tom Hanafan's River's Edge Park in Council Bluffs

What makes Council Bluffs’ parks unique?

While just over 64,400 people live in Council Bluffs, the city has a remarkable number of parks. The Council Bluffs Parks and Recreation Department manages a park system of 28 parks. And thanks to a booming public art scene, new parks and renovated parks have distinct looks to them, especially Belles’ Play Garden at River’s Edge Park with its 15-foot-tall pelican play structure and fall-safe ground.

In addition to city-managed parks, Lake Manawa State Park is located in Council Bluffs and has the epic Dream Playground you’ll want to check out. It’s the largest ADA-accessible playground in Iowa.

Spraygrounds, or splash pads, are located at Bayliss Park, Fairmount Park, and near Belle’s Play Garden.

Top parks in Council Bluffs for families

Not sure which parks to visit first? Here are four of my family’s favorite Council Bluffs parks.

Bayliss Park (100 Pearl St. in downtown Council Bluffs) features a small splash area on the north side of the fountain. This quaint splash pad is perfect for young children. There isn’t a playground, though, so it’s best enjoyed in the summer when the water is turned on. While at Bayliss, you’ll also find historical monuments, picnic spaces, and the sights and sounds of our iconic fountain.

Dream Playground (located in Lake Manawa State Park, 93 Dreamland Road) is my family’s favorite park in Council Bluffs. The place is huge and it’s creatively designed with nods to the area’s history. There is a separate playground space for younger kids, too.

If you’re an Iowa resident, there is no park entry fee to Lake Manawa State Park. However, non-residents pay a $5 entry fee.

The sprayground at Fairmount Park in Council Bluffs

Fairmount Park (East Graham Avenue and Park Entrance) is home to an extensive interactive water playground with several family-friendly elements that are fun for children of all ages. While at Fairmount Park, you’ll also find a scenic overlook, a playground, hiking trails, picnic shelters, and ample parking.

Belle's Play Garden located by River's Edge Pavilion along the riverfront of Council Bluffs. A spraygarden is nearby.

River’s Edge (4250 River’s Edge Parkway) Tom Hanafan’s River’s Edge is a large park along the Missouri River waterfront. The playground, Belles’ Play Garden, recently opened near the River’s Edge pavilion, and its beautifully-designed features include a pelican with a slide. The splash area at River’s Edge Pavilion is located near the pelican, and and it operates seasonally in the summertime.

Council Bluffs parks with playgrounds

I’ve shared some of my favorite playgrounds, but there are plenty more to discover. Here’s a list of the outdoor playgrounds in Council Bluffs:

  • Bahnsen Park, 1720 Ave. L
  • Belle’s Play Garden, 4250 River’s Edge Parkway
  • Big Lake Park, 2600 N. Eighth St.
  • Broadway Skate Park, 1300 W. Broadway
  • CB Rec Complex, 2900 Richard Downing Ave.
  • Cochran Park, 100 S. 21st St.
  • Dream Playground, located inside Lake Manawa State Park at 93 Dreamland Road
  • Fairmount Park, East Graham and Park Entrance
  • Graham Park, Frank Street and Gleason Avemue
  • Iowa West Foundation Trailhead Park, Harry Langdon Boulevard and East South Omaha Bridge Road (near the entrance to the Wabash Trace Trail)
  • Kimball Park, 1801 N. Broadway
  • Kirn Park, 100 1/2 Fifth Ave.
  • Malmore Park, 3600 Scott Drive
  • Peterson Park, 2500 S. Eighth St.
  • Prospect Park, 100 Harrison St.
  • Roberts Park, 1000 N. 25th St.
  • Sternhill Park, 1031 N. Eighth St.
  • Sunset Park, 1000 16th Ave.
  • Trolley Park, 2803 Ave. B
  • Twin City Park, 3300 Renner Drive
  • Valley View Park, 1300 Franklin Ave.
  • Westwood Park, 1200 S. 35th St.

Follow the City of Council Bluffs on social media to get updates on activities held in parks around the city. Most activities are free and include live concert series, movie screenings, and festivals.

The best parks for outdoor activities

Playgrounds aren’t the only thing found in Council Bluffs parks. Whether you want to hike a trail or fish or mountain bike, you can do it at one of these parks.

Family on a trail at Lewis & Clark Park in Council Bluffs, Iowa
  • Lewis and Clark (19962 Monument Road) is home to multiple hiking and biking trails. In addition to the trails, you’ll find scenic overlooks, historical monuments, picnic tables, public restrooms, and plenty of parking. 
  • Fairmount Park (East Graham Ave and Park Entrance) is located in a surprisingly-hilly part of the city, adding challenging includes to the hiking trails. Because of the hills, though, there’s a nice, scenic overlook. And, as mentioned before, Fairmount Park has a playground and a splash pad.
  • Gibraltar Trailhead (Ninth Avenue and High Street) has picnic tables and direct access to the Fairmount Park hiking trails.
  • Lake Manawa State Park (1100 S. Shore Drive) has paved trails and mountain bike trails, but a lot of people head to the Lake Manawa for water activities and the sandy beach. It’s not uncommon to spot sailboats and water skiers, plus there is an outfitter at Lake Manawa Beach that rents kayaks and paddle boards. There is a fee to access Lake Manawa Beach. There are several shelters and picnic areas inside the park.
  • Narrows River Park (2500 N. 25th St.) has an archery range that’s open to the public. The range includes targets, but other equipment is not provided. Visitors will need to bring their own bows and arrows. The park has a $3 admission since it’s run by the county.
  • Vincent Bluff (Thallas Street) is a quiet and primitive place to explore the Loess Hills while enjoying expansive views of Council Bluffs. 

Whether you seek a playground or hiking trail, you’ll find it at one of the many Council Bluffs parks. Parks are a great way to stay active and get exercise at little to no cost!

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