Okoboji is the summer playground of Iowa. And the winter playground of Iowa. Well really, any time of year is a good time to visit the region because there’s always fun things to do in Okoboji.
Where is Okoboji, Iowa?
Okoboji is a region in northern Iowa and consists of several towns on the edge of the Iowa Great Lakes. Pretty much, you’re in “Okoboji” if you stay somewhere along the lakes of West Okoboji, East Okoboji, Upper Gar, Lower Gar, Minnewashta, and the largest natural lake in Iowa, Spirit Lake. Most of the lakes, except Spirit Lake, are interconnected.
There is an Okoboji, Iowa, but I find that most people mean other places throughout the region when they say they’re going to Okoboji.
Things to do in the spring in Okoboji
Midwest spring weather is typically cool and wet, and that’s the case for the Okoboji region as well. In March, temperatures will average at about 37 degrees and increase until about an average temperature of 71 in May. In the evenings, temperatures can and will dip below freezing.
(Here’s a look at some weather data for Arnolds Park)
With that said, indoor options are my go-to recommendations for spring in Okoboji.
- Bridges Bay Resort has a the area’s only indoor water park, Boji Splash. It is a good choice for families looking for water fun. There are several watersides and a dump bucket.
- Pearson Arts Center is a free option that’s great for all ages. Don’t miss the Russian Impressionist gallery, it’s an impressive collection. If you have young children, visit the Art Smart Gallery for hands-on creative play. You may even be able to get tickets to a live performance at the arts center.
- You don’t have to wait for Arnolds Park to open, you can get a taste of the park at the Historic Arnolds Park Museum. This is an especially great stop if you remember going to Arnolds Park as a kid because they have the colorful wooden slide in there. For a small fee, you can slide down it and relive your youth (or if you have a day pass to the park, you can go down it unlimited times). Peek at the Maritime Museum while you’re there.
Things to do in the summer in Okoboji
Summer is tourist season in the region, and for good reason: Lakes and sunshine and school break are an unbeatable combo. Weather is humid in the summer with highs ranging from the upper 70s and low 80s.
- Arnolds Park Amusement Park is a legend in the Okoboji area. Many of the rides from its early days are still in operation, plus some great new attractions. The park opens for the season on May 21, 2022. The wooden rollercoaster is one of the oldest in the U.S. You can pay per ride or purchase a day pass.
- Hit the beach – there’s plenty to choose from: Gull Point Sate Park on the southwest shore of West Lake Okoboji; Arnolds Park City Beach off Highway 71 in Smith’s Bay on West Lake Okoboji; Arnold’s Park Amusement Park Beach on West Lake Okoboji; Orleans Beach on the southwest shore of Spirit Lake; City Park on the south shore of Silver Lake at Lake Park; Emerson Bay State Park at the Emerson Bay campground on West Lake Okoboji; Okoboji Boat Works Beach in Smith’s Bay on West Lake Okoboji; Marble Beach on the western shore of Big Spirit Lake; Terrace Park Beach in Brown’s Bay on West Lake Okoboji; and Pikes Point State Park on the northeastern shore of West Lake Okoboji.
- If you have a boat, use it for fishing, waterskiing or tubing. Boat on up to the Barefoot Bar while you’re at it. Otherwise, consider renting a watercraft or taking a tour on the Queen II. Also, check with your accommodations as some water-front resorts and hotels provide free kayaks, canoes and standup paddle boards for free to guests.
- If you’re visiting with kids, seek out parks for some free fun. We stumbled upon Harmony Park just outside the amusement park. In addition to city and state parks in the area, your accommodations may have a playground as well. (Mine did!)
Related post: Want a lake vacation but a little more low-key? Check out Clear Lake, Iowa!
Things to do in the fall in Okoboji
The weather in Okoboji is still warm in September with a daily average in the low 70s. However, the further into fall we go, the cooler it gets. By October, the average high is in the upper 50s and in November, it drops to mid 40s.
Sill it’s a great time to visit, with the leaves changing in mid- to late-October.
- Dickinson County Nature Center has both indoor and outdoor activities that make for a perfect fall afternoon. Outside, there are trails and a nature playscape for kids. Inside is a very interactive exhibits, including the Pollinator Paradise with a honeycomb climber for young kids. It’s free to visit.
- If you’re outdoorsy, take to the bike trails in the fall. I found that most of Okoboji is bike-friendly with wide trails. The busier the area with attractions, the more likely you’ll be crossing streets. We started a ride from Dickinson Nature Center on our visit.
- Make the most of the fair weather and hit a golf course. Public golf courses include Okoboji View Golf Course. Grab pizza at Pub 19 Bar & Grill afterward.
Things to do in the winter in Okoboji
A lake vacation isn’t top of mind during Iowa winters, unless you’re thinking about Okoboji. Bundle up, though. The average high does not even reach 30 degrees most winter months. Snowfall average for the region is about 39 inches a year.
- Okoboji Classic Cars is for car buffs and even those who know little about them. This impressive collection of cars are displayed along faux cityscapes and backdrops that are fun for photographs. You will have to pay for a guided tour to visit.
- University of Okoboji Winter Games is a four-decade-long tradition around the lakes of Okoboji. And it’s not just a Polar Plunge. Competitions range from broom ball and softball to a chili cook-off and snow pong. There’s also live music each day, a kid’s fun zone, a kite festival, fireworks and a ton more. This year, the Winter Games are Jan. 27-29, 2022.