Travel around Iowa on small budget

Emily Barske

If you can’t afford the cost or time for a vacation, you don’t have to cringe with jealousy as your friends and co-workers brag about their mountain climbing escapades or trip to the beach. Here are seven fun adventures you can go on right here in Iowa — and the best part is they don’t take a lot of money or time.

Blank Park Zoo

The Blank Park Zoo is a great place for a family trip, date or learning experience. You’ll see all the animals you’d expect to see at a zoo, as well as enjoy good food, a train ride around the zoo and special daily activities. Open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., “Iowa’s Wildest Adventure” is waiting for you.

Admission is $6 for children, $11 for adults and $9 for seniors. Learn more on its website,, or give it a call at 515-285-4722. 

Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad

All aboard! Travel to Boone for an unforgettable train ride, delightful for any occasion. The train rides last from thirty minutes to a little more than two hours and will take you through a breathtaking view of central Iowa’s wilderness. There are a variety of options to choose, from including dinner or just the ride.

Check out its website,, or give it a call at 1-800-626-0319 to find a ride that will keep you on the fun track this summer.

National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium

Mississippi isn’t just a fun word to spell or to use to count seconds — it’s a symbol of America’s foundation. In Dubuque, you can not only view the Mississippi River, but you can also experience its wonders at the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium. Walk through a variety of displays, animal viewings and interactive exhibits.

Admission is $10 for children, $15 for adults and $13 for seniors. You can learn more about what the adventure will entail on its website,, or by calling 563-557-9545.

Sioux City, Iowa

Up in the northwest corner of Iowa sits a historical town that is a microcosm of the growth of our country. Sioux City, Iowa, is home to historical artifacts of Iowa, as well as national history.

Plan a day to visit Sioux City to dive to into history, taste some great food and attend an entertainment event. Be sure to stop by the Sioux City Public Museum and Sergeant Floyd River Museum. Both museums have free admission and engage all age groups.

If you are feeling hungry for steak, salad, sandwiches and more, be sure to stop by Bev’s on the River.

Visit Sioux City’s visitor website at to find other places to see and entertainment events that will be going on when you plan to visit.

Clear Lake, Iowa

Make a weekend out of outdoor recreation, history, music and family fun in Clear Lake. As one of Iowa’s most popular lakes, Clear Lake has a variety of water activities including boating, swimming, sailing, water skiing and much more.

If lakes aren’t your thing, you can relax on the beach or enjoy shopping downtown. Clear Lake is also home to a variety of places to see, including the Iowa Trolley Park Railroad Museum and plane crash site of Buddy Holly. You can also get lost in the fun at the Fort Custer Maze.

To learn more about what Clear Lake has to offer you, visit their website at

Independence, Iowa

If you’re looking for a place where you can kick back and relax, you’ll love visiting Independence. The quiet, welcoming atmosphere that Independence offers is great for an outing. While you’re there, be sure to visit the Wapsipinicon Feed Mill and Dam, which is located on the Wapsipinicon River and is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.

Right across from the dam is Bill’s Pizza, where you can find great food for lunch or supper. You can also go to Heartland Acres Agribition Center for activities for kids and adults. If you are interested in seeing a race, look into the races at Independence Motor Speedway.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s home outside of Quasqueton is just a short drive from Independence.

Council Bluffs, Iowa

Spend some time outdoors in Council Bluffs at Bayliss Park or at Lake Manawa State Park. You can also view the beautiful countryside that surrounds the Lewis and Clark Monument. The Historic Squirrel Cage Jail, which features a revolving jailhouse that is among a select few of its kind still standing in the nation, is a great place for history buffs. Find more attractions and recreation activities on their travel website at

Also, Omaha is only a short drive from Council Bluffs if you are interested in visiting a big city.