The 13 Best Picnic Spots in Iowa!

Whether you choose a picnic bench or throw down a blanket in an open green space, there are numerous spots in the state of Iowa to have yourself a nice little picnic. Overlooking the Mississippi River or amongst a sculpture garden, whatever your taste for picnic scenery might be, Iowa has you covered with a wide range of aesthetically-pleasing spots to put down a blanket. To get you started on your picnic planning, check out these 13 best spots for a picnic in Iowa.

John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park, Des Moines, IA

Located smack dab in the middle of Downtown Des Moines, the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park provides the perfect backdrop for a lovely picnic. Whether you choose a bench of spread out a blanket, this 4.4-acre park has something to see in every corner, including of course over 20 sculptures that easily catch your eye.

The Bridges of Madison County, Winterset, IA

Having already spawned a romantic novel of the same name, the Bridges of Madison County just outside of Winterset provides the ideal spot to snack on some lunch while taking in the scenic atmosphere. Quiet and cozy, the Bridges of Madison County only adds to the ambiance of rural Iowa, making for a perfect picnic spot to get away from it all.

Ledges State Park, Madrid, IA

Designated picnic areas are available at Ledges State Park, one of Iowa’s most popular state parks, but visitors can find plenty of other areas to throw a blanket down and enjoy the unique features found in this natural space. Whether you want to go hiking or find some fun on the flowing Des Moines river after your picnic, your options are endless at Ledges State Park, so be sure to pack a big lunch. 

Hickory Hill Park, Iowa City, IA

Hickory Hill Park is a local favorite in the Iowa City area, and on any day of the week during anytime of the year you can find Iowa City denizens exploring the trails. Located on the north side of the city, Hickory Hill does have covered shelters to dine under, but when the weather is nice, or the fall colors are coming to life, it’s always pleasant to sit down on the manicured grass and enjoy your picnic. 

McFarland Park, Ames, IA

McFarland Park, located just northeast of the Iowa State University campus, not only has all the amenities you’d want for an excellent picnic spot, but has all the resources needed for a full weekend outdoors. Barbeque pits, camping spots, plenty of hiking and biking trails and a fully stocked fishing lake, the real question isn’t where to picnic at McFarland Park, but what to do after you’re done eating. 

Central College Pond, Pella, IA

Located between the Maytag Student Center and Jordan Hall on the Central College campus in Pella, the Central College Pond is a perfect spot for picnicking. With a healthy dose of collegiate atmosphere all around, the Central College Pond isn’t an exclusive place just for students, though it has been a part of the Central College history since its inception, and you can be a part of the history or simply enjoy a light snack shore side on your next visit to Pella.

Pikes Peak State Park, McGregor, IA

For one of the best picnics with a view, head on over to Pikes Peak State Park and head up to the Point Ann overlook where there is not only a rustic stone open structure to eat under, but also some of the most beautiful views of the Mississippi Valley you’ll find in the entire region. With over 11 miles of hiking trails, it’s easy to build up an appetite at Pikes Peak State Park, but with enough spots to stop and enjoy the views (and some lunch), all your hungers will be satisfied at this popular Iowa State Park. 

Eagle Point Park, Dubuque, IA

Featuring a stunning tristate view of Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois, punctuated by the Mighty Mississippi River, Eagle Point Park is one sight to see that should be required in the state of Iowa. With manicured lawns, plenty of picnic benches and of course that view that can’t be beat, even if you are not in the area it’s worth traveling to Eagle Point Park for your next picnic outing.

F.W. Kent Park, Oxford, IA

The scenic 1,052 acres that comprise F.W. Kent Park contains some of the most scenic Iowa recreation access found anywhere else in the state. With a 27-acre lake at the heart of it, plus over nine miles of maintained hiking trails, including of course both playgrounds and covered shelters perfect for family picnics, with only one trip to F.W. Kent Park will you realize that this is one county park worth revisiting.

Speier Park, Okoboji, IA

Almost anywhere around Lake Okoboji makes for a scenic picnic spot, and Speier Park is a prime example of that. Featuring picnic shelters and tennis courts, what clearly draws the afternoon attention to Speier Park is the lakeshore location and access to water activities. Whether you stick to the land or put on a personal flotation device to go for a swim, Speier Park is an excellent place to live out a Lake Okoboji adventure.  

Phelps Park, Decorah, IA

With over eight picnic shelters to choose from, chances are you’ll find a perfect spot to picnic when visiting Phelps Park in Decorah. With so many scenic options to be found throughout the Decorah area, Phelps Park is always on top of the list. The 56 acres to explore includes hiking trails, scenic overlooks and playground equipment, everything you need to build up a healthy appetite for a picnic at the park.

South Ravine Park, Sioux City, IA

There are no picnic shelters at the South Ravine Park, and it certainly isn’t the most popular spot on this list, but South Ravine Park almost relishes in what it doesn’t have. If you are looking for a quiet place to enjoy an afternoon picnic, away from the sights and sounds of everyday life, then the short trip it takes you to get away from it all at South Ravine Park in Sioux City is exactly what you are looking for. 

Lewis and Clark State Park, Onawa, IA

Named after Meriwether Lewis and Captain William Clark, this impressive State Park sits at the shores of Blue Lake, and has ample room for all your picnicking needs. With over 30 acres dedicated towards picnic grounds including tables, charcoal grills and potable water, it’s not uncommon to see many families enjoying the amenities at Lewis and Clark State Park every weekend. While you are there and after you eat, it’s always recommended to check out the impressive keelboat display which is an exact replica of the famous barge that the Lewis and Clark expedition sailed down the river with. 

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22620 County Highway S56, Eldora, IA
Facilities and ActivitiesPicnicking/Shelters/LodgePine Lake offers 4 beautiful picnic areas. One is a quiet river setting near Pine Creek on the ea... Read More
5627 Rock Creek East, Kellogg, IA
Kellogg is three miles west and two miles south of the park. Newton is four miles south and ten miles west on Highway 6 and is the county seat. Gri... Read More
1215 220th Street, Gladbrook, IA
Union Grove State Park, located in northwest Tama County, is a very popular outdoor recreation area. The park was established in 1938. Its focal po... Read More
Fleur Drive, Des Moines, IA
Amenities at Grays Lake include:Boat AccessBoat RentalPicnic AreaBeachTrailsAccessible FacilitiesPlaygroundRestroomsConcessionsGood/Excellent Shore... Read More
811 146th Avenue, Knoxville, IA
Elk Rock State Park is located on Lake Red Rock, one of Iowa's large impoundments. The area had been inhabited by Native Americans dating back more... Read More
16510 118th Avenue, Indianola, IA
Banner Lakes at Summerset State Park, Iowa’s newest state park, is nestled in the rolling landscape between Des Moines and Indianola on Highw... Read More
1515 P Avenue, Madrid, IA
History The wildlife and plant communities are interwoven with the human history of Ledges. Humans have appreciated this unique area for thousands... Read More
North of Keokuk Street, Ackworth, IA
Woodland Mounds State Preserve is a 185-acre area featuring a group of five conical burial mounds dating from the years a.d. 400 to 1100. It is loc... Read More
3155 Walnut Woods Dr. West, Des Moines, IA
Walnut Woods encompasses 260 acres of wooded bottomland along the Raccoon River. Within the park lies a large surviving natural stand of black waln... Read More
1422 165th Street, Hampton, IA
Beed's Lake is a popular boating spot due to its scenic beauty. Motors of any size may be used at "no wake" speeds on the lake. A modern boat ramp ... Read More
16510 118th Avenue, Indianola, IA
A 115-acre man-made lake has a large sandy beach and offers unsupervised swimming. Boats, canoes, kayaks, and paddleboats are available for rent th... Read More
Pilot Mound State Forest contains a mound that was used by the city of Pilot Mound as a natural water tower. The top of this mound is the county's ... Read More
2802 Brushy Creek Road, Lehigh, IA
At over 6,000 acres, Brushy Creek is one of Iowa's largest tracts of public outdoor recreation land. Visitors can get a real sense of being "away f... Read More
120th Lane, Van Meter, IA
Lake ActivitiesThe lake at Badger Creek is by far the most popular natural resource, and thus fishing is the most popular form of recreation. The l... Read More
2757 Dolliver Park Ave., Otho, IA
Facilities and ActivitiesPicnicking/Shelters/LodgeThe two lodges at Dolliver, built during the 1930's, may be rented for day use. They are ideal fo... Read More
1111 N8th St, Chariton, IA
Stephens State Forest is located in south-central Iowa and is divded into seven unit totaling over 15,000 acres. The forest is dispersed over five ... Read More
24550 U.S. Hwy. 34, Chariton, IA
Red Haw State Park has an additional 229 acres south of the existing park designated for public hunting. This area offers upland opportunities and ... Read More
2720 Keomah Lane, Oskaloosa, IA
Lake Keomah State Park is 366 acres of beautiful woods and water. Lovely shaded picnic areas are nestled between the arms of the 83 acre man-made l... Read More
3659 Wyth Road, Waterloo, IA
George Wyth State Park is located on the Cedar River within the Waterloo-Cedar Falls metropolitan area. Its large expanse of woodland is abundant w... Read More
1900 Pammel Park Road, Winterset, IA
Recreational opportunities abound. Individual park development varies from full utility camping and shelter facilities to undeveloped natural areas... Read More
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