12 Best Winter Activities to Do in Iowa!

Dropping temperatures, slush in the streets and diminishing daylight isn’t going to slow down Iowans in the winter. There are plenty of activities to do in Iowa that will keep you warm and entertained, all season long. Whether you side on the bit more adventurous, like ice climbing a frozen silo, or you’re more interested in the calm that freshly-fallen snow can provide, Iowa has you covered from stocking cap to snow boot. The time is now to check out these 12 great winter activities to do in Iowa.

University of Okoboji Winter Games, Arnolds Park, IA

Come one, come all to the annual University of Okoboji Winter Games. Established in 1981, this winter fest full of fun activities has been growing stronger ever since, adding new activities and drawing bigger crowds of people who don't let a little cold weather slow them down. Polar Plunges, chili cook-offs, and broomball tournaments, you name it! You'll probably find it at the Okoboji Winter Games if it can be done in winter. Great for all ages, don't leave this one off the to-do list if you find yourself in Iowa this winter.

Skiing Sundown Mountain Resort

Whether you are an experienced black-diamond professional or just learning the pizza french-fry technique, the skiing at Sundown in Dubuque, Iowa, has a little something for all. Don't expect avalanche danger or long lift lines at Sundown, but come prepared to have a blast on the 21 different trails Sundown provides. While you are there, don't forget to warm yourself up with some hot cocoa or a chili dog at the adjoining North Lodge (and don't forget to check out their live music calendar on their website!)

Camping at Backbone State Park

Backbone State Park in Dundee, Iowa, is an outdoor gem of the Iowa State Park system year-round, but traveling there in winter is a truly exclusive experience. Don't worry about pitching your tents in the snowbanks, though, because Backbone State Park has 16 different heated cabins you can rent all winter, ensuring you can stay warm between your time exploring the park via snowshoe or ski. Twelve houses can sleep four comfortably, while the remaining four are certified "deluxe" and accommodate up to nine people.

Bald Eagle Appreciation Days, Keokuk, IA

Many of the towns along the Mississippi River in Iowa will give you a chance this winter to see bald eagles flying because the dams and other obstructions in the river provide the birds with an excellent spot to catch some fish. But Keokuk also allows you to learn about these majestic creatures. Complete with exhibits, a woodcarving show, and even an insect zoo courtesy of Iowa State University, this family-friendly event is an easy way to learn about and appreciate Iowa's nature.

Winterfest, Amana, IA

Make winter worthy of celebration with Winterfest! Held in late January, this festive event offers a variety of outdoor and indoor activities to help you embrace the cold season. Trade those snow boots for your dancing shoes and prepare to make the most of this Saturday - Winterfest style!

Decorah Ski Trails, Decorah, IA

For some of the best cross-country skiing in the state, head on over to the quaint town of Decorah, Iowa. With over 25 miles of groomed trails to skate, ski and explore, the only thing better than the fresh Iowa snow in Decorah is the great winter views these trails provide. After you've tired yourself out on the trails, the town of Decorah itself has enough charm and pleasant places to stay to fill out the weekend nicely.

Sleigh Ride in Jester Park

Feel the enchantment of a winter wonderland as you explore Jester Park with their sleigh or wagon ride. Their dependable four-legged chauffeur will take you on a 30-minute journey through the snow-covered park. Enjoy the peaceful, picturesque scenery of a winter landscape while staying cozy and warm.

Symphony of Lights, Clinton, IA

You don't even have to leave your car to see all the beauty of winter when you drive through Clinton's Symphony of Lights. Standing as a brilliant display of holiday cheer, Symphony of Lights includes over 40 lighted displays and over a half-million supporting lights behind them. A great way to enjoy the winter from the warmth of your car, Clinton isn't the only place to catch such an attraction, but it was one of the few to describe themselves as a Symphony of Lights.

Ice Skating at the Terry Trueblood Recreation Area

Located just south of the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City, the Terry Trueblood Recreation Area and the adjoining Sand Lake offer awesome adventure activities year-round, including ice skating during the winter. Either bring your own pair or rent them from the H20 Center, and skate the day away. Don't expect any Zambonis on this lake however, and be sure to avoid the small collection of ice fishers that also share the space.

Snowshoeing at Pikes Peak State Park

While there are plentiful parks to choose from for your snowshoe adventures in Iowa, Pikes Peak perhaps offers the best views. That's because not only are the limestone bluffs that dominate this part of the state clearly visible, but Pikes Peak also provides access to Iowa's tallest point in elevation, a 500-foot bluff that overlooks the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi River. Make this trek in the winter with your snowshoes on tight, and it will be a snow-fueled memory you'll never forget.

Sledding at Hitchcock Nature Center

The Hitchcock Nature Center, located on the far western border of the state in Pottawattamie County is a joyous destination to head to all year long, but only in winter can you slide down their notorious chute sledding trail. With a few banked turns and a worthy walk back up the hill, this sledding hill can zap the energy out of even the most experienced snow travelers. While you are there, don't miss the opportunities to snowshoe around the area or stay in one of the wintertime cabins.

Big Spirit Lake, Dickinson County, IA

There are a lot of quality ice fishing spots in Iowa, and the catches at Big Spirit Lake in northwestern county of Dickinson make it one of the best. Whether you go all out with a portable shelter or stove, or all you need is a bucket and an ice drill, you can expect to catch some sizable Yellow Perch, Walleye and Black Crappie. And with over 5,000 acres of lake to explore, you won't have any trouble finding that quiet action you're looking for.

This text was created by the author with the assistance of GPT-3, a large-scale language generation model developed by OpenAI. The author reviewed, edited, and revised the draft language to their satisfaction and is fully responsible for the content of this publication.

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