30 Things to do in Okoboji

Along the eastern side of West Okoboji Lake in the Iowa Great Lakes region, the city of Okoboji is located in Dickinson County, Iowa, in the United States. 768 people were living there as of the 2020 Census.

In all of Iowa, Okoboji is regarded as a top summer vacation spot. People frequently return to this small lakeside community in Dickinson County for a variety of reasons, primarily because of the beautiful surroundings and outdoor activities.

This Iowan tiny town on the banks of West Okoboji Lake is a well-liked holiday spot and would be ideal for a weekend getaway. This city is growing in popularity mostly because of its retro-style attractions, such as its old amusement park and traditional comfort food, in addition to the fact that it is close to West Okoboji Lake. Additionally, it embraces the newest trends in modern entertainment.

Many tourists who choose to take a holiday in Okoboji will find that the city is full of surprises. The gorgeous, outdoor-activities-filled lakes that were sculpted by glaciers are, of course, its biggest draws.

List of things to do in Okoboji

Here is the list of activities and fun things to do in Okoboji.

1. West Lake Okoboji

West Lake Okoboji

On a surface area of 15.57 square kilometers, West Okoboji Lake covers more than 3,800 acres. Due to its gorgeous blue waters and outdoor enjoyment, this large natural body of water is one of Iowa’s most well-known tourist attractions.

The Dakota Sioux or the Santee people once called West Okoboji Lake, one of the Iowa Great Lakes, home. When you get to Okoboji, you should first visit West Okoboji Lake to take in its majestic beauty.

This lake has been mentioned in several tales as one of the three blue water lakes in the world due to its natural beauty. The other two are Lake Geneva in Switzerland and Lake Louise in Canada.

The West Okoboji Lake is well known for swimming, boating, sailing, fishing, and water skiing in addition to its natural beauty. Due to the large number of fish hatcheries in this lake, experienced anglers are guaranteed to land the catch of a lifetime. There are lots of bluegills, yellow perch, and walleye at West Okoboji Lake.

2. Abbie Gardner Cabin

Abbie Gardner Cabin Okoboji

Abbie Gardner Cabin, at 13, and her family were murdered by Dakota Indian tribe members in 1857, a time of escalating hostilities between Native Americans and European settlers. The Spirit Lake Massacre is the name given to this atrocity.

The Dakota band kidnapped young Abbie; she was freed 84 days later. Abbie returned to Arnolds Park decades after the tragedy, in 1891, and bought the cabin, running it as one of Iowa’s first tourist destinations.

3. East Lake Okoboji

East Lake Okoboji

There are numerous lakes on your itinerary while in Okoboji. The East Okoboji Lake, which covers more than 1,800 acres and is also a component of the Iowa Great Lakes, is one of the nicest lakes you should see.

Earlier, the Eastern Dakota Sioux or the Santee people made this lake their home, just like West Okoboji Lake did. This lake provides a more peaceful experience than West Okoboji Lake because it is less busy there.

Expect a mix of business and residential properties there because it’s also one of Okoboji’s most popular residential zones. In addition to its serene atmosphere, East Okoboji Lake is a great location for outdoor pursuits like boating, swimming, and fishing.

4. Arnolds Park Amusement Park 

Arnolds Park Amusement Park  Okoboji

Fans are drawn to Arnolds Park Amusement Park in Okoboji, which has been a popular tourist destination for more than a century, by the vintage rides that are located near the lake. Don’t forget to ride the 1930-built wooden coaster Legend Roller Coaster and take in the sunset from the lakefront Ferris Wheel.

All summer long, the Arnolds Park Preservation Plaza will host free musical performances and fireworks every Saturday. The outside green area, which is close to the theme park, makes for the ideal place to unwind after a fun-filled day. Lay out on a picnic blanket and take in some live music before watching fireworks over the lake as an encore. For a complete list of performances, visit the website of Arnolds Park Amusement Park.

5. Pearson Lakes Art Center

Pearson Lakes Art Center Okoboji

Visit the lovely Pearson Lakes Art Center in Okoboji. This amazing location has five galleries, a 288-seat theatre, and an outdoor sculpture trail. Not to mention that the Pearson Lakes Art Center is a school.

For individuals who desire to improve their craft, it has a clay area, a culinary arts kitchen, and various courses. Visit Pearson Lakes Art Center if you want to see Okoboji’s local arts scene in action. This location frequently hosts a wide variety of interesting art exhibits, activities, and live performances. So, include visiting this art gallery when you are in Okoboji.

6. Pikes Point State Park

Pikes Point State Park Okoboji

Go to Pikes Point State Park if you’re looking for another great swimming area in West Okoboji Lake. Within the swimming section of the beach, this attraction has a hip swim platform that visitors frequently leap onto.

Pikes Point State Park provides a variety of outdoor recreation options in addition to its well-known beach. In addition to swimming beach and camping, some guests stay at the Gull Point Lodge for a more luxurious vacation.

In addition, you shouldn’t skip out on hiking, a popular outdoor pastime. The West Okoboji Lake is traversed via a trail that extends for more than two miles.

7. Maritime Museum 

Maritime Museum Okoboji

The Iowa Great Lakes Maritime Museum is an essential component of your Arnolds Park experience, regardless of your age, whether you are a native of Okoboji or a visitor. Each walking tour lasts 30 to 60 minutes and is available to both the general public and students in elementary, high school and college.

Volunteer guides lead the tours. Bookings for group excursions should be made three weeks in advance. Large groups are divided into small groups. It is advised that there be one adult for every ten students in school groups.

The ideal number of students for a school visit is thirty. The museum is ADA-compliant. There isn’t a lunchroom at the museum, but Arnolds Park has several excellent restaurants. The Maritime Museum’s gift shop is stocked with shirts, postcards, mementos, and unique Queen II and Park items.

8. Dickinson County Nature Center

Dickinson County Nature Center Okoboji

If you’re interested in Okoboji’s history and native flora and fauna, the Dickenson County Nature Center is an incredible destination.

Visitors to the nature center can take part in year-round environmental education activities while exploring several pathways that pass through Dickinson County’s native fauna. You’ll see native gardens, a butterfly house, an indoor beehive, and an osprey nest cam on your tour.

The Dickinson County Nature Center also houses an art gallery with stunning creations by regional artists from Okoboji. Additionally, there is a science-themed children’s play area where they can have a blast while also learning.

9. Okoboji Summer Theatre

Okoboji Summer Theatre

A visit to Okoboji wouldn’t be complete without taking in a performance at the Summer Theatre. The theatre, which is run by Stephens College students and staff in Missouri, normally presents four Boji Bantam Children’s Theatre shows and nine mainstage productions each summer.

 A working professional summer stock theatre company is Okoboji Summer Theatre Company. OST aids students in developing all facets of skill and is a crucial part of Stephens’ musical theatre, acting, technical theatre, and costume design departments.

Students collaborate closely with teachers, working professionals, and nationally renowned guest artists. Additionally, students learn how to manage a company, how the various elements of theatre must work together harmoniously, and how to advertise not just the company’s works but also one’s professional brand. For the most recent showings information, visit the website.

10. Hike or Bike along Okoboji’s Lakes

Hike or Bike along Okoboji's Lakes

Going outside and exploring Okoboji on foot or on a bike is one of the best ways to take in its natural beauty. Explore the more than 60 miles of beautiful pathways along the beaches of Okoboji’s renowned lakes by hiking or biking as part of your program.

Along with traversing these lakes, your outdoor journey will also take you through beautiful parks. Elinor Bedell State Park, Gull Point State Park, Venue Park, etc. are a few of the parks you’ll pass through.

You can take a break while traveling there to take in their natural beauty before carrying on. Of course, Okoboji has more undiscovered treasures waiting to be found along the way.

11. Okoboji Classic Cars

Okoboji Classic Cars

Okoboji Classic Cars, often known as the “Midwest’s Ultimate Man Cave,” has a full-service classic automobile repair business as well as a custom car showroom. View a life-size model of Spencer, Iowa’s Main Street in the 1950s, a 28,000 square-foot mural of Arnolds Park and West Lake Okoboji in the 1960s, a collection of vintage autos, and more. The 1950s and 1960s background music adds to the feeling of time travel.

For classic vehicle fans, gearheads, art collectors, and families searching for a special experience while in the area, Okoboji Classic Cars are the place to go.

You can only find this kind of gift shop at Okoboji Classic Automobiles, where you can find everything from wearables for every season to die-cast model cars.

A team of experts at Okoboji Classic Cars can oversee your restoration project from beginning to end, providing a one-stop restoration service.

12. Okoboji Boat Works Marina Boating

Okoboji Boat Works Marina Boating

Take a boat tour over West Okoboji Lake’s sparkling waters for an unforgettable experience during your visit to Okoboji. If you think this was a worthwhile experience, go to the marina at the Original Okoboji Boat Works and take a boat trip to West Okoboji Lake with other visitors.

This business is well-known for offering boat rentals, boat cruises, and extreme water activity rentals throughout Dickinson County. If you’re looking for more excitement, you may hire a variety of watercraft, including kayaks, paddle boats, water skis, wave runners, and jet skis.

The sole marina in West Lake Okoboji is the Okoboji Boat Works Marina. It was founded in 1890 and is still in business today, offering hourly and seasonal boat slip rentals.

13. Mini golf

Mini golf Okoboji

There are many mini golf courses in the Okoboji area, and the grass is always green there. Putt among pirates on the 18-hole adventure course at Pirate’s Cove, enter the world of your favorite kids’ books on each of Treasure Village’s 27 holes, or travel down the yellow brick road to the Wizard of Oz-themed course at Ranch Okoboji (while sipping a beverage from the ranch’s Margarita’s Bar).

The finest location to go in Okoboji for family-friendly entertainment is Ranch Okoboji. Ranch Okoboji also has a sand volleyball court, a horseshoe pit, a bocce ball court, and a children’s playground in addition to its outdoor miniature golf course.

After a strenuous yet entertaining round of mini golf, treat yourself or your family to something tasty from the ranch’s clubhouse menu.

14. Superior 71 Drive-in Theater

Superior 71 Drive-in Theater Okoboji

Superior 71 is a two-screen drive-in cinema that is situated about 11 miles to the northeast of the Okoboji region. The theatre offers double features all summer long, so you may watch two movies for the price of one. As you enjoy popcorn, nachos, or other concession stand fare, relax in the comfort of your automobile or set up camp in a truck bed. Embrace the show.

15. Barefoot Bar at Okoboji

Barefoot Bar at Okoboji

Be sure to unwind at the Barefoot Bar at Okoboji before going home. In general, Okoboji boasts a great selection of relaxing bars and eateries. However, Barefoot Bar is a special location you shouldn’t skip going to.

On the Parks Marine, close to the lake, is this well-known pub in Okoboji. It provides visitors with a welcoming setting together with enjoyable music, delectable food, and energizing drinks. Don’t worry if you’re traveling with children; you can leave them at the playground while you relax at the restaurant.

16. Maxwell’s Beach Cafe

Maxwell's Beach Cafe Okoboji

On the riverfront, eat expensive fares like lobster tails and a rack of lamb. Maxwell’s, which is situated on the river and is across from the Queen II and the entrance to the Historic Arnold’s Park Amusement Park, serves great dining in one of its casually elegant dining rooms, a covered, heated terrace, or an open patio.

17. Gull Point State Park & Beach

Gull Point State Park & Beach Okoboji

Go to Gull Point State Park & Beach on the beaches of West Okoboji Lake if you’re itching for a worthwhile swim. It has a distinctive environment with a lovely lake that is perfectly pure and provides everyone with lovely outdoor leisure.

This well-known outdoor attraction is located on Milford’s Harpen Street. It features a wonderful location where everyone may enjoy a top-notch swimming and tanning experience.

Along with offering fantastic swimming opportunities, Gull Point State Park and Beach is a favorite destination due to its superb fishing.

On the other side, this destination is well known for its boating and other water sports. Additionally, you can spend the night there and camp there or hike along its 1.3-kilometer attractive walk to see the local fauna.

18. Nutty Bar Stand

Nutty Bar Stand Okoboji

Since 1945, The Nutty Bar Stand has been offering delectable, handcrafted confections. Despite a recent refurbishment, it still has the timeless appeal that has made it a fixture of the Okoboji region for nearly eight decades. Of course, the Nutty Bar, a block of Blue Bunny vanilla ice cream covered in chocolate and dusted with nuts, is their specialty. Frozen bananas wrapped in chocolate and homemade root beer floats are other popular treats.

The ice cream delight for which we are renowned! Handcrafted in-house, The Nutty Bar. It’s a vanilla ice cream block on a stick. Gourmet chocolate is used to coat the ice cream before it is wrapped in chopped peanuts. In the summer, it is the ideal pleasure.

They produce numerous additional mouthwatering goodies in-house in addition to the Nutty Bar. A drink of our home-brewed Root Beer served in a frosty mug goes perfectly with a Nutty Bar. Additionally, we are pleased to offer you our freshly produced drumsticks and frozen bananas.

19. The Waterfront American Grille

The Waterfront American Grille Okoboji

The place to go for gourmet dining delicacies like diver scallops and fillet mignon is this year-round restaurant next to Bracco.

On the beaches of Lake Okoboji, there is a restaurant called The Waterfront Grille. Waterfront Grille serves steak, seafood, spaghetti, pizza, burgers, specialty crepes, entrée salads, appetizers, and more at a short distance from the Bridges Bay Resort area. Additionally, a sizable gluten-free menu is available upon request. We are eager to assist you.

20. Boji Splash Indoor Waterpark


Boji Splash Indoor Waterpark Okoboji

In Arnolds Park, there is a trendy indoor attraction called Boji Splash Indoor Water Park. Bring your family or friends along to Boji Splash Indoor Water Park so you can enjoy all of its amazing water elements, including a sizable swimming pool, lazy river, slides, and splash pads.

Its pirate-themed elements, which include water cannons and will keep your youngsters entertained all day, will make sure they have fun. If you’re not in the mood to go outside, Boji Splash Indoor Water Park is a great option.

So, when you’re in Okoboji, be sure to visit this indoor water park.

21. Iowa Great Lakes Trails

Iowa Great Lakes Trails Okoboji

The Iowa Great Lakes Trail circles the lakes and passes by Spirit Lake, Okoboji, West Okoboji, Arnolds Park, Milford, and Lake Park in the Iowa Great Lakes region.

The 14-mile hard-surface route that serves as the system’s “spine” allows for two-way recreational traffic. There are various routes to explore that connect to the spine trail.

22. Topog Coffeehouse

Topog Coffeehouse Okoboji

Topog Coffeehouse, which opened in the Okoboji region in 2021, is already a crowd favorite. Pick from a selection of hand-dipped ice cream, homemade baked goods, grab-and-go meal options, and coffees. You can either take sweets to go or savor your pleasures in a casual, contemporary setting. Both the beach and the amusement park are accessible by foot.

23. Okoboji Bible Conference

Okoboji Bible Conference

It’s possible to develop your faith in a special way at the Okoboji Bible Conference. From July 30 to August 5, the 88th Annual Conference will take place. The entire week is run entirely on free-will donations, and it is open to everyone and free of charge. There are different displays for people of all ages. The worship is lively, and the instruction is interesting.

Discover more about the rental options, year-round ministry, and leadership development by seeing the whole Okoboji Bible Conference program.

24. Fillenwarth Beach Resort

Fillenwarth Beach Resort Okoboji

On West Lake Okoboji, the state’s top natural lake, in the town of Arnolds Park, northwest Iowa, is where you’ll find Fillenwarth Beach. Our ideal location offers quick access to the best experiences available in the Iowa Great Lakes Region and will entice you to return again and again.

All of these residences are situated on West Lake Okoboji’s lakefront, two blocks from the theme park. Each Chateau Suite has a private terrace, a gas grill, and outdoor dining. The Boardwalk Apartments share a non-smoking lakefront terrace with communal gas grills, tables, and chairs.

A group of unique cottages, duplexes, and apartments make up the Cottage Colony, which is situated on generous, beautifully manicured grounds across from the Main Beach.

Our outdoor pool, playground, sand volleyball field, and spacious picnic area with picnic tables are all located here. Each cottage features a deck or patio with a gas grill and space for outdoor dining. Come and experience the ideal summer getaway created by three generations of the Fillenwarth family.

Our treatment of you is influenced by our ten decades of experience. We enjoy life with our visitors and have been residents and care for a very long time. Count on us for a memorable trip to Okoboji.

25. Parks Marina

Parks Marina Okoboji

Parks Marina is a destination for the Iowa Great Lakes lifestyle, not your standard marina. They showcase the top boat manufacturers in the business, including South Bay pontoons, Mooma and Supra ski boats, antique wooden boats, Carver Yachts, Harris Flotebote Pontoons, Crownline, Grady White, Scout, and Ski Nautique.

 Parks Marina has won numerous honors from the marine industry, including the Boating Industry Magazine’s Best-In-Class Award for Best Customer Event, the designation of No. 55 dealer in North America on the magazine’s Top 100 List, the No. 1 Crownline dealer for five years in a row, and the No. 3 largest Cobalt dealer in the world. The No.1 Cobalt Salesman in the world is a member of their award-winning sales team.

26. Emerson Bay State Park

Emerson Bay State Park Okoboji

The Emerson Bay State Park near Wahpeton is another outdoor site you shouldn’t miss when in Okoboji. The best camping and picnicking spot in Dickinson County are here, and it’s close to other outdoor attractions.

Emerson Bay State Park contains everything you need, so you don’t need to go anywhere else. A sandy beach and West Okoboji Lake’s crystal clear waters can be found at Emerson Bay State Park.

A large recreation space, a picnic area, and a playground are also present. You and your loved ones will undoubtedly enjoy being here for a day or two while marveling at West Okoboji Lak’s breathtaking environment.

27. Bedell Family YMCA

Bedell Family YMCA Okoboji

One in two people in the Iowa Great Lakes is now impacted by the Bedell Family YMCA. The YMCA offers sports, aquatics, exercise, programs for school-aged children, special events, and more. You’ll feel at home at the Bedell Family YMCA thanks to the caring staff.

28. The INN Hotel

The INN Hotel Okoboji

The Peacock Room has warm, intimate decor and chandeliers with a vintage feel. Perfect for gatherings with 10 to 50 guests, or 75 for standing events.

Their hotel & lounge offers genuinely distinctive spaces with a wide variety of food & drink options, together with a friendly & competent staff to help you plan and execute an extraordinary experience for your guests.

Tavern at the Park offers eating & beverages unlike any other in the Iowa Great Lakes, including handcrafted cocktails & fresh, colorful meals.

29. Harmony Park

Harmony Park Okoboji

The incredible assortment of interactive musical instruments at Harmony Park is astounding. They are certain to make everyone who can hear grin when played! The Queen’s Court Shops are directly across the street from these magnificent instruments. All ages can enjoy playing the instruments, which don’t require any special skills.

30. Higgins Museum

Higgins Museum Okoboji

The history of national banking in the United States from 1863 to 1935 is the sole focus of the Higgins Museum. National bank notes from Iowa and neighboring states are on display, illuminating the heyday of local paper money in America. Open every day from Memorial Day to Labor Day (excluding Mondays). Group tours are offered upon request.

FAQ’s

What makes Okoboji unique?

It is a glacier lake with a maximum depth of 136 feet, making it the deepest natural lake in Iowa. The Wisconsin Glacier formed it 14,000 years ago. The lake that is the most well-known in Iowa gets its cool, clear, and blue water from underground springs. West Okoboji has a maximum width of two miles and a length of around seven miles.

What gives Okoboji its name?

Answer: According to legend, a Chief Okoboji existed, and the lake bears his name. The favored interpretation of the meaning of Okoboji is either “place of rest” or “reeds or rushes.” During the hot season of 1880, Judge Josiah Given made his first visit to the lake.

Conclusion

Because of its magnificent lakes, Okoboji is well-known throughout Iowa, yet its shoreside neighborhood offers a distinctive travel experience for everyone. For those who enjoy the outdoors, especially, Okoboji is full of surprises. For those who want a more tranquil experience, there are also thrilling activities and locations to explore in this well-known vacation spot in Iowa.

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