10 Places to Travel on a Budget: Iowa

Here are 10 great places to travel on a budget in Iowa. Most people on vacation want places to "go and see" as well as "go and do". Fortunately, Iowa has many destinations that fit our criteria.  I've stuck to places we've personally been to, so this list is far from complete!

  1. Dolliver State Park.  You don't get more budget friendly that the great outdoors! Iowa has 70 state parks, but Dolliver I know intimately.  Splash in the creek, watch the Des Moines River flow by, or look for local wildlife. Like hiking? Check out the Copperas Beds or climb to  hidden "Indian Mounds". ( 2757 Dolliver Park Avenue,  Lehigh Iowa 50557. (515) 359-2539.)
  2. Blank Park Zoo.  This little zoo, with a maximum price of $10.95, is pretty budget friendly. I've been to bigger but  Blank Park holds a special place in my heart. Great extras (like feeding giraffes!) are fun for everyone. It's nice for kids as you can cover the zoo in a few hours. (7401 SW 9th Street, Des Moines Iowa 50315.  (515) 285-4722.) 
  3. Science Center Of Des Moines.   Another family attraction with IMAX theatre, planetarium,  live presentations, and traveling exhibits. Best of all are hands-on exhibits built to experience science in action. General Admission is a maximum of $10.00 .  It's a budget-friendly place for all ages. (401 West Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway, Des Moines, IA 50309.  (515) 274-6868.)
  4. Des Moines Botanical Center.   I love wandering and exploring here (Star fruit actually growing on a tree!). This is a peaceful destination with a low maximum price of $5.00 .There isn't as much hands-on action, but the center offers a scavenger hunt and other activities. ( 909 Robert D. Ray Drive, Des Moines Iowa 50316. (515) 323-6290.)
  5. Living History Farms.  Most Iowa kids have taken a field trip here. This living museum gives a glimpse into the lives of (according the the Website)  "the 1700 Ioway Indians, the 1850 pioneers, the townspeople of 1875 and 1900 farmers". It never ceases to amaze kids (and some adults)  that people lived in a time without television and the Internet.  Plenty of hands-on activities, and at a max price of $10.75,  it's pretty easy on the budget. (11121 Hickman Road, Urbandale, Iowa 50322. (515) 278-5286.) 
  6. Des Moines Art Center. We went to the Des Moines Art Center to see Grant Wood's "American Gothic" on temporary display. Equally impressive is a permanent collection of works by artists including Matisse, Pollock, and O'Keefe (my favorite!).  Not big fun for small children as it's hands off for the most part, but admission is free. (4700 Grand Avenue,Des Moines, Iowa 50312-2099.  (515) 277-4405.)
  7. National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium.  This place has a little bit of everything, including history, science, and live animals. At a max price of $10.50, this is a great family destination. And affiliation with the Smithsonian brings special exhibits. (We saw Kermit!) (350 East 3rd Street, Port of Dubuque, Dubuque, Iowa 52001. (563) 557-9545.)
  8. Effigy Mounds. This national monument is an amazing stop. Over 200 ceremonial mounds representing twelve American Indian tribes are located here. 31 are effigies in the shape of bears or birds. This is another free destination with hiking trails and guided tours available. (151 Highway 76, Harpers Ferry, Iowa 52146. (563) 873-3491.)
  9. Bily Clocks Museum and Antonin Dvorak Exhibit. The unassuming town of Spillville holds this wondrous and whimsical museum. The clocks are amazing works of moving art, even more amazing because they were made by two farming brothers. The Bily clocks share space with exhibits on Antonin Drorak, who composed his "American Quartette" in Spillville.  The current fee wasn't available, but it's generally inexpensive. (323 S. Main Street, Spillville, Iowa 52168. (563) 562-3569.) 
  10. Spook Cave. This cave near McGregor, Iowa is a little tourist-y as the tour comes complete with a ghost story, but at a max price of $10.00, it's affordable and fun. It's unique as you get to boat through the cave, which makes it easier on little legs than a traditional cave walk. (13299 Spook Cave Road, Mc Gregor, Iowa 52157-8699.  (563) 873-2144.)

  Hope you find a few places to visit here. Happy exploring!


Dolliver State Park

Blank Park Zoo

Science Center of Des Moines

Des Moines Botanical Center

Living History Farms

Des Moines Art Center

National Mississippi River Museum

Effigy Mounds

Billy Clocks Museum

Spook Cave

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