Budget Friendly Okoboji Vacation

We often get asked about free, discounted, or budget friendly itineraries for an Okoboji family vacation.  This post will give you a whole week's worth of ideas that will NOT break the bank and allow you to come back to Okoboji soon.

Okoboji Beach

Sunday:  Arrive and get checked into your home away from home for the week.  There are many budget friendly options in Okoboji and many of them are recently renovated.  The Super 8 in Spirit Lake is just minutes from all the action has recently undergone a fantastic renovation, includes continental breakfast, and a fire pit and grilling area out front.  Just down the road the Great Lakes Inn has been refreshed with new bedding, carpet and fixtures and offers a newly remodeled continental breakfast area.  The Roadway Inn in Milford features an indoor pool and hot tub as well as continental breakfast. Big Spirit Resort, a brand new place to stay in the Lakes area, has fully equipped kitchens where you can cook many of your meals to save on the budget.  Click here to discover more great lodging options. Camping at one of our many local campgrounds is also a fun and affordable option.  Reservations can be made 30 days in advance at State Campgrounds.   You'll also want to plan a few fun restaurants to refuel at during your trip!  Click here to discover all of the dining options in Okoboji.

Super 8 hotel room

Super 8, Spirit Lake

Big Spirit Resort

Big Spirit Resort, Spirit Lake

Emerson Bay

Ermerson Bay Campground

Monday = Museum Day! The personality of Okoboji has been shaped by its significant history. Our local museums can help take you on a trip through time in learning about how this place came to be and almost all of them will NOT cost you anything although you are always welcome to give a donation.  The newest addition to the museum scene is the Arnolds Park Fun House Museum where you can view the sugar bowl, barrel and ride down the wooden slide for $1 a ride or an Arnolds Park day pass! While there you can also check out the Iowa Great Lakes Maritime Museum and the Iowa Rock N Roll Museum.  Just down the road you can make a stop at the Abbie Gardner Cabin and Museum.  Before you go grab a sandwich at Jimmy John's and enjoy it in the Arnolds Park Shelter House by the Abbie Gardner Cabin. Next head North to  the Higgins Museum of Money and The Westport Rural School  which showcases an original one-room school house.    Click here to learn more information about where to find all of the great museums Okoboji has to offer!

Funhouse Museum

Arnolds Park Funhouse Mueum

Abbie Gardner Cabin Tour

Abbie Gardner Cabin

Higgins Museum

Higgins Museum of Money

TWO-FER Tuesday!  Pack a sack lunch and spend all day exploring the Pearson Lakes Art Center and Dickinson County Nature Center, all at no cost!  Start the day admiring the art studios and enjoying hands on exhibits for the kids in the Art Smart Gallery.   Then skip on over to the Dickinson County Nature Center along the paved art trail.  The Nature Center will provide hours of fun as the kids explore the glacial trail and other habitats in addition to the many other hands-on exhibits inside.  You will all be wowed by the new addition Pollinator Paradise with the human sized honey comb the kids can climb and crawl through!  Outside you can enjoy your lunch on the beautiful patio overlooking prairie and wetland areas and then the kids can burn off more energy at the fantastic Nature Playscape. Surrounding the Nature Center is Kenue Park which features Ranger Rick’s Geocache Trails, mowed trails through the prairie and around the wetland that is home to two rehabilitated trumpeter swans, an 18-hole professional level disc golf course,  and paved trails that are a part of the Dickinson County Trails system.


Nature Center Display

Dickinson County Nature Center

Pearson Lakes Art Center with pond

Pearson Lakes Art Center

Wild Wednesday!  Maybe today is the day to splurge a little and head to Arnold's Park Amusement Park for a full day of thrills on the rides. There are several day pass options which can include just the amusement park rides  or add on the Go Carts and a ride on the Queen II.  Click HERE to check out all the options. (Insiders Tip: Follow Arnolds Park on Facebook and watch for discounted day passes at Christmas time and Easter)  On your way in the park be sure to stop and play the fabulous instruments at Harmony Park outside the Queen's Court Shops. You can find lunch at the snack bar in the park or just outside the Park at Godfather's Pizza.  Pirate's Cove Mini golf, located just outside the park, is a kid favorite also!  Find a coupon for $1 off per player at the Iowa Welcome Center at the Maritime Museum outside Arnolds Park.  When hunger strikes for supper be sure to head up the hill along the lake to Bob's for a Iowa famous loose meat sandwich, Bob Dog and Ice Cream.

Roller Coaster Arnold's Park Amusement Park[/caption]

Kids Ride

Arnolds Park Amusement Park


Harmony Park

Thursday Splash!  Yes it's FINALLY BEACH time!  Okoboji boasts many beautiful, well kept sandy beaches which provide free fun all day long!  So grab your chair, towel, sand toys and pack a lunch because you can play all day at our beaches!  State Park beaches include Gull Point State Park and Pikes Point State Park.  Popular city beaches include Arnold's Park City Beach in Smith's Bay by the Dry Dock ( a great place for lunch), Terrace Park Beach in West Okoboji (with new restroom facilities), and Ainsworth-Orleans Beach on the south shore of Spirit Lake is right next to the Spillway Drive In where you can have ice cream or lunch. Recently, the beach in front of  Arnolds Park Amusement park and Preservation Plaza was recognized as one of the "7 Gorgeous Beaches In The Midwest" by Livability.com. Click here for a list of local beaches.  For more wet fun make sure to check out the Splash Pad at Memorial Park in Spirit Lake!  For a night of dinner and cheap entertainment head to The Barefoot Bar for Big Nacho Karaoke, kids can even join in the karaoke fun early in the evening.


Terrace Park Beak

Pikes Point Beach

Pikes Point State Park

Splash Pad

Splash Pad, Memorial Park

FRIDAY FUN fishing and trails!  You can throw a line along just about any lakeshore or public dock and it won't be long until you are reeling something in.  Just make sure kids 16 years and older have a valid Iowa fishing license.  Whether you brought your bikes or just want to take a nature walk Okoboji boasts over 40 miles of paved bike and walking trails for your enjoyment.  You can also take a nature hike at Horsehoe Bend Park, Kettelson Hogsback, or the Gull Point Interpretive trail.  All hold all the beauty of our area and you are sure to see some beautiful birds and wildlife along the way!  Cool off at Treasure Village with a round of storybook themed Mini-golf and an old fashioned hand dipped ice cream cone!


Trail by lake

Grassy trail

Horseshoe Bend Park

Mini Golf

Treasure Village Mini-Golf

Last Chance Saturday!  Today is the perfect day to relax or repeat anything you have done or must do again! Lunch at The Okoboji Store , The Barefoot Bar, or Snappers can double for a fun afternoon of food and entertainment.  At the Okoboji Store there are legos, a basketball court and corn hole for the kids to enjoy, while the adults sit back and enjoy live music and a perfect Okoboji day! While eating at The Barefoot or Snappers the kids can play on a playground, drive tractors or play corn hole. While you eat and the kids play you can share your favorite memories of the week and begin planning your next Okoboji vacation! End the night at Preservation Plaza where there is a free concert starting at 7:30 and ending at 10:30 with fireworks over West Lake Okoboji (concerts and fireworks weekly mid June - Labor Day weekend).  Bring a lawn chair or blanket and sit down and relax and one of the most beautiful FREE live music venues you will find anywhere!

Okoboji Store Docks

Okoboji Store


Fireworks, Photo By David Thoreson

Concert view from sky