Empty Nester Okoboji Fall Getaway

Autumn Biking

Whether you are a long time empty nester or experiencing it for the first time we can help you plan a fabulous Okoboji fall getaway to celebrate (or mourn) the empty nest!  Fall is a beautiful and much slower paced time to visit the Iowa Great Lakes while still finding plenty to keep you as busy as you want to be.

 TOP 10 REASONS to Play, Visit, Eat, and Drink in Okoboji this fall!


Okoboji Classic Cars

History buff or not fall is the perfect time to visit Okoboji's many and varied museums.  Our local museums can help take you on a trip through time in learning about how this place came to be! Start at the Iowa Great Lakes Maritime Museum located in the year-round Iowa Welcome Center and gift shop.  The friendly folks here can help point you in the direction of anything going on in Okoboji!  The Maritime Museum itself houses an impressive collection of antique wooden boats, maritime history, and amusement park memorabilia including the wooden slide, barrel and sugar bowl.  While here you can also swing through the Iowa Rock 'N Roll museum which preserves the legacy of Rock 'N Roll in Iowa.  We are not exaggerating when we say you could spend ALL DAY at the Clark Museum in Milford.  Curators Jerry and Irene Clark's museum features thousands of historic photos of the area as well as artifacts from restaurants, the amusement park and so much more.  There is also a historic reading area which includes information on darn-near every county in Iowa!  You will most definitely NOT want to miss the Okoboji Classic Cars Museum, which showcases a rotating inventory of restored classic cars amidst a backdrop of floor to ceiling murals by artist Jack Rees.  Even if you are not a classic car lover you will be WOWED by Okoboji Classic Cars!

While not a museum, you should also make time to visit the Polaris Indian Motorcycle Experience Center in Spirit Lake. Take a guided tour of their assembly floor led by staff who work in a variety of capacities. Following the tour, you can view artifacts on display in the new reception / exhibit area. Tours last approximately 1 hour, and are best in the morning, but be sure to call in advance to make a reservation - this is a working factory and they need to know you're coming. (712-336-6955)

Maritime Museum

Iowa Rock and Roll Museum

9. Golf

Golf course beauty Brooks Golf Club

There is not a more beautiful and open time to hit the links in Okoboji than fall! Golfing opportunities in Okoboji are exceptional and diverse with a course for everyone.  Brooks Golf Course features 27 unique holes through parkland, prairie and wetlands.  It is a beautifully maintained course accommodating all skill levels.  With lush green rolling hills  and an abundance of stately trees, Emerald Hills is sure to please golfers of all abilities.  The friendly staff at Emerald Hills will greet you and treat you like family. Okoboji View golf course combines a great golf experience though 18 holes with the added benefit of Pub 19 Bar and Grill, serving some of the best Pizza in the area.  Over the past three years Okoboji View has undergone a major renovation, with 12 acres of wetlands and reformatted holes.  Hopefully you will have plenty of time to play all three courses b/c it is so hard to choose just one!  If you have even more time to golf be sure to drive 15 miles south to Spencer Golf and Country Club for one of the most well-manicured courses in the region.  Tee times are recommended for all courses and often they offer off season rates.

gofl cart on golf course

Emerald Hills Gofl sky view
Beauty of fall at Emerald Hills Golf Club

8. Trails

Couple walking on trails

Fall is a quiet and picturesque time to hit the paved, multi-use trail system that winds its way through the Iowa Great Lakes. With over 40 miles of paved trails there are lots of places to see and explore. You could bring your bikes or enjoy a leisurely walk stopping to take in fabulous views of lakes, prairies, and wildlife.  The "spine" of the system is a 14-mile trail through the heart of the Iowa Great Lakes region, connecting to the spine trail are several other shorter trails to explore including the Kenue Park Trail, Arnolds Park City Trail and the Spirit Lake City Trail.  The trail also loops around the East and West sides of Big Spirit Lake where it joins the Loon Lake trail at Mini-Wakan State Park.  When you get hungry or  thirsty, you can take a pit stop at Pub 19 Bar and Grill, at Okoboji View Golf Course, for amazing wood-fired pizza or stop at The Okoboji Store, Tweeters, Dry Dock or The Ritz for one of the area's best hamburger's.  You may have to try all four on your stay! Just let us know your favorite when you leave.  If you are looking for a hike off the paved path check out the nature trail hikes at Kettleson Hogsback Wildlife Area, The Interpretive Trail at Gull point, or Horseshoe bend recreation area south of Milford.

birds on the lake

7. Lake

Kayaking in the evening

There is no better time than a fall morning or evening to enjoy the lake, and there is no better time than the present to try a stand up paddle board or kayak.  You can bring your own or rent one at Okoboji Boat Works, Oak Hill Marina, or Boat Okoboji Rentals.   Fall fishing is sure to please everyone from the experienced angler to the novice.  Just find a public dock, shoreline or step it up a notch and hire one of our many experienced fishing guides who will have you catching fish as soon as the bait hits the water.  You can purchase an Iowa fishing license for a day, a week or a year, at one of our local bait shops.  Rent a boat or bring your own, there is nothing better than a warm fall day cruising Lake Okoboji!  If you get a really warm day a jump in the lake is not out of the question in the Fall!

Stand up paddleboard with dog

Fishing at sunrise

6. Apple Orchard

Little Sioux Orchard

Just south of Milford you will find the area's newest attraction, Little Sioux Orchard.  The area's only pick-your-own orchard has varieties ripening throughout the season.  The Orchard also has a farm store, hay rides, family games, and pumpkins.


5. Day trip

Round Lake Winery
Round Lake Vineyards

Looking to branch out for a day?  Maybe you brought your motorcycle and want a day on the open road?  Start the day off with a late breakfast at O'Farrell Sisters and then take off for Round Lake Vineyards on Round Lake in Minnesota.  The Vineyard and grounds are beautiful and the wine and food are amazing too.  Hop back on the bike and head east to Bergen Minnesota for lunch at Bergen Bar and Grill (the only place in town, look for the brown house). It will be a meal you will not forget.  Then round out the trip at Little Swan Lake Winery for happy hour and head back to Boji in time for a sunset dinner.  Be sure to call ahead or check facebook pages for hours as they sometimes change in the fall for these establishments.

4. Shop

Okoboji Shopping

No trip to Okoboji is complete without doing some shopping!  The stores will be all decked out with fall housewares, clothing and accessories!  Be sure to check out Elements right in the center of it all in Arnolds Park.  Early in the fall a few stores in the Emporium will be open and will probably be running really good sales.  Next head north on Highway 71 stopping at Lace in Okoboji, Mary’s  in Spirit Lake, and the Great Lakes Mall where you will you will find The Look, Wild Child, Fashion Formula, and Interiors.  Continue your shopping adventure downtown Spirit Lake on Hill Avenue. If you are more into antique shopping there is no shortage of antique stores in Okoboji.  Be sure to check out Antiques Etc., Spirit Lake Antique Mall, and Timeless Consignments.  No trip to Okoboji is complete without stopping at The Three Sons in downtown Milford for official University of Okoboji gear.

The Three Sons

Okoboji shopping experience

3.  EAT

Okoboji Store food

Okoboji has no shortage of amazing places to eat all season long . The special thing about fall is that patio dining is most enjoyable!  Great sunsets can be enjoyed while dinning at the Dry Dock, Water's Edge, The Gardens, The Ritz or the Okoboji Store.  For a great sunset from the top of the Emporium, in a classy environment, check out the Hi-Point.  Celebrating a special occasion? Be sure to make your reservation for Yesterday's and don't skip the Key Lime Pie, no matter how full you are!  If you are here on a Tuesday you will want to try all you can eat pasta night at Minerva's or Kazarelli's. For casual dinning while watching your favorite college or pro team play try Tweeter'sThe Okoboji  StoreThe Hutt, The Gardens ,The Ritz, Captain's Getaway or Nautical.

wine by the lake

Tweeters outside view

2. Drink

Pretty Drinks on bar

Whether you are looking for amazing coffee, craft beer, local wine or a tickle your tastebuds cocktail or island drink you can find it all in Okoboji this Fall!  With so many wonderful patios you can spend all afternoon relaxing and enjoying cooler temperatures and fall breezes. You will love the view, breeze and outdoor drinks at The Barefoot Bar, Pirate Jack's, The Ritz, Okoboji Store, The Gardens,  and the Dry Dock. Start your morning with great coffee, smoothie or pastry at Rabab's conveniently located on the bike trail, Deli on the Ave in Spirit Lake, or The Coffee Shop in Milford.  Be sure to stop at West O and Okoboji Brewing Company, come in the afternoon and you may be able to get a brewery tour.  Hoping to catch your favorite college or pro team head to Tweeter's, The Okoboji StoreThe Gardens, Nautical, The Hutt, Miles Inn, The Barn at Okoboji or Captain's Getaway rooftop bar.


Lakeside bar

1. Rest & Relax

Okoboji Commons guest room
Okoboji Commons Hotel

With so many GREAT places to stay how ever do you choose?  For an amazing empty nest getaway that includes breakfast check out the adults only Oakwood Inn or the Okoboji Country Inn Bed and Breakfast.  Both properties are quiet, secluded and will fuel your day the right way with their amazing breakfasts.  If you want to wake up to the waves gently rollin in on the shore check out Four Seasons Resort, Crescent beach Resort, or  Bridges Bay Resort.  For a traditional hotel try AmericInn, Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center, Okoboji  Inn and Suites or Super 8. You could always bring the camper or tent if you are feeling adventurous and stay at one of our beautiful campgrounds.

Oakwood Inn exterior view
Oakwood Inn

Campground by the lake

As always if you have any questions or need other recommendations please call us at 1-800-270-2574. We would love to help you plan your Fall getaway to Okoboji!

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Boating in the fall