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Top 7 family-friendly photo locations

Let’s talk about a frequently-asked question: where is the best place to take family photos (in Iowa City)? When you book a professional photographer they will work with you to pick the best location for your next big photoshoot-whether it is a family, maternity or couples session. Locations are sometimes considered “a hot commodity” because of how important lighting and also ease of access can be. As a photographer, I look for locations that offer a variety of backgrounds and lighting and some room to roam (let the kids be kids). Most of my go-to Iowa City photo locations are super family-friendly, even with littles.

As a client choosing a Iowa City photo shoot location, there are several factors to consider including: proximity to your home, background options (i.e. forest, open field/prairie, lake/water, urban) + parking access (including how long it takes to walk to location after parking). Some locations offer shade and therefore time of session is more flexible. I also highly recommended to coordinate your outfit selection with your location to get the most out of color schemes. After all, this should be art for your home.

I always recommend making an experience out of your photography session, packed with a special adventure/outing. Kids are super motivated by a treat afterwards. I have included fun ideas for a little outing with each location choice.

This location guide will help provide an easy comparison of beautiful outdoor options “right in our backyard”. Let’s do a good ole’ countdown for my favorite family photo location ideas in Iowa City…

7. Devonian Fossil Gorge-Coralville Resevoir, Coralville

6. Wilson’s Orchard, Iowa City

  • Types of backgrounds: grassy, rolling hills, orchard, sunflower + tulip fields (seasonal)
  • Parking: large parking lot
  • Walk time: 10-15 min+ to location including big hill
  • Outing: stay at the orchard and grab an apple cider slushie and or donut-seasonal activities include apple, berry or pumpkin picking; sunflower and tulip fields; winter: sledding and snow shoeing

5. Lake MacBride State Park, Solon, IA (spillway)

4. Palisades-Kepler State Park, Mt. Vernon

  • Types of backgrounds: forested trails, beach (definitely my favorite beach location to walk in the sand-less crowded than other beach options)
  • Parking: small parking lot-could get pretty packed during peak times
  • Walk time: 5-10 minutes to location; beach sand (not stroller friendly!)
  • Outing: stay and collect shells (small iowa shells) or go on a hike

3. Terry Trueblood Recreation Area, Iowa City

2. Hickory Hill Park, East Iowa City

  • Types of backgrounds: forested, prairie/tall grasses, wildflowers, large hill
  • Parking: Multiple access points that all include small parking lots
  • Walk time: 5-10 minutes to location (up to 15 to large hills), forested trails (jogging stroller or carrying littles)
  • Outing: hike a trail, pick up an ice cream cone from Heyns Ice Cream or smoothies and coffee at Press Coffee

1. Kent Park, Oxford

  • Types of backgrounds: variety. variety. variety. forested, prairie/tall grasses, rolling hills, pine trees, lake (anything + everything!); may lead to “are we in iowa?” thoughts and/or comments
  • Parking: Multiple access points that all include small parking lots
  • Walk time: 5-15 minutes to location; include grassy paths and gravel path (jogging stroller; regular stroller works for gravel path by beach)
  • Outing: continue driving 15 minutes to the Amana Colonies (check out the cute toy store, eat a German meal, go antique shopping)
  • Website:

I have also included below a little comparison table and quick map of my top 7 family photo location ideas in Iowa City. Ok, so where are we doing your next photoshoot? If you are ready to book your next session, contact me now. Please let me know if this is helpful, or if there is any other information you would like added.

Kent ParkHickory HillTerry TruebloodWilson’s OrchardPalisadesCoralville ResLake MacBride
-Rolling Hills
-Small-medium hills

-Small section prairie/tall grass
-Lake (limited sand)

-Fruit orchard
-Flower fields
-Rolling Hills
-Beach (largest)
ParkingExcellentExcellentExcellentOk (can be busy!)GoodOk (can be busy!)Ok (can be busy)
Easy walkEasy-super easyEasySuper easyMediumGood-ExcellentMediumMedium
Stroller friendly-regular or joggingDependsDependsYes-either (paved)JoggingNoNoJogging
Estimated drive time (from Iowa City)20-25 min10-15 min5-10 min15 min30 min15 min35 min
Comparison of Iowa City area photo locations

map of iowa city photo locations
Iowa City/Coralville area photo locations

Check the locations out on the map and get directions from your house: >>

Family, Maternity

Family Photo Location Ideas in Iowa City