the journal




fresh 48



If you are anything like me, with summer comes hot days and an itch for adventure + travel. Some of my favorite family memories growing up center around vacations. I know families have all different budgets, time available, and even distances they would like/are willing to travel. However, I know with 3 littles we have been steady road tripping because airplane travel costs are no joke. That’s why today I wanted to talk about Staycations and Midwest Trips for Adventurous Iowa City Families

These ideas span everything from good ol’ staycation right here in Iowa (15-30 minutes) to drive-able road trips in the Midwest (7 hours). Don’t get me wrong, I love a good city trip to Chicago or Minneapolis, but today I am going to focus on family trips that center more on outdoor adventures and activities. Oh and eating annnnd drinking coffee. So if outdoor adventures and drinking coffee are your jam, then this is for you!

Iowa City, Iowa: You’re already here!

Solon, Iowa: (<30 minutes)

  • Coffee: Zoetic Coffee, Solon
  • Eat: grab a breakfast sandwich or cinnamon roll at The Eat Shop; sit outside on the patio at Big Grove for lunch; bike to Dan + Debbie’s Creamery in Ely (turn around spot and back to Solon)
  • Stay: The Literary Hotel (warehouse with exposed brick in downtown Solon)
  • Adventure: bike the Hoover Trail from Solon to Ely (14.8 mile round trip; parking at Solon Recreation + Nature Area). However, if you have smaller kids bike some of the trail, then drive for ice cream 🙂

Sometimes just a quick drive from home can feel like a much needed getaway…

Cedar Rapids/Marion, Iowa (30-ish minutes)

  • Coffee: Kismet Coffee + Bloom (adorable coffee + floral shop); handmade syrups + simply delicious
  • Eat: grab a traditional german meal in the Amanas; or head into Cedar Rapids for Cafe Tacuba (breakfast + dinner)
  • Stay: Hotel Millwright in Amana (30 min to Cedar Rapids)
  • Adventure: family bike ride along Sac Fox Trail, check out Indian Creek Nature Center (trails, kids programming, animals)

Lake Okoboji, Iowa (5 hours)

Let’s move on out of Iowa for some more midwest adventures. If you have a little more time for road-tripping, these are some ideas to consider. Starting with Holland + Saugatauk, Michigan (5 hours). These are great options for a happy-medium distance for fitting a drive in within a day. And you get to take in the beautiful Michigan water (if you haven’t been, believe me it’s worth a visit!)

Holland or Saugatauk, Michigan: 5 Hours:

  • Coffee: grab some joe and waffles at 205 Coffee Bar, Holland, MI
  • Eat: The Butler-grab local + fresh Walleye, clam chowder, buffalo shrimp, burgers etc or The Southerner (shrimp + grits, fried chicken dinners)
  • Stay: Cottage A-frame (Holland, MI)
  • Adventure: soak up the rays at Oval Beach, Saugatauk or Laketown Beach (close to Holland)

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin: 5 Hours

Does anyone else just have a little spark of excitement every time they think about planning a new adventure? My husband always makes fun of me for it, but I love everything about planning a vacation. Not to mention, I could spend entirely too much time perusing Airbnb for the coolest places (especially A-frames right now).

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan: 8 Hours: Cool Rock formations on beautiful blue water with miles of uncrowded beaches next to a pine forest.

I hope you enjoyed this list of Staycations and Midwest Trips for Adventurous Iowa City Families. A lot of these ideas would work in other seasons (but maybe just look at the lake instead of hopping in). However, I plan to write something all about fall getaways. This is going to be an ever-evolving list, so I would LOVE it if you have other ideas to add.

P.S. if you are looking for a family photographer to join on any of your adventures, please reach out!


Staycations and Midwest Trips for Adventurous Iowa City Families