08/31/2011 09:51 am ET Updated Oct 26, 2011

Amusement Parks In Iowa: A Huffington Post Travel Guide

Amusement parks in Iowa are smaller and quainter than the big-time parks in Florida and California -- and that's part of the appeal. Even with their laid-back hometown feel, they deliver big thrills and family fun at affordable prices. As part of a Huffington Post Travel series on family-fun parks, here is our guide to all the key information visitors need to know about Iowa amusement parks.


There is no bigger amusement park in Iowa than Adventureland, which has more than 100 rides, including three major roller coasters. Built on the site of the old Des Moines Airport and a former piece of farmland, part of the park is preserved in honor of Iowa farms, with an old farmhouse and fir tree lot still standing within the park.

Signature Ride

Over the years, Adventureland has added many big attractions, including a world-class wooden coaster in the '70s, a Raging River ride in the '80s and a steel coaster with a double loop in the '90s. For the new millennium, the signature ride is the custom-built Sidewinder, a giant pendulum that revolves as it sends riders six stories into the air.

Coasters And Water Rides

Adventureland has the Space Shot, Inverter, Falling Star, Himalaya and three coasters as well as water rides, plenty of kiddie rides and classic family rides such as the carousel, Skywheel Ferris wheel and bumper cars.

Food Options

Adventureland has more than a dozen eateries and snack bars, including the Chicken Shack, Petunia Pig and Outlaw Gulch Saloon, which serves Iowa favorites like pork tenderloin as well as chicken sandwiches, pizza, burgers and sweet treats. The Iowa Cafe, home of Adventureland's famous fried chicken dinners, offers gluten-free options.

Safety Record

The Gazette reported a fire in the Main Street section of the park in February 2010; the park was closed for the season and there were no injuries. In July 2006, KCCI Des Moines reported that a young girl was hospitalized after she was hit in the head with a board while riding the Tornado roller coaster. The board was not part of the coaster, and the ride passed its subsequent inspection.

Address: 305 34th Ave. NW, Altoona, IA 50009
Phone: 800-532-1286
Hours: During the summer season, the park opens at 10 a.m. and closes at 8 or 9 p.m. on weeknights, 10 p.m. on weekends. It is open weekends only in May, late August and September. The park closes earlier in May and September.
Price: $35 for adults and kids age 10 and older; $30 for seniors and kids 4 to 9; $26 for special-needs guests; free for ages 3 and under. Second-day passes are $20 each. Season passes are available. Parking is $5.

Arnolds Park

Arnolds Park on Lake Okoboji, "where good, clean fun never grew up," offers everything from thrill rides to boat excursions, a beach, concerts, shopping, go-karts and a maritime museum. If you're looking for summer fun in northern Iowa, Arnolds is hard to beat.

Signature Ride

The Northwest Bank Legend Roller Coaster, built in 1927, is the 13th oldest coaster in the United States, and "the wildest woody in the Midwest."

More Than Just Coasters

Other Arnolds Park rides include a Ferris wheel, carousel, bumper cars, Tilt-a-Whirl, kiddie coaster and mini train, among others. There is also the go-kart raceway, Queen II boat excursions, carnival games, a beach and the Iowa Great Lakes Maritime Museum.

Food Options

Arnolds Park serves Godfather's Pizza, Boji East Coast Hoagies, burgers, hot dogs, chicken and loose meat sandwiches, as well as snacks, treats, soft drinks and beer. Maxwell's Beach Cafe in the ark is a casual sit-down restaurant offering steak, pasta, gourmet dishes and a full bar.

Safety Record

Our research revealed no notable news reports of accidents or safety issues at Arnolds Park.

Address: 37 Lake St., Arnolds Park, IA 51331
Phone: 800-599-6995
Hours: Open from late May to early September. It opens at 11 a.m. on weekdays and closes at 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 p.m. on Fridays and holidays. Saturday hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Price: Day passes are $30 for unlimited amusement rides, plus one raceway ticket. Individual raceway tickets are $4 kiddie, $5 single and $6 double, or $20 for all-day racing. Queen II Excursions are $15 for adults, $13 for seniors, $5 for kids, free for those under 36 inches tall. Admission to the Maritime Museum is free (donations accepted).

Other Noteworthy Parks

Fun City, Burlington, Iowa
Ranch Okoboji Amusement Park, Okoboji, Iowa
Valley Fair Amusement Park, Shakopee, Minnesota
Six Flags Great America, Chicago, Illinois
Extreme World, Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

What's your favorite amusement parks in Iowa?

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