Three Kid-Friendly Day Trips from Cedar Rapids

It is almost Spring! I don’t know about you, but it seems my kids get more energy by the day being cooped up in the house during the winter. By the time spring rolls around, we are ready to feel the sunshine.

The lovely spring days coming ahead are perfect for short day trips, to see a new place, and do things you may not have while cooped up in the winter.

Three Kid-Friendly Day Trips from Cedar RapidsHere are some spots that make for a great kid-friendly day jaunt out of Cedar Rapids.


About an hour northeast of Cedar Rapids – Dubuque is a wonderful family-friendly spot. It has lots of history, lots of things to see and some amazing places to eat! It’s an older city but has some lovely old homes and the historic downtown is nothing short of beautiful.

You can take a ride on The Fenlon Place Elevator (open April-November) to overlook the city of Dubuque. It is a $4 round trip for adults and $2 for children (cash only). You can visit the Shot Tower (which is a National Historic Spot) and read up on its history.

You can go hiking at the Mines of Spain and see some beautiful scenery. The National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium is also a great spot to visit! It is open rain or shine and has exhibits for everyone! It is a little pricey for tickets, but they do have a membership program that pays for itself after one visit and they do offer a variety of discounts.

A really yummy local place is Shot Tower Inn for pizza and bar food. Other local spots also include Vinny Vannuchi’s, The Bridge, and even an old-school Happy Joes Pizza Parlor!

I cannot talk about Dubuque without bringing up our favorite restaurant, Pepper Sprout. The menu changes weekly and everything is made to order by Chef Kim. It’s a bit more upscale and they do not have a kids menu but it is a yummy spot for an out-of-town date night.

Dubuque offers something for everyone and is a wonderful family-centered town! I highly recommend checking it out!

Boone, Iowa

Just about two hours away from the Corridor on the north side of Des Moines, Boone is a cute little town with a big specialty– trains.  Boone is home to the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad and the James H. Andrew Railroad Museum. This is where the “Day Out with Thomas” events take place if you have a little Thomas fan. They also host a variety of events including a Valentine’s Day dinner, a sunset BBQ dinner train, a fancier dinner train, and a lunch train. You can also just take a ride on an old-fashioned steam train and enjoy the scenery. Check their website for exact dates and prices – which are subject to change. This looks so fun!

A fun fact about Boone is that it is the spot where both Caseys AND Fareway got their start. There are no specialty or original locations for either business to visit but just a little tidbit. Boone is also the birthplace of former First Lady Mamie Eisenhower. You can visit her birthplace from July through October!

Since Boone is on the small side, there are only a few restaurants. Local spots include Jimmy’s Barbeque Pit, Rooster’s Bar and Grill, and Toby K’s Hideaway. What made me smile was seeing a food truck called Weenie Wonderland. If none of these spots sound appealing, you could always hit one of the many spots in Des Moines (hello! B-Bops!)

Boone would make for a great summertime family day trip or even a half-day jaunt if you want to spend the rest of your day in Des Moines.

Wisconsin Dells

Just under three hours away, Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin is home to so many family-friendly things to do in the Midwest. There are both indoor and outdoor waterparks, an amusement park, guided tours, museums, escape rooms, and entertainment for all ages. It is also home to the beautiful Devil’s Lake State Park where you can hike and camp all year round!

Since Wisconsin Dells has so much to do, lots of the activities work with the vast number of resorts and hotels in the area. I was overwhelmed with all the options available.  From all-inclusive full-service resorts to basic hotels to campsites and vacation home rentals, there was something for every family size and family taste.

It may just be me, but my very favorite part of any vacation is the food. Wisconsin Dells has what seems like almost every kind of restaurant one could think of (second to Orlando– where I lived for several years and often say you can get any cuisine in the world at any hour of the day). It has the basics of McDonald’s and Culvers, or the beloved Pizza Hut and Domino’s for the less adventurous palate. But if you are up for something more upscale – it has some yummy-looking steakhouses and even a few supper clubs.

If this sounds like somewhere you want to take your family – I would start at their official website. While it probably is a spot that would make a better weekend getaway – there are plenty of activities that could be done in one day.

So there you have a couple of one-day getaway spots outside of Cedar Rapids for this spring. If none of these sound appealing – a really good place to start is https://withinhours.com. You can put in how many hours or miles away you want to max out at.

Happy Travels and Happy Spring!

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