Iowans expect to take road trips across the state this summer. Here's what's new.

·12 min read

Summer 2022 arrived amid record inflation, soaring fuel prices and lingering coronavirus outbreaks.

But Americans are a defiant bunch, and nearly three-quarters are planning to travel this summer, according to reporting from USA TODAY.

Iowans too are taking advantage of the opportunity to travel three summers after the start of the coronavirus pandemic. In May, around 35% more passengers traveled through the Des Moines International Airport than in May 2021, according to Des Moines Airport Authority travel statistics. Overall, around 61% more passengers have gone through the airport this year than last.

Jessica O'Riley, a spokeswoman for Travel Iowa, thinks Iowans will still travel despite higher gas prices, but road trips will likely be closer to home.

"People will modify their trips," O'Riley said. "Maybe they won't travel as far or as frequently. Or they'll make trade-offs to compensate for higher gas prices, perhaps spending less on dining or staying with family and friends rather than in a hotel."

More: As gas prices soar, Polk County government to begin shift to electric cars

Lowest Gas Prices in Des Moines

According to O'Riley, hotel occupancy rates across Travel Iowa's top 10 markets (including Polk, Scott, Linn, Pottawattamie, Black Hawk, Johnson, Dubuque, Story, Woodbury and Dallas counties) have not yet recovered to 2019 numbers.

But O'Riley said the industry is experiencing a strong recovery since the start of the pandemic, with more hotel rooms available at higher rates.

On June 13, the average price of gas across the U.S. hit $5 a gallon for the first time. Taking inflation into account, the nation's record average price for a gallon of gas peaked at $4.11 in July 2008, equal to around $5.46 a gallon today.

In Iowa, the average price for a gallon of gas was $4.70 on June 22, a 64-cent increase from last month but still lower than the national average of $4.96 per gallon.

Before this month, Iowa’s record average for a gallon of regular gas was $4.026 a gallon in July 2008, around $5.35 a gallon today adjusted for inflation.

Despite the increased costs of travel, a bevy of new attractions and hotels have opened across the state to make staying close to home even more appealing.

Linda Grabau sits in front of a loom inside the Amana Art Guild Center and weaves a rug made out of denim, May 5.
Linda Grabau sits in front of a loom inside the Amana Art Guild Center and weaves a rug made out of denim, May 5.

Amanas

The seven villages that make up the Amana Colonies recently opened the Ruedy Home, a two-story home built in 1863 in Middle Amana.

Open for tours, the Ruedy Home depicts the typical Amana house with preserved furniture and artifacts reflective of early Amana life and Amana in the mid-1900s. It leads guests to the Ruedy Kitchen, the only intact communal kitchen remaining in the Amanas, according to the Amana Heritage Society.

Visitors to this home and kitchen can learn more about the Amana way of life during its time as a communal society.

Check in at the Hotel Millwright, which opened in 2020, to enjoy Amana for longer and be in walking distance of numerous shops, eateries and the Amana Heritage Museum.

The hotel began as a textile mill in 1855, its history reflected in the design and aesthetics of what is now a modern venue perfect for those looking to discover, or rediscover, Amana Colonies.

More: Amana's Hotel Millwright revitalizing the 'lifeblood' of the Amana Colonies

A decorative, focal-point tower reflects in the waters of Sycamore Falls, a new section of Reiman Gardens in Ames, Iowa. The picture was taken on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021.
A decorative, focal-point tower reflects in the waters of Sycamore Falls, a new section of Reiman Gardens in Ames, Iowa. The picture was taken on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021.

Ames

Last fall, Reiman Gardens opened a new space called Sycamore Falls, which is a 3-acre area featuring a waterfall, pond and stream. A wooden boardwalk and paved paths lead to a wood-and-steel tower, which is illuminated at night. Sycamore Falls features evergreens, grasses and blooming annuals and perennials. Through Oct. 9, Reiman also offers a collection of playful sculptures created from recycled materials in its Lewis and Art Exhibition, which can be discovered in various spots throughout the botanical garden. The exhibit is a whimsical mix of metal mammals, insects and plants, which are all made from found materials by Minnesota-based artist Dale Lewis.

More: From 'pseudo-prairie' to 'iconic garden space,' Reiman Gardens' Sycamore Falls is open to visitors

Burlington

The FunCity Resort Hotel, 3001 Roosevelt Ave., is undergoing more than $3 million in renovations ahead of the completion of a neighboring indoor sports facility.

The Courts, a 26,000-square-foot building housing three collegiate-level basketball courts allowing for up to six volleyball courts and a 10,000-square-foot multi-use area that can be used for pickleball courts, is expected to be complete by May 2023.

It joins the FunCity Turf, an indoor soccer complex completed in 2019, which is estimated to have had a $2.8 million economic impact on the Greater Burlington area from late October 2020 through April 2021.

While the indoor basketball arena is being constructed in the southeast parking lot of the hotel, there will be plenty of work going on inside the resort as well.

The FunCity Resort Hotel in November marked completion of the renovation of 97 rooms, which now are equipped with new furniture in soft tones of gray, green and beige, as well as new light fixtures, plumbing, electrical and flooring.

The hotel is in the process of completing the renovation of another 36 rooms, as well as construction of a new Court Side activity space featuring concessions, arcade games and video screens; a new indoor water feature; and a new Ninja Extreme Course.

More: Burlington hotel renovation completed ahead of new addition to FunCity Resort complex

Ballocity, a multi-level attraction with interactive blasters, vacuums, fountains, cannons, buckets, crazy crawls, climbers, a wave maze and more, has been closed during the renovation, but it will be reinstalled and reopened ahead of the Courts' completion.

Huck's Harbor, FunCity's outdoor water park, will not be impacted by construction work and is open for the season.

More: Construction of FunCity Courts welcomed with groundbreaking ceremony. See plans for the facility.

Riders stand in front of the Ice House Museum in Coralville.
Riders stand in front of the Ice House Museum in Coralville.

Cedar Falls

The Ice House Museum, which celebrates its centennial this year, claims to be the only museum in the country dedicated to telling the story of ice harvesting, the act of collecting ice from rivers and lakes for storage in ice houses.

The Fire & Ice exhibit is on display at Victorian House Museum through mid-December and provides a history of ice houses in the region.

Cedar Rapids

In March, the National Czech & Slovak Museum welcomed a new exhibit called “Gridiron Champs: George Halas & the Chicago Bears.”

The exhibit recounts the history of George Halas, a Czech American who not only played for the Chicago Bears but also had a role in forming the NFL. This latest exhibit includes items supplied by the Chicago Bears and the NFL Hall of Fame.

More: Trip on a Tankful: Czech Village/New Bohemia Main Street District breathes new life into historic area

Cedar Valley

The word glamping, for those unfamiliar, is a portmanteau of “glamorous” and “camping” that describes a more luxurious kind of camping. In this case, interested individuals can go to Three Pines Farm. This fifth-generation family farm recently launched a new, 26-acre prairie with the intention of welcoming glampers late this summer. The site has hiking trails and picnicking as well as moonlight yoga and stargazing.

Clear Lake offers a relaxing lake-cation with plenty of shoreline attractions.
Clear Lake offers a relaxing lake-cation with plenty of shoreline attractions.

Clear Lake

Marriott Fairfield Inn & Suites opened in January 2022 at 1401 Bayou Road in Clear Lake. The hotel offers free breakfast and has a 24-hour fitness center and a heated pool.

The Hotel Fort Des Moines building in Des Moines was built in 1918.
The Hotel Fort Des Moines building in Des Moines was built in 1918.

Des Moines

Hotel Fort Des Moines at 1000 Walnut St. in Des Moines underwent $50 million in renovations that started in 2018.

The historic 122-year-old building also houses Proudfoot & Bird — a fine dining restaurant — Hobnob Coffee & Wine Bar, and a fitness room.

Relatively new to the heart of downtown Des Moines is an Olympic-caliber skatepark — the largest of its kind in the country. Opened in May of 2021, Lauridsen Skatepark has not only hosted nationally recognized competitions, but it’s also open to the public daily for open skate sessions. The Dew Tour returns July 29-30.

More: The Dew Tour returns to Des Moines' Lauridsen Skatepark in July — with fewer restrictions

Alex Rodriguez stands in the corn at the Field of Dreams movie site outside of Dyersville, Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021.
Alex Rodriguez stands in the corn at the Field of Dreams movie site outside of Dyersville, Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021.

Dyersville

The site where the classic 1989 movie “Field of Dreams” was filmed is, at this point, an icon in Iowa. Last year, the location hosted the first regular season Major League Baseball game in the state. This year, another MLB game is scheduled for Aug. 11, pitting the Chicago Cubs against the Cincinnati Reds.

More: Want tickets to this year's Field of Dreams game? You'll need an Iowa ZIP code to get inside edge

The Des Moines Metro Opera, based in Indianola, will debut the operatic adaption of "A Thousand Acres" in July 2022.
The Des Moines Metro Opera, based in Indianola, will debut the operatic adaption of "A Thousand Acres" in July 2022.

Indianola

Des Moines Metro Opera is celebrating its 50th year, and with that anniversary comes a host of special shows. Perhaps most notable among this year’s lineup is “A Thousand Acres,” the operatic adaptation of Iowa author Jane Smiley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. That show has its world premiere on July 9.

However, the opera’s season begins properly with “Porgy and Bess,” with a cast including world-renowned opera singer and Iowan Simon Estes, who is also an adviser to the show. Later in the month, audiences will also get a sneak peek at another opera in the works, “American Apollo,” which will be performed as a full opera in 2024, but — for this year — will appear in only this 20-minute format.

Iowa City

If you’re heading to Iowa City, the Highlander Hotel opened in 2020, revived to capture the charm of the Highlander Inn and Supper Club of the 1960s and ‘70s.

The retro-chic hotel sits at the intersection of Interstate Highway 80 and North Dodge Street, just a few miles outside of downtown Iowa City.

More: After $5 million renovation, The Bohemian Hotel will open for the holiday weekend in Iowa City

In downtown, Iowa City’s Pedestrian Mall may be a college bar scene stronghold when school is in session, but summertime is certainly worth a visit, especially with live music performances nearly every Friday through mid-August.

In the past year, the Ped Mall has welcomed the new Riverside Theatre and the return of the renovated nonprofit cinema FilmScene and ushered in a few new, trendy spots to grab a drink.

Residents of Des Moines and Cedar Falls might be familiar with one of the Ped Mall’s newest bars, the Stuffed Olive. The cocktail and tapas bar sits next to Double Tap Beercade, planned to open in late June, with a full bar and 50 games and pinball machines.

The building next to Double Tap is home to Roxxy, a retro bar that "celebrates the 1980s, ‘90s and early 2000s," according to the bar's Instagram.

All three places are off East College Street in Iowa City. Some 100 feet away on the same street is Fortuna Board Game Café, which opened in October and offers about 100 family-friendly games that people can hunker down over in an afternoon.

Ottumwa

You can attend expos, festivals and shows right now at Ottumwa's Bridge View Center, but other amenities are in the pipeline.

The Cobblestone Hotel & Suites — Ottumwa, 108 Church St., a $10 million, four-story, 83-unit hotel, is expected to open in spring or summer of 2023.

It will feature a fitness center, swimming pool, meeting room and Iowa’s first Wissota Chophouse, with seating for up to 80 to 90 people. An on-site beer and wine bar will feature more than a dozen Iowa beers on tap, said Zach Simonson, community development director for the city of Ottumwa.

Simonson and others with the city dined at a Wissota Chophouse at a Cobblestone Hotel in Wisconsin and said the menu consisted of higher-end steakhouse items.

"They had a really neat bacon octopus appetizer," Simonson said.

But perhaps more important than the food is the hotel's location: It will bridge the gap between Church and Main streets.

"We’re excited about how that will help us bridge the downtown feel between our Main Street and Church Street commercial districts on both sides of the river," Simonson said.

Simonson also said its close proximity to Bridge View will better position the convention center to bring in conferences and higher-profile shows.

"That by itself has created kind of a force multiplier for our convention visitor bureau in Ottumwa, as well as the convention center," Simonson said. "They're going to be able to bring in bigger and better shows, those sorts of things just by having that hotel available."

Simonson said the hotel also will fit in nicely with other community projects, including the upcoming Ottumwa SportsPlex.

The $6 million, 60,000-square-foot indoor sports complex will feature an indoor batting cage, basketball courts, multi-use courts, a track, community space and other amenities. It will be built along U.S. 34 and Wapello Street near Beach Ottumwa, just down the road from the Cobblestone Hotel.

Construction on that facility will begin next year as long as enough money is raised.

Simonson said the SportsPlex will allow the city to host events similar to the Babe Ruth World Series, which the city hosted in 2021. That event had an overall community impact of $2.6 million over just two weeks, according to an economic impact model developed in partnership between the Ottumwa Convention and Visitors Bureau and the University of Iowa.

"When we can get a few of those big events every year, and then we look at the smaller tournaments, the local tournaments and things like that, it really is a lot," Simonson said.

The city also is working to make improvements to the 300-acre Greater Ottumwa Park in the middle of town, with the addition of soccer and baseball fields, a new tennis complex and more opportunities for passive recreation and individual park experiences. Those plans will take several years to complete.

A rendering of the Udara  Air Kingdom section of the Lost Island theme park, near Waterloo.
A rendering of the Udara Air Kingdom section of the Lost Island theme park, near Waterloo.

Waterloo

Lost Island Theme Park opened on June 18 in Waterloo. This $100 million attraction is an expansion of the Polynesian-themed Lost Island Waterpark. Plans called for 30 attractions in five “realms” within the park, with each realm boasting a distinct look and cast of characters.

Park operators also talked up a storyline in which guests complete tasks in order to defeat a fictitious, mythical evil.

More: Rising just 100 miles from Adventureland Park: A rival for the Iowa theme park crown

Winterset

Over Memorial Day weekend, Winterset’s John Wayne Birthplace Museum nearly doubled in size. The museum is adjacent to the childhood home of John Wayne, restored to reflect its appearance in 1907. In 2021, the museum broke ground on this $1.8 million expansion, which includes new exhibits of the film icon’s friends and family as well as more information on his Hollywood career.

More: John Wayne museum spotlights Midwestern morals

Hannah Rodriguez covers retail for the Des Moines Register. Reach her at herodriguez@registermedia.com or on Twitter @byherodriguez.

Isaac Hamlet covers arts, entertainment and culture at the Des Moines Register. Reach him at ihamlet@gannett.com or 319-600-2124, follow him on Twitter @IsaacHamlet.

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Where to go in Iowa on a summer road trip: New attractions, hotels