a weekend in Jester Park

This was one of the most magical weekends I've ever had...for real.


Jester Park is a popular park in Granger, Iowa (about 30 minutes from where we live) with camping, golfing, equestrian activities, hiking, canoeing, fishing, wildlife and more. Eric's family rented the four cabins inside the park last month to celebrate his grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary. (Eric wrote a great tribute post to his grandparents here.)

I wanted to share some of my favorite things to do in the park in case you want to make a day trip there or book the cabins for an overnight stay!

Discovery Pond is located right across the road from the cabins and is a great spot for canoeing and fishing. Rooney's great aunt gave her a Frozen fishing pole and she loved learning how to cast. She wanted to catch a penguin (ha!), but she settled for her first fish! I was so proud of her persistence, and she was thrilled (although she was a little freaked out when it started wiggling around on the pole). This area was totally quiet on Friday evening — it felt like our own private pond while we went canoeing!


The Natural Playscape was a fun morning activity. It's a play area constructed of natural materials like rocks, water, logs, grassy mounds, etc. We had been to this area once before when Rooney was 3 — which was when we saw the cabins and said we should try to stay there sometime! I think the log stairs are so cool. Finch just wanted to get wet and throw rocks, of course.


There are several trails for hiking, and all are rated easy or moderate. We did the Hickory Ridge Trail (.7 miles) and found an amazing teepee made out of sticks.


For some reason, these pictures of my kids with the teepee feel very "Lord of the Flies." Who else remembers that book?


There are also bison and elk herds, which are fun to watch!


We didn't spend much time inside, but the cabins are really beautifully built and so nice inside. Each cabin has a kitchen, two bathrooms, 1-2 bedrooms (sleeping 6-8 people), three entrances, a fireplace, air conditioning, a grill, firewood, a deck, a picnic table, life jackets and a canoe by the pond. They do fill up fairly quickly, so be sure to book now for next year (or the year after)!


We split up all the meals amongst the adults, and it was so nice to only have to worry about one meal the entire weekend. We cooked breakfast for everyone on Saturday morning and then just got to show up for the rest of the meals. It was glorious! :-) We also made our rhubarb slush for everyone!


Eric designed family tree T-shirts for everyone that turned out so cool! Don and Kay's wedding colors were peach and mint, so we embraced that as our shirt colors and I just love how it turned out.

Nothing beats spending time with family. Rooney learned how to use her fishing pole by her great-grandpa, The cousins ran around barefoot together and pushed each other in the wheelbarrows. Eric went golfing with his grandpa. Rooney and I took a three-hour nap. We roasted marshmallows for s'mores over the fire and stayed up way too late. We also had a bags tournament — won by yours truly and my brother-in-law. :-)

One night while we were sitting around the fire, Eric asked his grandpa how he proposed to his grandma. He said he wasn't sure he even asked her. He picked her up in his car one day and while driving down the road he said, "There's something in the glove compartment for you." She opened it up and found the diamond ring. Isn't that hilarious? We had a lot of good laughs over that.


I honestly wouldn't change much about the entire weekend, except I'd bring a box of Kleenex and stay an extra night :-) We decided this needs to be a yearly thing and are already setting a date for next year!

For those who have been, what did we miss? Do you know where the other stick teepee is located? I'd really love to find it. The new Nature Center should be open by the time we go back, so I'm excited to check that out as well!