We made it to our favorite place twice this year, which was wonderful, but I will admit that I'm bummed we only got there twice. We had a third trip planned, but Finch got really sick with a viral cold (he could hardly breathe and almost got admitted to the hospital), so we made the decision to stay home and rest. It was the right decision, but I'm already looking forward to going back next year! It's our happy place!
I've gotten a couple questions on what we like to do there, especially with kids, so I wanted to share my thoughts here. I've been going to Okoboji my whole life (34 years this month!), and each year is a little different as our family changes and as restaurants come and go. These were our favorite things this year:
Spudnutz: First things first: donuts. The potato flour is what make these so special. If it's the weekend, I suggest calling the day before and placing your order. Not only will you not have to wait in a long line, but you also get a discount. When you go to pick up, go straight to the counter where they are making the donuts. It's fun to watch them work while you wait! I love the maple frosted spudnut with sprinkles, but the spudnut holes are wonderful, too. We usually get 150 donut holes! Haha. These are the best donuts I've ever had! They melt in your mouth!
Mini golf: This was our Father's Day activity as a family. If you have older kids, I suggest Pirate's Cove, but the Ranch Okoboji is a great low-key place to go with younger kids (especially if your 2-year-old decides he would rather throw his ball in the water features and then run around the golf "maze").
Sugar Shack: All the nostalgic candy you could ever want. I usually get a bag of Laffy Taffy (cherry, blue raspberry and grape) and sour gummies. We go there several times during our stay. My family calls me the Candy Queen :-)
Family time: Okoboji has so much nostalgia for me, and it's absolutely wonderful to be there with my family. My mom and my siblings (and their families) pick a week each summer to be there together (like my mom used to do with her siblings), and I love seeing Rooney and Finch make such strong bonds with their cousins (like I used to do with mine). I am very lucky that my siblings still want to vacation with me!
Boating: When the temperature is right and it's not too windy, we get on the lake! West Okoboji is a very clean lake, and the kids love to swim if the lake's not too cold. Eric and I had some anxiety having a fearless 2-year-old on the boat, so Eric fashioned a leash on Finch's life jacket using a ski rope. It worked great and helped us relax a little.
One night the lake was just perfect so we grabbed some garlic cheese pizza from Pizza Ranch and then jumped on the boat for a sunset cruise across the lake to Arnolds Park for ice cream and amusement park rides with the lights on. This was the first day of summer and it ended up being the highlight for us. (Finch had already gone to bed so my second cousin Nancy was gracious enough to come over and keep an eye on him while we were gone.)
Boji Bantam Children's Theatre: There are four productions each summer, and tickets are just $5. This year we saw Pinkalicious The Musical, which was so fun since Rooney loves those books. Eric and Rooney went to The Berenstain Bears On Stage a couple years ago. This is a great outing for something different, especially on a rainy morning when you need an indoor activity.
Nutty Bar Stand: Classic and timeless! You have not truly experienced Okoboji until you have eaten a Nutty Bar with a cold mug of root beer. I tried the handmade drumstick this year and loved it!
O'Farrell Sisters: Sleep in and then head here for brunch. You won't regret it. Two words: Famous Cakes.
Other favorite eateries this year:
Duke's: If you're in the mood for a burger and a shake, this is the place. It's a tad pricey, but yummy.
Oak Tree BBQ: Oak Tree has been on and off for years, but they had a little red shack off of Highway 71 this year with a few indoor and outdoor tables. Definitely check out their Mexican BBQ items. They catered our rehearsal dinner 11 years ago so we have a soft spot in our heart for them.
The Okoboji Store: There is a playground for kids, or you can go to the dock to pass time until your food comes. They also have outdoor concerts! Eric saw The Nadas while we were there.
WaterFront: This was new to us this year. We had Father's Day brunch there and it was really good! Next time I want to try the Blue Water Flatbread Pizza.
Hey Good Cookies: This is my favorite lunch spot. It's a cute little deli. You must try the cornbread muffins! And the mollases cookies, duh.
Goodies Handmade Candies: If you appreciate gourmet chocolate treats (or free wifi). Get the milk chocolate toffee!
Arnolds Park Amusement Park: Our kids would go here every day, and we do, for the most part, as our kids received season passes for their birthdays from their nana. I have to say I am very impressed with the park improvements that have been made over the past year! Rooney went on the big roller coaster, The Legend, for the first time this year. Eric and Rooney also did the go-karts ($7 for a double kart). I was super impressed by Finch's ability to stand in line for about 20 minutes for the trampoline, which ended up being his favorite.