We just got back from a very relaxing vacation with the bulk of it spent up in the Lake Okoboji area in Northwest Iowa. Cindy had mentioned that she wanted to go up to Okoboji to get together with old friends of our - Craig and Kathy Evert - who moved from Davenport to the Iowa Great Lakes region in 2005. Craig is an assistant professor of wind energy turbine and technology at Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville and Kathy is the President and C.E.O. for the Iowa Lakes Corridor Development Corporation which helps spur economic growth in four counties in the immediate area. We had dinner with Craig and Kathy at their house one night and she was telling us how she was with the Governor of Iowa earlier in the day as he toured the Polaris ATV/snowmobile and Victory motorcycle plant in Spirit Lake. We went out for dinner with Craig and Kathy one night, as well. It was great to spend some time with them.
I had never vacationed at Okoboji, but Cindy had a number of years ago. But she couldn't remember a lot about that vacation, so it was a relatively new experience for both of us over the days we spent in Okoboji. And we went at the best time to be in the area - just after school goes back into session for both public schools and colleges around the area. (Schools seem to be starting earlier and earlier each year.) We had no problem getting into restaurants or bars in the Lake Okoboji area. Most of the people that were there were primarily locals with a smattering of late summer vacationers like ourselves. (Picture courtesy Iowa Rivals.com)
We stayed at a place called Pioneer Beach Resort which consisted of 9 cabins located on the shores of East Lake Okoboji (see map). Although the place was quaint and rustic, it's a stretch to call the place a resort. But the couple who ran the place, Rick and Lisa VanderWoude, were very nice people and they gave us a deal on Cabin 4 - the only one with a small deck that looked out over the lake. We were the only people in the place for a couple three days before more people came to rent other cabins later in the week. It was actually very relaxing at Pioneer Beach.
Cindy had hoped to do some kayaking, but the wind was gusty throughout our visit making it nearly impossible to send her out on the lake. We did a lot of exploring of the area around the lakes, did a lot of reading and had a good time just taking it easy. We turned on the television in the cabin once - just to see if it actually worked - and it was on for less than 10 seconds.
One of the things we did was take in the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at historic Arnolds Park - I'll write about that experience at some point. We also had to take in the somewhat infamous Barefoot Bar on East Okoboji. I have to say they had the best mai tai's we've tasted since our trip to Hawaii two and a half years ago. And even though we had cooking capabilities at our cabin - including our own Weber grill (each cabin had their own Weber grill) - we ate out for all our meals taking in a lot of what the area had to offer. Hey, we were on vacation and I didn't feel like cooking. There will be an extensive report of many of the places we ate at in the coming weeks. Unfortunately many of the restaurants in the area are seasonal and close in the winter months. But we hope that you'll be able to use our recommendations if you make it to the Okoboji region next summer.
We were in Okoboji for a few days and then ended up driving up to Minneapolis for a couple three days to finish out our vacation. After spending time in the very rustic Cabin 4 at Pioneer Beach, I figured Cindy needed a little pampering. I booked a room at the Marquette, an upscale hotel in the heart of downtown Minneapolis. I got a great deal for being a Hilton Diamond Honors member which included an upgraded room to the executive floor of the hotel. It was tough to go back home last Sunday.
So, look for a number of entries from both the Lake Okoboji region and a couple three places that Cindy and I tried in the Twin Cities during our vacation in the coming weeks. We're already planning on going back to Okoboji again next summer.