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Old 06-04-2016, 05:29 PM
 
1,114 posts, read 1,996,397 times
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Hi all,

Later this week my 5 year-old and I are road-tripping from the Twin Cities to Iowa City (where I lived for 6 years) to visit a friend. We've got all day to make the 5 driving hour trip, and so I'm looking for ideas for a good stopping spot to do some hiking, or see something interesting (for a 5 year old). Ideally we'll hit the road around 8-9 am and I'd love to stop somewhere mid-morning to stretch the legs, hoping that the kiddo will get tired and nap the last couple hours of the drive. That would put us somewhere in the Mason City area, give or take an hour. I'd also consider a different route down, like taking 63 through Rochester and down, if that gives us a more fun stopping point.

Any suggestions? I was thinking Backbone, and a friend suggested Ledges, but both of those would wind up being after-lunch stops.
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Old 06-04-2016, 11:49 PM
 
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Why don't you take 63 all the way down to Iowa? It's a nice trip, and really pretty fast.

You could stop in the Spring Valley area and bop over to Forestville State Park. There you can take some nice hikes, visit Historic Forestville, and even do a cave tour at Mystery Cave: Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park: Minnesota DNR and Historic Forestville | Historic Sites Minnesota Historical Society

Then stop again in the Waterloo area. There's a water park there, the John Deere Museum, and Cedar Valley Nature Trail. https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attracti...rloo_Iowa.html

At Waterloo you can hop on 380 and take the shortcut down to IC, because you'll be tired.

Have fun!

(I was going to suggest taking 52 down to mid Iowa, but in places it's uppy downy and winding, so hard on kids who get carsick.)
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Old 06-05-2016, 07:09 AM
 
1,114 posts, read 1,996,397 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 601halfdozen0theother View Post
Why don't you take 63 all the way down to Iowa? It's a nice trip, and really pretty fast.

You could stop in the Spring Valley area and bop over to Forestville State Park. There you can take some nice hikes, visit Historic Forestville, and even do a cave tour at Mystery Cave: Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park: Minnesota DNR and Historic Forestville | Historic Sites Minnesota Historical Society

Then stop again in the Waterloo area. There's a water park there, the John Deere Museum, and Cedar Valley Nature Trail. https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attracti...rloo_Iowa.html

At Waterloo you can hop on 380 and take the shortcut down to IC, because you'll be tired.

Have fun!

(I was going to suggest taking 52 down to mid Iowa, but in places it's uppy downy and winding, so hard on kids who get carsick.)
That's perfect, exactly the type of stop I was looking for. Thanks!
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Old 06-05-2016, 07:22 AM
 
Location: Des Moines
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If you're set on hiking in Iowa though, I wouldn't throw out Backbone or Ledges State Parks as ideas, as they are both fantastic parks. Ledges will take you a little out of your way if you're looking to cut over to Eastern Iowa though.
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Old 06-05-2016, 08:08 AM
 
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Depends on how long you want to make this trip. I drive Twin Cities to WCF half-a-dozen times a year now, actually trending down over past 15 years.

Hwy 63 from Rochester to Waterloo-Cedar Falls is an alternative to I-35, just a bit slower but like I-35. Both, IMO, are pretty blah from a drive perspective, I-35 for most of it and 63 between the Minnesota border and Waterloo-CF (very flat farm fields) and neither offer much for stops along them (63 between the border and WCF is even faster since they bypassed New Hampton, but wow is it boring). But those two routes are the fastest, and that counts for a lot.

If you have a far amount of time, one idea might be Highway 61 (east metro) and snake along the Mississippi River). This route does take longer for drive time, much longer if you stop to do things. It is bluff country that goes through river cities and you can bounce across the river and follow that down on the Wisconsin side as well. The National Eagle Center is in Wasasha on the Minnesota side, lots of little parks, hiking, etc. If you wanted to still do 63, you could take 61 into Wabasha, then bounce toward Rochester on 52 and from there go 63.

Or continue on 52 south into some more beautiful scenery and head to Decorah, a truly wonderful little college city in the bluffs of NE Iowa. You can spend a few hours in Decorah - ice cave, Dunnings Falls, great hiking, a downtown with local restaurants, a couple of microbrews (a really nice city park for camping, if that is an option). Then either head over to the Mississippi to hike/see Effigy Mounds (great hiking/camping - you can spend a weekend there along if you hike) or head down to Backbone or down/over to Waterloo-Cedar Falls.

In WCF, depedeng on your son's age, there is an older (40 plus years) miniature golf/driving range/go cart/batting cage/paintball/something to do with archery place on the northside by the airport just off of 58. It was there when I was a kid and we just took my 9-year-old there a few weeks ago when visiting family in Cedar Falls. It was packed on a Saturday, lots of kids and parents. It is all outside and exposed, so it can get hot mid-day. And, like I said, kind of old. But the go carts are great and much cheaper than in the Twin Cities. You can get a 10-punch card for $50 and anyone can use it for carts, mini golf for sure. The batting cages take tokens, driving range is a basket of 100 or so balls for $9. Oh, and there is this big bouncy mat thing that is probably 30' by 60' or so, 4 or 5' high in the middle and surrounded by sand and kid can get an all day wrist band and just ... bounce.

Good restaurants in the Parkade of Cedar Falls as well as shopping. UNI's campus is a place to let a kid roller blade or scooter to burn off some energy before heading back into the car.

Definitely check road construction. Lots of in on 52 heading to Rochester from MSP and long delays for us a few weeks ago.
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Old 06-05-2016, 12:50 PM
 
1,114 posts, read 1,996,397 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DMRyan View Post
If you're set on hiking in Iowa though, I wouldn't throw out Backbone or Ledges State Parks as ideas, as they are both fantastic parks. Ledges will take you a little out of your way if you're looking to cut over to Eastern Iowa though.
I've camped in Backbone before and really enjoyed it. Definitely intend to make it back there again.

I hadn't heard of Ledges before my friend mentioned it, and I wish I had known about it when I lived in Iowa City. My wife did some temp work and stayed in Des Moines for a few weeks at a time during that stretch, and we definitely would have made the swing up toward Ledges if I had known about it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by WoodburyWoody View Post
Depends on how long you want to make this trip. I drive Twin Cities to WCF half-a-dozen times a year now, actually trending down over past 15 years.

Hwy 63 from Rochester to Waterloo-Cedar Falls is an alternative to I-35, just a bit slower but like I-35. Both, IMO, are pretty blah from a drive perspective, I-35 for most of it and 63 between the Minnesota border and Waterloo-CF (very flat farm fields) and neither offer much for stops along them (63 between the border and WCF is even faster since they bypassed New Hampton, but wow is it boring). But those two routes are the fastest, and that counts for a lot.

If you have a far amount of time, one idea might be Highway 61 (east metro) and snake along the Mississippi River). This route does take longer for drive time, much longer if you stop to do things. It is bluff country that goes through river cities and you can bounce across the river and follow that down on the Wisconsin side as well. The National Eagle Center is in Wasasha on the Minnesota side, lots of little parks, hiking, etc. If you wanted to still do 63, you could take 61 into Wabasha, then bounce toward Rochester on 52 and from there go 63.

Or continue on 52 south into some more beautiful scenery and head to Decorah, a truly wonderful little college city in the bluffs of NE Iowa. You can spend a few hours in Decorah - ice cave, Dunnings Falls, great hiking, a downtown with local restaurants, a couple of microbrews (a really nice city park for camping, if that is an option). Then either head over to the Mississippi to hike/see Effigy Mounds (great hiking/camping - you can spend a weekend there along if you hike) or head down to Backbone or down/over to Waterloo-Cedar Falls.

In WCF, depedeng on your son's age, there is an older (40 plus years) miniature golf/driving range/go cart/batting cage/paintball/something to do with archery place on the northside by the airport just off of 58. It was there when I was a kid and we just took my 9-year-old there a few weeks ago when visiting family in Cedar Falls. It was packed on a Saturday, lots of kids and parents. It is all outside and exposed, so it can get hot mid-day. And, like I said, kind of old. But the go carts are great and much cheaper than in the Twin Cities. You can get a 10-punch card for $50 and anyone can use it for carts, mini golf for sure. The batting cages take tokens, driving range is a basket of 100 or so balls for $9. Oh, and there is this big bouncy mat thing that is probably 30' by 60' or so, 4 or 5' high in the middle and surrounded by sand and kid can get an all day wrist band and just ... bounce.

Good restaurants in the Parkade of Cedar Falls as well as shopping. UNI's campus is a place to let a kid roller blade or scooter to burn off some energy before heading back into the car.

Definitely check road construction. Lots of in on 52 heading to Rochester from MSP and long delays for us a few weeks ago.
I'd love to do the stretch along the Mississippi sometime! I've camped in Yellow River and another time did a bed and breakfast also in the area and we had a blast. I've never driven that whole way though. I've got a good friend who lives in Dubuque, so it would make sense to go that way and just spend a night in Dubuque along the way.
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Old 06-05-2016, 06:00 PM
 
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Mason City has a great city park, East Park. There you will wind a large playground they call Prairie Playground - It's one of the timber-construction playgrounds you don't see too often anymore and kids seem to love those. There is also a old, restored steam engine at the park. Many years ago, kids could actually play on the steam engine, but now access is restricted and its just something interesting to look at. The park also has 2-miles of trails that meander through mature trees and a small river. It really is a great stop for young kids.
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Old 06-05-2016, 08:44 PM
 
Location: Outside of Chicago
4,598 posts, read 3,748,511 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 1stpontiac View Post
Hi all,

Later this week my 5 year-old and I are road-tripping from the Twin Cities to Iowa City (where I lived for 6 years) to visit a friend. We've got all day to make the 5 driving hour trip, and so I'm looking for ideas for a good stopping spot to do some hiking, or see something interesting (for a 5 year old). Ideally we'll hit the road around 8-9 am and I'd love to stop somewhere mid-morning to stretch the legs, hoping that the kiddo will get tired and nap the last couple hours of the drive. That would put us somewhere in the Mason City area, give or take an hour. I'd also consider a different route down, like taking 63 through Rochester and down, if that gives us a more fun stopping point.

Any suggestions? I was thinking Backbone, and a friend suggested Ledges, but both of those would wind up being after-lunch stops.
Northeastern Iowa is incredible. It's definitely one of the most underrated and overlooked parts of the country. I'd take a little detour and head down the Mississippi River. In MN there is Great River Bluffs SP. In IA there is Mount Hosmer Park, Effigy Mounds National Monument, Pikes Peak SP, and then inland there is the Field of Dreams and Maquoketa Caves SP.
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Old 06-06-2016, 06:42 AM
 
Location: Jonesboro
3,168 posts, read 3,032,914 times
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Default Northern Iowa

Quote:
Originally Posted by dude1984 View Post
Northeastern Iowa is incredible. It's definitely one of the most underrated and overlooked parts of the country. I'd take a little detour and head down the Mississippi River. In MN there is Great River Bluffs SP. In IA there is Mount Hosmer Park, Effigy Mounds National Monument, Pikes Peak SP, and then inland there is the Field of Dreams and Maquoketa Caves SP.


Well said there, dude1984.
I fondly recall my many childhood/youthful era trips into the northeast Iowa/Mississippi River area & wistfully recall those memories & also dream of a return trip...maybe one of more of a permanent nature.
It's such a beautiful & historic area!
I hope that the op is able to make more than 1 trip in the future & have opportunities to check out the plentiful suggestions made here to this point.
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Old 06-06-2016, 08:46 AM
 
1,255 posts, read 808,888 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dude1984 View Post
Northeastern Iowa is incredible. It's definitely one of the most underrated and overlooked parts of the country. I'd take a little detour and head down the Mississippi River. In MN there is Great River Bluffs SP. In IA there is Mount Hosmer Park, Effigy Mounds National Monument, Pikes Peak SP, and then inland there is the Field of Dreams and Maquoketa Caves SP.
Yeah, that whole region of NE Iowa/SE Minnesota/SW Wisconsin if pretty wonderful for parks, camping, hiking, etc. Even if you are not into any of those but still enjoy seeing it from a car window, the driving on either side of the Mississippi River from around Red Wing to Dubuque is an eye-opener.
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