February 16, 2017

My Isla Mujeres Bucket List

I’ve been told some stories about Isla Mujeres, a tiny island off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.

That’s it’s so small, visitors and locals use golf carts to get around.

That if you time your visit right, you can swim with whale sharks.

That you mostly spend your vacation days sitting on a beach.

Isla Mujeres sounds pretty idyllic. I’m headed there soon, so I made a big wish list of what I’d like to do if time and money weren’t an issue. Truthfully, I will just be sitting, reading, and sleeping most of my vacation. But, if I do get up and find myself a golf cart, here are some other things I’d go do:

Swim With Whale Sharks

Statue of a whale shark on Isla Mujeres (which is probably how close I’ll get to seeing a real one since I’m not going during the season you’d find them in Mexico). Photo by Kirt Edblom on Flickr.

This is on the bucket list, but I know full well I won’t be doing it. Wrong time of the year. If you want to swim with these gentle giants, you need to visit between June and September.

Chill at Playa Norte

Isla Mujeres is about 5 miles long, so it’s entirely possible that I will be at Playa Norte daily without much of a hassle. It’s the most popular beach on the island.

Explore By Golf Cart

You’ve got to love a vacation destination that’s small enough to explore that all you need is a golf cart. Photo by Shinya Suzuki on Flickr.

While we plan on getting around the island by bikes most of the time, it sounds so fun to rent a golf cart and zoom around the island.

Eat. A lot.

It’s a small island but it is loaded with good restaurants. A lot specialize in fresh seafood because, come on, it’s an island. Among the ones that rank high on travel lists and get featured on blogs a lot are Ballyhoo Restaurant & Margaritas, Mango Cafe and Lolo Lorena. Lolo Lorena sounds like an especially unique dining experience. I also have Bastos Grill, Greenverde, Ruben’s and La Lomita on my list.

Try Mexican Specialties

While on the topic of eating…Yucantan has some noted foods that I want to try, including a citrus roasted pulled pork specialty that originated there called Cochinita pibil. I read about it here, a post about Mexican food I’ve never heard of before, including fruits like nance fruit and guaya fruit (which sounds trick to eat), and cheese-stuffed street food called marquesitas.

Underwater Museum

The surreal-looking sculptures that create a reef in an underwater museum in Mexico called Museo Subacuatico de Arte. Photo by Andy Blackledge on Flickr.

There’s a surreal-looking sculpture garden off the island is not only beautiful to see while snorkeling or diving, it’s also functional by contributing to the reef structure and growth of coral. I’d love to see the Museo Subacuatico de Arte, plus learn how it helps keep the environment healthy for marine life. More information here.

Shop The Women’s Beading Cooperative

This place looks like a nice place to purchase homemade gifts to bring home.

Visit A Turtle Farm

The island has a sanctuary for sea turtles called NAME. Here, they have a hatchery and regularly release the hatchlings to sea.

Zip Line Over Water

You can zip line over the ocean on Isla Mujeres. Photo by Grisha Levit on Flickr.

How often do you get to zipline over an ocean? Garrafon Natural Reef Park offers that experience on Isla Mujeres.

Find The Recycled Bottle Island

There is a man-made island found on Isla Mujeres that’s kept afloat by recycled plastic bottles (it’s called Joyxee Island or Joyxee Island II). A quick tour can be arranged. Sounds like the sort of oddity I need to see while on vacation. Here’s the Trip Advisor page on it.

See Mayan Ruins

You can find incredible ruins in Mexico, and for the best preserved, I know we need to go to the mainland. Isla Mujeres does have some remains of ruins, though. Being on the east side of the island, they’re said to be important in that they’re the first to have the sun hit them each day.

Sea Kayak

Our little hotel has some kayaks available for guests to use, so why not try sea kayaking? Since this is a bucket list post, I’d like to imagine we’d have a guide who’d take us to gorgeous locals. The likely scenario, though, will be that Mr. Wonderful and I will strike out on our own and we’ll get tired 5 minutes into it.

Find A Cenote

Mexico is known for cenotes, underground, water-filled caves. There aren’t any on the island, so if I were to swim in one, I’d have to go inland. There are a few on the Yucatan, so who knows? Someday I’ll find one.

What should I add to my Isla Mujeres bucket list?

 

August 1, 2016

Fun On Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad

The only place you can take your kids on a steam engine train ride in Nebraska or Iowa is on the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad in Boone, Iowa.

Boone is a small town between Des Moines and Clear Lake, our two main stops on our Great Iowa Road Trip. It’s about 2 1/2  hours from Omaha. We ended up with a diesel engine pulling our train, but no big deal – it didn’t dampen the experience of riding in on authentic train.

Boone & scenic valley railroad title

What to expect on the train ride

– Expect to buy a ticket for anyone in your party who can walk (babe in arms do not need a ticket). I received complimentary passes to ride the train so I can tell you about my family’s experience.

– The train depot has a museum – admission is included with your train ticket – and a gift shop. Allow some time before your ride to walk through both, especially if you’ve planned this pit stop to be a chance to stretch your legs.

Outside the train depot in Boon, Iowa.

Outside the train depot in Boon, Iowa.

– The steam engine is used on the Saturdays, so when we went during the week, we had a diesel engine. That’s no big deal for me or the kids, it’s still a train ride. If it’s a big deal to you, go on a Saturday.

– Your ride will not be air-conditioned – these are 1920s rail cars (though, dinner trains are enclosed with heating and air-conditioning). We went in June and thanks to some temperate weather, it was not a hot mess. It was, in fact, quite comfortable.

The Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad 1920s era coach cars are not air-conditioned. On our trip in June, it was a comfortable ride without needing air-conditioning.

The Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad 1920s era coach cars are not air-conditioned. On our trip in June, it was a comfortable ride without needing air-conditioning.

– Seating is first come, first served in the coach cars. If you ride on the dinner or dessert train, your seats are reserved. We arrived late and had to ask a couple to switch seats so that the four of us could be seated together. Arrive early and avoid the hassle.

Even on a weekday, the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad cars can be crowded. It was for us on a Tuesday afternoon.

Even on a weekday, the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad cars can be crowded. It was for us on a Tuesday afternoon.

– The ride is out and back, about an hour and a half ride. Each car has a volunteer who’ll share interesting facts about the train and the area you pass through. Ours shared the story about Kate Shelley on the way back to the station.

– There is a concession car, but since the kids slept through lunch, I had also brought their lunch with us. I didn’t see anyone else eating. If you get tickets to ride in the caboose, you will not have access to the concession car.

Mooch enjoyed her picnic on the train.

Mooch enjoyed her picnic on the train.

Highlights of the train ride

The highlight has to be crossing the Bass Point Creek High Bridge, which you’ll do twice since it’s an out-and-back ride. If you’re afraid of heights, this will be the ultimate low.

The Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad crosses the Bass Point Creek High Bridge, which, at 156 feet tall, is the tallest single-track interurban railroad bridge in the United States.

The Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad crosses the Bass Point Creek High Bridge, which, at 156 feet tall, is the tallest single-track interurban railroad bridge in the United States. It’s a doozy of a drop.

We also liked the concession car. The kids got some ice cream, and Mr. Wonderful and I enjoyed a craft beer from a Boone brewery. Cheers!

Special Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad Events

Outside the train depot in Boone, Iowa.

Outside the train depot in Boone, Iowa.

There are daily rides with the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad, as well as regular dinner and dessert trains. From time to time, special themed events are planned – several I can see being very, very popular with families.

2016 special events:

Day Out With Thomas – Sept. 17, 18, and Sept. 23-25

Pumpkin Express – Oct. 8, Oct. 15, and Oct. 22

Fall Motorcar Day – Nov. 5

Santa Express Train – Nov. 25-27, Dec. 2-4, Dec. 9-11,  and Dec. 16-18

Be sure to check the dates here as they may change. You will want to purchase your tickets in advance since these are popular.

If you go

Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad


Where: 225 10th St., Boone, Iowa

When: Memorial Day Weekend through Oct. 31; departs Mondays-Fridays and Sundays at 1:30 p.m.; departs Saturdays at 1:30 and 4 p.m. Ride lasts about an hour and 45 minutes. Always check dates and times before you go.

Note: The steam locomotive is only scheduled to pull Saturday trains, Memorial Day Weekend through Oct. 31 (excluding Day Out With Thomas).

Website

* * * * *

Plan your own Great Iowa Road Trip!

Iowa Collage

Here’s an itinerary to plan your own Great Iowa Road Trip! To learn more about some of the destinations on this trip, check out these posts:

Rustic charm in suburban Iowa at Wildwood Lodge in Des Moines, Iowa

Upscale casual dining at SIPS North Shore Kitchen & Bar in Clear Lake, Iowa

A room with a view: South Shore Inn in Clear Lake, Iowa

Clear Lake Yurts: A Unique Iowa Experience

Get even more inspiration from my bucket lists for Des Moines and Clear Lake!

July 29, 2016

Clear Lake Yurts: A Unique Experience In Iowa

This summer, I stayed in a yurt. A yurt!

What’s a yurt?

A yurt is more tent than cabin. The yurts in Clear Lake, Iowa come with beds and a table.

A yurt is more tent than cabin. The yurts in Clear Lake, Iowa come with beds and a table.

A yurt is essentially a glorified tent. It bridges the gap between a tent and a cabin, actually. It has a door that locks, windows that you can open and close using flaps, and a little patio. They’re unique in that they’re round. The closest yurt to Omaha is in Clear Lake, Iowa.

Clear Lake, Iowa

Clear Lake, Iowa

McIntosh Woods State Park in Iowa has two yurts that are mere steps from the lake. The Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce invited us to stay in one for a night so I could tell you all about it.

Here's the view from the dock by our yurt. Nice, huh?

Here’s the view from the dock by our yurt. Nice, huh?

The yurts in Clear Lake have a bunk bed and futon, plus a table and chairs. Outside, each yurt had a couple picnic tables, charcoal grill and a wood fire pit.

All you "Big" fans out there now have the legit chance to tell your spouse "I get to be on top." This yurt has a bunk bed, plus a futon.

All you “Big” fans out there now have the legit chance to tell your spouse “I get to be on top.” This yurt has a bunk bed, plus a futon.

Pretty much, you get to feel like you’re camping without having to sleep on the ground or struggle with a tent.

Tips for staying in a yurt

Yurt Clear Lake title

– Bring your own bedding – and don’t forget pillows.

– Bring your usual camping supplies. If you’re making any meals during your stay, you’ll need to bring all of your cooking supplies in addition to the ingredients. Don’t forget to bring paper towels or wet naps, especially if you have kids.

– Bring towels, both for showering and if you’re visiting the lake.

– Clean up after yourself. There is a broom in the yurt, which was a good reminder to tidy up before leaving.

More about Clear Lake Yurts

A glamorous morning in our yurt

A glamorous morning in our yurt

The bathrooms are a short walk – there is a shower. You share it with whoever is staying in the other yurt. We were the only ones staying there that night, so it felt private.

Like a tent, though, there is no air conditioning, just a fan and windows for a breeze. We stayed at the end of June and with unseasonably cool nights, it was incredibly comfortable. But I’m no fool, I know what Midwestern summers can be like, so I can imagine how it’d be hot if the weather is.

What to do at McIntosh Woods

The quiet beach at McKintosh Woods State Park in Clear Lake, Iowa.

The quiet beach at McIntosh Woods State Park in Clear Lake, Iowa.

The state park is fairly small, but it does have a beach – one of three beaches easily accessible for families visiting Clear Lake.

It wasn’t our favorite one, but it’s a nice place to cool off if you’re staying in the park.

There’s also a playground.

Younger kids will enjoy the playground at McKintosh Woods State Park.

Younger kids will enjoy the playground at McIntosh Woods State Park.

Most people go to Clear Lake to boat, and there is a boat ramp to access the lake within the park. There were quite a few people fishing, as well.

It’s not a park for serious hikers.

Clear Lake is the main draw to McKintosh Woods State Park.

Clear Lake is the main draw to McIntosh Woods State Park.

What’s near the yurts

Clear Lake is a short drive from McIntosh Woods State Park, where you’ll find great restaurants, more beach access and cute local shops in the downtown area. I wrote about Clear Lake places to visit if you want some recommendations.

If you’re looking for dining with a view, I recommend PM Park – it’s not the closest restaurant, but it is the only one with a tiki bar. So it’s got that going for it.

The breakfast there is pretty good, too – try their French pancake.

If you go

Clear Lake Yurts at McIntosh Woods State Park

Where: 1200 E. Lake St., Ventura, Iowa

Cost: $35 a night/minimum 2 nights

Website

 

* * * * *

Plan your own Great Iowa Road Trip!

Iowa Collage

Here’s an itinerary to plan your own Great Iowa Road Trip! To learn more about some of the destinations on this trip, check out these posts:

Rustic charm in suburban Iowa at Wildwood Lodge in Des Moines, Iowa

Upscale casual dining at SIPS North Shore Kitchen & Bar in Clear Lake, Iowa

A room with a view: South Shore Inn in Clear Lake, Iowa

Fun on the rails with Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad

Get even more inspiration from my bucket lists for Des Moines and Clear Lake!

July 21, 2016

Room With A View: South Shore Inn In Iowa

The longest stop of the Great Iowa Road Trip was Clear Lake, a charming beach town in northern Iowa.

There are several lodging options around Clear Lake, but very few have a lakeside view. We lucked out with South Shore Inn, though. You couldn’t get much closer than our room!

Here's the view from our room at South Shore Inn. Why hello, Clear Lake!

Here’s the view from our room at South Shore Inn. Why hello, Clear Lake!

Our stay was hosted by Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce. Let me tell you about the place!

What to expect at South Shore Inn

I’ll be honest with you, when you pull up to the inn’s parking lot, you’re not going to be impressed. Don’t turn around. Go in, walk through your room, and check out the view. This is what you came for.

Sunset from the table right outside our room at South Shore Inn in Clear Lake.

Sunset from the table right outside our room at South Shore Inn in Clear Lake.

One of our neighbors walked by one morning and said to me “This is God’s country.”

All rooms face the lake, and you either have a walkout door to the patio or a balcony. It’s not exactly private on the ground level, as you share the view and area with The Landing Patio Bar & Grill, a popular restaurant, and your neighbors. I’m not complaining – I was smitten with the view.

I think my son was smitten with the view and private dock at South Shore Inn, too.

I think my son was smitten with the view and private dock at South Shore Inn, too.

We used the patio frequently, bringing the inn’s complimentary breakfast outside.

We let our son stay up late one night to watch the sunset.

And one quiet morning, I walked out with my son to just sit on the dock. It was one of those moments you wish for when planning a vacation but never actually plan on happening.

Nothing beats comfy jammies and being lakeside in the morning.

Nothing beats comfy jammies and being lakeside in the morning.

The inn has its own dock. Here’s a sweet video we took from that dock.

South Shore Inn amenities

The rooms come with the standard inn items: Flatscreen TV, desk, mini refrigerator, that sort of thing. But the big selling point (besides the view) was the huge whirl pool tub.

There’s also a complimentary breakfast each morning, featuring a favorite of my kids’, the waffle maker. There was also fresh fruit, which is a nice score when on vacation. You’re going to want to eat breakfast outdoors.

Waffles for breakfast at South Shore Inn.

Waffles for breakfast at South Shore Inn.

One downside to the inn is the parking lot. Inn guests share it with diners at The Landing. It’s not a problem during the day, but if you go out for dinner and return later in the evening, you might not find a spot. There’s overflow parking across the street, though, so you’re not totally out of luck.

I take it back, there’s a second downside, at least, if you ask a kid: There’s no pool. But there’s a gigantic lake and a couple beaches nearby, so if this is a complaint coming from your kid, point that out.

The owners also keep a fridge stocked with bottled water, which is super helpful when you’re on the go. There’s also coffee that’s always available in the lobby.

What’s near South Shore Inn

You can see The Landing crowd at the right of the photo with South Shore Inn guests seated on the right side of the photo.

You can see The Landing crowd under the green awning and the South Shore Inn guests seated to the right side of it.

The Landing Patio Bar & Grill is on the premise. It was literally 10 steps from our bedroom. The waitstaff is friendly and the burgers are great. There’s also a kids menu.

There’s a playground across the street to tire your kids out.

But you’re there for the lake, right? You want a beach. There are three beaches around Clear Lake. The two closest are City Beach and the Clear Lake State Park beach. They’re not far away at all.

Playing at City Beach in downtown Clear Lake, a short drive from South Shore Inn.

Playing at City Beach in downtown Clear Lake, a short drive from South Shore Inn.

If you go

South Shore Inn

Where: 1603 South Shore Drive, Clear Lake, Iowa

Website

* * * * *

Plan your own Great Iowa Road Trip!

Iowa Collage

Here’s an itinerary to plan your own Great Iowa Road Trip! To learn more about some of the destinations on this trip, check out these posts:

Rustic charm in suburban Iowa at Wildwood Lodge in Des Moines, Iowa

Upscale Casual Dining at SIPS North Shore Kitchen & Bar in Clear Lake, Iowa

Adventure in a Yurt in Clear Lake, Iowa

Fun on the rails with Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad

Get even more inspiration from my bucket lists for Des Moines and Clear Lake!

July 18, 2016

Sips, A Casual Upscale Clear Lake Restaurant

We visited several highly recommended restaurants during our Great Iowa Road Trip. There was only one where the food was so good, I wanted photographic evidence of its greatness, was a Clear Lake restaurant: SIPS North Shore Kitchen & Bar.

Ryan, one of the chefs at SIPS, found out I was headed to Clear Lake and invited my family to dine there. He was tempting me with this baby, the Spicy Tuna Avocado Boat.

Who would've guessed you'd find an appetizer like the Spicy Tuna Avocado Boat in Clear Lake, Iowa? Photo courtesy SIPS North Shore Kitchen & Bar

Who would’ve guessed you’d find an appetizer like the Spicy Tuna Avocado Boat in Clear Lake, Iowa? Photo courtesy SIPS North Shore Kitchen & Bar

I told him that’s the kind of food I love – local and creative – but I was traveling with a 4- and 6-year-old. What could my kids eat there? He told me kids were welcomed, that they have a great kids menu. I was sold.

Dinner at SIPS

Craft beer on the Sips North Shore Bar & Grill patio on a warm summer evening - does it get any better than that?

Craft beer on the SIPS North Shore Kitchen & Bar patio on a warm summer evening – does it get any better than that?

We arrived at Sips for an early dinner on a warm, summer weekday. We found a table on the patio. Perfect!

As much as I wanted sushi, I knew my kids well, and ordered the Lamb Lollipops. Served over a bed of red and napa cabbage with some mint vinaigrette drizzled over it, my whole family devoured them. This ended up being the kids’ favorite part of the meal.

The Lamb Lollipops looked too tempting for my daughter to wait for the picture to be done.

The Lamb Lollipops looked too tempting for my daughter to wait for the picture to be done. The bed of cabbage underneath the lamb tasted great, too.

While we waited for the entrees to arrive, Mr. Wonderful and I ordered some craft beer. I was surprised by the beer list here! Our waitress, Kaitlyn, told us it was one of the best around, and I believe her. I counted seven Iowa beers among dozens of others on the four-page beer list.

 I ordered the Tomahawk Chop with a side of roasted cauliflower, and Mr. Wonderful went with the pan seared lamb served with risotto and the best asparagus.

The Tomahawk Chop comes with caramelized rum apples - yum!

The Tomahawk Chop comes with caramelized rum apples – yum!

My dish was masterfully seasoned and cooked. I didn’t want to share.

Mooch had chicken strips and Farley ordered the steak dinner. Both were served with fries. Kids meals were reasonably priced, especially the steak dinner, between $5 and $6.

Farley contemplating the steak. Should he have ordered the cheeseburger? Deep thoughts by a 6-year-old.

Farley contemplating the steak. Should he have ordered the cheeseburger? Deep thoughts by a 6-year-old.

Ryan prepared dessert for us, and thoughtfully modified them with kids’ pickiness in mind (topping on the side). He brought out caramelized pineapple served with a bourbon and rum reduction, rehydrated star-fruit, candied nuts and a lime yogurt quenelle (which the kids wouldn’t touch). It’s a summer treat that you don’t feel guilty about eating after a big meal, and a strawberry cheesecake.

Dessert at SIPS North Shore Kitchen & Bar - caramelized pineapple and cheesecake (modified for my slightly picky kids).

Dessert at SIPS North Shore Kitchen & Bar – caramelized pineapple and cheesecake (modified for my slightly picky kids).

The cheesecake was rich and delicious and, again, I really didn’t want to share it.

Service at SIPS

Service on the patio at SIPS North Shore Kitchen & Bar was prompt and comfortable with my squirrely kids.

Service on the patio at SIPS North Shore Kitchen & Bar was prompt and comfortable with my squirrely kids.

I’m not sure how many families go to Sips on any given day but Kaitlyn, our waitress, was unfazed with us. We had spills, we had coloring books crowding the table. She rolled with it. She was fantastic!

What’s near SIPS

SIPS North Shore Kitchen & Bar is right next door to one of the main draws in Clear Lake: Surf Ballroom.

Can any kid resist getting on stage? My kids loved being on the Surf Ballroom's stage, where many musical legends have played.

Can any kid resist getting on stage? My kids loved being on the Surf Ballroom’s stage, where many musical legends have played.

The ballroom is free to visit, and you can take a self-guided tour until 4 p.m. If you’re trying to time a visit to both, go around the lunch hour. SIPS has several signature sandwiches that sound like a perfect midday meal, or salads, for those looking for something lighter.

If you go

SIPS North Shore Kitchen & Bar

Where: 444 North Shore Drive, Clear Lake, Iowa

When: Tuesday through Saturday, 4 to 9 p.m.

Find them on Facebook

* * * * *

Iowa Collage

Plan your own road trip!

Check out the Great Iowa Road Trip itinerary here. To learn more about some of the destinations on this trip, visit the blog over the next few weeks. I can’t wait to tell you about these places:

Rustic charm in suburban Iowa at Wildwood Lodge in Des Moines, Iowa

A room with a view at Southshore Inn in Clear Lake, Iowa

Adventure in a Yurt in Clear Lake, Iowa

Fun on the rails with Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad

Get even more inspiration from my bucket lists for Des Moines and Clear Lake!

July 15, 2016

Family-Friendly Des Moines Hotel, Wildwood Lodge

Des Moines, Iowa, is a city with attractions spread throughout the metro area, so choosing a hotel for a home base can be tough. It’s an easy-to-navigate city, but knowing what you want to do there will help narrow down your options.

I was set on seeing the Living History Farms for the first time, so being hosted to the city by Catch Des Moines, I was hooked up with the Wildwood Lodge, located in Clive, a suburb of West Des Moines.

What to expect at Wildwood Lodge

The fireplace in the lobby of Wildwood Lodge in Clive, Iowa.

The fireplace in the rustically decorated lobby of Wildwood Lodge, a West Des Moines hotel located in the suburb of Clive, Iowa.

The location of Wildwood Lodge isn’t exactly what I typically look for – it’s nestled among chain restaurants like Chili’s and Applebee’s. But it’s also near the Living History Farms, as well as Clive Aquatic Center, Jordan Creek Town Center and the interstate. Its convenience could not be beat.

The front lobby of Wildwood was my favorite thing of the entire hotel. It has a cabin theme throughout.

A close eye for detail was maintained throughout the Wildwood Lobby.

A close eye for detail was maintained throughout the Wildwood Lobby.

I spent one afternoon reading by the fireplace while everyone in my family napped. If I squinted real hard, I could imagine the parking lot was a lake.

If you’re traveling with little ones, you know the pool is a make or break thing. Here, the pool was large enough for play, plus there was a great hot tub.

The pool at Wildwood Lodge went up to 6 feet. The hot tub is behind the fake boulders.

The pool at Wildwood Lodge went up to 6 feet. The hot tub is behind the fake boulders.

If you aren’t traveling with kids, you’ll be happy to know they kick them out after 9:30 p.m. (which is plenty late for my kiddos, so I wasn’t put out).

The hotel offers a couple extras for guests, including a complimentary happy hour appetizer during the week and breakfast every day. During the week, that breakfast includes some hot elements. One day it was scrambled eggs for us, the next biscuits and gravy. Guests arriving Sunday through Thursday receive a cookie, too.

Complimentary breakfast is served in the lobby of Wildwood Lodge seven days a week.

Complimentary breakfast is served daily in the lobby of Wildwood Lodge.

The hotel also has free wi-fi, which I love.

The rooms carried some of the cabin theme into them. Our first room overlooked the pool area, which is cool in theory, but in reality, it made the room reek of chlorine. The front desk staff promptly helped us change rooms.

A room with two queen size beds was enough space for my family of four.

A room with two queen size beds was enough space for my family of four.

The rooms are pretty standard for mid-range hotel – there weren’t a whole lot of frills to it, but it was comfortable.

Dining near Wildwood Lodge

There are several restaurants within walking distance of the hotel. They’re all national chains, which you might want the familiarity.

I like to find local restaurants near hotels I’m staying at. One of the most well-known Des Moines Restaurant is about a five-minute drive: The Machine Shed. Go with a big appetite!

You'll be stuffed after eating a meal at the Machine Shed, but how can you not save room for dessert?

You’ll be stuffed after eating a meal at the Machine Shed, but how can you not save room for dessert?

And a camera, because we had a lot of fun taking pictures in front of the restaurant.

I asked the clerk at the front desk what she’d recommend and she recommended the Waterfront Seafood Market. She said they had the best clam chowder (she added that she’s a Boston native with a nod of authority).

Attractions near Wildwood Lodge

The 1900 Horse-Powered Farm at the Living History Farms in Urbandale, Iowa, was my kids' favorite because there were so many animals there.

The 1900 Horse-Powered Farm at the Living History Farms in Urbandale, Iowa, was my kids’ favorite because there were so many animals there.

One of the biggest draws to this West Des Moines area is The Living History Farms, which depict Iowa farm life over three centuries. It’s about 2 miles from the hotel – a very quick drive!

Even a shorter distance from the hotel is the Clive Aquatic Center. Cool off at this outdoor water park (not in the “big water park sense,” but one with a couple slides, a cute kids pool area and a huge pool).

About 3 miles in the other direction is the huge mall and shopping center, Jordan Creek Town Center. We found a lot of families walking around the lake, looking at the cute ducklings and loud geese. There are several higher-end chain restaurants around the lake with outdoor seating to enjoy the view. The mall has a movie theater, as well.

The walking path around the Jordan Creek Town Center is stroller-friendly and short enough for little legs to manage.

The walking path around the Jordan Creek Town Center is stroller-friendly and short enough for little legs to manage.

The drive to downtown Des Moines from the hotel is about 10 miles – very manageable if you plan on visiting any of the attractions there.

 

If you go

Wildwood Lodge

Where: 11431 Forest Ave, Clive, Iowa (being an out-of-towner who doesn’t know better, I still consider this a Des Moines hotel)

Get more hotel information here!

* * * * *

Plan your own Great Iowa Road Trip!

Iowa Collage

To learn more about some of the destinations on this trip, visit the blog over the next few weeks. I can’t wait to tell you about these places:

SIPS North Shore in Clear Lake, Iowa

A room with a view at South Shore Inn in Clear Lake, Iowa

Adventure in a Yurt in Clear Lake, Iowa

Fun on the rails with Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad

Get even more inspiration from The Great Iowa Road Trip Post, plus my bucket lists for Des Moines and Clear Lake!