Are cold temperatures making everyone in your house feel a little stir-crazy? If you’re like many people, you probably use the colder months as an excuse to take it easy. Leaving the couch, braving the cold, and getting everyone bundled up are not easy tasks. But when you’re in the thick of winter, the days (and months) start to feel long and boring.
That’s why we’re sharing our ultimate winter life hack: planning a day trip or weekend getaway. When the holiday chaos dies down, you need something to look forward to—like a fun trip! You can make the most of your kids’ breaks by planning a quick getaway that gets the whole family out of town for new experiences. Or you can reconnect with a group of friends with an easy trip that’s not too far or too extravagant. The ideal location might even be a short drive away.
The Iowa City area has so many things to offer, no matter the time of year. Use our list below to inspire ideas for fun activities you can do with your friends or family and top places to stay in the area. Your ultimate winter getaway is closer than you think!
THE BEST FRIEND ACTIVITIES
One of the hardest parts of friend trips is finding something to do that most of the group will enjoy. Luckily the Iowa City area, known for its unique community of sports fans, literary masters, and talented artists, is bursting with exciting attractions.
For the artsy group: If you and your friends are looking for a getaway that will spark your creativity and ignite your appreciation of great art, you will want to add the Stanley Art Museum to your list of places to visit. The free museum is on the University of Iowa campus and has extraordinary works of art from all around the world.
You’ll also want to add a stop at Prairie Lights Books, a well-known bookstore, to your itinerary. This three-story bookstore and coffee house is famous for hosting writers like Langston Hughes and Gloria Steinem in the past. Today, they still host fascinating events with authors. Overall, it’s a fun place to stop while you’re in the area—and of course, post to your Instagram feed.
If you’re looking for a hands-on art activity, stop by Brush and Barrel for a relaxed group painting experience. A talented instructor will help guide you through creating a masterpiece that will serve as a memento from your trip for years to come.
For the adventurous group: Some people just want to relax on trips, but others like to explore new experiences. If this sounds like your friends, you won’t be disappointed by all the wonderful winter activities in the area. Try outdoor ice skating, snowshoeing, or ice fishing at Terry Trueblood Recreation Area. Or bundle up and do some winter hiking along the Coralville Reservoir, and you may even spot a couple of bald eagles along the way.
Sometimes a group trip just needs an activity where everyone can participate no matter their athletic skills. The new hybrid golfing and gaming facility, Pinseekers, is perfect for groups like this. Your friends can take turns hitting on the indoor/outdoor driving range, playing mini duck pin bowling, challenging each other in a round of mini golf, and so much more.
For the sporty group: It’s almost impossible to Google ‘Iowa City’ without the Iowa Hawkeyes popping up. The University of Iowa is a staple of Iowa City culture and the community has a strong affinity for Hawkeye sports. If you’re coming into town, it’s worth trying to catch a basketball game, wrestling match, gymnastics event, or other winter sports. It’s also a great excuse to experience the Hawkeye cheering section for yourself.
You can also catch an Iowa Heartlander Hockey game at X-stream Arena in Coralville (about 5 minutes outside of Iowa City). The Heartlanders are a professional minor league ice hockey team in the ECHL and their games are thrilling to watch. They even offer ticket packages for groups and host fun nights like the Teddy Bear Toss Night and Mascot Birthday Night.
For the easy-going group: Sometimes the focus of a getaway is taking things easy. The Iowa City area is perfect for a low-key retreat with friends. If you want to do some shopping, there are so many options. Browse the Pedestrian Mall, Old Town Capitol Center, Coral Ridge Mall, and Iowa River Landing or the many other cute boutiques nestled throughout the area.
You could also grab tickets to a Broadway musical or classical concert at Hancher Auditorium. The architecture of the building and the artwork inside are just as impressive to see, even if you don’t catch a show. The Englert Theatre, a renovated vaudeville-era playhouse that now hosts intimate concerts and shows, is another place to enjoy the performing arts.
If you have kids, you’re probably used to hearing countless, “We never do anything fun” complaints. Many parents assume they need to plan an extravagant trip to Disneyland to make memories with their children, but having fun and reconnecting as a family doesn’t have to take a lot of time or money. It’s easy to pop over to the Iowa City area for a few days to experience the area’s unique family-friendly attractions.
For action-lovers: Imagine your child coming back from winter break and sharing with their class that they got to go scuba diving. You don’t even have to book a tropical vacation— the “Try Scuba” class at Diventures in North Liberty is a great way to get a taste of adventure. Diventures’ 20-yard, heated indoor pool is the perfect place for swimmers (10 years or older) who are curious about diving.
If you’re looking for something adventurous, enjoy a family day of ice skating at the Coral Ridge Ice Arena. This indoor skating rink has a relaxed setting that’s perfect for skaters of all skill levels. You could also stop by Colonial Lanes and bowl a few rounds or play 18 holes of miniature golf.
For little learners: Kids of all ages love The Iowa Children’s Museum in Coralville. This colorful museum is aimed at teaching kids about the world around them through play. The learning laboratory is packed with exhibits that allow children to use their imagination as they play in mini-scenes, like a hospital, a grocery store, and a restaurant. Kids can also explore the mechanics of how things work in the “Take Flight” room. It’s easy to spend a whole day exploring The Iowa Children’s Museum.
The Museum of Natural History, located on the University of Iowa campus, is also an educational resource to explore. With free admission, the Museum of Natural History allows curious thinkers to explore various specimens and artifacts. The museum is always offering fun events like “Read on a Rug” or “Art and Write Night” where participants can interact with the exhibits in unique ways.
Where to stay
When traveling, where you stay can make or break your trip. Fortunately, there are many great options in the Iowa City area.
If you’re looking for something with an incredible pool and hot tub, then the Highlander Hotel should be at the top of your list. It’s located not far from the action of Iowa City and offers free parking and complimentary breakfast. They even have a game room and milkshake snack shack on-site!
If you want to be in the heart of downtown Iowa City, the stylish Hotel Chauncey might be perfect for your next trip. The hotel is located a mile from the University and just a couple blocks from the Pedestrian Mall. You can also stay at the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown University, which has an indoor heated pool, and the Vue Restaurant, where you can dine and enjoy incredible views of Iowa City.
If you’re looking for a place to stay that is bursting with character, look into the Graduate Iowa City. Their retro vibe is incorporated into every corner of the hotel. They also have the Wilder restaurant and Poindexter Coffeehouse on site so you don’t have to travel far for a delicious bite to eat or a quick caffeine buzz.
If you’re looking for something with a little bit of everything, the Hyatt Regency Coralville Hotel & Conference Center is the place for you. Not only do they offer a long list of amenities, but the Hyatt is also steps away from a variety of shops and restaurants in the Iowa River Landing. You’ll find the Iowa Writer’s Library on-site, where you can check out and read books from top Iowa writers during your stay.
Are you ready to start packing your bags for a weekend getaway in Iowa City? The best part about taking a trip to the Iowa City area is that you don’t need to plan a whole itinerary. If you just show up, you are guaranteed to find something fun to do, no matter what you enjoy. If you’re looking for more ideas on things to do, places to stay, or where to eat, make sure to check out our website for our top recommendations.
If you do end up planning and taking a trip to the Iowa City area, we want to see the highlight reel! Make sure to tag @thinkiowacity in your social posts and use our hashtag, #wintergetawayIC. We might even feature you on our social pages!