116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
OKOBOJI, Iowa — After a year of shutdowns, masks, social distancing and sickness, travelers are excited to get back to the lake for a little normalcy.
West Lake Okoboji City Administrator Derrick Miner expects this year to be busier than last year, even though the beaches had record numbers in 2020.
Memorial Day weekend marked the unofficial kickoff of summer, when people across the Midwest travel to Okoboji to relax and enjoy the warm air.
This year, people began heading to their lake homes a little early.
“People are starting to float in,” Miner told the Sioux City Journal in mid-May.
Okoboji City Administrator Michael Meyers agreed, saying he drove around a week before Memorial Day and saw people filling their garages and doing yard work.
Dock installers have been out working hard to prepare for the season, Meyers said. On May 21, Larsen’s Docking Co. employees were working to install a dock beside Arnolds Park Amusement Park.
The lake isn’t the only draw to Okoboji. Parks, concerts, summer camps, shops and more attract people every week. Last year, many of the attractions had restrictions in place or canceled events, but they are returning this year.
Arnolds Park Amusement Park has been open since before Memorial Day and has been filled with kids enjoying the classic roller coaster. Free summer concerts also are returning this year after being canceled last year. Starting June 5, people can bring blankets, chairs and snacks to see free concerts at the Preservation Plaza with fireworks following every Saturday, Peters said.
A new attraction is East Lake Park. The playground resembling the Queen II ship was a partnership between the City of Okoboji and Imagine Iowa Great Lakes.
“Minnie Queen” is located along Highway 71, south of Sanborn Avenue.
“There’s just so many things to do for all ages,” Meyers said.
“So many people have been eager to get out of the house,” said Okoboji Tourism Director Rebecca Peters. “They’re vaccinated and feel they can go somewhere.”
Already this year she believes there will be more people in town than last year. The hotels she has spoken with are expecting record numbers based on reservations thus far.
The restaurants and businesses “weathered the storm” last year and are excited to welcome the crowds back, Peters said.
Maxwell’s Beach Café opened May 21. The restaurant normally opens Memorial Day weekend but co-owner Leah Jensen said they opened early because of how many people are already in town.
“Things went really well and we completely filled up,” she said.
Hearing from customers and people in the community Jensen said people are excited to get back out to visit their favorite businesses and restaurants.