By Eric on August 2, 2011 11

What Vacation Looks Like in Okoboji

For the readers that don’t live in Iowa, or who may not know about the Okoboji area, it’s one of the few resort areas in Iowa and is called the Great Lakes of Iowa. Big Spirit, East Okoboji and West Okoboji are the three main lakes. We want to share our favorite things to do while in the ‘Boji area, in case you ever make it up there! The post will also serve as a nuts-and-bolts piece to give you an idea of why we love it so much! You might remember from our fairytale that our first summer’s weekends were spent in Okoboji. It’s where we first said “I love you” and also where we said “I do.”


Kelsey’s grandparents have a house on the northeast side of West Okoboji in a small community called Monarch Cove. They have named the house Taj West, but we usually just call it “the cabin.” The house remains empty for most of the year, but the entire family uses it at their leisure. Mostly, we all try to get there during the summer months to enjoy the water, and last year we spent the week between Christmas and New Year’s at the cabin as well as a relaxing getaway. There wasn’t as much to do in the winter, but we were able to relax, which is always nice.

The house has nine bedrooms, six bathrooms, a wide open great room and a massive deck to enjoy the outdoors. Some of the bedrooms have bunk beds that allow for extra sleeping for when the entire family is there all at the same time. All in all there are enough beds to sleep 33 people (not counting floor space and couches)!!

On the Water

The cabin sits about a block off the water, and we can easily walk a couple blocks down to a public dock where we can swim. We often opt for the other option, which is to put Kelsey’s dad’s pontoon in the water. The pontoon holds 17 people, so we usually pack it full with whomever wants to join in. Occasionally we will get the two jet skis out, but only if there is enough interest in using them. The pontoon serves as a home base and the jet ski riders can come and go as they please. We often take turns moving back and forth from the pontoon to the jet skis when they are in the water. Lots of fun. Even 4-month-old Mylie got in on the fun this year!


One of our favorite things to do while in ‘Boji is to drive the pontoon across the lake to eat or get a snack. It’s something I never experienced before knowing Kelsey’s family, and it still amuses me to this day. Pulling up dockside to a restaurant or to Arnold’s Park to get some grub after a long afternoon of boating and swimming is magnificent! Here are a list of dockside restaurants that we love to visit while in ‘Boji.

  1. Nutty Bar Stand (vanilla ice cream covered in chocolate and peanuts! The snack of all snacks in the summer.)
  2. Godfather’s Pizza (pizza by the slice pleases everyone)
  3. Boji Hoagie (sub sandwiches from a small local shop)
  4. Arnold’s Park (carnival food)
  5. Duke’s Burgers (a bit of a hike from the dock, but worth it. It’s a small burger trailer that should be at the Iowa State Fair.)
  6. The Wharf (a sit-down eatery at the junction of East and West Okoboji)
  7. The Ritz (more of a bar than restaraunt, but some great food and HUGE portions)
  8. The Barefoot Bar (great atmosphere, small bar food menu, kind of pricey)

There are still plenty of places that we like to eat that we can’t get to by boat.

  1. Hey, Good Cookies! (a coffee shop with a nice breakfast and lunch menu, and free wifi)
  2. Mrs. Lady’s (Mexican with twice as much cheese as you have ever seen. Kelsey and I split the mini insane taco; it’s huge.)
  3. Remington’s (sit-down eatery, get the onion brick)
  4. Goodies (a gourmet chocolate shop, we usually get there multiple times per stay–also has free wifi)
  5. Asian Palace (a new favorite, the only Chinese place we eat at in ‘Boji)
  6. McKeen’s (another new favorite, pub atmosphere with a great menu)
  7. Taco John’s (it’s close to the cabin, and Kelsey can’t stay away)

Sometimes we will just go to the store and get all the fixin’s for a good ol’ grill out, but that usually only happens once a trip, if that. There are too many fabulous places to eat that we have to chose our meals wisely.


Now that our twin nieces are old enough to ride most of the rides at Arnold’s Park, they bought season passes for this year. (Kari and Brandon are getting my vote for Parents of the Year.) This year we spent Monday afternoon watching them ride their favorite rides endlessly. For some of the rides they need a helper, so Uncle C and Uncle Ric came to the rescue.

When we make it to ‘Boji over the 4th of July, there are usually some great bands–including the local favorite, The Nadas–that perform in the green space. We definitely catch that show if we are in town. And if we are around for the 4th, it’s become a tradition to eat on the balcony of Godfather’s Pizza and watch the fireworks from there.

Golfing is another one of my favorites while in ‘Boji. There is usually a group of us that gets out a few times during our stay, but we especially love to play in the best shot tournaments that they have. Okoboji View has a great two-person best shot on Tuesday nights that includes a steak dinner when you are done. It’s the best golf/steak deal around: $27 for nine holes, a cart, salad, steak and potato. Can’t beat it.

If it rains, you can be sure we’ll be heading to the theater to see a movie (this time we saw Horrible Bosses) or a trip to The Three Sons or the Emporium, a shopping center. At the Emporium we love the Okoboji clothing shops and the Sugar Shack. Here’s Kelsey scoopin’ some sour Jelly Bellys.

Well, there you have it. That’s a taste of what our time looks like while in Okoboji. We love it so much! This year we spent a lot of time on the boat and eating, of course. My only regret is not making it to Boji Hoagie, but we hit a lot of our favorites. I golfed three times (once more than I have all year!), while Kelsey’s clubs stayed in the back of the Jeep the whole week. She was on a mission to do nothing on vacation, and that’s perfectly fine.

One night we went down to the lake to take some photos at sunset. The one at the top of the post and below are some shots I got while Kels was taking some of me taking photos.

Do you have a vacation that you take every year? Some sort of tradition? Let’s hear about it in the comments.


Husband to Kelsey. Father to Rooney. Follower of Jesus. Born and raised in Iowa. I like blogging. Bulleted lists excite me. Thanks for stopping by.

  1. Hey Eric and Kelsey! I’ve been reading this blog and Snappy Casual for a while, but I think this might actually be my first comment. Thanks for sharing more about your vacation spot–it sounds like a wonderful time, and the pictures are totally making me envious!

    I grew up fairly close to the Adirondacks in upstate New York, so our family vacations usually took place in Lake Placid. Sadly, my brother and I were not terribly outdoorsy teenagers, so we didn’t really take advantage of the mountains and lakes, which I regret now (especially after years of living in NYC, where the yearly–and completely selfish–resolution of “This summer, I WILL make friends with someone with a boat!” is made vastly more difficult, ha!). I’ve since moved to Atlanta which, while still big, is much more accessible to nature, so I’m looking forward to finding new fun vacation spots.

    Glad to have finally chimed in and look forward to reading more!

    • Thanks Lauren. Day to day, we don’t do a lot outdoors. I think it’s pretty easy and comfortable to just stay in side most of the time. Vacation is a time when we do get outside and try to enjoy God’s creation. I hope to get into biking as a way to get ouside more in the future. I hope you are enjoying living in Atlanta, I hear it’s a pretty cool city.

  2. Great post! Can I recommend a couple restaurants for your next trip? Gingham Inn on the south side of Spirit Lake (across from the water works station) has the best fried chicken you’ve ever had and the Taco House has amazing tacos. Maybe not as good as Mrs. Lady’s but pretty good for a quick lunch. They are a little tricky to find but are on the way to Milford. :-)

    • Thanks for the suggestions. We have heard a lot about the Taco House, but have yet to make it there. We almost went there last week. I’ve heard of Gingham Inn, but again, never eaten there. We’ll have to try them out next time.

    • I have actually been to both places! My family used to go to Taco House a lot, but we haven’t been there for six years. We definitely need to go back. And I was at Gingham Inn for a bridal luncheon a couple years ago. I didn’t have the fried chicken, but it was a good place! Both are a farther drive from our cabin compared to the other restaurants we frequent.

  3. Oh my gosh! Today was the first time I read your blog after linking to it from another. When I saw the Okoboji header I got so excited! My husband and I are from Iowa and just moved to San Francisco from Des Moines. My in-laws also live in Okoboji on west lake. I feel like we have so much in common and I dont even know you:) I will bookmark your blog and check it all the time!

  4. Had such a wonderful week with you guys! Mylie might need a suit with a skirt to hide those fabulous thighs! LOVE you!

  5. Like Sara above ^^^, I linked onto your blog from another blog. Love the blog. I also loved your Okoboji post as I, too, am from Iowa. You can’t beat vacationing at lake Okoboji. It’s the greatest!! I did it all the time as a child and now that I have my own children, I think it’s time to go back. Thanks for sharing and I’ll def. be coming back to your blog!

Leave a Reply


Text formatting is available via select .

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>