In what some might consider a stunning upset, Des Moines and not Lake Okoboji is considered the weekend getaway destination of choice for Iowans, according to a poll conducted on behalf of Iowa Starting Line.
According to the poll, 28% of respondents said Des Moines is their favorite weekend getaway followed by Northwest Iowa’s Lake Okoboji area with 23%.
Okoboji, or the Iowa Great Lakes, is considered by many to be Iowa’s top tourism destination. Dickinson County has a population of slightly less than 18,000 people but does well with tourists thanks to its seven natural lakes, unique shopping and dining options, and being home to Arnolds Park Amusement Park, one of three operating theme parks in Iowa.
Visitors spent $174 million in Dickinson County in 2019 and $155 in 2020—which took a dip for obvious reasons—according to the Iowa Tourism Office.
While Dickinson County easily outperforms every other rural county in Iowa—and a few counties with larger metros—it was no match for Polk County, home to Des Moines, Iowa’s capital and largest city.
Besides being the biggest show in town—or state should we say?—Des Moines also plays host to one of the largest farmers’ markets in the country, Adventureland, the Iowa State Fair, the Drake Relays, multiple high school state championship events, plenty of concerts and shows, and more.
Polk County had $1.5 billion in tourism spending before falling to about $951 million in 2020, again, for obvious pandemic-related reasons, according to the Iowa Tourism Office.
The Amana Colonies—east-central Iowa—was the third-most popular choice for poll participants at 17% and Decorah came in fourth at 6%.
The Amana Colonies, located in Iowa County, are a group of seven European-inspired villages founded by German immigrants that have been designated a National Historic Landmark. The area boasts a slew of restaurants, hotels and inns, craft shops, wineries, and Millstream Brewing, Iowa’s oldest microbrewery.
Decorah, located in northeast Iowa, is known for the natural beauty surrounding it (Google the “Decorah Eagles Cam” for a taste), its Norwegian heritage, two award-winning breweries of its own, and being home of the “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace” pop machine.
The rest of the survey results showed that 16% of respondents answered “don’t know” while 11% said “other.”
Data For Progress conducted polling for Iowa Starting Line and surveyed 637 likely voters from July 22 to 29. The margin of error is ±4 percentage points.
by Ty Rushing
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