It's summertime which means families are beginning to plan their summer vacations. Now that travel has returned, there are so many places to visit and things to see.

Choosing your getaway destination is half the battle. Finding the best attractions, hotels, and restaurants to please the whole family can be a daunting task. Don't worry! We are here to help. We've consulted with local parents to recommend the best family-friendly activities in the Council Bluffs area so you can spend more time relaxing than stressing this summer.

As an added bonus, several hotel properties are offering a special discounted rate just for you and your family! Click on our hotel packages to browse and book today.

All Aboard! Railroad Fun at the Union Pacific Railroad Museum

Photo courtesy of the Union Pacific Railroad Museum

Hours: Fridays and Saturdays from 12:00 to 6:00 p.m.
Cost: Free
Tickets/Admission: Register online as soon as possible! Spots have been filling up quickly. 

As mile zero of the Transcontinental Railroad, Council Bluffs is rich in railroad history. Uncover the past at the Union Pacific Railroad Museum, where you can explore using hands-on, interactive technology and exhibits that detail the struggles of building the Transcontinental Railroad, President Abraham Lincoln's involvement, the history of passenger rail service, and more. Housed in the city's original public library – built at the turn of the 20th century – the museum itself is a historic delight to behold!

Stand in Two States at the Same Time on "Bob the Bridge"

                   @lex_kelly

Hours: Open 24 hours
Cost: Free
Tickets/Admission: N/A

Stand in two states at the same time on the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge! This 3,000 foot long and 15 foot-wide bridge connects Council Bluffs to Omaha, Nebraska, across the Missouri River and was the first pedestrian bridge built that connected two states. "Bob" serves as a way for walkers, runners, and bicyclists to access 150 miles of trails within the metro. Are you looking for a fun photo op on the bridge? Don't forget to go "bobbing" – striking a pose while standing in two states at the same time!

Every bridge needs a troll, right? So under the bridge on the Omaha side, be sure to meet Omar, the friendly blue troll that all the local kids love. Read all about Omar's adventures in his book "Omar finds a home" available for purchase online. He loves having his picture taken with the kiddos, so don’t forget your camera!

Visit One of the World's Best Zoos Just Minutes Away from CB!

Photo courtesy of Visit Omaha

Hours: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily
Cost: Adults (ages 12 and over): $25.95, Children (ages 3 -11): $18.95, Seniors (65 and over): $24.95, Children (2 and under): Free
Tickets/Admission: Reduce your wait at the gate and purchase your tickets ahead of time online.

Did you know that the world-famous Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is just minutes away from Council Bluffs? Explore 160-acres of unique habitats, animals, plants, and exhibits that will surpass your wildest dreams. Families can even book backstage experiences which allow you to go behind the scenes to explore the aquarium and meet giraffes and elephants!

Exhibits at the Zoo: Owen Sea Lion Shores, Asian Highlands, Scott African Grasslands, Desert Dome, Mahoney Kingdoms of the Night, Lied Jungle, Suzanne and Walter Scott Aquarium, Bernice Grewock Butterfly and Insect Pavilion, Hubbard Expedition Madagascar, Gorilla Valley, Orangutan Forest, and more!

Splish Splash! Fun at the Splashpad

Hours: 8 a.m. – 9 p.m. daily during the summer months
Cost: Free
Tickets/Admission: N/A

The best way kids can burn off energy in the summer without overheating is by playing in the splash pads! There are two splash pads in Council Bluffs, one is located at Fairmount Park, and the other is at Bayliss Park. Not only are the splash pads super fun and safe, but they're also completely free!

Sandcastles & Swimming at Lake Manawa State Park Beach

Hours: 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. daily
Cost: Single admission $3
Tickets/Admission: Pay the admission fee at the beach

We may be located in the middle of the country, but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy a beach day with the family! The beach at Lake Manawa State Park is perfect for sandcastle building, kayaking, paddle boarding, and swimming. Admission for the beach area is $3 per person, and children younger than 2-years-old are free. Kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards are available to rent as well.

Ditmars Free Friday Family Movie Nights

Hours: The movie starts around 9:30 p.m.
Cost: Free
*No outside food or drink. The Orchard Café', Sweet Shoppe, and Bar will be open during the movie for food and beverages.

What started as a family project in 1994 is now one of the largest orchards in Iowa! In the summer at Ditmars Orchard & Vineyard, you and your family can go out into the fields and pick strawberries, apricots, peaches, cherries, and sunflowers! (While in season)

On Friday nights, they even offer a Free Friday Family Movie Nights. They have a large outdoor screen where they project some of the most loved family movies! No outside food or drinks are allowed in, but they have an Orchard Café, Sweet Shoppe, and Bar that offers delicious foods and local wines, ciders, and more specialty treats to enjoy during the show.

The Fun Doesn't Stop Here!

There are so many family-friendly things to do in Council Bluffs that we weren't able to fit it all in one blog! So, uncover and connect with the people, places, history, and happening that visitors love and locals can't get enough of. Check out our recent blogs to get the insider's scoop on all things Council Bluffs.

For a complete list of attractions, click here!

For a complete list of places to eat, click here!

Don’t forget to book your hotel stay with one of our properties offering a special discounted rate by clicking here!

This post was originally published on June 23, 2021 on the Unleash Council Bluffs blog.
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