Iowa State Fairgrounds Playground

the playground at iowa state fair

The Iowa State Fairgrounds’ playground is fun to explore year round! When we first moved here, a local mom tipped me off to the cheapest way to check out the Iowa State Fair with young kids: going the night before they open! The animals are all there, the playground is open, and some of the food vendors are happy to serve up some food on a stick. I prefer the fair in all its sweaty, crowded, crazy glory during the week, but it occurred to me that the playground would be great to visit when it wasn’t so busy. We had a great time playing on the wooden train playground and the climbing wall; it would be a great place to take a walk with strollers too. The fairgrounds often host animal shows and the barns are free to walk around in, check their calendar to see what else you might check out after the playground!

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Park Visit: Swanson Memorial Park with a Historic Caboose, Train Depot, & General Store


This past week we were able to explore a true hidden gem – the Swanson Memorial Park in Clive, Iowa! It’s easy to miss even though it’s alongside a major intersection; the park has a small green space, picnic tables and bench, an old caboose, a historic train depot, and an old-time house/general store. The park is maintained by the Clive Historical Society, and their website has some really fantastic videos and photographs alongside lots of information. The caboose and open space are available and open to the public every day, making it a great spot to stop and explore and relax (free wi-fi!) or have a lunch. Checking out the train depot and house require a tour, hosted by one of the volunteers from the historical society. You can see more specific details on the Swanson Memorial Park page or check out its location on the interactive map.

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Jester Park Equestrian Center Pumpkin Patch – Granger, Iowa

Jester Park Equestrian Center Pumpkin Patch is new this year, with a horse drawn wagon ride out to their pumpkin patch where each person gets to pick one out and participate in other farmyard games before taking a wagon ride back to the main equestrian center. You pay one admission price and then the pumpkin and other games are all included.

I found a local Groupon to make admission more affordable, use my affiliate link and  check it out!

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Center Grove Orchard and Pumpkin Patch – Cambridge, Iowa


[Photos courtesy of Center Grove Orchard]

Center Grove Orchard and Pumpkin Patch has seasonal apple picking and pumpkins, but is most well known for its large play area with a ton of different play options. There are the usual suspects like a corn maze, corn pit, jumping pillow, hayrack ride, and animals but also several other unique things like barnyard shows, a miniature train to ride, and a combine slide. There are several different food options and a large store; you can easily spend an entire day there!

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