10 Long Weekend Destinations for North Iowans

  Back to blog Vanessa Doden

When you feel the need to get away but don’t have the time for a big vacation, we are lucky to live in an area that has many great options for a long weekend trip. Each of these destinations listed takes less than a day to get to and has plenty to offer with something for everyone. You don’t have to travel far away from North Iowa to find fun, relaxation, and entertainment.

New Ulm, Minnesota

Driving Time: About 2 hours.
This small town with big German roots is not far from Mankato, MN and is home to the Schells Brewing Company. Stay in a BnB and stroll down its scenic main street. Explore points of interest like the Hermann Monument, the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame, and Morgan Creek Vineyards.

Omaha, Nebraska

Drive Time: About 4 hours
A great destination for couples or families of all ages. Spend a day at the Omaha Zoo and another at the Durham Museum. This city has something to offer for all sorts of interests: shopping, sports, outdoor activities, live music, nightlife, water activities, and wineries. There are several great neighborhoods to stay in that will cater to your interests.

Galena, Illinois

Drive Time: 4 hours
This charming town of well preserved 19th-century buildings is for history lovers and perfect for a romantic getaway. It’s home to the Ulysses S. Grant house and other points of interest like the Old Blacksmith Shop and plenty of cute shops down its main street. If you are a foodie there’s a wide variety of great restaurants and several wineries and breweries to walk to. Galena is ideal for those who just like walk around and explore with no itinerary planned out. A great relaxation destination. There are also a few day spas in town and nearby!

Dubuque, Iowa

Drive Time: 3.5 hours
Located on the Mississippi River and close to nature this town gives you a wide variety of things to do. Take a riverboat cruise or explore Crystal Lake Cave. Go hiking or biking and spend the night in a nearby campground. If you aren’t feeling outdoorsy, explore the historic downtown by visiting one of its museums. There are casino and nightlife options abound, some with live music venues.

Chicago, Illinois

Drive Time: About 7 hours OR only a 2-hour flight to Chicago O’Hare (ORD) out of the Mason City Municipal Airport (MCW) with Air Choice One.
Chicago’s easy to use metro system makes it easy to get around and see all the sights and different neighborhoods. Go downtown to see Millennium Park or the Skydeck of the Willis tower before seeing a theatre show. The options are limitless for how you want to spend a long weekend in the biggest city in the Midwest/third largest city in the country.

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Drive Time: 2 hours OR a 45-minute flight from Mason City to MSP airport with Air Choice One
The twin cities area boasts many surrounding cities and options to have fun. Check out a concert or show in one of the many performance venues downtown. If you are a sports fan, a Minnesota Vikings game at the US Bank Stadium or Twins Game at Target Field. The Mall of America in Bloomington has plenty of shopping options and has the indoor Nickelodeon Universe amusement park and Sea Life Aquarium. Also in the area are the Minnesota Zoo and the Como Zoo. Throughout the months of August and September, each weekend in Shakopee hosts the Minnesota Renaissance Festival.

Des Moines, Iowa

Drive Time: About 2 hours
Des Moines and it’s surrounding cities are filled with great options. The Blank Park Zoo or Adventureland Park are great family fun options. Downtown Des Moines and the nearby East Village are great for dining and nightlife with nearby performance venues like the Wells Fargo Area or Des Moines Civic Center. There’s an excellent Farmers Market and if you love shopping, the Jordan Creek Mall in West Des Moines is a great way to spend the day.

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

Drive Time: 5.5 hours
This beautiful resort town is a popular vacation destination for residents of Chicago. Stay in one of the many hotel resorts, at one of its beaches, or spend a day on the lake on boat or kayak. Have a girls trip and book a spa day or go shopping. Make it a destination for golfing and outdoor activities. Plenty of restaurant options as well as breweries and wineries to check out.

St. Louis, Missouri

Drive Time: 7 hours OR a 3-hour flight from Mason City to St Louis Lambert International Airport.
Another big city destination that very accessible to get to. Plenty of museums: the Gateway Arch and City Museum to name a few. Other points of interest include the Botanical Gardens, Forest Park, St Louis Zoo and Aquarium.

Kansas City, Missouri

Drive Time: 4.5 hours
Spend a day at the Worlds of Fun Amusement Park or check out a Kansas City Chiefs or Royals game. Kansas City is a haven for BBQ lovers with many classic joints to choose from. Be sure to visit the WWI museum.

I hope this list has generated some inspiration on where it is you would like to go. While I’ve just given the main attractions, you will find more things you will want to do after researching each place that interests you, even ones that aren’t on this list. These 10 listed are not too far and don’t require a long time away to feel relaxed and reenergized. Have a great long weekend!