Jun 14, 2021 Communities

12 Things You Should Do In Council Bluffs This Summer

Warm breezes, green grass, ice cream and the smell of sunscreen—summer is on its way, and we couldn’t be more excited! 

While Council Bluffs, Iowa may not be everyone’s idea of a “summer destination,” it should be! CB is home to some fantastic parks, lakes, festivals, farmers’ markets and more, making it the perfect place to enjoy some spectacular seasonal fun. To prove it to you, we’ve rounded up 12 things you should do in the area this summer. How many will you be able to get to this season? 

Go skateboarding

City of CB

Photo courtesy of Broadway Skate Park

If you’ve got a budding Tony Hawk in your family, don’t miss Council Bluff’s own Broadway Skate Park! This skatepark—which is open every day from 6 a.m.-11 p.m.—is a poured concrete facility that features a snake run, 4-foot bowl, fun box, rail stairs and a ¼ pipe. Stop by Silo in Omaha, one of our favorite destinations for skateboards in the area, and head over! Click here to read the current park rules and guidelines before you go.


Explore the library

The library is always our first choice when it comes to finding affordable, family-friendly activities in the Council Bluffs area. So, the next time you feel like curling up with a good book, head to the Council Bluffs Public Library to check a few out. If you’d rather stay at home, the library also has a ton of online resources for you to explore, including e-books, audiobooks and a variety of virtual events! Click here for a full list of upcoming virtual events at the library, like author interviews, workshops, book clubs and more.


Go to the farmers’ market

Omaha Farmers Markets

Photo courtesy of The Farmers Market Council Bluffs

The Farmers Market Council Bluffs pops up in Bayliss Park every Thursday evening between May and September. This lively summertime community tradition features fresh produce, baked goods and talented artists. It is a wonderful place to wind down at the end of the day, grab some last-minute farm-fresh ingredients for dinner, and support local businesses all the while! 


Time travel back to 1869 at the Historic General Dodge House

One of Council Bluffs’ most famous residents, and the brother of NP Dodge Real Estate’s founder, was General Grenville M. Dodge, who resided in this historic landmark. His primary achievement is being considered “the greatest railroad builder of all time,” but General Dodge has a diverse list of accolades as a Civil War veteran who was involved in the political, financial and military affairs of the United States. You can visit his gorgeous Victorian home, which he built in 1869 with a mere $35,000, Tuesday through Saturday between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. or Sundays from 1–5 p.m.

Go swimming


Lake Manawa State Park in Council Bluffs is a popular destination for swimmers and sunbathers of all ages. The modern beach facility at Lake Manawa is a wonderful clean location to enjoy the lake — both underwater and alongside the water. There are plenty of picnic/shelter areas, trails, and other lake activity options (such as boating and fishing) in this park, so there is plenty to do during your visit! 


Grab some ice cream from Christie Creme and head up to Lewis & Clark Monument Scenic Overlook for the perfect end to any summer day. This is one of our favorite spots in the city, offering a fantastic view of both Council Bluffs and Omaha. Take a moment to explore the monument, which honors the 1804 expedition of Lewis and Clark and their historic meeting with Otoe and Missouria tribesman, and then enjoy the sunset over the skyline.


Try your hand at pickleball


Photo courtesy of Unleash CB

If you’re looking to get into a new sport—head to Iowa West Pickleball! This new indoor, six-court facility offers tons of fun for the whole family. Right now, they are only allowing visitors with reservations to play due to the pandemic. To reserve the court for two hours, it’s only $5 per player. They are also implementing a 15-minute window between sessions, to give visitors the chance to vacate the area. They also ask that you bring your own pickleball and paddles.


Get spooked at the Squirrel Cage Jail

Sometimes, you just need a good scare to get your blood pumping! Luckily, Council Bluffs just happens to be home to our very own “haunted” attraction: The Historic Squirrel Cage Jail. This historic spot was once an actual jail, which was in use from 1885-1969. The one-of-a-kind structure was one of the 18 revolving “squirrel cage” or “lazy Susan” jails built at the time and the only three-story squirrel cage jail ever built. Today, it is said to be haunted by the old prisoners. Due to COVID-19, tours are only available by appointment and masks are required when inside the building. Click here to make your reservation! 


Walk along the Wabash Trace Nature Trail

Is there a better way to celebrate a warm summer day than by taking a hike? The Wabash Trace Nature Trail is a converted railroad right-of-way running 63 miles through the scenic southwest Iowa countryside. On the trail, you’ll travel through the picturesque Loess Hills, over 72 bridges, four different counties, and even a few ghost towns! You can traverse the entire 63 miles by foot, bicycle, wheelchair, ski or snowshoe, but no motorized vehicles are permitted. Click here for a map of the trail and information on what you can do along the way.


Dine outside

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A post shared by Barley’s (@barleys.bar)

There’s just something about eating outside on a hot day, enjoying a nice cold drink, and people watching while you wait for a delicious meal. Luckily, Council Bluffs is home to several fantastic patios where you can dine al fresco this season, including Barley’s712 Eat + DrinkThe PorchCaddy’s Kitchen & Cocktails and Tish’s Restaurant


Try to see all Council Bluffs’ public art

Council Bluffs is home to some truly spectacular public art sites, which you can experience on a self-guided tour! Just download the Otocast app to easily locate the Iowa West Public Art Sites and follow the map to Bayliss Park, Big Mo, Circus, the Haymarket Rabbits, Interstate and plenty more inspired art installations around the city. How many can you see before the summer ends?


Go horseback riding at Shady Lane Ranch


Since opening in 1965, Shady Lane Ranch has become a treasured summer tradition for Council Bluffs families. The ranch is just a short 15-minute drive outside of the city and is the perfect place to escape to on a nice day. Whether you enjoy your time by taking a hayride around the property; horseback riding through the woods; or sitting by your own private bonfire—you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a great experience! Reservations to ride horses are required. Call 712-323-1932 to book your spot!


Have a great summer! 

What are you planning to do this summer in CB? Let us know in the comments below! 

Jun 14, 2021 Communities
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