Council Bluffs is home to some of the most beautiful and well-maintained parks in the state. With more than 30 parks and recreational areas encompassing approximately 750 acres, there’s no shortage of green spaces to explore and enjoy. Whether you’re looking for a place to picnic, somewhere for the kids to let out energy, to play sports, or simply relax and take in the natural beauty, Council Bluffs has a park to suit your needs.
We’re taking a tour of some of the best parks in Council Bluffs, from waterfront parks with stunning views to sprawling green spaces with playgrounds, walking trails, sports courts, and more. So grab your sunscreen, slip on your tennis shoes, pack a picnic, and get ready to discover some of the best parks in Council Bluffs!
Tom Hanafan River’s Edge Park is a beautiful and versatile 85-acre preserve that rests along the Missouri River, offering uninterrupted views of the Omaha skyline. The park’s 5-acre great lawn, amphitheater, and open landscape provide ample space for festivals and events, while also preserving key habitats. Moreover, the park is conveniently located along the Council Bluffs trail system, which has more than 40 miles of recreational trails that connect to the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge at River’s Edge and wind through the city to the east side of Council Bluffs.
Located in the heart of downtown, Bayliss Park is one of the most popular spots in the city. The park offers a variety of features and amenities, including a fountain, a plaza, a splash pad, and a performance space. The fountain, with its impressive light display and unique water features, serves as the centerpiece of the park, while the surrounding plaza area offers multiple functions and is connected to the surrounding green space by 16 openings. Additionally, the park’s permanent raised stage provides a perfect backdrop for performances, and the child-activated sprays of the splash pad are a fun and interactive addition for kids. Plus, the touchable art pieces along the east side of the plaza, featuring six black squirrels created by Brower Hatcher, are a whimsical addition to the park’s already charming atmosphere.
Fairmount Park is a historic and spacious 105-acre park located on the eastern side of Council Bluffs, near the Historic Dodge House. The park features an extensive interactive water playground that is perfect for kids of all ages, a playground, hiking trails, a scenic overlook, a fire pit, and two picnic shelters, providing ample opportunities for outdoor recreation and relaxation. During the summer months, the Fairmount Park Splash Pad is open daily from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., providing a fun and refreshing way to cool off on hot days. The park is also home to one of the five Art-in-the-Park signs, adding a touch of art and culture to the natural beauty of the park.
Big Lake Park is a sprawling 191-acre park that offers a range of outdoor activities and amenities for visitors to enjoy. The park is centered around a beautiful natural lake that is stocked twice a year with rainbow trout, making it a popular destination for fishing enthusiasts. In addition to fishing, the park features two playgrounds, a baseball and soccer field, a tennis court, and a picnic shelter, providing plenty of options for outdoor recreation. The park also serves as a trailhead for the Iowa Riverfront Trail, so it’s an excellent starting point for exploring the surrounding area. Big Lake Park is also home to one of the five Art-in-the-Park signs!
Lake Manawa State Park is one of the area’s most popular destinations for outdoor recreation of all kinds, from boating and swimming in the lake to hiking and picnicking along the shore. This massive state park encompassing more than 1,500 acres has miles of hiking trails, plenty of boat ramps, lots of picnic/shelter areas, and a newly constructed campground. The park is also home to Dream Playground, which is the largest ADA-accessible playground in Iowa. When it gets a bit warmer, splash around at the swim beach, which provides a clean area to enjoy the lake. No matter what you’re interested in, Lake Manawa State Park is the place to be during the spring and summer! Keep in mind that non-Iowa residents must pay a $5 entrance fee at Lake Manawa State Park.
Situated in the heart of Council Bluffs, Kirn Park is a small, 5-acre park with a rich history. Located in the historic Gibraltar Neighborhood District, the park is situated on the former site of the first high school in Council Bluffs and was acquired by the City in 1991. The park offers a range of amenities, including a playground, a cinder track, grandstand bleachers, a football/soccer field, open green space, and a picnic shelter, making it a great place to bring the kids to play or have a picnic. Plus, the bleachers are a great place to get those stair steps in!
Have a Blast!
What is your favorite park in Council Bluffs? Let us know in the comments below!