Fairmount Park

If you need a break from the city’s hustle and bustle, escape to Fairmount Park. This 252-acre nature oasis offers the ultimate spot for outdoor adventurers to hike, bike, picnic, and reconnect with Mother Nature. Lace up your boots and wander along the park’s winding trails, passing playful creeks, vibrant wildflowers, and soaring cottonwood trees that colorfully change with every season. Little explorers go wild for Fairmount’s engaging Nature Playscape, a whimsical wonderland filled with treehouses, giant mushroom stools, and a larger-than-life bird’s nest for endless imaginative playtime. But the real showstopper here has to be Fairmount’s crown jewel – the historic 3.2 acre arboretum. Marvel at the lush gardens and breathe in the floral aromas as you leisurely stroll amidst hundreds of botanical delights. This living museum highlights plants native to Iowa, including the state’s official flower, the wild prairie rose. Peaceful creek-side spots are perfect for a romantic picnic or to simply disconnect and soak in Fairmount’s serene natural splendor. Groups of nature enthusiasts or families will find their ZEN at this urban escape.

Address: 640 Rockbrook Dr, Council Bluffs, IA 51503

Phone: (712) 328-4650

Union Pacific Railroad Museum

All aboard for a journey through railroad history! The Union Pacific Railroad Museum immerses you in the golden age of steam locomotion and the profound impact railroads had on America’s industrial growth. As you approach the museum, passing rows of massive train cars, explorers young and old feel an uncontainable sense of wonder. Inside, get up close with impressive giants of the rails like the Union Pacific No. 9000, known as the only existing “Chinese” locomotive built in the late 1800s. From the primitive wood-burning steamers to the marvels of 20th century diesel behemoths, each restored locomotive on display tells a different chapter in this nation’s railroading chronicles. The museum further brings history alive through immersive exhibits like the iconic 1950s passenger car and the Ferguson railway terminal building recreation. Rail fans go bonkers for the working HO and G model train layouts too. For trainspotters or nostalgic rail riders, few attractions compare to reliving the glory days at Union Pacific Railroad Museum.

Address: 200 Pearl St, Council Bluffs, IA 51503

Phone: (712) 323-7316

Western Hills Carousel & Mini Golf

Step right up and revel in the timeless delights of an old-fashioned carnival at Western Hills Carousel & Mini Golf! This action-packed venue seamlessly blends nostalgic Americana charm with modern-day thrills to create an all-ages playground. Of course, the star is the breathtaking, hand-carved 1920s carousel imported from England. As you gently spin on one of the 36 hand-carved horses or menagerie animals, feel the magic of carnivals past wash over you. Bring your putting talents next door to the two 18-hole miniature golf courses packed with whimsical obstacles and challenging terrain. Up for even more amusement? You’ve got to try Lumberplex, the world’s first and only elevated indoor/outdoor ropes course incorporating authentic heavy machinery like trucks and steam shovels. For younger daredevils, there’s pint-sized ziplining and rock climbing on tap too. Cap off your visit playing classic carnival games for chance to win plush prizes. With frolicking fun for all ages, Western Hills embraces the timeless spirits of youth and play.

Address: 1180 Hamilton Blvd, Council Bluffs, IA 51503

Phone: (712) 256-2310

Lake Manawa State Park

Imagine an idyllic natural retreat that stays well-kept yet refreshingly wild – you’ve found it at Lake Manawa State Park. This lush, scenic haven surrounding a tranquil 718-acre lake was designed by the same landscape architects behind New York City’s iconic Central Park. With over 6 miles of hiking trails winding through prairies, wetlands, and mature oak forests, Lake Manawa fully immerses you in Iowa’s rural splendor. Pack a picnic and claim a grassy spot on the sandy beach, where you can wade into the serene waters or boat around the lake at a leisurely pace. Anglers have reeled in everything from bass and crappie to prized walleye here. Birders and wildlife photographers will be in their happy place amid the park’s 300 reported species of migrating birds and chittering residents like beavers, deer, and red fox. Feeling adventurous? Rent a kayak or standup paddleboard to experience Lake Manawa from an enlightened new perspective. Just across from the lake, you’ll find even more excitement like camping, disc golf, and Nebraska’s closest ski resort. Whether for energizing family activities or a low-key retreat in nature’s blissful embrace, Lake Manawa recharges mind, body, and spirit.

Address: 700 Port Neal Rd, Council Bluffs, IA 51501

Phone: (712) 366-0516

Hitchcock Nature Center

Prepare to awaken your senses and make new natural discoveries at Hitchcock Nature Center. Meandering trails guide you through diverse ecosystems from prairie grasslands and oak savannas to vibrant wetland boardwalks. Be prepared to encounter all sorts of feathered friends and playful creatures in their native habitats – from deer casually grazing in open fields to woodpeckers hammering on trees in their search for bugs. The interactive exhibits inside the Nature Center museum bring Iowa’s fascinating ecosystems up close and personal. Let the kiddos experience hands-on learning fun at the Discovery Trail toddler area, stocked with puzzles, climbing structures, and oversized nature props. Be sure to scout the center’s schedule for special programming like early morning bird hikes, wildflower walks, and campfires under the starry night sky. For families, student groups, or adults wanting to unplug in an authentic, untamed natural setting – Hitchcock delivers an engaging adventure. Who knows what flora, fauna, or chance encounters with wildlife lie around each bend!

Address: 27492 Ski Hill Loop, Honey Creek, IA 51542

Phone: (712) 545-3283

The Squirrel Cage Jail

Did you know Council Bluffs was once home to a bizarre architectural wonder: one of the only rotary jails ever built? Originally constructed in 1885, the Squirrel Cage Jail is a striking example of unique late 19th century jail design philosophy. As you enter the imposing 3-story structure, you’re immediately confronted by the centrally suspended, rotating 16-pie-slice cell block that earned its quirky squirrel cage name. Stepping into the compact yet daunting cells, you can’t help but contemplate the harsh conditions and institutionalized injustices once endured within these thick walls. The adjacent Jail Museum deepens your appreciation of this landmark, exhibiting artifacts and vintage photographs that provide compelling context. While the rotary jail model was deemed too impractical and disorienting, architect William H. Brown’s experimental design was praised for its ventilation, and panopticon functionality. Marvel at this rarity that’s equal parts unsettling, brilliant, and an utterly unique piece of American architectural history. For the historically curious, the Squirrel Cage Jail is a jaw-dropping hidden gem.

Address: 226 Pearl St, Council Bluffs, IA 51503

Phone: (712) 328-4932

Bayliss Park

Right in the heart of Council Bluffs, Bayliss Park is a refreshing 56-acre community oasis hiding in plain sight. From towering oak trees and groomed gardens to meandering creeks and cascading falls, this urban park seamlessly blends the serenity of nature with classic parkland amenities. Break out the frisbees and enjoy an afternoon game of catch in the wide-open fields shaded by mature canopies. Work up a sweat with outdoor fitness stations peppered along leafy trails connecting to scenic pedestrian bridges and dreamy picnic groves. The true crown jewel of Bayliss Park is the charming Liz Maring Horticulture Complex – a pristine conservatory full of lush, orchid gardens, tropical foliage rooms, and an arid greenhouse replicating the Mojave Desert. Kids burn off energy at several modern, inclusive playgrounds including a mini-turf ballfield and disc golf course. Wrapping around the back of the park is a stocked fishing pond and pavilion where literal ducks line up for feeding time. From Saturday morning yoga in the park to quiet moments of meditative bliss near calming streams, Bayliss Park is Council Bluffs’ urban-nature oasis for all.

Address: 530 Bayliss Park Dr, Council Bluffs, IA 51503

Phone: (712) 328-4681

Historic Fairview Cemetery

Solemn yet strikingly beautiful, the Historic Fairview Cemetery is one of Iowa’s most significant cultural landmarks. This serene burial ground has borne witness to over 170 years of Council Bluffs’ history since the earliest pioneers first settled the area in the mid-1800s. Walk the immaculate grounds along tree-lined paths and you’ll be awestruck by sheer age of weathered grave markers and elaborately carved monuments dating back to the city’s frontier days. Keep your eyes peeled for notable gravesites – from Moses Merrill, one of the first white settlers in Iowa, to memorials dedicated to Civil War veterans and veterans of other American conflicts. The true gems here are the breathtaking examples of 19th century gravestone artistry and funerary symbolism adorning many family plots. From delicate floral motifs and angelic effigies to masterfully sculpted draped urns and hand portraiture, these are works of artistic craftsmanship turned to stone. Fairview’s well-preserved Victorian gardens and arched entrances further inspire solemn appreciation for sacred architecture. For amateur genealogists or scholars of American history, wandering these hallowed grounds facilitates meaningful connections to the region’s deep ancestral, cultural, and societal roots. The Historic Fairview Cemetery is a poignant hidden gem that transcends its solemn purpose to embody Iowa’s early frontier stories.

Address: 35 North Sixth Street, Council Bluffs, IA 51503

Phone: (712) 329-0090

Plan Your Trip With Party Bus Council Bluffs

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