What's New in Iowa in 2024

December 1, 2023

The new  year is bringing exciting destinations for travelers to Iowa: enhanced and accessible outdoor recreation, luxurious boutique lodging, unique theater experiences and childlike wonder await in 2024. 

Athene North Shore Recreation Area at Easter Lake Park, Des Moines
Easter Lake Park, Polk County’s most visited amenity in the last year, is being reimagined as a more inclusive destination for outdoor recreation. In spring 2024, the area will be reintroduced to the public as the most universally accessible park in the country. The project includes zero-entry ramps, adaptive fishing  boats, accessible canoe and kayak launches, an inclusive playground and an environmental education learning center. Extrawide sidewalks and accessible navigation will also be added throughout the property, creating a safe, welcoming space for visitors of all ages and abilities.

Treehouse Village, Madrid
Treehouse Village at the Iowa Arboretum & Gardens will serve children of all ages and abilities. The project, opening spring 2024, includes elevated and ground-level treehouse experiences accessible to all. The main feature of the project is the treehouse play area with accessible ramps, a wheelchair-accessible swing, slides and hammock swing, ground-level zip line, hammock netting and other fun activities. Additional experiences include a treehouse with a suspension bridge, a walkout to a treehouse with a view of the tree-lined valley and an observation treehouse with a view of the Richardson Creek valley.

Sleepy Hollow Sports Park, Des Moines
Visitors will soon find the thrill of winter sports year-round in Des Moines. The tubing hill at Sleepy Hollow Sports park is being transformed with nearly 40,000-square-feet of Snowflex turf. Once installed, it will be the largest stretch of all-season turf in the United States. Beginning in spring of 2024, the park will offer skiing and snowboarding, even in the heat of summer! For those who prefer a low-skill, high-thrill ride, tubing will also be offered year-round.

Cone Park, Sioux City
The new Cone Park Mountain Bike Trails consist of 10.5 miles of soft surface trails. The first-of-its-kind amenity in the Sioux City area includes a paved pump track, and skill features designed for novice and experienced riders alike, including rock elements, pre-engineered bridges, boardwalks, skinnies, wall-rides and more. Visitors can bring their own bike or rent one onsite, with options ranging from full suspension to electric when the trail opens in summer 2024.

The Last Picture House, Davenport
As a boutique independent cinema, The Last Picture House will offer audiences a refreshing experience miles away from the multiplex. Co-founders Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, creators of Hollywood films such as “A Quiet Place,” “65” and “The Boogeyman,” had just one rule in mind for theater goers – you must love movies. Relax and enjoy a coffee, a bite or a drink with friends in the cocktail lounge, watch a movie beneath the stars on the rooftop screen or grab a comfortable seat in one of two stateof- the-art theaters. A rare art collection features posters from around the world and one-of-a-kind
movie props. The Last Picture House opened in November 2023.

Dinosaurs: Land of Fire and Ice at the Bluedorn Science Imaginarium, Waterloo
The Bluedorn Science Imaginarium, part of the Grout Museum District, is a three-floor, hands-on interactive science museum in Waterloo. On May 18, 2024, the Imaginarium will be opening Dinosaurs: Land of Fire and Ice™, an immersive experience that will take over the entire Imaginarium. This new exhibit, created for children ages 3-10 and on loan from the Minnesota Children’s Museum, will transport families back to the Cretaceous Period, the time when dinosaurs last lived on earth. Fossil dig stations, rock steps with icy slides, dinosaur statues safe for climbing, fun costumes and so much more will greet visitors. [Dinosaurs: Land of Fire and Ice was created by Minnesota Children's Museum. This project is made possible by a grant from the David B. Jones Foundation.]

Wringer Hotel, Newton
More than 15 years after Maytag closed its machine manufacturing headquarters in Newton, the iconic red brick factory buildings are getting a new life. A $30 million renovation plan is transforming the former assembly buildings into a 58-room boutique hotel, slated to open October 2024. The Wringer Hotel will celebrate the legacy of the industrial era with subtle nods to the building’s history that will surprise and delight guests at every turn. The  property, which will include a lobby bar and outdoor patio, is complemented by apartments as well as office space that occupy the former corporate campus.

MoLo, Des Moines

A one-time roadside staple for travelers across the United States, Howard Johnson’s Motor Lodges are a rare site for vacationers these days. Thanks to partial funding from federal and state historic tax credits, a $22 million project is bringing Des Moines’ former “Ho-Jo” back to its glory days for modern-day visitors at “MoLo,” short for Motor Lodge. A complete renovation of the 80-room property, slated for completion in December 2024, will revive the atomic mid-century modern vibe of the original Howard Johnson’s Motor Lodge with some added old Hollywood glamour.