Groups who crave a retro American Midwest lake experience can dive into a meeting at northwest Iowa’s Lake Okoboji, which has been drawing crowds from Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska and the Hawkeye State for well over a century.
“Most people think of us as just a vacation destination, but they don’t realize we have modern amenities for meetings and group gatherings—until they get here,” says Laurie Colt, sales and marketing manager at The Inn at Okoboji, which opened 118 years ago and which still offers one of the only outdoor event spaces on the lakeshore. “There’s so much to do here that your business is really more pleasure than business, and many groups that stay here bring their families.”
There’s no shortage of activity options in the area, from big band nights at The Inn starring cabaret performer Marilyn Maye (of Funny Girl fame), two 18-hole and one 27-hole golf courses, and the world’s largest county fair, held in nearby Spencer in September.
“For a small area, we really have a lot of great cultural facilities,” Colt says, mentioning the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Music Association Hall of Fame and the Sami Center for the Performing Arts (which houses one of Elton John’s famous red pianos). “There’s a ton of things to do here, that’s for sure.”
The area also is home to the manufacturing plant of the iconic Indian motorcycle and a variety of museums.
Groups who want to get out on the lake can take a cruise on The Queen II vintage steamboat replica, and amusement park thrills are available via the oldest wooden roller coaster in Iowa. There are also scores of restaurants and bars beckoning customers to the lake.
There are approximately 4,500 hotel and motel rooms and three conference centers in the area.
The Inn at Okoboji, which offers 156 rooms and 10,000 square feet of space, including nostalgic cottage-style rooms along with modern accommodations, also partners with area businesses, so it can help planners get discounts and arrange outings.