A world class opera. A picturesque balloon festival. A beautiful college campus. A town square rife with hidden gems. Located just south of the Capital City, Indianola checks all the boxes for day trips, weekend getaways and year-round fun.

Food and Drink

Looking for a fun foodie road trip? We’ve got the dish on all the best places to chow down in Indianola, where there’s something for every taste. No trip to the balloon capital is complete without a trip to Pete’s Pizza, where they’ve got C’s in spades: charm, character, cheese, and oh my, that thin crust. Traditional is all well and good, but those who know opt for specialties like The Rogalla (pepperoni and cream cheese) which are positively palate changing. If you are more of a traditionalist, the family-owned (since 1946) Crouse Cafe has your comfort food cravings covered. Come for the hot beef sandwich, stay for the famous cherry pie, named one of the Top 50 pies in the country by People Magazine. Speaking of sweets, Mishmash Eats & Sweets is soon to be your favorite quaint, modern cafe. Think fresh baked pastries and scones, biscuit sandwiches, quiche, and daily made from scratch treats. Save room for dessert and indulge in a sundae at Corner Sundry, an ice cream parlor that’s been serving shakes, handcrafted sodas, and anything else that floats for your boat for 70 years or The Outside Scoop, whose small batch creations have everyone screaming for ice cream. If you want to grab a drink and discuss how amazing Indianola is, try West Hill Brewing Company, who have quietly been serving some of the best craft beers in Iowa in their rustic taproom since 2019. If you fancy a carafe of wine rather than a pitcher of beer, visit Summerset Winery, one of the first estate wineries in Iowa offering wine tasting, tours and a decidedly sweet patio. 

Pete's PizzaWest Hill BrewingCorner Sundry

Arts and Culture

Whether it’s enjoying performing arts or admiring visual arts, you’ll find your muse in Indianola. People everywhere sing the praises of the Des Moines Metro Opera, whose Summer Festival Season runs May through July in the beautiful and intimate 467-seat Pote Theater at the Blank Center for the Performing Arts. Everything is first class, from the nation’s elite performers who gather there to the round-trip shuttle service (from Des Moines and Ames) and on-site gourmet dinners. The Indianola Summer Arts Festival is a two-day festival happening in July in Buxton Park during the National Balloon Classic and Warren County Fair (as if you needed another reason to go) featuring an eclectic mix of works for artists near and far. Expect live music, food trucks, family activities and plenty of artistic inspiration for your inner Bob Ross. If you’d rather create your own masterpiece, check out Indianola Glass Creations on the west side of the town square, where you can create a fused or stained-glass creation so good you’ll be at the head of the glass. The charming town square also features several Instagram-worthy murals to chronicle your trip. Pics or it didn’t happen!

Parks and Outdoors

Adventure is in the air in Indianola, one of the most underrated spots for outdoor fun in the state. The crown jewel is Lake Ahquabi State Park, a 770-acre park offering everything from a sandy swimming beach with boat rentals to some of the best fishing around. One of the biggest hidden gems is Annett Nature Center, which might just be our favorite vibey hiking spot in Central Iowa. Follow the primary trail that winds through tall grasses, wetlands, and forest areas, all capped off by a wildlife viewing platform where you can see natural beauty for miles, no filter required. Just north of the city limits lies Banner Lakes at Summerstate State Park, where you’ll find two larger lakes surrounded by a collection of smaller ponds. Bring your own boats to explore the water or do a lap around the two-mile paved lakeside loops that’s nestled in nature and used to be the site of an old coal mine. For a little bit of all the recreational things, there’s Pickard Park, the largest park in town featuring softball fields, and epic disc golf course, and the Eastern end of the McVay/Summerset trail, where you can bike through 12 wooded miles to Carlisle.

Banner Lake - IndianolaLake Ahquabi State ParkIndianola mountain biking

Festivals and Events

When it comes to festivals and events, the sky is the limit in Indianola. Fun takes flight at the National Balloon Classic, taking place over nine days at the end of July. More than 100 hot air balloons paint the sky with brilliant colors at sunrise and sunset each day. With balloon rides and competitions, fireworks, concerts, skydivers, fabulous food, and special events like Nite Glow and Kite Flight, it’s your Instagram feed’s (and kids’) favorite event of the year. Want a warmup to the epic Iowa State Fair? Your corndog is calling courtesy of the Warren County Fair, one of the best country fairs in Iowa, happening every July since 1855. Featuring carnivals, big name concerts, and special events like demolition derby and talent contests, it’s a big slice of Americana best washed down with a giant lemonade. Summer Nights Live happens a couple of times each summer and is a great excuse to go explore the town square during the day and then hang around that night for free live music from 7 p.m. - 10 p.m. that night. And while you may know Indianola for the balloons, that’s not the only thing there that takes flight. Every June they host the TruBank Des Moines Challenge at Pickard Park where 180 of the best pro disc golfers in the world come to showcase their skills. When the tournament is going on, head down there to try your own hand at the 18-hole course!

Attractions and Things to Do

For a crash course in small town charm, you’ll want to make sure to carve out a day to explore the Indianola Town Square in their Historic Downtown. Indulge in some retail therapy at cute boutiques like Lula Belle Designs, Roots, and the Little Shed, and then refill with a bite and a brew at Groggy Dog, or Brickhouse Tavern. While the National Balloon Classic only happens once a year, you can learn more about the history behind the ballooning at the National Balloon Museum, where informative exhibits detail the history of hot air ballooning, dating back to 1783. Indianola is also the home to Simpson College, a private, liberal arts college with a beautiful campus rife with maple trees and stunning architecture. Higher education has never looked this good. Roll Storm!

Simpson CollegeIndianola Town SquareBalloon Museum

For even more restaurants, events, attractions and ways to explore Indianola, visit Experience Indianola to plan your adventure!

Des Best LogoDes Best of Indianola

Fiesta JalapenoDes Best Margaritas
Pete’s PizzaDes Best Pizza
National Balloon ClassicDes Best Family Fun
Des Moines OperaDes Best Hidden Gems II
The Outside ScoopDes Best Ice Cream
Lake AhquabiDes Best Water Activities
West Hill BrewingDes Best Breweries
Z’s Eatery and Draught HouseDes Best Tenderloins

With Indianola less than 30 minutes from Des Moines, it's easy to turn the festival into a weekend trip, staying in the state capital while exploring the two cities. You get the best of both Iowa worlds, really: hip downtown and charming town square. And that's no hot air.
— Midwest Living

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