Enjoy scrumptious family meals, 5k turkey trots, holiday parades, and incredible Black Friday shopping deals in Iowa during your Thanksgiving vacation. With Thanksgiving coming up, there are plenty of exciting activities to choose from. Whether you simply need a break from the big city or are searching for the perfect vacation rental in Iowa underneath the stars, this humble state has it all. Here are Iowa’s most popular Thanksgiving vacation destinations and activities.

1. Do the Turkey Trot in Des Moines

Source: Pixabay/Pexels

Join more than 2,500 runners from around the state as they layer up and hit the streets of downtown Des Moines on Thanksgiving morning. This 5K starts at the courthouse and wends its way across the Des Moines River and through the center of historic downtown. One of the city’s largest traditions, the Turkey Trot offers a food truck breakfast, a T-shirt, and a custom knit cap, along with other race day swag. Many people opt to wear costumes to the event, and you can sign up in groups for added fun. That night, stop by the convention center and enjoy the decorated trees, kids’ activities, food, and entertainment.

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2. Enjoy a Family Style Meal in the Amana Colonies

Bridge over Mill Race
Source: Flickr/Carl Wycoff

Let someone else do the cooking at your next Thanksgiving gathering. Swing by the Ox Yoke Inn in Amana Colonies for traditional turkey dinners with all the familiar sides. You also can choose from a selection of breads, pies, and even homemade ice cream. The bounty helps support Iowa farmers who work hard to supply goodies for the meal. The seven Amana villages compete to see who makes the best cakes, so be sure to sample them all. The weekend following Thanksgiving, kids can meet with Santa and have pictures made. Proceeds benefit the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital.

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3. Help Serve the Community at the Ginter Thanksgiving Dinner in Dubuque

Dubuque County Courthouse
Source: Flickr/DMichael Burns

Volunteer to serve meals for Thanksgiving. The event takes place at the Knights of Columbus Hall until 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. On Saturday afternoon, stop by the Winter Carnival and let the kids meet popular characters, such as buddy the Elf and Frosty the Snowman. The local high school choir performs Christmas carols, and a tree lighting occurs in the evening.

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4. Watch the Christmas Parade in Clarinda

Source: Pixabay/WikimediaImages

Celebrate the start of the holiday season with the annual Christmas parade in Clarinda. The event takes place the day after Thanksgiving at the downtown square on Main Street. The parade emphasizes the importance of the fire department, so fire trucks hold a place of honor at the start of the parade. There are also color guard units and Santa stops to meet with children at the Santa House on the courthouse lawn.

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5. Strut Your Stuff at the Cedar Rapids Turkey Trot

Cedar Rapids also offers a friendly competitive 5K run/walk race on Thanksgiving day. There’s commemorative gear for the whole family, or you can don your sharpest Thanksgiving costume. The run/walk crosses the Cedar River several times and encompasses the bulk of downtown Cedar Rapids’ charming neighborhoods, business districts, and green spaces. Proceeds for the event go towards the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association. Awards are given to the top three male runners and the top three female runners. Everyone who crosses the finish line receives a medal and can stop for fresh cinnamon rolls.

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6. Sign up for the Pella Historical Museums Christmas Walk in Pella

Vermeer Mill in Pella, Iowa
Source: Flickr/Tony Webster

Running the Monday before Thanksgiving until the end of the year, Pella Historical Museums offers a Christmas Walk with complementary hot beverages. The walk meanders through the entire Historical Village and includes the iconic Vermeer Mill, which was built in the Netherlands in 2002 and later assembled in Pella. All 28 buildings within the Historical Village are decorated for the holidays with plenty of lights.

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7. Grab Some Black Friday Deals in West Burlington

If Black Friday shopping is your thing, head to West Burlington to the Westland Mall for blockbuster deals on must-have items. The nearby flea market is a choice spot for unique antiques and specialty items. The Mall Craft and Vendor Show at the Westland Mall is also worth checking out.

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8. Kick up Your Heels at the Annual BMAI Thanksgiving Weekend Bluegrass Festival

Mark Clark, Joy Ward, Roger Anderson
Source: Flickr/Iowa Public Radio Images

If you love bluegrass music, the annual Bluegrass Music Association of Iowa (BMAI) Family Bluegrass Festival in Central City is the place to go during the weekend after Thanksgiving in the Best Western Regency Inn in Marshalltown. There are also raffle drawings, silent auctions, a host of food vendors, and instrument workshops. Jam session rooms let you meet, mingle, and collaborate with other bluegrass enthusiasts and musicians.

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9. Tour the Covered Bridges of Madison County

madison county covered bridge
Source: Pixabay/12019

Madison County is home to the most covered bridges in one area west of the Mississippi Valley. Take a few snapshots of these breathtaking structures for your holiday greeting cards. Photographing these famous bridges is the premise of a 1992 novel by Robert James Waller, subsequently adapted into a film starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood. The Madison County Chamber of Commerce hosts bridge tours for groups that discuss the construction and history of the bridges as well as the movie production that introduced the bridges to the wider world. Tours for fewer than five people are available, but costs may vary seasonally.

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