Explore Fort Museum and Frontier Village
It all started in 1835 when mounted infantry called Dragoons scouted the area and chose what is now Fort Dodge as the perfect military post. In 1850, they began building the Fort, and later a storekeeper named William Williams used the land to start planning Fort Dodge.
Almost two hundred years later, locals commemorate the Fort’s history in the replica stockade and frontier village. Kids and adults will enjoy exploring the town, featuring original buildings from the mid-1800s through the mid-1900s.
In each building, you’ll find a QR code to scan and watch a video on your phone of costumed actors talking about the building you happen to be standing in. A few of the structures you’ll find in the town are a one-room schoolhouse, general store, pharmacy, and a log home from the 1850s. The museum is open seasonally. Please check their website for their current hours.
Create an Etching on the Dragoon Etching Trail
The Dragoon Etching Trail is a scavenger hunt that even the grandchildren still coloring outside the lines can enjoy. In addition, the trail is a warm-weather activity where the kiddos can make their etchings without needing admission to the attraction.
To participate in the trail, you’ll need a Dragoon Pack, which you can pick up at AmericInn by Wyndham, Country Inn by Radisson, the Blanden Memorial Art Museum, or Visit Fort Dodge. Each bag contains a spiral-bound book and a package of crayons. Use the booklet to find the clues to each etching post, a spot to create the etching, and information on the site.
Look at the Collections at the Blanden Memorial Art Museum
The Blanden Memorial Art Museum, located in Fort Dodge’s Historic Oak Hill District, keeps the kids in mind when creating the art museum experience. Typically, children enjoy the twentieth-century modern art donated by Fort Dodge native Ann Smeltzer because it is more relatable than something from early centuries. For example, the museum’s Marc Chagall painting, Fantastic Horse Cart, is a brightly colored painting with people floating, giving it a dream-like quality. Yet, in some sense, the painting appears to be an illustration from a children’s book.
Stop by the desk and request one of the Color Our Collection gift bags with a booklet of art and colored pencils that the kiddos can enjoy after their visit. Also, check out their schedule for Free Art Saturday, an hour-long monthly class for children.
Baby strollers and chest-carried baby packs are permitted in the museum galleries. However, it’s best to leave backpacks in your vehicle because you cannot bring them into the galleries, lest they damage something. If you decide to take them in, you’ll need to hang them or store them on the shelf above the coat rack at the East Entrance. The museum is typically open Tuesday through Saturday. Please check their website for current hours.
View the Awe-Inspiring Fort Dodge Grain Silo Mural
The Grain Silo Mural project is a mural installed on a 110-foot tall, abandoned grain silo, making it the largest in Iowa. Guido van Helten, a world-renowned artist, installed the mural in 2018. He used a combination of photography and community to create his work. First, he photographed local community members and then replicated them in paint on the silo.
While the youngest may not appreciate the story behind the art, they will be awed by the sheer size of the murals and enjoy blowing off steam on the walkway around them. So take a blanket and have a picnic lunch.
Play on the Back 40 at Community Orchard
Start with lunch at the café at Community Orchard. The kids will need something to keep them going with all the energy they need on the Back 40. The cafés serves lunch as well. They have kid-friendly dishes, like their house-made mac and cheese and the grilled four cheese sandwiches. Please see website for current hours.
Then turn them loose on the Back 40, a fantastic playground that will keep your family busy for hours. They feature an animal area where you can milk a cow and watch live goats. The kids can explore everything with wheels, from self-pedaled karts to mighty trikes and cow trains. They’ll love the activities, like the Jumping Pillow, the Farm Tile Slide, Tire Mountain, and play in the playhouse with oversized games. They also have a corn maze to discover for an additional charge. The Community Orchard and the Back 40 Playground is open daily. Please check their website for current hours.
For more details on Community Orchard click here.
Blow Off Some Steam at Fort Frenzy Family Fun Center
Fort Frenzy is a family entertainment center that offers indoor and outdoor activities. It is a good option even on a rainy day, with a full arcade, laser tag, mini-golf, valo-jump, and spin zone. When it’s nicer out they have go-karts as well.
They are typically open every day, but please check website for current hours.
Discover the Children’s Forest at Kennedy Park
Children will love the larger-than-life wood carvings in the Children’s Forest at Kennedy Park. Based on Dr. Seuss’ story The Lorax, you’ll find 15 stations on the .3-mile Story Trail where you can stop and read a section of the book. The story makes a perfect addition to the Children’s Forest as, in part, the story is about conserving natural resources.
A chainsaw sculpture from Des Moines, Gary Keenan, created six characters from the book out of ash trees. It made sense that the trees became art, as they removed many ash trees in the area due to Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive insect damaging local ash trees. You’ll see the Lorax himself, the caterpillar, and other characters from the book, making the story come alive.
Get Creative at Studio Fusion
Studio Fusion is a kid-friendly and mom-approved business where kids as young as six can do glass art. They provide step-by-step instructions to make glass pictures perfect for the kiddos learning their shapes. They also offer canvas painting art projects, and if you’re in Fort Dodge for more than a couple of days, you can even take on a ceramic project.
The studio is typically open Wednesday through Friday. Please see website for current hours.
Ride the Kid’s Track at Gypsum City OHV Park
If your family enjoys OHVs, the Gypsum City OHV Park might be just the place for your family to spend a few days of vacation. The park is approximately 800 acres and features 60 miles of OHV trails. In addition, the park includes a 1.5-mile motocross track, a .4-mile kids’ track, challenge course and a beginners circle. Current registration and helmets are required for all. Please visit the Iowa DNR website for a complete list of rules and regulations.
Trails within the park vary from an open prairie for novice riders to heavily timbered parts for more advanced riders. Advance riders will appreciate the water crossings and mudding areas. Trailhead signs within the park will indicate what machines are allowed on specific trails. Personal OHVs must be registered and refer to park riding rules.
Go Swimming at the Rosedale Rapids Family Aquatic Center
Your grandkids will enjoy the Rosedale Rapids Family Aquatic Center regardless of their age. The eight-lane lap pool and diving space may be fun for high schoolers. The tweens will have fun in the separate pool featuring a play structure. For the littles, they offer a toddler slide, a deck spray area, and an open flume tube water slide, and everyone can relax on the lazy river. The facility is typically open for swimming Monday through Saturday. Please see website for current hours.
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Wow, there is a ton of really cool and fun activities for kids of all ages! Not going to lie, I personally want to get a packet for me and take it on the Dragoon Etching Trail scavenger hunt cause that sound awesome!
Personally, I love all the art in and around Fort Dodge, especially the Grain Silo Mural. “Street Art” is always so cool!
Wow. Fort Dodge sounds like such an incredible place to take kids. There is so much for them to do and a great place to enjoy lunch in-between all the fun. I love the sound of the Dragoon Etching Trail and I would definitely be joining in the scavenger hunt
The Dragoon Etching Trail seems like fun activity to do with kids. And I really loved all the wall murals.
I haven’t been to Fort Dodge, Iowa, yet, but the place seems very interesting. She would love to see the Fort Museum and Frontier Village and would love to see the collections at the Blanden Memorial Art Museum. As I love murals, I would love to see The Grain Silo Mural, as it’s so impressive!
I have to admit the grain silo was really something. I had never seen art on one although I know others exist. I hope you are able to visit someday and when you do let me know.
Fort Dodge sounds like a great place for kids, but as an adult, I would also enjoy all of these activities! That silo mural is quite impressive!
I’ll definitely check out the grain silo mural-that looks amazing!
Fort Dodge sounds like a fun place for kids of all ages! The silo mural is super cool!
What a fun place to visit. I’d love to grab the grandkids and play for several days in Dodge. Perhaps when we finally get the next cross-country trip together. Thanks for putting Fort Dodge on my radar.
I loved the silo mural too.
Cities should invest more in public art, especially at places where you least expect them!