Iowa Stories and Tips

Okoboji: In shut down mode

West Oaks Resort Photo, Iowa, United States

We had a time-share week to use but a limited budget, so we looked for a place within a day’s drive of home. We chose a place on West Lake Okoboji and our visit was out of season in October. True, many activities are closed. True, many stores are closed. True, many shops are closed or have limited hours. True……we had a really good time and no traffic hassels.

West Oaks Resort
Our time-share exchange was at 25 Lake Shore Drive, Arnolds Park, IA. We lucked out and got a two bedroom, two bath unit that was locate shoreside. We had a full kitchen and fixed most of our meals at home. We had one kitchen problem. The sink was set at angle. In most places that works out fine, but here there was a stove on one side and a DW on the other. The sink was large and had to be placed far back from the edge of the counter. I had lots of problems reaching the water controls. The living-room/dining-room opened out to a large deck. We had an unobstructed view of the docks, the lake and the shore beyond. We spent a lot of time watching the late season big boats go by and the crane boats that lifted docks on shore for the winter. At night we had the twinkle of residential lights straight across from us and the steady stream of highway lights going over a bridge to the right. We never closed our drapes. The unit had two TVs, comfortable furniture, and an electric fireplace for when we needed to take the chill off. The resort had other amenities we didn’t use such as pools, hot tub, rec room, paddle boats and bikes. We were located next door to a major shopping center The Emporium. It was a short walk to the amusement park (it was closed for the season.) It was an even shorter walk to Restaurant Row….however, only one remained open in October. And speaking of walking, the weather and traffic were great for walking. I found the post office and some other fun places while just wandering.

Antiques and Consignment Shopping
If you like antiquing, this is a great place and a great time of year as the aisles are less crowded. I found "Cats Meow" consignment store in the same strip mall as the Arnold’s Park post office. It is small and crowded but my husband found some treasures there. Okoboji Antique Mall in Arnolds Park had more quality items. "Antiques, Etc." in Milford at 101 Hwy 71 we spent a good part of one afternoon hunting. For a real change of pace check out Daves H!auling Service and Second Hand Depot in Milford, it …could be named "one man’s junk". On a day trip to Spenser we found two good antique stores on Main Street and just around the corner. One was called "Mainstreet Mall Antiques" at 303 Grand where Bill found an unusual item. By the way we saw more ornamental lighting rods in the area of Iowa than in any other part of the country. The other is "Spencer Furniture and Antiques" located in an old fellowship hall, the emphisis is on used furniture.

I love to shop in Thousand Baskets, a decorating and gift store in the Mall on Hwy 9 in Spirit Lake. I am very happy with the table linens we bought there. The store makes my husband nervous because it brings the inner decorator out of me. A two level store in Arnolds Park called Homology offers décor upstairs and apparel and accessories downstairs. They have an impressive collection of Vera Bradley and Baggalini bags.
The Wash House in Milford is a tea room and three floors of gifts and décor housed in the old Milford Hospital. We came for the gift shop but I am going back for lunch. The Emporium is located next door to our resort in Arnold’s Park. In October none of the first floor shops where open, but the basement had three shops open and they where having tremendous sales. I bought a college logo clock for 70% off and five good quality t-shirts/polos for only $20. There are some advantages to shopping off-season. There is also a locally famous shop in Milford at 902 10th Streeet called The Three Sons. The place looks like a fire-trap with old squeaky uneven floors, walls packed with racks of quality brand sportswear, and small connecting doors and stairs. The prices are high despite the sale signs, but it is good stuff. The manager is gruff and berates his employees publicaly. I find this most irritating so we moved on. In Spenser we found a potter who has showed at art festivals in our hometown. His name is Mel Meyers and his studio is called Clay County Clay. He was so happy to have visitors he put on the coffee pot and we exchanged life stories. He even took us into his oversize garage to show off his two collector cars. He is pretty smart. That was probably the most expensive cup of coffee I’ve ever had, as I ended up buying three more of pieces for my collection.

Pearson Lakes Art Center
I consider this place the cultural center of the Lakes Region. Pearson Lakes Art Center is located in a beautifully designed building overlooking prairie and woods at 2201 Hwy 71 North in Okoboji. Many aspect of the arts are addressed here, Lauridsen Performing Arts Theater occupies the East side of the building. Their schedule includes children’s theater, a variety of musical concerts, occasionally a play or sketch group like "The Second City", and a film series. On the lower level are wonderful studios where a wide variety of classes are taught. There is an outdoor trail and event area available. What we came for were the art galleries. There are three galleries on the main floor and two on the lower level. One gallery displays the Center’s permanent collection of Russian and Soviet Impressionism. They are lovely paintings…and everyone is happy…after all the paintings were commissioned to portray the soviet utopia. Other galleries have changing exhibits. We have visited twice and were impressed with the quality of art they display. One children’s activity room is called the ART Smart Gallery. It has fun educational interactive displays teaching the fundamentals of art. This is a fun place for visitors and an awesome part of the community for residents. Open in season on Mon-Wed and Fri-Sat 10 am to 4 pm; Thurs 10 am to 9 pm; and Sun 12 pm to 3 pm. Hours change off season from September to May when the Center is closed on Mondays and Sundays. There was a free will offering collection box out the day we visited.

Eating out:
If you arrive during off-season you will find that many of the hot-spots for eating out are closed. This shocked us on our first off season visit, so this time we came prepared and ate in most of our meals. Our condo unit had a well equipped kitchen. However we did venture out to forage occasionally. My husband is fond of the Perkins menu, loaded with comfort food. We found one in Milford on Hwy 71. While shopping in Spencer we were directed by a shopkeeper to "The Family Dinner" also on Hwy 71. This is a definitely a locals hang-out with lots of people stopping to talk to others on the way to their table. Coversation seem to center on crops and livestock. The food was adequate (my review) or good (my husband’s review). While out for a walk one morning, I found the "Koffee Kup". We stopped there one day for their cinnamon rolls and coffee. My very favorite eating out of the trip was at "Hey, Good Cookies" which is located on Hwy 9 at 1310 18th St in Spirit Lake. We had excellent lattés and a choice of a wide varities of good cookies. After that leisurely snack we enjoyed shopping in their store, where I found some Christmas gifts.

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