Once a major coal mining hub, Ankeny has evolved over the decades into one of Iowa’s most popular small towns. Travelers who want to experience classic Midwest America without any of the typical tourist hype will find Ankeny the ideal place to hunker down for a few days. From strolling the historic Uptown shopping district to a day out on the lake in Saylorville Recreation Area, this little Iowa gem has all the bases covered. If you need more excitement, just drive over to the big city of Des Moines, just 10 minutes’ drive away.
Things to see
Uptown is the name the locals call the historic downtown core. This is where you’ll find the best shopping and dining, and even a few relaxed bars for a casual night out on the town.
Big Creek State Park is just outside of Ankeny and offers miles of gorgeous wooded walking trails and plenty of grassy space for a picnic. One of Iowa’s virtues is its pristine natural environment and lack of development. You’ll find both in this popular state park.
Des Moines is Iowa’s big city. It features some real highlights, like the Science Center of Iowa and baseball games at Principal Park. Since it’s just 10 minutes by car from Ankeny, you can easily drive here for an afternoon of urban fun.
Ankeny boasts three excellent golf courses, and all of them are open to the public. Otter Creek is arguably the best of the lot thanks to its 17 lakes and lush rolling fairways.
It’s worth planning a trip around the July 4th Ankeny SummerFest. This is the town’s main annual event, where a classic Midwest parade, a carnival, live concerts, and fireworks ensure loads of fun.
Hotels in Ankeny
Since tourism is not a component of Ankeny’s local economy, the accommodations here lean towards business travelers and folks just passing through. Most of the hotels in Ankeny are well-known American chains, with the nicer ones situated on the outskirts of town, next to the lake.
There is plenty of budget lodging available around town. But if you need a touch of luxury, try one of the hotel suite chains. In these hotels, there are amenities like indoor swimming pools and fitness rooms, and complimentry breakfast is included in the room rate.
Where to stay
The downtown core is mainly a commercial zone. But there are a handful of historic hotels and independent motels along the side streets. The main advantage of staying downtown is the walkabilty factor.
Interstates 35 and 80 run right through Ankeny. There are many chain motels located at the major off ramps into town that tend to be at the budget end of the rate scale.
The upscale lodging around Ankeny is found slightly outside of town, near natural highlights such as Saylorville Lake. A couple of very nice hotels have staked out spots right at the water’s edge.
How to get to Ankeny
With the Iowa capital of Des Moines just 10 minutes’ drive to the south, most travelers reach Ankeny via this city. Des Moines Airport is serviced by several domestic carriers with flights to a dozen cities. Greyhound buses also make a stop in Ankeny after rolling through Des Moines. But many visitors arrive by car since the town lies right off interstates 35 and 80.
The only public transportation in Ankeny is the bus, which is part of the Des Moines Area Regional Transit (DART) system. Taxis are also on hand though a car of your own will come in handy.