10 Vacation Spots Surrounding the Casinos in Council Bluffs

Fancy Diner Table and A Museum of Locomotives With Council Bluffs in the Center

There are three casinos in Council Bluffs, Iowa. So, if you’re heading out to the area, chances are you’re going for the adrenaline-pumping thrills at Ameristar Casino, Harrah’s Council Bluffs, and Horseshoe Council Bluffs.

But the casinos in Council Bluffs are just three of over a dozen hot attractions in the area. You will find the other 10 attractions listed below, and each one will give you a prime reason to extend your vacation experience beyond that of the casinos.

Ready to discover all the fine things you can do in Council Bluffs, Iowa?

Keep reading for the entire scoop.

1 – Union Pacific Railroad Museum

Boasting 4.5 stars out of nearly 300 reviews on TripAdvisor as of January 2021, the Union Pacific Railroad Museum is the place to be if you have a thing for the great history encompassing America’s railroads.

With a collection dating back to the 1850s, come in and appreciate thousands of artifacts and interactive games that will provide a unique educational experience regarding America’s railroads.

And with free admission, it makes it even more than worth it  to head over if you’re looking for a gaming break.

Plus, if you’re at the casinos in Council Bluffs with the entire family, a trip to the Union Pacific Railroad Museum is a fantastic, family-friendly activity to immerse yourself in.

Take a ride into America’s past from the 19th century all the way to present day.

2 – Lewis and Clark Monument and Scenic Overlook

This is an epic place to engage in some scenic views of the Heartland—especially if you come out this way in the fall.

Brace yourself for an overlook view of the area’s bounding scenery, featuring leaves changing from green to gold, red, and rust that stretch for miles on end.

You’ll gain epic views of the river, Downtown Omaha, and even the runways from the nearby airport. It’s truly a breathtaking experience that you won’t want to miss when you come to the casinos in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

They also sport a few dirt trails. So, if you’re interested in embarking into the heart of Iowa’s wilderness, it’s also a fantastic place to frequent.

Dirt Walking Trail Through the Woods

Come on out and enjoy the scenic views that stretch for miles. Look in the other direction, where you’ll find the budding metropolis that is Omaha, Nebraska.

Along with the water and runways, what’s not to love about heading out to the Lewis and Clark Monument and Scenic Overlook?

3 – Pottawattamie County Squirrel Cage Jail and Museum

Looking for a thrill that you won’t find at the 3 casinos in Council Bluffs?

Head over to the Pottawattamie County Squirrel Cage Jail and Museum and brace yourself for perhaps the most epic thrill ride in the area.

They have featured the jail on Ghost Adventures, so keep in mind that you may be in for some paranormal exhibits when you come to this museum. And if you’re not a believer, reviewers on TripAdvisor will agree: ghosts haunt this place.

So prepare to interact with more than just the living at this special attraction.

4 – Historic General Dodge House

The Historic General Dodge House has frequented the area since 1869, and it shows no signs of slowing down.

Built on what was once the frontier, the mansion overlooks the Missouri Valley. So, as with so many attractions in the Heartland, you’re getting a view from yet another angle.

This one’s a must-visit if you’re into architecture. Built with features that include parquet floors, a mansard roof, plus cherry and walnut butternut woodwork, among other features, if you’re a fan of classic architecture, be sure to rank a trip to the Dodge House at #1 on your list.

5 – Lake Manawa State Park

Judging from the smaller number of reviews on TripAdvisor, Lake Manawa State Park is a rather obscure attraction. But don’t let the lack of reviews deter you from heading over.

Flora dominates the landscape, and the scenery you get out on the lake will rival anything you’ve seen so far on your trip to the casinos in Council Bluffs.

With the forests reflecting on the blue waters, be sure to have your phone ready for a photo montage to commemorate your time at the park.

Lake County California

Stay around for the sunset, as nothing beats the dying sun glimmering off the darkening waters as it wanes beyond the horizon behind the hills and evergreens.

It’s the perfect way to kick off a relaxing evening in the area.

6 – Western Historic Trails Center

Another hidden gem in the area. The Western Historic Trails Center boasts a few exhibits that reviewers on TripAdvisor have raved over.

You’ll find quotes from famous Native Americans like Luther Standing Bear, ship models, statues, and even inscriptions.

You’ll find a few history stories, significant names of the area’s past, an interactive timeline, and a montage of old photographs.

Discover stories of Westward Expansion, and an educational experience of what made Council Bluffs, Iowa, one of the gateway metro areas to the American West.

It’s a small stop in the area, but well worth visiting.

7 – Bayliss Park

Your kids will obsess over the fountains that you will find here. So, if you’re on kid watch, place the trip to Bayliss Park atop your vacation itinerary. But it goes far beyond the fountains and springs you’ll find here.

Head on over at night and engage in perhaps the most mind-boggling light show in the state.

Combine the light show with the many animal sculptures and stunning scenery in the park, you’re in for a small but delightful treat if you need time off from the casinos.

Some reviewers on TripAdvisor also state it’s the prime place to engage in the “art of people watching.”

So, if being an observant bystander floats your boat, it’s a great place to spend an afternoon.

Come out and picnic, gain an appreciation of the artistic design at the fountains, and be sure to stick around in the evening to watch the place come to life when the sun goes down.

8 – Ditmars Orchard

From its humble beginnings in 1994, Ditmars Orchard has evolved into an all-out tourist attraction. As with a few attractions on this list, it’s a little more obscure. But the family-owned and operated orchard is a fantastic landing spot for guests of all ages and interest levels.

If you’re in the mood for fruit—hey, it’s the best tasting and healthiest sweet out there—it’s a must to take a trip to Ditmars Orchard. They have staples like apricots, apples, cherries, peaches, and strawberries.

So, stock up on some of the area’s freshest fruit and enjoy the small trails, play areas, exhibits, and bounding scenery when you frequent this underrated attraction.

9 – Kanesville Tabernacle

Originally a religious site for the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-Day Saints, the Kanesville Tabernacle has evolved into a fully fledged museum.

Now a historic landmark, it’s a great place to go if you’re looking for a history lesson, a handful of exhibits, and an unforgettable tour.

The staff has a lot of knowledge on the subject that spans throughout the entire history of the place until the present day.

They also have an epic gingerbread house display going on around the Holidays. So, if you’re there in December, it’s more than worth checking out.

As with many locations on today’s list, you won’t spend too much time here. It’s a great place to frequent if you want an hour or two away from the casinos in Council Bluffs.

10 – RailsWest Railroad Museum and HO Model Display

The RailsWest Railroad Museum and HO Model Display comprises the final sector on today’s list. And as with the Kanesville Tabernacle, you won’t spend too much time at this specialty museum.

Vintage Photo of Union Plaza in Las Vegas

There is a lot to look forward to here, including a walk through an HO size model train, taking a step back to the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, and looking around at all the old steam engines and train cars.

Some reviewers have panned the place for its condition. But others state it has exceeded their expectations, considering its limited resources. From the photos, it looks like it needs an upgrade. But given its vintage feel, it’s a must if you’re into old rail cars.

They also have many awesome pieces of railroad equipment to go along with the old steam engines and cars. Most reviewers have stated it’s worth the visit. If the knowledgeable staff updates the place, it’s a surefire five-star attraction in the making.

Conclusion

With three casinos in Council Bluffs, Iowa, it’s almost a surefire bet that you’re coming to the area for one of the finest casino tours in America’s Heartland. But if you’re coming in from out of the area, there is so much more than just Harrah’s, Horseshoe, and Ameristar.

And with nearly a dozen other attractions all over the place, you can turn what you thought was a trip to three fine casinos into a fine vacation destination. And with Council Bluffs one of a few metro areas in the region, use today’s list as a starting point to an epic adventure.

Have you been to any of the casinos in Council Bluffs, Iowa? If so, tell us about your experience and let us know if you visited any of the attractions listed above. We’re looking forward to reading your stories.

We Reviewed all three of the local casinos in Council Bluffs, Iowa. And If you want to read our reviews you can find them listed below.