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The Best of Fort Dodge: Restaurants, Lodging, Adventure

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Looking for the best of Fort Dodge: restaurants, lodging, adventure and more? From rich history to good food to outdoor adventures, you’ll find something for the whole family in Fort Dodge, Iowa. If you’re looking to #DodgeTheOrdinary, you’ll want to plan a trip!! 

fort dodge iowa grain silo mural

The Best of Fort Dodge: Restaurants, Lodging, Adventure + 

I was recently hosted by the Fort Dodge Convention and Visitors Bureau on a three day press trip with several other members of the Midwest Travel Bloggers. All opinions are mine. Our days were jam packed with fun things to do and I enjoyed it so much that I took my husband back a couple weeks later!

This post is Part One in a two part series. You can read Part Two about the amazing outdoor adventures available in Fort Dodge here.

Fort Dodge Grain Silo Mural

Located at 727 Hawkeye Avenue near Lizard Creek Mountain Bike Park and Amigo’s Restaurant. 

I wanted to visit Fort Dodge originally because of the Fort Dodge Grain Silo Mural. This 110 foot tall, 360-degree concrete mural on old grain silos is the tallest mural in Iowa and was painted by acclaimed international artist Guido van Helten, just recently completed in 2018. 

I love art and after seeing numerous pictures of this silo, I knew I had to see it for myself. It did not disappoint, either! 

grain silo mural fort dodge (1)

The Fort Dodge Grain Silo is part of the Monuments series of silo murals that Italian artist Guido van Helten painted throughout the United States Midwest and South. He also painted murals in Nashville, Tennessee; Faulkton, South Dakota; and Mankato, Minnesota. van Helten’s hope for his art is for it “not only to commemorate the local agricultural history but also to inspire new industry in the forms of public art and tourism.”

Clearly the goal of inspiring art and tourism was achieved through this mural: at least it inspired me! And suddenly, there are a lot more places that I must visit one day, because now I want to see the entire Monuments series of silo murals.

What to do in Fort Dodge

Besides the murals, Fort Dodge actively promotes the arts in other ways, as well as music, the outdoors, and more. The Fort Dodge region offers 70 miles of water trails for canoeing and kayaking, 65 miles of off-highway vehicle trails, 45 miles of equestrian trails, 30 miles of paved bike trails, 10 miles of mountain bike trails and so much more!

You definitely need to read this post to learn about all the outdoor adventures available in Fort Dodge, Iowa!

fort dodge iowa from the air

Where is Fort Dodge, Iowa?

Fort Dodge, located in North Central Iowa, is the county seat of Webster County. Conveniently located off Highways 20 and 169 where the Des Moines River and Lizard Creek meet, Fort Dodge is an easy drive from all across Iowa:

  • Des Moines to Fort Dodge  –  1 ½ hours
  • Waterloo to Fort Dodge – 1 hour 40 minutes
  • Sioux City – 2 hours
  • Council Bluffs to Fort Dodge –  3 hours
  • Quad Cities to Fort Dodge – 3 hours 40 minutes

That makes it about the perfect distance for a fun-packed couple of days from most of Iowa – perfect for family vacations, girl-friend getaways, active outdoor adventures, romantic weekend away, solo travel and more!

If you’d like to explore Fort Dodge, there are so many things to see!

fort dodge downtown

Fort Dodge’s Rich History

I’m always interested in the history of an area, and Fort Dodge has a really interesting history. It was originally founded as a military outpost in the 1850s, but the city made its fame and fortune in coal, gypsum, limestone, and clay thanks to abundant natural resources.

Before World War I, the city planned for a population of over 50,000 and built an impressive number of sky-scrapers with that goal in mind. At that time five stories equaled sky-scraper status and there are 11 buildings here, built before 1925, which qualified as skyscrapers. By 1920, Fort Dodge had “more skyscrapers per capita than ANY other city in the midwest, if not the nation,” according to historian Roger Natte. 

oak hill historic district

However, the 50,000 population goal never materialized, and with a population of around 25,000 currently, Fort Dodge is now the 22nd largest city in Iowa.

Driving into downtown Fort Dodge is impressive! About 100 of its downtown buildings are historically significant – a scale you don’t see in a lot of Iowa towns.

Unfortunately, some of the most impressive buildings are empty and have fallen into disrepair. But if you’re up for a walk around the downtown, you will be totally inspired about what could be again with a lot of time, hard work, and money.

webster county freedom rock

In addition to wandering around downtown, you’ll want to visit these places to get a feel for Fort Dodge history and dedication to arts and culture.

  • Fort Museum and Frontier Village
  • Oak Hill Historic District
  • Blanden Memorial Art Museum
  • Webster County Freedom Rock
fort dodge restaurants

Fort Dodge Restaurants, Breweries, & More

Who doesn’t like to eat? If you’re looking for delicious Fort Dodge Restaurants, here are a few of the locally owned and operated places we ate at and can attest to as being delicious! 

We think it’s important to support local as much as possible and we hope you will check out this list of unique and delicious Fort Dodge restaurants, breweries, and more.

Gaga & Hoo

Location: 368 Country Club Drive

This was honestly my favorite restaurant! Where else can you get an authentic Korean meal in rural Iowa?? Highly recommend! My favorite was the Dolsot Bibimbap and the Dak-gang-jeong. Of course, since you’re trying Korean food, you’ll have to taste the kimchi and have a sip of soju too. 🙂

The Dariette

Location: 17 South 12th Street

Want ice cream? The Dariette has you covered. The lemon soft serve was my favorite! But they have all sorts of yummy looking ice cream treats you will want to try!

Mineral City Mill and Grill 

Location: 2621 5th Ave South

Offering dine-in and take out, we enjoyed lunch on the go from Mineral City. Their Coconut Chicken Salad is really good!

Tea Thyme at Sadie’s

Location: 2021 6th Avenue South

Tea Thyme at Sadie’s is a fun place to stop for lunch. You won’t be disappointed by any of their five daily entrees. Lunch is served Monday – Saturday, 11 -2. Reservations are recommended. 

painted piano at Soldier Creek Winery Fort Dodge Iowa

Soldier Creek Winery

Location: 1584 Paragon Avenue

An Iowa Winery, Soldier Creek is a fun place to spend an afternoon. You can try their wines and meander around their vineyards. Learn the story of their Ghost Pig wine – it’s pretty interesting!

Shiny Top Brewing

Location: 520 Central Ave.

The flight of Moscow Mules was my favorite, but they also have a flight of local brews and really good pizza as well!

Ja-Mar Drive In

Location: 325 South 25th Street

We ate there for breakfast one morning, but they also serve lunch and dinner as well! Highly recommend their breakfast menu!

Buford’s Steak House & BBQ

Location: 1518 3rd Avenue Northwest

Located inside the Best Western Hotel, Buford’s offers steaks, salads, a full bar. My favorite was the flight of fries!

Tom Thumb Drive-In

Location: 1412 A Street West

Tom Thumb is a local favorite. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but it more than makes up for it with its breakfast fare. I didn’t realize that cinnamon rolls come with some of their breakfasts! Bring your appetite!

Zakeer’s Family Restaurant

Location: 425 2nd Ave South.

A cute little breakfast restaurant with fun decor and delicious baked goods! I stopped here with my husband on my second trip to Fort Dodge and we had a great breakfast!

fort dodge drinks

River Hops Brewing

Location: 1014 Central Avenue

Head out to River Hops Taproom for live music on the patio and local brews! They don’t serve food, but they do serve beer and if you get a shuttle from Brookstone Inn, they’re drop you off and pick you up!

amigos restaurant

Amigos Bar & Restaurant

Location: 280 North 1st Street

You’ll find Amigos right on the river across from the Grain Silos Mural. It’s a great place to meet up with friends, sit outside on the patio overlooking the river, and enjoy a burger and fries.

Hacienda Vieja Fort Dodge

Location: 217 S 25th Street.

Located inside the mall, Hacienda Vieja has plentiful chips and salsa and traditional Mexican entrees. Bring your appetite! Portions are huge.

Fort Dodge Hotels and Cabins

You’ll find a lot of nice places to stay in Fort Dodge – hotels, camp grounds, cabins, yurts and more! We stayed at the Brookstone Inn and Suites on our press trip and I took my husband back there again as well. The Brookstone Inn and Suites has everything you need – clean rooms, friendly staff, a wine and beer bar, free breakfast, and a courtesy shuttle that will take you anywhere in the area – for free – with 30 minutes notice!

Want to grab a beer and get a ride back? No problem! Just talk to the front desk and they’ll set you up! Book your hotel stay at the Brookstone Inn and Suites today!

Fort Dodge also has a lot of camping, cabins, and yurts! You can learn more about them in my post on Outdoor Adventures in Fort Dodge!

Gypsum City OHV park

Outdoor Adventure in Fort Dodge

In addition to all these great restaurants, Fort Dodge has a number of amazing outdoor adventures just waiting for you! Please head over to my next post to learn more: Active Outdoor Adventure in Fort Dodge, Iowa.

Have you been to Fort Dodge? What’s your favorite restaurant or thing to do there?

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About Michelle

Michelle Marine is the author of How to Raise Chickens for Meat, a long time green living enthusiast and rural Iowa mom of four. An avid traveler, Michelle has lived on three different continents and has driven all four kids across the entire USA (by herself!). She loves sharing farm-to-table recipes, their family travel adventures, and gardening and homesteading tips on her popular lifestyle blog, SimplifyLiveLove.com.

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