Memorial Day weekend has long served as the unofficial start to summer. It's the first significant holiday of the season, schools are starting to let out, and maybe most notably, people are looking for any reason to leave their house.

However, with gas prices as high as they are, some people might be opting for a staycation. In fact, over the last couple years, that's exactly what many Iowans have been doing. According to statistics from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Iowa state parks have seen record attendance over the past two years. The influx of visitors is continuing in 2022.

With the weather warming, it could only get bigger.

In 2020, Iowa state parks — including Ledges State Park in Madrid, Backbone State Park in Dundee, and Pikes Peak State Park in McGregor, to name a few — saw 17 million visits. That was almost two million more than in 2019. In addition, 2020 saw record sales of outdoor items, including campers, kayaks, bicycles, and fishing equipment.

A map of state parks in Iowa. Credit: Google Maps.
A map of state parks in Iowa. Credit: Google Maps.
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The pandemic changed our lives in such profound ways, but there's an easy connection to draw here. Visiting a state park is a perfect solo activity, as are kayaking and fishing. With innumerable concerts and events cancelled, people took to their neighborhoods to escape the news and experience the beauty found in their state.

According to Sherry Arntzen of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, many visited Iowa state parks for the first time in 2020. The recently released numbers from 2021 suggest they came back in droves. Meanwhile, 2022 is expected to boast similar numbers.

I need to make it out to some of Iowa's beautiful state parks as soon as the warm weather is here to stay! Like many in 2020, it would be my first time as well.

Small Town Iowa: Road Trip to Pella - Photos

When you mention Pella, most people say "they have all the tulips right?" Where that would be correct, there is so much more to this town. Pella is also home to two manufacturing companies, a college, the largest working windmill in the U.S. and it's the boyhood home of the legendary Wyatt Earp. Now, let's go on a virtual tour of this excellent example of picturesque small-town Iowa.