I'm putting together a list of summer events worth traveling 2 and a half hours for, which I plan to post on the AbsoluteDSM website. Obviously this is a subjective thing, because while I may feel that its absolutely worth driving 2.5 hours to see the Quad City Air Show, others may not. Especially those without interests in planes or sunburn.
Here's a quick list of possiblities, which is certainly missing things, in order by date. This mostly comes from the QC CVB website.
Gumbo Ya Ya
Ride the River
QC Air Show
Sturgis on the River (off the river until Centennial Park is done)
John Deere Classic
Bix Jazz Fest
Mississippi Valley Fair (although Des Moines folks have their own fair, I hear)
Ya Maka My Weekend
River Roots Live
Rock Island Grand Prix
QC Symphony Pops Concert
Some of these may not be worth driving 2+ hours for. Others, like the fair or the marathon, are probably worth driving over for, but Des Moines has their own (bigger) version. I don't have any car shows on the list, but many could argue that some of those are regional events. What do you folks think belongs on the list vs what doesn't? If I were directing this towards Chicago folks rather than Des Moines residents, I'd expect it to be a different list.