Each new city and town we visit has its own particular feel. Some are historic sites with ages of artifacts. Others are artistic centers that entertain the eyes with rich and unique visions. It only took a few minutes for us to realize that Clear Lake, Iowa has a beach party vibe. Our arrival was timed for the morning of July 3rd, so there was a little extra electricity in the air. With a lakeside carnival in full swing, it was promising to be an entertaining visit.
We want to thank Clear Lake, Iowa, and the local businesses for hosting our visit. Rest assured all opinions are our own.
Clear Lake has a lot to offer vacationers. Many are drawn to the huge freshwater lake that boasts fun adventures for the whole family. The cloudless day had brought out sport fishers who enjoy the challenge found at this spring-fed body of water. Lying just west of I-35, this watery destination is easily accessible. We parked in the downtown area and worked our way to the shoreline. With holiday activities on the agenda, we needed to stay focused, if we were to complete our itinerary. Our schedule didn’t include time on the water, but it didn’t stop us from checking out the scene. Walking along the seawall, we spotted the Lady of the Lake. This sternwheeler offers visitors easy access to the lake with scenic tours.
Rock ‘N Roll History Lesson
While the beach party vibe is strong in Clear Lake, it’s not the only thing that happens in this city. In days gone by, one would have found ballrooms in most cities and towns across America. While these have mostly disappeared, the Surf Ballroom stands as a reminder of those times. Still in use today, it has hosted a myriad of musical artists from various genres. If the name of this place seems familiar, it’s because it was home to the last concert of Buddy Holly. Shortly after the concert, a plane crash took the lives of Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper. You can read more about it in this article that features the Surf Ballroom and nearby 3 Stars Plaza.
With the taste of history in our bloodstream, we moved forward to the Kinney Pioneer Museum. This local attraction does extra duty by covering Clear Lake and nearby Mason City. Like many local historical sites, it is chocked full of historic artifacts. Community pride often leads to exuberant donations from the locals. With so many pieces to display, it took us quite a while to make it through this museum. Our visit was enhanced by time spent with the museum curator. She was able to provide background on many of the unique pieces that are housed in the museum.
Now that we had a good grasp on the past, it was time to return to the present. Back downtown, we made our way to K&B Emporium for lunch. This combination eatery and retail shop provided plenty of eye candy. We ordered up a couple of the Independence weekend specials and did a little shopping while we waited for our meals to be prepared. Crystal chose the Turkey Ranch Wrap, which ended up being a ton of food. I sampled the BBQ Chicken Sandwich that comes served up on Ciabatta bread. It was all so delicious that we ended up eating a few more bites than we would normally consume. Oh well, looks like some more walking in our future.
Beach Party Vibe
With our lunch consumed, we decided to check out the local retail scene. While Clear Lake only holds about 8,000 residents, the beach party vibe helps bolster the economy to support plenty of locally-owned shops. With the midday heat building, it was perfect timing for some in-and-out exploring. The holiday events had brought in plenty of out-of-towners, so we had lots of company. We checked out various stores for a couple of hours and even spotted an ice cream shop. Unfortunately, our large lunch was preventing us from diving into a sweet treat.
Chilling with the Locals
As we made our way back down to the lake edge of downtown, we found a local vendor sale taking place. The assorted tents and booths were brimming with local art, crafts, and assorted merchandise. With a little time left before dinner, we made a pass through this space and picked out a couple of reminders from our visit. Once that was completed, we headed around a curve in the lake to PM Park. This lakeside resort has over 100 years of history in Clear Lake. We found a full-blown beach party vibe in full swing and couldn’t wait to join in the party atmosphere. As we sat and enjoyed some local musicians, we dined on some of their handhelds. There is something fascinating about relaxing in full view of all of the lake activities.
One Last Stop
After dinner, we decided to take a stroll along the shoreline. Here we could watch the sun swing low into the evening sky. The number of water skiers had died down and many of the boats were returning to the docks. Now was time for the sport fishers to reclaim their stake of the lake. As the waves slowly receded in size, it was time for us to think about moving on. Our schedule required us to be in Fairmont, Minnesota by bedtime, but there was one last stop to make. On our way to PM Park, we had noticed an old-fashioned ice cream shop shaped like a cone. While we weren’t extremely hungry, we knew better than to pass up a second chance for a sweet treat.
Our time in Clear Lake had drawn to an end, but we departed filled with their beach party vibe. While the Fourth of July is certainly plenty of reason to celebrate, it’s not the only event to draw crowds to this Iowa town. When talking with the staff at Clear Lake, we found out that they almost always have something going on in or around town. There are plenty of reasons for us to make a return visit and some very unique activities. You’ll want to check out their calendar of events and find the perfect ones to squeeze into your vacation plans. We are betting you’ll enjoy the fun atmosphere that you find there. When was your last lake trip?