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48 Hours (not the crime show) in North Iowa: Part 2

Part 2 // Clear Lake & Mason City

The first part of my trip to Clear Lake was devoted to paying homage to Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly, and the Big Bopper. And from there, I discovered plenty enough to keep one busy during 48 hours in North Iowa.



  • STARBOARD CAFE - is the most popular restaurant in Clear Lake even though it’s only open 3.5 hours a day from 11am - 2:30pm. With about 30 sandwich options and plenty of delicious side salads, and the world’s best selection of cake bars, I think there is probably something for everyone. It’s not a dine-in restaurant, but guess what - there is a beautiful park with plenty of picnic tables & a great lake view just 1 block away!

  • LAKESIDE LANDING - Attached to the Lakeside Inn, this joint offers up a nice upscale menu including their famous crab nachos (yum!) and a rotating list of drink specials and beers.

  • SOUTH SHORE DONUT - who wouldn’t love a donut shop with a popular donut called the Oh Buoy after a little music history and nearby lake?!

  • CLEAR LAKE TIKI BAR - located on the southeast side of the lake near the PM Park cabins, the tiki bar is clearly the place to be with boat parking and postcard worthy onion rings!

  • I didn’t have a chance to visit these stops, but gladly would next time around:

To view slideshow, please click arrow in the middle of the right side of the image.



  • THE LAKESIDE INN - The only hotel still located on the lake, the prices may be higher than those off the interstate, but the joint is recently remodeled and features (as of this writing) complimentary bike rentals!

  • AIRBNB - lots of great cottage rentals, including the locally famous Pyramid Hotel.

  • Make Friends! - Another option is to make a friend with a lake home or cottage! This seemed to be a pretty common great place to stay among the new friends I met!



  • LADY OF THE LAKE BOAT CRUISE - This paddleboat vessel offers 90-minute tours of the lake. A wonderful way to get a lay of the land, literally the shoreline + you can re-create your own Titanic moment :)!

  • BOAT RENTAL - You can also rent pontoons, kayaks, and other water equipment from one of the many rental sites in Clear Lake.

  • BIKING - There is quite a bicycle riding culture out in this area with nice trails and road-shares all around the area. I took a 14-mile ride around the lake and made it back 3 minutes before a downpour! Bring your own bike or rent one from Movement Rentals.

  • CENTRAL GARDENS - A lovely in-town park free & open to the public with 20 themed garden areas; also featuring regular events like a botanical mixology course!

  • THE LAKE THEATRE - Alas, I would have loved to have seen a movie at this ____ (year) movie theatre, but they were only showing movies on the weekend!

To view slideshow, please click arrow in the middle of the right side of the image.



Located 10 miles east of Clear Lake is the small town of Mason City with a major medical center and community college. It’s also home to several Frank Lloyd Wright designed buildings, including the last operating hotel designed by FLW, the Historic Park Inn, as well as numerous homes and buildings featuring the famous prairie architecture of the early 20th century.


  • SUZIE Q - This awesome little diner has been around since 1948 and under new ownership since last year. What a time to re=open a restaurant?! Luckily, they are still in business, and just about the nicest folks - helping accommodate my vegetarian diet with a fried “chicken” sandwich.

  • BIRDSALL’S - Another historic joint recently taken over by new management, Birdsall’s is your mom & pop ice cream shop with some of the best caramel I’ve ever eaten - hands down. I didn’t know it could taste that good!

  • FAT HILL BREWING - A 7-barrel brewery with a big lovely taproom & lively event calendar, the space is located a hop & skip from the Historic Park Inn along Central Park. In-house, I enjoyed their Robust Porter and to-go, their devilishly deliciously Bank Demon Russian Imperial Stout. I wish I lived closer to join their monthly book club!



  • At the Historic Park Inn of course! What a unique experience to sleep in a hotel with so much history … and good modern plumbing!

  • There are also plenty of chain hotels and cute bed & breakfasts in the area.

To view slideshow, please click arrow in the middle of the right side of the image.



  • HISTORIC WALKING TOUR - My favorite part of my day in Mason City was an early morning self-guided walking tour to visit some of the town’s standout historic homes of the early 20th century. Below are some of my fav things I seen!

  • MEREDITH WILSON MUSEUM - Meredith Wilson is probably the city’s most famous resident, having composed & written lyrics for The Music Man and probably basing much of River City, Iowa on his hometown of Mason City, woven through by the Winnebago River.

  • LIME CREEK NATURE CENTER - About 2 miles north of the city sits a neat park with 9 miles of walking trails and a nature center.

  • BY BIKE - Again, bike riding is big stuff around here. The city offers a helpful bike trail guide and bikes can be rented from any of 3 sites using the KoloniShare app.

  • VINTAGE SHOPPING - Lots of options for vintage shopping in Clear Lake and Mason City. My favorite stop was Vintage Button and Unique Repeats at the Willowbrook Mall in MC.

To view slideshow, please click arrow in the middle of the right side of the image.


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