21 Things To Do in Clear Lake, Iowa with Kids
Many may think it is hard to catch the beach vibes in the middle of the Midwest, but I am here to prove you wrong! Located in northern Iowa is the city of Clear Lake, Iowa. Located about two hours north of Des Moines, Iowa this small town is filled with all the beach fun and recreational opportunities during the Summer and hours of things to see and do all year round. If you are looking for a long weekend getaway here are 21 things to do in Clear, Lake Iowa with kids that the whole family will love.
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173° Craft Distillery
Address: 306 1st Ave N Clear Lake, IA 50428
This is a new addition to Clear Lake, Iowa, and a fun one too! 173° Craft Distillery is a cocktail bar (that is kid-friendly) located in downtown Clear Lake. Using Birdsall’s vanilla ice cream, they offer root beer floats for the kids. After some shopping and exploring, stop for a craft cocktail (their Moscow mule is delish!) and sit at their fun rooftop seating area. Why is it called 173° Craft Distillery? The boiling point of ethanol is 173 degrees. You learn something new every day!
Address: 9184 265th St. Clear Lake, IA 50428
Who would think a restaurant in an airport would have some of the best Mexican food and a fun ambiance? Avion Azul is located in the Mason City Municipal Airport and serves up the freshest Mexican food, fun cocktails (margarita flights anyone?), fresh guacamole prepared tableside and much more. The kids will love watching planes fly in and out while you sit next to the window. This is such a fun and unique place!
Buddy Holly Crash Site and Memorial
Address: 22728 Gull Ave., Clear Lake, IA
Your kids may be too young to remember Buddy Holly, but Clear Lake, Iowa is the perfect chance to introduce them to the story of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, The Big Bopper, and the “Day the Music Died”. It is about a 1/4 mile walking distance from the road to the memorial of where the plane crash site of Buddy Holly and there is not much shade, so plan accordingly. It is definitely one of those bucket list items to say you have done it. If you do not make the trek to the official crash site, they have a fun memorial marked by a big pair of Holly’s trademark eyeglasses.
Cabin Coffee Co.
Address: 303 Main Avenue, Clear Lake, Iowa 50428
Before you set out on your adventure through Clear Lake, Iowa makes sure you stop for a pick-me-up from Cabin Coffee Co. located in downtown Clear Lake. They have delicious coffee, treats, and smoothies. My kids love their smoothies! You can stay and enjoy them in their cozy cafe or head for a walk towards the lake.
Camp and Swim at Clear Lake State Park
Address: 6490 S Shore Dr, Clear Lake, IA 50428
Clear Lake State Park is one of our favorite beaches to swim at and they offer one of the most popular campgrounds in the Clear Lake area. The beach is big, clean and your family will have tons of fun swimming and playing. They also offer modern restrooms and shower facilities to shower and clean up after a day of beach fun. If you camp or stay in the area make sure you bring your bikes for a bike ride through one of two Iowa State Parks in Clear Lake, Iowa.
Central Gardens of North Iowa
Address: 800 2nd Ave N, Clear Lake, IA 50428
Central Iowa Gardens, located in the heart of Clear Lake is full of free fun for the entire family. The public garden sits on three acres and is home to 23 themed gardens including a children’s garden. The Bee Happy Discovery Garden includes bright colors and fun statues for kids. Every Friday morning from June to August they offer special programming for kids which includes Garden Explorers, Yoga Buds, and more. They offer several youth programs and programming for adults too! If you do not attend a special event or program, the Central Iowa Gardens is a great place to pack a lunch and explore. There are a number of fun things to do in this beautiful space.
Clear Lake Arts Center
Address: 17 South 4th Street, Clear Lake, IA 50428
The Clear Lake Arts Center is another free thing to do in Clear Lake. They offer special events, programming, galleries, education, and much more. They are located in downtown Clear Lake. As you wander around shopping, make sure you take time to make a stop before heading to the City Beach!
Clear Lake Bandshell in City Park
Address: Between Main Avenue and 1st Avenue North
The Clear Lake Bandshell is located in the 3.08 City Park which offers live music, numerous shade trees, acres of picnic grounds, playground equipment, a picnic shelter, swings, slides, and so much more. This area is also available to rent for large groups! A great place for a picnic and to run and play near Clear Lake City Beach.
Clear Lake City Beach Park and Splash Pad
Address: Located in Downtown Clear Lake
The City Beach Park is a popular place to cool off after a day of exploring downtown Clear Lake. They offer a beach with and a new splash pad! This is the perfect option if you have younger kids who may be nervous about swimming in the lake. Or if you are not a sandy beach fan you can enjoy the beach atmosphere at this fun splash pad.
Color of the Wind Kite Festival
Address: Downtown Clear Lake
The Color of the Wind Kite Festival is definitely an Iowa bucket list item. On the third Saturday in February, each year kite fliers from all over come together to put on a fun, colorful show in the sky on the frozen Clear Lake. It was an amazing site to see all the kites in the air when we made a visit a few years ago. Kites included large dragons and octopuses, to a flying pig. This event is the perfect example that the town of Clear Lake offers fun things all year round!
Experience a Yurt at McIntosh Woods State Park
Address: 1200 E Lake St, Ventura, IA 50482
If you are not too sure about camping but want to enjoy the camping experience reserving a yurt at McIntosh Woods State Park is the best way to enjoy the camping experience! We enjoyed this fun and new experience a few years ago and the kids still talk about it to this day. The campground is located right on Clear Lake and there is a dock nearby to fish off. The yurts book quickly so make sure you make an online reservation ahead of time.
Address: 313 N. 8th Street Clear Lake, Iowa 50428
Holistic Harmony is located just across the street from the Central Iowa Gardens. After you spend the morning exploring the gardens, head to Holistic Harmony for some tea. They have so many incredible, delicious options you will be able to find something for everyone. Feeling a little under the weather? Need some relaxation? They also offer massage services and their friendly staff is educated in natural, wellness products.
Lady of the Lake
Address: N Lake View Dr, Clear Lake, IA 50428
Take a cruise of Clear Lake aboard The Lady of the Lake. They offer public cruises daily throughout the Summer. This is the perfect way to take in the beautiful scenery and the kids will love riding on a ship!
Lake Time Brewery
Address: 801 Main Ave, Clear Lake, IA 50428
One of our favorite breweries in Iowa is Lake Time Brewery! They offer live music and great brews of course. Grab a game and play as a family while you enjoy a local, craft brew.
The Other Place
Address: 200 Highway 18 W. Clear Lake, Iowa 50428
If you are looking for a lunch break after a day on the lake or exploring Clear Lake, look no further! The Other Place offers pizza, sandwiches, salads, pasta, and more. A great place for the whole family to find something to eat. Whatever you decide to order make sure you order ranch! They make their own ranch in-house and it is pretty tasty.
Address: 15297 Raney Dr. Clear Lake, IA 50428
PM Park is one of our favorite places to play and eat. Whenever we visit Clear Lake we always try to make a stop at this fun restaurant located right on the Clear Lake beach. It is an excellent spot for families. Not only are they a restaurant, but they have a Tiki Bar and lodging. We love to hang out outside and the kids enjoy playing on the wooden boat while we wait for our food. A great place to relax and unwind after a day of fun in Clear Lake, Iowa!
Rent a Boat and Spend the Day on Clear Lake
If you are into water sports check on the many boat and jet skiing rentals available in the Clear Lake area for a day on the lake. Clear Lake is 14 miles around and a natural lake fed by a marsh. We have experienced two boat rental businesses in the area and loved them both!
Movement Solutions offers all sizes of boats, floats, jet skis, and other watersports toys. We enjoyed one of their boats with a slide! It was the perfect day on the lake with this fun boat. Clear Lake Boats is located right next door to PM Park and offers a ton of options. You will not go wrong with either option!
Shop Downtown Clear Lake, Iowa
Downtown Clear Lake has a cute shopping area full of numerous stores to shop and support local. Some fun shops include Lake Lifestyle, Weathered Elements, The Funky Zebras, and more. It is located just down the way from the beachfront. Spend your day shopping, grab some lunch at Starboard Market, and work your way down to the Clear Lake boardwalk.
South Shore Donut Co.
Address: 1205 S Shore Dr, Clear Lake, IA 50428
Who doesn’t love over-the-top donuts? Our family does! South Shore Donut Co. was voted America’s Top Donut Shop in 2019 and for good reason. These donuts are made fresh daily and I would recommend getting there early! They recommend ordering ahead of time.
South Shore Sweet Spot
Address: 5269 S Shore Dr, Clear Lake, IA 50428
The South Shore Sweet Spot is the best place to grab a sweet treat after a day on the beach. They are located in the perfect spot just down the street from Clear Lake Beach and offer tons of fun sundaes and flavors. Heads up! They accept cash only. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for updates.
Historic Surf Ballroom and Fox House
Address: 460 North Shore Drive Clear Lake, Iowa 50428
The legendary Surf Ballroom is one of the top things to do when you are traveling to Clear Lake, Iowa. This historic ballroom is filled with so much history and Rock ‘n Roll. You will find plaques, signatures, the stage, and so much more as you walk through this beautiful museum. This popular tourist destination is where the last concert was performed by Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, Dion & The Belmonts, and Frankie Sardo before their plane crash on February 2, 1959. Learn more about the Winter Dance Party.
A $5 donation is suggested for admission. It is a self-guided experience, but staff and volunteers are available to answer questions. Stand on the stage and picture all of the amazing talents and big bands that have performed over the years or catch live performances! The Surf District Rock also hosts the Clear Lake Farmers Market Saturdays at the Surf Ballroom parking lot which includes local artists and fresh, local produce.
Across the street from the Surf Ballroom is the Fox House. Carl J. Fox was the owner and builder of the Surf Ballroom. This vintage home has been restored and many original artifacts sit in this 1940-1950s house. It is a fun experience to walk through and catch a glimpse of what home life looked like back then. Please note that Fox House is not open to the public. You need to schedule a private tour to enter the home.