The town of Clear Lake in the northern part of Iowa is a place that’s particularly known for offering fun for the entire family. There are outdoor recreation opportunities in abundance, especially around the town’s 3,600-acre lake. Music history merges with up-and-coming and current artists at the Surf Ballroom, which has become a bit of a town landmark. The beautiful waterfront and beaches can often be seen full of visitors throughout the summer season, typically between the end of May to early September. Clear Lake, Iowa also hosts a number of festivals throughout the year.

We recommend that you call the attractions and restaurants ahead of your visit to confirm current opening times.

1.Plane Crash Site of Buddy Holly

Plane Crash Site of Buddy Holly
© Plane Crash Site of Buddy Holly

The Plane Crash Site of Buddy Holly still remains the same lonely spot within a massive Iowa field as it was back in 1959. For locals or tourists who want to visit the site, the access point is marked by a large pair of Buddy Holly trademark eyeglasses along a farm road. The walk is a bit long from the road to the actual crash site, however, the bare section of dirt that’s in front of the Plane Crash Site of Buddy Holly memorial shows that there are quite a number of fan who make the trip.

22728 Gull Ave, Clear Lake, IA

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2.Clear Lake State Park

Clear Lake State Park
© bouybin/

Situated along the southeast corner of the town’s scenic Clear Lake, Clear Lake State Park is one of northern Iowa’s major outdoor recreation areas. While only being around fifty-five acres in size, the state park provides a wide variety of opportunities for outdoor activities thanks to its lakeside location, along with its naturally beautiful landscape characterized by rolling grounds with mature, open oak tree groves. The more than 3,000-acre Clear Lake is a popular place for windsurfing, fishing, and boating, and there are several facilities within Clear Lake State Park, including a campground, modern restrooms, lodge, and picnic areas.

6490 S Shore Ct, Clear Lake, IA 50428, Phone: 641-357-4212

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3.Central Gardens of North Iowa, Clear Lake, IA

Central Gardens of North Iowa, Clear Lake, IA
© Central Gardens of North Iowa

The Central Gardens of North Iowa are a beautiful green space and public garden spread across almost three acres near the downtown district of Clear Lake. Open seven days a week, from sunrise until sundown, from the beginning of May through the beginning of November, the gardens are free to the general public to explore the meandering brick walkways and spend time simply relaxing or going for a stroll surrounded by artwork, stream beds, ponds, and themed flower beds. The Central Gardens also host a range of special events during the season, such as make-and-take art projects, crafts, beekeeping, and gardening.

800 2nd Ave N, Clear Lake, IA 50428, Phone: 641-357-0700

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4.Surf Ballroom, Clear Lake, Iowa

Surf Ballroom, Clear Lake, Iowa
© Surf Ballroom

The Surf Ballroom in the town of Clear Lake, Iowa is a historic ballroom that once hosted big bands and is the venue where Buddy Holly performed his last concert. As such, the ballroom is famous throughout the United States, as well as the rest of the world. Visitors can join one of the guided tours or can choose to take a self-guided tour of the Surf Ballroom and its museum-quality changing exhibits.

460 N Shore Dr, Clear Lake, IA 50428, Phone: 641-357-6151

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5.Lake Theatre, Clear Lake, Iowa

Lake Theatre, Clear Lake, Iowa
© Andrea Izzotti/

The Lake Theatre boasts great concessions and state-of-the art technology, yet still retains all of the service and charm that’s to be expected from a hometown theater. This family-owned and operated theater is still being run in much the same way as theaters were operated back during the 1950’s. The interior of the Lake Theatre is known for being comfortable and clean, as well as for prices being very reasonable. The building itself dates back to 1890, when it was an opera house. The interior was destroyed in the 1920’s by a fire, and reopened in 1936 as a movie theater.

4 N 4th St, Clear Lake, IA 50428, Phone: 641-357-2414

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6.Surf District Rock 'n Roll Grill, Clear Lake, Iowa

Surf District Rock 'n Roll Grill, Clear Lake, Iowa
© Surf District Rock 'n Roll Grill

The Surf District Rock 'n Roll Grill is a locally-owned and operated dining establishment in Clear Lake, Iowa that was founded to provide visitors and locals alike with a unique dining experience “that rocks.” The restaurant boasts that they offer a “menu like no other” that’s inspired by the artists who have had performances at the historic Surf Ballroom, featuring a wide variety of appetizers, burgers, salads, sandwiches, entrees, and more.

619 Buddy Holly Pl, Clear Lake, IA 50428, Phone: 641-357-1222

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7.Clear Lake Fire Museum

Clear Lake Fire Museum
© Clear Lake Fire Museum

Conveniently located close to downtown Clear Lake, the Clear Lake Fire Museum is a great place to visit with the family. The museum is home to a fine collection of vintage fire-fighting equipment including the old fire engine which is brought out of mothballs each year to take part in the 4th July parade. In addition you can admire (and marvel at the effort required) a hand-pushed water cart, uniforms, hoses, photos and much more. The museum is operated by an enthusiastic team of fire-fighter volunteers who bring all the old stories to life. The museum is open on Saturday and Sundays from 1pm to 4pm.

112 N. 6th Street, Clear Lake, IA 50428, 641-357-2613

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8.Kinney Pioneer Museum

Kinney Pioneer Museum
© Kinney Pioneer Museum

The Kinney Pioneer Museum will bring back many memories of the “good ole days”. Brainchild of Mrs. George Ludeman, who began collecting all kinds of historic bits and bobs back in 1957, the Kinney Pioneer Museum is now home to a huge collection of gems from yesteryear. You will find everything from basic furniture and antiques to monstrous-looking hair curling devices and beautifully restored vintage vehicles. There are handmade quilts from the 1800’s, military uniforms from the Civil War and North Iowa’s largest collection of vintage dolls. The large property is also home to a one-room schoolhouse, an 1863 log-cabin home, a blacksmith shop and a jailhouse.

9184 265th Street, Clear Lake, IA 50428, 641-423-1258

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9.Clear Lake Arts Center

Clear Lake Arts Center
© Clear Lake Arts Center

The Clear Lake Arts Center started off in 2002 as a communal rented space where local artists exhibited and sold their work. From those humble beginnings, the Clear Lake Arts Center has become a hive of artistic endeavor, where like-minded local artists meet, exhibit, teach and gain inspiration from one another. The gallery produces regular exhibitions and incorporates the Sukup Lakeside Courtyard of Sculpture Garden where visitors can admire a rotating exhibition of thought-provoking sculptures. The art center also offers various online art classes so that anyone can join in and endeavor to improve their creative skills as they learn from established artists.

17 S. 4th Street, Clear Lake, IA 50428, 641-357-1998

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10.Lake Time Brewery

Lake Time Brewery
© Lake Time Brewery

Time takes on a different meaning when you are by the lake. When you are on Lake Time, time is all about relaxing with friends and family, taking it easy and enjoying nature. At a time like this, all you need to complete your day is a brilliantly brewed craft beer. Enter Lake Time Brewery. Located on Main Avenue, Lake Time Brewery invites you to come to their warm and welcoming Tap Room and taste some of their popular brews. The range includes several pale ales and IPA’s, pilsner and fruit beer before moving on to the dark and luscious stouts and porter.

801 Main Ave, Clear Lake, IA 50428, 641-357-2040

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10 Best Things to Do in Clear Lake, Iowa

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