Clear Lake Travel Guide

  • Things to Do
    by goodfish
  • Things to Do
    by goodfish
  • Things to Do
    by goodfish

Clear Lake Things to Do

  • Not Fade Away: The Surf Ballroom

    Once upon a time ballrooms scattered across the country drew crowds from miles around to jump to the big bands of the 30’s and 40’s and early rock-and-roll groups traveling the dance-hall circuits. The Surf is one of the few survivors of that long-ago era, and one of even fewer to retain it’s original 1940’s appearance. Walking through the doors -...

  • "A long, long time ago..."

    We were having a bit of a problem locating the Surf so we asked a friendly looking local if he could point the way. After giving us directions, he said “Yeah, that plane went down in my Grandpa’s cornfield.” That cornfield just happened to be next on our agenda. Playing the Surf wasn’t on the Dance Party tour schedule, and flying to the next gig...

  • Need more info?

    The Clear Lake Visitor Center shares space with the Chamber of Commerce and you can find it on the lake end of Main Avenue. Here’s where you can pick up walking tour brochures and other materials about the area. It’s rumored that you can rent bikes here, too. Otherwise, a nice guide can be downloaded from the tourism...

  • Still Standing

    Clear Lake’s main street has retained some of its historic architecture - although I wasn’t able to find information on any of it until after the fact, and some of it could use a little TLC. Brochures for a self-guided walk of the more notable landmarks can be picked up at the the public library (where the route starts - 200 N 4th St), Chamber of...

  • Be a part of music history

    The Surf Ballroom was witness to the last performance of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper on Feb 2, 1959. It is still an active venue for concerts. Do not miss this remarkable building. If the building is open, see the wall of fame and the Green Room, as well as the rare photos of Buddy at the Surf.If you have time, drive north out...

  • Clear Lake City Park

    There is a sizeable park right off Main Street on the lake front, the Clear Lake City Park. An outdoor auditorium and children's play equipment are among the main features of this park.

  • Grand Beach Houses and Classic...

    On the lake front are some really large summer homes, while in a block or so, particularly just south of North Shore Drive, there are some very nice Victorian era homes. I noticed for sale signs on some of these gems. Most of this architecture is very well maintained by external appearances.

  • Beach Cottages (for rent)

    At the beach are cottages available for the summer. I found these very quaint structures built of wood or stone interesting. Although, I can't last anywhere for more than a few hours, let alone all summer, I can see how families might like to spend summers relaxing here.

  • Window Shop on Main Street

    Main Street Clear Lake is well kept and has numerous gift shops, antique stores, restaurants, and ice cream parlors. Since the town dates back to 1851, the commercial architecture is mostly respectable brick structures from the late 19th and early 20th century. Main Street terminates right at the lake.

  • Watch as Boat Canopies are Transferred

    A rather unique part of Clear Lake is the boat canopy business. These canopies stand on the lake bottom near shore, sheltering ski and fishing boats for the summer. During winter, the lake freezes and so the canopies have to be removed for storage elsewhere. A company provides storage and transport every year at reasonable cost. The canopies are...

  • Walk along the waterfront

    Clear Lake is surprisingly large and is surrounded by homes and cottages on all sides. The lake isn't so clear as it used to be due to agricultural run-off, but new projects to keep storm drains from polluting the lake have been completed in town. The lake is only 18 feet deep in the center, and so some dredging has been done to keep boating active...

  • Visit Surf Ballroom

    For Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens fans, the Surf Ballroom, on the corner of Buddy Holly and North Shore Drive, is a must stop. The auditorium is still in active use for summer events. The airplane crash site memorial is in a field outside of town. I didn't have time for that adventure.


Clear Lake Hotels

  • Microtel Clear Lake

    1305 N 25th St, Clear Lake, IA 50428

    Satisfaction: Excellent

    Good for: Solo

  • Americinn Clear Lake

    1406 N 25th St, Clear Lake, IA 50428

    Satisfaction: Very Good

    Good for: Business

  • Best Western Holiday Lodge

    I-35 & Highway 18 East Exit 194, Clear Lake, Iowa, 50428, United States

    Satisfaction: Very Good

    Good for: Business

Clear Lake Restaurants

  • Good local fair

    At the truckstop, I had the choice between Perkos and Denny's, two corporate franchises. So, I decided to walk into town and find a breakfast house. Along the way, I was recommended to go to Seven's on Main Street. This was a good choice, because the adventure in finding breakfast led to discovery of the town and lake. Sevens is well located, just...

  • pleasant experience

    lunch's are great and reasonable.homey atmosphere. nice people. burned badly by enron but bouncing back. we like the people and the great food.! tuscan meatloaf sandwich with grilled red pepper mayo. yummy!!

  • Clear Lake Hotels

    9 Hotels in Clear Lake

Clear Lake Nightlife

  • Lou's and the famous Surf...

    by abbalulu Written Aug 24, 2002

    1 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Lou's and the famous Surf club.
    The Surf is where Buddy Holly played for the last time before they crashed the plane. They still have concerts there.

    Dress Code: Depends on the event they have that night. Mostly casual/nice

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Clear Lake Transportation

  • Truckers and RV Enthusiasts

    At the junction of I-35 and IA-120 (US 18) there is a Pilot Truck Stop, surrounded by ample corporate food franchises. Anyone in reasonable health can park the truck or RV here, and then walk into town. US18 does serve as a truck route that skirts along the long edge of Clear Lake.

  • Iowa Traction Railroad

    Along 19th street there is a historic single overhead wire DC electric train system that still provides local industry freight transfer service. This system, which dates back to 1897 is not entirely unique in Iowa, but remains the only one still in commercial service. The system originally provided passenger service between Mason City and Clear...

  • Don't Forget Insurance

    If your current health insurance doesn't cover you while your abroad, you should consider getting international travel insurance just in case something should go wrong.

Clear Lake Shopping

  • goodfish's Profile Photo

    General: 'Til you Drop

    by goodfish Written Jul 12, 2013

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Typical of resort communities, Clear Lake has a nice assortment of shops along both sides of main street. Clothing, candles, toys, home decor, jewelry, antiques and vintage items, gourmet edibles… There’s lots of good stuff so leave some room in the trunk for your haul!

    Related to:
    • Women's Travel

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Clear Lake Off The Beaten Path

  • atufft's Profile Photo

    Residential Neighborhoods away from...

    by atufft Updated May 20, 2010

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Walking south on Main Street away from downtown several blocks, one comes to the old highway, and then up a knoll, in the direction of I-35, there is a quiet neighborhood with some fine old homes worth appreciating. In spring, the gardens of these homes are full of flowers.

    Residence in Clear Lake, IA Residence in Clear Lake, IA Residence in Clear Lake, IA Residence in Clear Lake, IA Residence in Clear Lake, IA

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Clear Lake Favorites

  • Sunset time

    Such a good place to enjoy a sunset. the place was as an oasis of peace with good vibrations, warm but not hot and a soft breeze in the air.. After the sun dropped i took again the car towards north to I90W where i slept in a rest area next to Blue earth town

  • Clear Lake views

    The exit of state route 35 leaded me to the main town...looked so so calm and quiet one hour before sunset, around 6.30 pm, I follow the road straight to the west towards the lake. GPS confirmed that and there it was !! after turning right a parking lot in front of the lake with some pines and other trees in front showed a lovely view of the lake...

  • On the way

    So i losed my way or i didnt pay attention several times to the Gps and i followed my intuition or my michelin map for US-Canada-Mexico... before to cross Mississipi river in Dubuque..amazing sights i can assure you... from there route 20 leaded me to Waterloo, odd name for a city in where i took the fork to the right towards northwest.....


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