Travel off the beaten path and discover the unexpected charms of this peaceful region. Much of the action is centered around Mason City and Clear Lake, two very different destinations located just ten miles apart. Love architecture? Tour Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1908 Stockman House and Historic Park Inn in Mason City. Clear Lake calls to adventurers and water lovers. Board a double-deck sternwheeler for a cruise on its sparkling waters. Encircled by sandy beaches, Clear Lake is a water sports hub with excellent sailing and bass fishing. Catch a concert at The Surf Ballroom and Museum, the last venue that Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper played before their tragic plane crash.
For river thrills, go whitewater rafting in Charles City or float in a tube down the Iowa River. Visit offbeat museums throughout the region, including the Fort Dodge Museum & Frontier Village, the Heartland Museum in Clarion, and the Clear Lake Fire Museum. Keep an eye out for colorful barn quilts in North Central Iowa – this region is known for these large wooden images, which are painted with geometric quilt patterns and hung on the outside of barns and houses.
Downtown Fort Dodge, Iowa
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Tour neighborhoods of historical homes and see early American artifacts in North Central Iowa. Stroll through a stunning collection of Queen Anne, French Second Empire, and Prairie School homes in Oak Hill’s Historic District. You’ll also find well-preserved Victorians in Hardin County, Parkersburg, and Iowa Falls. Visit the Iowa Falls Historical Museum to see a replica of early Main Street America, and pay your respects at the Buddy Holly Crash site near Clear Lake.
One of the top sailing lakes in the Midwest, Clear Lake is a water sports epicenter that’s ringed with sandy beaches. Rent catamaran sailboats, fish for yellow bass, and board a double-deck sternwheeler for a sightseeing cruise. Nearby you can float down the Iowa River or seize the adventure on a whitewater trip in Charles City. Find perfect picnic spots in Pine Lake State Park, along with a historic bridge and a beautiful little beach.
Ready to explore? See antique tractors, farm toys, and a replica of a Victorian Main Street at the Heartland Museum in Clarion. Walk through a military fort and frontier town at the Fort Dodge Museum & Frontier Village. In Mason City, you can tour Frank Lloyd Wright’s Stockman House, his only Prairie School home in Iowa. Immerse yourself in the early days of firefighting at the Clear Lake Fire Museum, which resembles a 1920s fire station.