Explore Clear Lake this Fall


Fire on edge of lakeIs anyone else exhausted? Like you just need to stop and reset? I’m there.

COVID-19 stinks. Working full-time and trying to figure out school for our elementary-age kids is really, really rough. I need to put something on my calendar and have it stay there. And I’ve decided that something is traveling. Yes, it can still be done!

Doesn’t a clear fall night cuddled up with a blanket and a crackling fire while the kids roast marshmallows under a starry sky sound nice?

Maybe you need a day trip or a few nights in a cabin. Maybe your kids aren’t physically in school and you can take a week-long getaway. Whatever the reason, Clear Lake is a great fall getaway that’s only about an hour and 45 minutes from downtown Des Moines.

You won’t regret what’s probably a much-needed break. If you decide to head north, here’s a list of things to check out in Clear Lake.

Check Out Downtown

It’s perfect for hanging out for a few hours (or more!). The shops are adorable and worth a wander through. Our kids recently discovered the Cookies, Etc. cookie vending machine and now we can’t go near the place without a stop! There are great restaurants or bring a picnic lunch to enjoy the park.

Clear Lake City Beach is great if it’s warm. The kids will love swimming at the gradual-entry beach or playing in the nearby splash pad. If it’s cool, exploring the shoreline is still a fun adventure!

Visit Central Gardens of North Iowa

You’ll find a garden full of flowers and things for the kids to explore at Central Gardens of North Iowa. Our boys really liked walking through the garden “on their own” (the entire place is fenced in and they can stay within eyesight).

Explore Nature

If you like fishing (I do not but the kids do!), the west end of the lake has a great spot to fish from shore. This area is located in the city of Ventura.

When you’re done fishing, follow the paved trail into the woods. It’s absolutely beautiful and perfect for a slow stroll while the kids explore the woods. Our kids love practicing their biking skills through the woods, too!

If you happen to take the trip without the kids and like to rack up miles on your bike, the area around Clear Lake and Mason City has some great paved trails for fall rides.

Stay Overnight

If you are planning to stay a few nights, consider renting a cabin or staying at a hotel near the lake. That way, it’s easy to visit downtown and take advantage of everything Clear Lake has to offer.

My Favorites

We visit family in the area quite a bit and want to share a quick list of my favorite places!

  • Lake Time Brewery – They have great beer and COVID-friendly outdoor seating. Or, you can order online for pick up. Haze of our Lives is my favorite IPA, Raspberry Main Squeeze is an easy-drinking Lemon Weiss, and Oreo Speedwagon is a good, dark beer that goes well with s’mores.
  • Larson’s Mercantile – I can’t even describe this little wonderland. The kids LOVE it. Give them $10 and let them shop while you wander around and look at trinkets, home decor, and everything in between. They also have the best masks I’ve found yet for kids (seriously, I can’t get them anywhere else and they are all our boys will wear).
  • The Funky Zebras Clear Lake – This store has really cute clothes for you, mom!
  • Blu Finn Collection – On the same road as Funky Zebra’s, this cute little store is worth the stop if you want trendy lake-themed apparel.
  • KB Emporium – The building was carefully restored and is absolutely beautiful. The main floor has a store and a cafe. The lower level is a wine cellar and the top floor is a restaurant.
  • Real Deals (Mason City) – If you’re staying a few days, take the quick trip to Mason City and check out Real Deals. It’s like a little Magnolia home, gift shop, and fun fashion all rolled into one.
  • Events – Right, I know. Saying that word is like, really?! But, there are usually fun fall events (like the Harvest Festival!). So, if need an excuse to go and find an event that you’re comfortable with (and that doesn’t get canceled), it might be the push you need to take a break and go on a little getaway.

Take the Break

Above all, you’re a good mom. I know life hasn’t been easy. But, I also know our kids won’t remember this world-wide pandemic like their high-school history books will tell them it happened.

They’ll remember backyard campouts, hanging with the neighborhood kids, and that funky little store somewhere in northern Iowa you took them on vacation to buy their back-to-school masks!

Have you been to Clear Lake? 



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