Win a Visit to Clear Lake, IA

Congratulations Diane Kapalis!

Name drawn by Clear Lake Tourism Staff.

Stay at the Shore & Explore

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear of Clear Lake, Iowa?

If you’re a certain age, maybe you associate Clear Lake with a plane crash.

In fact, American rock and roll musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and “The Big Bopper,” J. P. Richardson, were killed in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa, together with pilot Roger Peterson on February 3, 1959.

The tragedy was later known as “The Day the Music Died”, after singer-songwriter Don McLean referred to it this way in his 1971 song “American Pie”. 

While this unfortunate event is associated with Clear Lake and the community continues to pay proper reverence to those who lost their lives in this accident, Clear Lake is a vibrant, progressive lakeside community you should visit.

Plan Your Clear Lake Visit

Order your travel guide in advance at and follow them on Facebook ClearLakeIowa, Twitter @VisitClearLake and Instagram @ClearLakeIowa for the latest updates.

Stop in and visit the Visitor Center at the Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce at 205 Main Avenue  or call them at 641.357.2159 or 800.285.5338.

Where is Clear Lake?

Travel Time to Clear Lake by vehicle from

Omaha: 3.5 hours             Des Moines: 2 hours

Minneapolis: 2 hours        Sioux Falls: 3 hours

Chicago: 6 hours              St. Louis: 6.5 hours

We visited in early September 2020-during COVID times. Check all websites for current COVID restrictions, if any.

Top 8 Overall Impressions

1. Cleanliness. Everywhere we went was spotless-from city parks to public restrooms to highways. Litter and graffiti seemed non-existent. Community pride prevails and visitors, like us, notice and appreciate it.

2. Non-Clogged Roadways. Bumper-to-bumper traffic is not appealing to us, especially when doing a leisurely lakeside drive. The roadways, in and around the area, seem to be designed for great traffic flow.

3. Appreciative Merchants. 2020 has been a tough year for restaurants and retailers. Each business we visited expressed heartfelt gratitude for our visit and purchase. Support small, always.

4. Diversity of Lodging Options. Not only is the variety of architecture appealing, so are the many lodging options. Read below.

5. Plenty of Excellent Dining Choices. Plan ahead. There are so many excellent dining options in this community. We can’t wait to return to try more of them.

6. Ease of Access to the water and a very walkable downtown. There is plenty of parking, making it convenient to stop and walk the downtown area and the shoreline.

7. Availability of Amenities to Encourage Tourism, like clean, modern public restrooms in the downtown shopping area and by the Clear Lake City public beach. Enjoy the splash pad and water rainbow for children of all ages near a public restroom. Sit in the shaded city park. Use the well-maintained walking and bicycling pathways along the shoreline. Depart from, or tie up at, the public access docks.

8. Goodwill Offering Attractions. There is plenty to see and do in the community, in addition to water activities like fishing, kayaking, boating, swimming, paddle boarding, etc. See below.

Activities & Attractions

It rained during our entire three-day stay. Yet, we got out and explored the area rich in attractions.

There’s a great mix of indoor/outdoor activities in Clear Lake-perfect for all types of weather conditions during your visit.

Here’s a sample of what we visited.

Visit to personalize your visit.

Plane Crash Memorial Site

A small memorial is located at the place the plane carrying Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, “The Big Bopper” and pilot Roger Peterson crashed. It is on private property between corn fields. If you visit, please be respectful of the land and the crash site.

Directions to Memorial Site

From US Hwy 18 in Clear Lake, go north on N 8th Street for 4.7 miles.

When the paved road curves to the west, take the gravel road to the east (310th Street), then immediately north again on gravel (Gull Avenue).

At the t-intersection of Gull Avenue and 315th Street, you will see a set of large “Buddy Holly” glasses. You may park along the side of the road and walk along the south side of the fence to the west for approximately one quarter mile.

Surf Ballroom & Museum

Photo Credit: Linda Leier Thomason

460 North Shore Drive       641.357.6151

Photo Credit: Linda Leier Thomason

Check the website for upcoming events and operating hours.

Goodwill offering/donations encouraged.

Take a self-guided tour or arrange in advance for a guided tour.

Marvel at the ballroom (1933). Stroll the museum. Purchase at the gift shop.

HINT: Notice the pineapple wallpaper in the entrance. See the phone booth where Buddy Holly called his wife and Ritchie Valens his manager the evening of February 2, 1959.

Lady of the Lake

101 North Lakeview Drive       641.357.2243

Photo Credit: Linda Leier Thomason

Lady of the Lake is an authentic paddle wheel excursion boat offering scenic tours of Clear Lake. Contact them for boarding and departure times.  Times are also posted at the City Seawall.

Cash only. No debit or credit cards accepted.

Central Gardens of North Iowa

200 Block N 8th Street    641.357.0700

Visit the website for scheduled activities.

Goodwill donations encouraged.

Wear comfortable walking shoes. Bring a camera to capture the magnificently maintained three acres of themed flower beds, ponds, stream beds and art.

HINT: The restroom here was closed due to COVID during our September 2020 visit.

Nearby State Parks

McIntosh Woods State Park Photo Credit: Linda Leier Thomason

We visited both Clear Lake State Park and McIntosh Woods State Park during our stay.

Beautiful natural settings offering great outdoor activities. Visit the websites for more information on camping, events and activities.


Choices are abundant. What’s your preference?

  • Hotels
  • Motels
  • Cottages
  • Camping
  • Vacation Rentals
  • Bed and Breakfasts
3rd & Surf VRBO Home…Ideal Vacation Stay Photo Credit: Linda Leier Thomason

We thoroughly enjoyed our overnight stay at the vacation rental 3rd and Surf.

It was a perfect location for our desire to explore the downtown area and have easy walking access to the beach and city park.

The property is well furnished in a quiet neighborhood.

The owners have thought of virtually everything a traveler would need for a fantastic get-away to Clear Lake, Iowa. There’s even a screened outdoor gazebo and a fire pit to enjoy on cool fall evenings and bicycles to explore the charming community.

Notable Clear Lake Events

There is always something to do and experience in Clear Lake, Iowa

Confirm event schedules prior to traveling.

COVID restrictions may alter the event and schedule.

Visit for more events, festivals and information.

Here are just 2 notable annual events.

Winter Dance Party

World renowned Winter Dance Party held annually featuring performers influenced by Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper’s musical era.

3-Day event at the Surf Ballroom. More information at or Surf’s box office 641.357.6151.

Color the Wind

The Color the Wind kite festival features serious kite flyers from multiple states displaying their collections of unique kites, banners and ground displays over the lake in front of the downtown sea wall.

Contest Now Closed: Win 2-Night Stay

What’s Included:

Fine Print

  • Complete and return entry form below.
  • Trip must be completed by May 31, 2021.
  • Entrants must be age 25 or older. USA Citizens only.
  • Winner is responsible for making reservation through provided VRBO website and agrees to all conditions of rental property stated on site.
  • Transportation to & from Clear Lake, IA isn’t provided.
  • Winner agrees to forward three (3) photographs taken during the trip and five (5) sentences about their experience to www.lindaleierthomason within seven (7) days of completing their trip. Images may be used on social media outlets and on this website.
  • Winner Notification: Winner will be chosen at random on Tuesday, December 15, 2020. Winner will be notified via email. Response must be received in 24 hours. If none, another winner will be randomly chosen.
  • Prize is non-transferable. No cash redemption or substitution will be allowed.
  • Winner assumes all responsibility and releases and all prize donors and sponsors from all liability.
  • By accepting prize, winner understands and agrees to all contest rules.
  • Immediate family members (spouse/partner, children, grandchildren and parents) of prize sponsors, Clear Lake, Iowa Chamber of Commerce and/or are not eligible to enter.

This contest is done in cooperation with the Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce whose members and staff welcome you to stay at the shore and explore.

Enter & Win 2-Night Stay

November 2020. Linda Leier Thomason All Rights Reserved.

This means seek permission before using copy or images from this site. Images are available for purchase.

Linda Leier Thomason writes freelance business and travel stories along with feature articles. Her work experience includes a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.

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