A Weekend in North Iowa

North Iowa has it all - stunning architecture, music history, leisurely lake cruises and dining delicacies. Spend a weekend exploring the communities of Mason City, Charles City, Clear Lake and Forest City.

Architecture Tour of Mason City
Arrive in Mason City in the early afternoon and take a stroll through the stunning Rock Crest-Rock Glen neighborhood, the largest collection of Prairie-style homes in a natural setting in the world.

Although the homes in the neighborhood are private residences, you can step inside the nearby Stockman House. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and completed in 1908, the Stockman House is fully restored and furnished with Arts and Crafts furniture of the time period. Next door, visit the Architectural Interpretive Center to learn how Mason City became so architecturally significant.

After your tour, check in to your room at the Historic Park Inn Hotel, the only remaining Wright-designed hotel in existence. Make sure to check out the City National Bank Building (next door), also designed by Wright. Enjoy dinner at the 1910 Grille, a swanky lounge full of historical photography located in the lower level of the hotel.

Experience Charles City
Grab a cup of coffee and homemade pastry for breakfast at CoffeeCat in downtown Mason City and then head out to the Carrie Lane Chapman Catt Girlhood Home in Charles City. Chapman Catt was integral to women's suffrage movement and her home now houses a museum dedicated to her life and the nineteenth amendment.

Take a mid-morning break at the All Iowa Lawn Tennis Club, the location of the only grass tennis court in the state - built on a family farm. It's a bit like the tennis version of the Field of Dreams. After your match, head to the Charles City Public Library and see the Mooney Art Collection featuring original prints from artists including Dali, Goya, Rembrandt and Picasso.

Stop for lunch at Charles City's finest dining experience, the Three C Bistro. Try a reuben sandwich, prime rib panini or French onion soup. Burn off the calories at Charles City Whitewater at Riverfront Park where you can kayak, tube or canoe down Iowa's first whitewater course. After you've dried off, get an afternoon treat at Aromas Coffee Bar where gourmet beans are fresh roasted to craft the perfect cup.

In addition to being an architectural hotbed, Mason City is also home to Meredith Willson, composer and playwright of The Music Man. You can visit the Meredith Willson Boyhood Home and Music Man Square, where it's always July 3, 1912.

Check in at the grand and elegant Decker House B&B where you'll enjoy a complimentary beverage at check-in and an endless cookie jar (in addition to a made-from-scratch breakfast in the morning!). Take an evening stroll to Birdsall's Ice Cream (it's just a half-mile away) and try a hot fudge sundae or banana split. Birdsall's has been making frozen concoctions with their homemade ice cream for more than 80 years - so you know they've got the recipe perfected.

Clear Lake & Forest City
You’ll step back in time to the day the music died when you visit the legendary Surf Ballroom, where music icons Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper played their final shows during the 1959 Winter Dance Party. Here, you’ll be greeted with 1950s charm, complete with fake palm trees and oceanfront murals. After you’ve checked out the iconic rock 'n' roll memorabilia, head north of town to visit the memorial site of the plane crash that took the lives of these three talented performers.

Then, head out to Forest City to tour Winnebago Industries - the manufacturers of the popular Winnebago recreational vehicles. After your tour, grab a picnic lunch to enjoy at Pilot Knob State Park. Make sure to climb Pilot Knob Tower, where you'll be standing on the second-highest point in Iowa!

Complete your outdoor experience with a leisurely cruise on Clear Lake on the Lady of the Lake. You'll be able to sit back and relax while taking in the sights of this natural, spring-fed lake.

Finish your trip with a visit to the MacNider Art Museum in Mason City where legendary puppeteer Bil Baird's marionettes are on display, along with fine art collections and rotating exhibits. Before heading for home, dine at the historic family-owned Northwestern Steakhouse - where they've been serving mouthwatering steaks and more for over 80 years.

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