Iowa Gardens: Showcasing The Hawkeye State

Iowa Gardens FlowerChick.com

Iowa boasts dozens of beautiful gardens, from Dubuque to Des Moines and beyond. Join us on this “Visiting Midwest Gardens” FlowerChick.com feature as we travel through The Hawkeye State and spotlight 8 beautiful Iowa gardens. We’ll also mix in a bit of sightseeing, shopping, and history. This is an exceptionally fun road trip, so let’s get started!

Late June is a delightful time of year to visit eastern and northern Iowa. It’s particularly enjoyable if you love exploring gardens! In this feature, you’ll discover which plants do well in a Zone 5 growing zone. Iowa is one of the few states located entirely within one gardening zone, in this case Zone 5. Vibrant springs, warm summers, crisp autumns, and moderately harsh winters are all part of The Hawkeye State experience.

Iowa Gardens:  Showcasing The Hawkeye State

Well-Tended Floral Plots At Riverside Gardens in Monticello Iowa

As you’ll see, this four season climate yields a dazzling array of floral abundance when summer sets in. In Zone 5, perennials benefit from a long winter rest period, while annuals put on a spectacular show when the weather warms up to seasonal norms …

On this Iowa tour, we venture out from Dubuque (one of our favorite Iowa communities) to Cedar Rapids and Waterloo. Then we’ll head north to historic Mason City and Clear Lake, one of the Midwest’s most inviting summer vacation destinations. Come along as we spotlight eight public Iowa gardens along the way, and enjoy discovering the scenic beauty of Zone 5 …

 

 

Westward From Dubuque – Monticello & Cedar Rapids

Cedar Rapids is an easy one hour drive from Dubuque via Highway 151. At the halfway point, you’ll reach the small community of Monticello, home of Riverside Gardens …

Riverside Gardens – Monticello: Riverside Park is Monticello’s largest park and one of the town’s favorite gathering spaces. It’s tucked alongside the Maquokueta River, a few blocks east of downtown …

Riverside Park Monticello Iowa

The Grand Entrance To Riverside Gardens Leading To The Shade Plants Including Hostas, Impatiens and Ferns

The park is home to the Monticello Golf Club, a wetland nature trail, and the Riverside Gardens. What makes these gardens special is they’re maintained to a large degree by volunteers, with able assistance from the Monticello Park District …

Riverside Gardens Monticello Iowa by FlowerChick.com

Pretty Basket Planter Overlooking The River In Riverside Gardens in Monticello Iowa

The gardens are charming and very well tended!  Everything was green, lush, and a feast for the eyes. A very nice mix of annuals, perennials, grasses, and shrubs in the various plots at Riverside Gardens. Each bed was edged by brick or stone to keep a neat appearance, make it easier to mow around, and make a pleasing delineation.

The Oriental Lilies, Celosia, and Clematis Looked Great Paired Together in Riverside Gardens

The best way to see the gardens is to walk around them.  They can be viewed from the road, but getting up close is much better so you don’t miss anything! The rose bushes were all blooming at our visit, the annuals … including lamb’s ear, salvia, marigolds, dusty miller, petunias and more added lively color to the beds. Shrubs, perennial grasses, and trellises extended the height interest.  There was even prickly pear cactus growing in a bed.  Yes, this is Iowa!

 

Mulching definitely helped keep the weeds to few and far between, plus ongoing loving care provided by the volunteers who tend to this appealing garden. If you are near Monticello, you must stop by!

From Monticello, its only a short half hour drive to one of Iowa’s largest cities, Cedar Rapids …

Iowa Gardens in The City of Five Seasons

Highway 151 is the main thoroughfare from Dubuque to Cedar Rapids. As you approach the city, we suggest branching off on Business 151. It’ll take you through the thriving community of Marion, a northeast suburb of Cedar Rapids …

Iowa Gardens:  Showcasing The Hawkeye State by FlowerChick.com

Vibrant Calibrachoa (a.k.a. Million Bells Petunia) Filled Hanging Baskets & Planters Marion, IA

Business 151 goes right through the heart of downtown Marion. This community is well known for their inviting historic downtown. If you’re driving through at lunch or dinner time, plenty of options beckon you to stop and linger …

From here, it’s just five minutes into Cedar Rapids … and let’s start with a “Did You Know?”

Did You Know … Cedar Rapids nickname is The City of Five Seasons. If you’re wondering how that works, the “fifth season” refers to time spent enjoying the other four seasons.

A true river city, Cedar Rapids is bisected by the Cedar River, which runs across Iowa from Cedar Falls to south of Iowa City. Cedar Rapids is also well known for being a prominent Czech heritage community. In fact, there’s a very enjoyable Czech Village area on the city’s south side, complete with restaurants, shops, and an authentic Czech bakery …

On this visit, our travels took us to the northwest side of town to the Noelridge Park neighborhood. For foodies, a mandatory Cedar Rapids stop is the well known Nelson’s Meat Market & Deli, an area favorite …

Great Selection of Meats & Salads at Nelson's Meats

                         Great Selection of Meats & Deli Salads at Nelson’s Meats

Serving the Cedar Rapids community since 1935, Nelson’s is a traditional butcher shop / deli. They make their own sausage here – the variety is impressive. As an added bonus, Nelson’s makes their own ice cream too! It’s a great place to pick up freshly made deli sandwiches and sides for a picnic at our next destination, Noelridge Park, just a few blocks away …

Insider Tip: If you’re lucky, Nelson’s will have their famous (and fabulous!) peach ice cream in stock when you visit. Pick up a pint to go in their freezer section …

Noelridge Park & Greenhouse – Cedar Rapids: Located in the far northwest corner of the city, Noelridge Park is the city’s most beloved green space. The park’s 100+ acres allow ample recreational opportunities, not the least of which are the many beckoning floral beds and displays …

Pollinator Garden at Noelridge Park Iowa by FlowerChick.com Iowa Gardens:  Showcasing The Hawkeye State

The Pollinator Garden at Noelridge Park Full of Butterfly & Bee Loving Plants

We were pleased to learn the ongoing maintenance and beautification of Noelridge Park stems from a thriving public / private partnership. The Cedar Rapids Parks & Recreation Department works closely with the Friends of Noelridge, a volunteer group of area citizens who assist with garden maintenance and educational programs …

The greenhouse is one of Noelridge Park’s highlights. Home to a permanent display of tropical plants, the greenhouse is also the epicenter of annual and perennial production for public spaces in Cedar Rapids. Open weekdays, private tours can be arranged through the Parks and Recreation Department …

Iowa Gardens by FlowerChick.com

Sneak Peak of The Gorgeous Orchids Blooming In The Noelridge Greenhouses

Flower Chick was happy to see butterfly loving plants in the park such as milkweed (Monarch host plants), black-eyed Susans, butterfly weed, lantana, pentas, yarrow and liatris.  There even was a protected Butterfly Haven to get these flying wonders off to a good start and away from predators.

Iowa Gardens:  Showcasing The Hawkeye State by FlowerChick.com

Brightly Colored Zonal Geraniums Make A Cheerful Floral Display in Noelridge Park

The brightly colored zonal geranium display caught my eye … especially with my favorite orange pelargoniums in the mix!  Care tip – As flowers fade on zonal geraniums, snap their stems as close to the main plant as possible.  This encourages more vigorous blooming.  These beauties thrive in full sun and a slow-release bloom booster fertilizer helps keep the flower show going strong all season long.

Did You Know? Cedar Rapids is the largest corn processing city in the world …

Just About Everyone Loves An “Ear Of Corn” … Get Yours Here & Be The Envy Of All Your Friends!

On To Waterloo & The University of Northern Iowa

Immediately west of Noelridge Park is Interstate 380, which connects Iowa City and Cedar Rapids with our next Iowa garden destination, Waterloo. Waterloo is the home of the Cedar Valley Arboretum & Botanic Gardens – Waterloo. You’ll find it just south of the city adjacent to the Hawkeye Community College main campus …

Living Frog Sculpture at

Amusing Frog Sculpture at Cedar Valley Arboretum & Botanic Gardens

The “living sculptures” throughout the garden are whimsical and impressive. Mosaiculture is defined as the art of composing a motif, an image, a picture, or a sculpture using carefully selected and pruned plants. Techniques for creating mosaicultures include using welded frames, chicken wire, or fishing line to provide a frame work for the plants to grow on.  We spotted a buffalo, ants, frog, peacock and more on our visit.

The Master Gardeners Orchard includes four different kinds of fruit trees – apples, pears, plums, and cherries.  Once fully mature, their orchard will produce over 10,000 pounds of fruit a year, which will be donated to The Northeast Iowa Food Bank.

The Thriving Rose Garden at Cedar Valley – Great Place To View Roses That Do Well in Zone 5

Explore their award-winning Children’s Garden! (fun for all ages)  This garden is chock-full of adventures and areas to see such as the Dinosaur Dig Sandbox, the Music Silo, an outdoor kitchen, a Green Roof Playhouse and pond with fish and water-loving plants.

Exploring Iowa's Gardens with FlowerChick.com

Spotted This Photogenic Water Lily in the Children’s Garden Pond

Also, discover a labyrinth, cairn sculpture, rock garden, annual & perennial displays, conifer garden, wildflower meadow, daylily collection, and crabapple grove among the garden’s highlights.

Iowa Gardens By FlowerChick.com

Eye-Catching Peacock Display on The Grounds At Cedar Valley Arboretum & Botanic Gardens

Waterloo’s “twin” city, at least in terms of proximity, is Cedar Falls, home of the University of Northern Iowa. It’s only about ten minutes from the Cedar Valley Arboretum & Botanic Gardens to our next Iowa garden destination, the University of Northern Iowa Botanical Center – Cedar Falls.

Iowa Gardens by FlowerChick.com

Transport Yourself To Tropical Locales At The University of Northern Iowa (UNI) Greenhouses

The UNI Biology Botanical Center Collection contains a diversity of species that range from ancient tree ferns and cycads to a large number of economically important varieties from around the world. These excellent resources offer students (and the public) the unique experience of seeing, smelling and touching living plants; the evolution of plant species; climate and plant diversity; and plant adaptation to various ecosystems. 

Discover The Best Way To Grow Tropical Plants In Your Home … Insider Tips Here

Over 250 plants from tropical lands around the world are represented in the Botanical Center collections. Specimens range from tropical rain forest epiphytic orchids and bromeliads to cycads and climbing arums. Economically important plants such as coffee, banana and papaya grow intermingled with palms, figs, hibiscus, anthurium, and bird of paradise.

The Desert Room at UNI Botanical Center by FlowerChick.com

Amazing Array of Cacti and Succulents in the Desert Room at UNI Biology Botanical Center

Tours of the UNI Botanical Center offer pre K – 12 students & teachers an opportunity to see, smell, and touch a distinct collection of plant species from around the world.  Supportive volunteers help with plant care, assist as tour guides, or instruct seminars.

From the Botanical Center, it’s 75 miles to our overnight destination, historic Mason City …

Visiting Mason City

With a population of just under 30,000, Mason City is well known for Frank Lloyd Wright architecture and proximity to Clear Lake, just 10 miles west. Mason City is the perfect option to stay overnight if Clear Lake is especially busy, as it tends to be on summer weekends …

Historic Park Inn Hotel Frank Lloyd Wright by FlowerChick.com

Last Remaining Frank Lloyd Wright Designed / Built Hotel in the World – The Historic Park Inn

As you’ll see, this inviting small city offers three distinct Iowa gardens / natural areas, each of which we spotlight below. As an added plus, Mason City is adjacent to Interstate 35, making it ultra convenient to travel south to Des Moines or north into Minnesota …

 

It’s always best to start at the beginning, so let’s kick things off with one of the city’s many historical highlights …

Central Park: This popular small park is an excellent locale to get your bearings in Mason City. Often referred to as the city’s public square, Central Park dates back to the 1870’s …

Central Park Mason City - A Place To Stroll, Reflect, and Rest by FlowerChick.com

Historic Central Park in Mason City – A Place To Rest & Reflect

You’ll experience a real sense of small town Americana here – the park features a Statue of Liberty, Civil War monument, and veteran’s memorial. On the park’s south side is the wonderfully historic Park Hotel, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It’s the only Wright designed hotel structure remaining in the world …

Beautiful Butterfly Sculpture In The Central Park Shade Garden

Central Park is one of two Mason City parks benefitting from the efforts and expertise of the Mason City Garden Club. Volunteers plant, maintain and beautify flower beds both here and at East Park, which we spotlight below. A wonderful place to relax and experience middle America, Central Park offers numerous benches to sit and enjoy the surroundings.

Mason City Favorites

Whenever we venture out on a “Visiting Midwest Gardens” feature, the agenda always includes visiting independent local businesses. There’s a real satisfaction in discovering what makes a community tick … patronizing local merchants and restaurants really helps you experience the area’s personality. Plus, dollars spent at local independent businesses tend to stay in the community – a real win – win!

With that said, here are some of our Mason City local favorites …

Awe’z Sandwich Shop: This wonderful unassuming Mason City gem has been around since the 1960’s. It was originally a Maid-Rite franchise location, and then independently owned starting in the mid 1990’s.

Tasty Sandwiches & Root Beer at Pro's

Tasty Sandwiches, Root Beer & Icecream at Awe’z

 Located on south Federal Street, Awe’z draws   its current name from the friendly and   dedicated proprietor Lois Awe.

 Formerly known as Pro’s Sandwich Shop,   their specialty is fantastic Beef Delights, a   Maid-Rite style loose meat sandwich …

 Awe’z serves up delicious Beef Delights,   noteworthy pork tenderloin sandwiches, and   about a dozen flavors of shakes and malts …

 Insider Tip: Ask Lois or one of her staff to   hook  you up with a strawberry milkshake –   they’re outstanding!

Explore Iowa’s Rich Culinary History: Sweet Corn, Maid-Rites, Pork Tenderloin and More … Good Eating

 Awe’z is a place you’ll want to visit to get the true Mason City experience. It was so good,   we stopped by twice while we were in town!

 

 

 

Pastime Gardens: What a fun place! Pastime Gardens is best described as part local bar, part Mexican-American restaurant, and part Mason City legend. In business since 1955, Pastime Gardens is housed in a small brick structure a few blocks from downtown, right behind the Quality Inn …

Pastime Gardens Restaurant Mason City

This Charming Little Building Houses Pastime Gardens Restaurant – Inside You’ll Find Fun & Eclectic Decor, Great Food & Cold Beer

We were delighted to see Midwest favorite Grain Belt Lager on draught. Grain Belt is an Upper Midwest icon, brewed in southern Minnesota by Schell’s Brewing. Crisp, clean, and easy to enjoy, Grain Belt pairs perfectly with Pastime Gardens’ Mexican style specialties …

Everything at Pastime Gardens is made in house, from the can’t miss chips (made from flour instead of corn) to the enchiladas and other traditional favorites. The salsa is a house recipe that livens up the taste buds and adds a pleasant kick of mild heat …

Iowa Gardens & Attractions by FlowerChick.com

Delicious Mexican Food & Beverages at Pastime Gardens in Mason City, Iowa

Ask around town about Pastime Gardens and you’ll get knowing nods of approval. A comfortable approachable place with really good food, Pastime Gardens is an authentic taste of Mason City. Don’t miss it!

Ransom’s: Just a couple of blocks north of Central Park on Federal Street is Mason City’s oldest bar, Ransom’s, officially known as Ransom’s Pleazol. The bar dates back to 1866 and is currently owned by the fifth generation of the Ransom family …

The bar’s original owner, Cort Ransom, was a Civil War veteran who served a stint as one of Abraham Lincoln’s personal guards. Walk into Ransom’s today and you’ll see scores of historical photos depicting Mason City over the years …

Ransom's The Oldest Bar in Mason City, Iowa by FlowerChick.com

                     Ransom’s – The Oldest Bar in Mason City, Iowa

One of the bar’s most prominent calling cards are the large snooker and billiards tables in the back room. Players drop by Ransom’s all hours of the day to play, while others sidle up to the long bar to enjoy a cold beverage …

Ransom’s is a great place for a little day drinking, and the beverage of choice here is Pabst Blue Ribbon on draught. In fact, Ransom’s is the oldest continuous PBR account in Iowa … there’s a small plaque commemorating the longevity on the wall near the entrance …

We enjoyed spending some time here chatting with a few locals, who were proud to share the bar’s history with us. They seemed duly impressed we seek out local historic taverns instead of national chains. Hey, that’s how Flower Chick rolls!

Gerk Arboretum: Heading toward the south side of town, you’ll see the expansive Georgia Hanford Park near 22nd Street just west of Route 65. This park is home to one of Mason City’s primary outdoor attractions, the Arthur J. Gerk Arboretum …

Gerk Arboretum Iowa by FlowerChick.com

Entrance Signage and Trail Map To the Expansive Gerk Arboretum

This lovely arboretum offers almost two miles of winding paved pathways to view over 70 species of trees. Established in 1999, the arboretum was named in honor of Arthur Gerk, a longtime community volunteer who championed the area’s natural environment. Mr. Gerk implemented his vision of creating a site in Mason City where people can view, identify, and enjoy trees in a peaceful setting …

Most of the funding for the arboretum’s trees and shrubs comes from an arboretum fund, graciously established by the Gerk family. This fund ensures ongoing care, maintenance, and preservation of the arboretum for future generations.

Gerk Arboretum Trails by FlowerChick.com

One of the Many Paved Trails at the Scenic Gerk Arboretum Winding Through The Conifers

On the approximately 40 acre site, you’ll find trees native to Iowa, bird and butterfly sanctuaries, a pollinator garden, and more.  It’s a perfect place for some early morning exercise, the paved paths take you on a scenic almost two mile route.  We passed families strolling in nature and several people out walking their dogs before the heat of the day.

Grow Your Own Trees – Create Your Own Backyard Haven … Discover The Best Types Here

The oldest trees within the Arboretum were planted in the late 1980s and early 1990s. These trees include: a grove of giant White Poplar near the west entrance; windrows of evergreens and conifers near the north entrance; more than a dozen Linden, including Redmond, American, and Greenspire, on the southeastern section; and showcased in the center of the Arboretum is a variety of trees native to Iowa and other unique specimen trees.

Gerk Arboretum by FlowerChick.com

Weeping Willows and Placid Lake Views At Gerk Arboretum in Mason City, Iowa

With more than 400 trees and shrubs, Flower Chick was happy to find that most were identified with both common and scientific names on markers. A great place to enjoy a nature walk and appreciate trees in their various forms …

East Park: East Park is one of the most scenic locales in Mason City. The park dates back to 1909 and offers visitors a two mile hard surface trail that winds through the park’s 57 acres. Willow Creek and the Winnebago River converge here, providing a scenic backdrop for the many garden beds you’ll see along the way …

East Park in Mason City Iowa by FlowerChick.com

Picturesque and Lovingly Tended East Park Gardens in Mason City, Iowa

East Park, as noted above, is the second of two Mason City parks benefitting from the expertise of the Garden Club. Volunteers have diligently maintained and refreshed East Park’s flower beds for years. In fact, the floral displays here are among the best Iowa gardens you’ll see anywhere in the state …

Iowa Gardens Mason City East Park by FlowerChick.com

Glowing Beds of Annuals at East Park – Chock Full of Multi-Colored Zinnias and Marigolds

We were lucky to meet devoted East Park volunteer Miles Duck (a retired city bus driver and cross country trucker) early one morning. Miles is well-known for his meticulous care of the flower beds and for spearheading a fundraising campaign which raised money to purchase the fountain and other improvements to this picturesque park. Great job Miles, your hard work is appreciated!

East Park Mason City IA by FlowerChick.com

The Photogenic Island & Pedestrian Bridge at East Park

The superb collection of annuals, perennials, shrubs and vines at East Park include lilies, hollyhocks, clematis, roses, hostas, poppies, daisies, black-eyed Susans, delphiniums, milkweed and many more showy plants.  What a gorgeous mix and setting!

From Mason City, it’s a short 15 minute jaunt west to Clear Lake, one of Iowa’s best known natural attractions …

Clear Lake: Iowa’s Summertime Destination

Clear Lake is best described as a beloved north central Iowa summer destination. This was our first visit here and we loved it … you will too! The area reminded us of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin and in describing it to friends who’ve never been here, we commented Clear Lake is “kind of like the Lake Geneva of Iowa” (or maybe Lake Geneva is like the Clear Lake of Wisconsin!). Regardless, we’ve been all over Iowa (dozens of times in fact) but never visited Clear Lake until now … suffice it to say, we’re big fans!

The highlight of the community is, of course, the lake itself. Life here revolves around the lake, and there’s a handful of places to stay, eat, and relax along the shore. Clear Lake has a wonderful natural quality – sunrises and sunsets are beautiful and the shoreline isn’t overcrowded with development …

Did You know? Clear Lake is one of the Midwest’s most popular and historic resort destinations. Families from Des Moines and the Twin Cities started building summer homes here in the 1870’s …

The Lady of the Lake in Clear Lake Iowa by FlowerChick.com

You’ll enjoy seeing Clear Lake from the water, and the best way to do it is via the Lady of the Lake, a Clear Lake sightseeing tour boat. The Lady of the Lake docks at City Park (adjacent to downtown) and offers seasonal 90 minute tours. Here are a few highlights you’ll experience …

– As you circle the lake, you’ll learn about some of the spectacular homes along the shoreline. There are dozens!

– On the south side of the lake, an amusement park stood for much of the 20th century. Now long gone, the park was a source of community entertainment for decades …

– The Lady of the Lake was built in 1960 in Dubuque … originally as a ferry boat.

Did You Know?  Clear Lake (the lake itself) is 7 miles long and over 2 miles wide at its widest point. The average depth of the lake is only 12 feet, which keeps the water pleasantly warm in summer …

Clear Lake Favorites …

As mentioned above, this was our first visit to Clear Lake. After spending just a few minutes here, Flower Chick was busy taking notes about where to stop on a return visit!

Here are a few of our new favorites in town …

Larson’s Mercantile: Everyone in town knows Larson’s Mercantile. Located in the heart of downtown, Larson’s is Clear Lake’s premier variety and gift store. Forgot to pack sundries for your trip? Larson’s has you covered. Looking for a cool Clear Lake hat, t-shirt, or sweatshirt? The selection here is abundant! Want a cold bottle of water or pop to walk around town? This is the place …

Goodies From Larson's Mercantile in Clear Lake Iowa

Our Great Finds At Larson’s Mercantile in Clear Lake … Hats, Sweatshirts, and Flour Sack Towels

We learned Larson’s Mercantile frequently offers point of purchase specials, which they’ll often display right outside the store. Flower Chick was delighted to see a bin of flour sack towels on sale. Do you know about flour sack towels??  

Insider Tip:  Flour sack towels are excellent for drying glasses, cleaning smartphones and tablets, unfogging the inside of a car windshield, using as a cheesecloth when cooking, a dust rag for furniture and mirrors … and much more. They are ideal since they’re lint free, soft, lightweight and dry quickly. This is what our grandmothers used!

Can’t Get To Clear Lake? Buy Flour Sack Towels Here …

Louie’s Custom Meats: This is Clear Lake’s local independent meat market, located on Highway 18 on the north side of the lake. If you’re traveling with a cooler, this is the place to fill it up! You’ll find meat specialties, freshly made deli salads, local honey and barbecue sauce, and picnic essentials …

Barbecue Sauce and Honey fromLouie's Meats Clear Lake Iowa by FlowerChick.com

Buy Goodies Like These At Louie’s Meats in Clear Lake – Iowa Made BBQ Sauce & Local Honey

Flower Chick picked up some Iowa made barbecue sauce, smoked gouda pasta salad (yum!), freshly made ham salad, house made natural casing hot dogs, and a bottle of local honey. Stop in at Louie’s Meats and discover your very own culinary treasures …

Tried & True Resale Boutique:  Anyone who follows Flower Chick knows how much I love resale / consignment shops!  Tried & True in Clear Lake curates new and gently used women’s, men’s and children’s apparel and accessories in an attractive store.  You can grow your wardrobe without breaking the bank!  Plus most important, the proceeds go towards services for people supported by One Vision – helping those with disabilities discover their potential and independence.  #BoutiqueWithAPurpose

Tried and True Resale Boutique Clear Lake Iowa by FlowerChick.com

Find Quality Clothing At Bargain Prices at Tried & True Resale Boutique in Clear Lake Iowa

Tried & True is located at 850 Highway 18 W in Clear Lake. Flower Chick purchased some great, like new bargains including earrings, designer tops, and a pair of name brand shorts for a very low price.

Half Moon Inn: Just a block from Clear Lake’s famous Surf Ballroom, you’ll find a great local restaurant that has been making Clear Lake residents and visitors happy since 1972. The Half Moon Inn specializes in tender steaks, fish dinners, chops, and comfort food dishes all served in a supper club style setting …

Half Moon Inn Clear Lake Iowa

Did You Know? The building housing Half Moon Inn was a Quonset hut. These structures are made of prefabricated steel and were primarily produced in the 1940’s by the U.S. military …

Explore The History Of Quonset Huts – The Unexpected Icon of Americana … Find Out Here

A popular place, the Half Moon Inn opens for dinner at 5 p.m. We sat at the bar and watched locals pouring in … the place was filled by 5:15. Note to Clear Lake visitors: Go where the locals go. You’ll be rewarded with a fabulous meal!

Insider Tip: Sidle up to the bar and order a supper club staple, an Old Fashioned. The Half Moon Inn’s are one of the best we’ve ever had!

Lakeside Landing: Five minutes from downtown Clear Lake on the east shore is Clear Lake’s only hotel & restaurant directly on the lake shore. Lakeside Landing is a fun, popular place staffed with an energetic group of friendly, hard working young people …

Lakeside Landing in Clear Lake Iowa by FlowerChick.com

Lakeside Landing Clear Lake Iowa – Thirst Quenching Beverages & Tasty Food With A Lake View

A spectacular setting for sunsets, Lakeside Landing offers a sprawling patio which features a front row seat on Clear Lake. Stop in for drinks and an approachable menu of wonderfully prepared salads, sandwich specialties, and more. The town’s local brewery, Lake Time Brewery, is always represented with a tap handle or two …

Insider Tip: Try Lake Time Brewery’s Iowa Lager, which you’ll find on draught here. It’s a pleasant easy drinker that pairs well with summertime temps and the Clear Lake vibe …

Adjacent to the patio area is the hotel itself, and several of the hotel’s 16 rooms offer comfortable patios and balconies to soak in the Clear Lake scenery. A fantastic place to stay when visiting Clear Lake!

Central Gardens of North Iowa: Established in 2003, you’ll find Central Gardens of North Iowa on 8th Street, just a few blocks from downtown and the lake …

Central Gardens Clear Lake Iowa

Central Gardens in Clear Lake Packs A Lot Of Color, Interest & Variety Into A Small Footprint

This beautiful Iowa garden has quite an interesting history. For decades, a Clear Lake school occupied the site. When the school district decided to relocate to a larger parcel, discussions focused on optimal future use of the land. The decision was made to transform part of the land into green space, and the end result are the beautiful themed gardens you see here today …

Moon Gate at Central Gardens in Clear Lake by FlowerChick.com

The Moon Gate Beckons at Picturesque Central Gardens Leading To The Ceremonial Lawn

Now one of Clear Lake’s top attractions, Central Gardens of North Iowa offers twenty themed gardens, artfully arranged in a 2.75 acre space. The attractive gardens include a Midwestern Garden, Annual Display Garden, Shrub Rose Garden, Shade Garden, Lily Garden, Bird & Butterfly Garden, Children’s Garden, Woodland Garden, Wildflower Garden and Herb Garden. They beautifully flow from one to another in the well-planned and executed space.

Butterfly Garden at Central Gardens

The Butterfly Garden With Coneflowers, Sedum, Yarrow, Russian Sage, Coreopsis Inviting Pollinators

Central Gardens is the perfect destination for a peaceful escape!  Enjoy more than 22,000 annual and perennial flowers. Take a break from reality to relax and reset as you stroll through two plus acres of beauty and serenity. The Gardens are open daily from dawn to dusk, free of charge. 

Iowa Gardens Clear Lake by FlowerChick.com

Beauty Awaits At Central Gardens in Clear Lake – A Peaceful Retreat For Everyone To Enjoy

The gardens also host a variety of music and other entertainment each year.  Make sure to visit if you are near Clear Lake!  It’s a lovely spot where the art of gardening and beauty of nature coexist.

Rookie’s Sports Bar: After a full day of garden visits and boat rides, Flower Chick’s tour guide (my husband) had a hankering for a cold refreshing local beer on tap …

A friendly Larson’s Mercantile staff member pointed us in the right direction … down the street to Rookie’s Sports Bar, Clear Lake’s popular downtown local bar and grill. Walk inside and you’ll blend right in with a friendly rollicking crowd of locals and visitors, talking about their day in Clear Lake and enjoying a cold beverage …

Rookies Bar Clear Lake, Iowa by FlowerChick.com

Lively Scene At Friendly Rookies Rockin’ Sports Bar Downtown Clear Lake

 

We were impressed with the bevy of retro beer neon signs adorning the walls and the expansive draught beer selection, including a few Iowa brewed beers. And though we didn’t eat here, several sandwiches and entrees being served caught our eye (next time!). Every locale needs an approachable, friendly local bar and grill and in Clear Lake, you won’t find better than Rookies …

Iowa Gardens: Summary

You’ll love exploring eastern and north central Iowa! We’re so pleased to share this part of the Midwest with you. For Zone 5 gardeners, experiencing these Iowa gardens in person (or virtually) is the perfect “roadmap” for your own gardens. We discovered new and interesting combinations of flowers and plants that work well together and put on a showy Zone 5 display!

Iowa Gardens by FlowerChick.com

Colorful Raised Bed Gardens Filled With Annuals (and a few gnome friends) at Cedar Valley

Beyond the many Iowa garden destinations, you’ll experience true Midwestern hospitality in all the locales we’ve showcased. From Monticello to Cedar Rapids to Waterloo and Cedar Falls, you’ll get a taste of The Hawkeye State off the beaten path. Further north, Mason City and Clear Lake offer a timeless resort destination, great food, and a bit of Iowa history appealing to visitors of all ages …

We can’t wait to come back … until then, thanks for joining us!

Do you have a Midwest garden destination you’d like Flower Chick to spotlight? We’d love to hear from you! Reach out at our Contact page …

 

Explore More Of Iowa’s Beautiful Gardens … Click Here To Tour

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