AMERICAN FLAGS, SEEMINGLY methodically planted curbside, present a patriotic flair.
Vintage weathered lawn chairs beckon.
Pink potted geraniums cluster around a lamp post.
An empty stroller sits outside a busy downtown deli.
This is Clear Lake, a northern Iowa community of nearly 8,000 along Interstate 35 that retains its small town Americana character in an historic downtown lined with quaint shops, eateries and more.
Park on one end of Main Avenue and stroll your way to the lake, one of Iowa’s largest. Dip your toes into Clear Lake, which isn’t all that clear.
And, even if it’s only 10 a.m., follow the advice and fresh-baked cookie aroma of Cookies, etc.: “Life is short. Eat cookies.”
Pop into the many shops, including the popular Larson’s Mercantile, like a step back in time into a five-and-dime.
Delight in shopkeeper friendliness, a seemingly signature trait of Clear Lake folks.
Hang out on the patio of Lake Time Brewery where the welcome is as comfortably enthusiastic as Cheers.
This is Clear Lake, a destination get-away for my husband and me on our recent 33rd wedding anniversary. Situated only 85 miles to the south of our Faribault, Minnesota home, it was the perfect quick retreat into a rural lakeside community that caters to visitors like us and those who are more interested in recreational water sports or the historic Surf Ballroom.
Along its northern exit, Clear Lake appears like any other Interstate community with chain restaurants, hotels and gas stations. But take the highway toward downtown and the distinct characteristics of this town emerge. You’ll see its rural side in grain bins and fields.
Boats point to the lake’s importance here.
And long-standing eateries like The Barrel Drive-In showcase the uniquely local flavor of this place.
Clear Lake is worth a day trip or an overnighter with plenty to see and do. We certainly did not see and do it all. But we got a great sampling of all this Iowa community offers.
FYI: Please check back for more posts in this seven-part series from Clear Lake, Iowa. I’ll take you to the lake, the Surf Ballroom, a quaint chapel, the arts center and more.
© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling