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Side trip destinations: Clear Lake

Side trip destinations: Clear Lake


Buddy Holly crash site 

*Six miles north of the Surf Ballroom, near 22728 Gull Avenue, is the place where a plane containing Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper crashed after midnight on Feb. 3, 1959.

*An access point to the site is marked by a memorial featuring Buddy Holly's horn-rimmed glasses. At the actual site itself, visitors can see a steel guitar with the names of the three men etched on it as well as a pair of wings to honor the pilot, Roger Peterson, who also died. 

Mason City architecture

*Mason City is a short drive from neighboring Clear Lake and home to a number of architectural gems that attract visitors from all over the world, including two structures designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Pilot Knob State Park

*About 20 miles from downtown Clear Lake, Pilot Knob is a 97-year-old park home to a 30-foot-tall observation tower and eight miles of trail for horseback riding.

Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum

*Just an hour and a half from Clear Lake, the museum honors one of the nation's most famous families -- the five brothers of the Sullivan family who all perished when the USS Juneau was sunk during WWII -- as well as veterans from all US wars.

*One of the most interesting exhibits is its Voices of Iowa Oral History Project with nearly 2,000 interviews of Iowa veterans.

George Wyth State Park

*George Wyth Lake has a swimming beach and accessible fishing pier; Fisher is a 40-acre natural lake and oxbow to the Cedar River; and Alice Wyth allows electric motors only across its 60 acres.

*There are more than three miles of paved, multi-use trails; 10 miles of soft trails. The park is linked to a 100-mile trail network with links to lakes.

Cedar Valley Nature Trail

*69 miles spanning Benton, Black Hawk, Buchanan and Linn counties, meandering between Waterloo and Cedar Rapids. One of Iowa’s oldest trails, built on an abandoned railroad right-of-way the early 1980s.

*Segment of two national trails, the Great American Rail Trail and American Discovery Trail Riverways, it features oxbow lakes, woodlands and forest canopy, wildflowers, farmland, wildlife, water fowl, Audubon Society Important Bird Area.

Lost Island Water Park

*Rated among the best in the nation, the park near Waterloo features Wailua Kupua, a hydromagnetic water coaster, one of a handful of its kind in the world; Molokini Crater, an extreme water thrill ride resembling 60-foot funnel; Blue Iguana Lagoon,  featuring a waterfall volcano, cave underpass, water volleyball; Kailahi River, slow-moving river for relaxation. Features for the younger crowd are available as well.

*Food choices are many: Castaway Café, Tree Top Café, Barefoot Lounge, Fiji Fruits and Snacks, High Tide Pizza. Villas, cabanas and shade shells rentals are also available. A go-kart track, mini-golf course, and -- for the adults in the crowd -- a casino are across the street.

Melanie Mergen is Local News Editor for the Globe Gazette. You can reach her at


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