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North Iowa Bucket List

Consider this the ultimate list of must-sees and must-dos in North Iowa. These ideas span all four seasons, with a perfect blend of city and nature. From flying kites in the winter to tasting Greek delicacies, this is one bucket list you’ll want to complete.


• Stay for a night in the Historic Park Inn Hotel – the only remaining hotel designed by America’s greatest architect, Frank Lloyd Wright.

• Enjoy chips & salsa at Pastime Gardens, the "Taco Heaven of the Midwest."

• Try your luck at Diamond Jo Casino.

• Attend an MCHS choir concert: Iowa’s only Grammy Signature School award winner.

• Go roller skating at Roller City … Limbo, anyone?

• Cheer on the Dames of Anarchy at a Roller Derby bout at the North Iowa Events Center.

• Tour The Music Man Square and view the first-ever Grammy Award presented to Meredith Willson in 1959.

• Head to the Northwestern Steak House for Greek-style filet mignon, freshly-baked bread, and rice or Greek noodles (served family style!).

• Support the area’s budding talent by attending a Stebens Children’s Theatre production. The theater is one of the only self-supporting children’s theaters in the country.


• Witness the Mason City High School marching band playing “76 Trombones” in the North Iowa Band Festival parade – the official start of summer!

• Enjoy a Baklava sundae at the annual Greek Festival.

• Sit on the deck at Ge-Jo’s by the Lake and enjoy their signature pizza and margaritas.

• Play a few tunes (your childhood recital pieces?) at one of the Tunes for the Town public pianos in Downtown Mason City.

• View Iowa’s largest fireworks display over Clear Lake on July 4.

• Sit outside on the Federal Avenue Plaza and indulge in a Moscow Mule at The Quarry.

• Eat fresh barbecue at the “Up in Smoke BBQ Bash” in East Park.

• See Clear Lake via paddleboat on the Lady of the Lake.

• Enjoy a fresh peach sundae at Birdsall’s Ice Cream Parlor.

• Stroll along the 1.7 mile Sculptures on Parade sculpture walk. Don’t forget to vote for your favorite in the People’s Choice competition.

• Try the “Hashbrowns Everything” and a giant pancake at PM Park in Clear Lake.


• Sample the house-made craft beer selection at Mason City Brewing Company or Fat Hill Brewing.

• Enjoy a top-rated Spic N Span tenderloin at the SuzieQ – one of the last historic Valentine Diners in the nation.

• Witness the re-enactment of the 1934 John Dillinger gang robbery of the First National Bank at the Great River City Festival.

• Skate where the ice never melts – the North Iowa Ice Arena.

• Steal a kiss with your sweetheart on the Meredith Willson Footbridge.

• …and while you’re there, take a stroll through the nearby Rock Crest/Rock Glen (the largest collection of Prairie School architecture unified by a common setting in the world.)

• Check out the Mason City Public Library’s literary autograph collection which includes hundreds of original letters by authors and writers such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Oscar Wilde, Louisa May Alcott, Henry Fielding, Winston Churchill and more.

• Enjoy a touring Broadway show at the North Iowa Community Auditorium.


• See the Bil Baird marionettes (featured in “The Sound of Music”) at the Charles H. MacNider Museum.

• Enjoy a classic holiday custom by attending Christmas by the Lake events (including fireworks following the lighted parade).

• Take a quick dip in Clear Lake’s frigid waters during the annual Polar Bear Swim (to benefit Make-A-Wish).

• Cross-country ski at Lime Creek Nature Center.

• Fly kites during the annual Winter Kite Festival.

• Attend the 50s in February celebration at the Historic Surf Ballroom, and pay your respects to Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson at the crash site.

• Get a group pedicure on-the-cheap at LaJames College of Cosmetology.

• Ice fish on Big Blue.

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