July 29, 2016

Clear Lake Yurts: A Unique Experience In Iowa

This summer, I stayed in a yurt. A yurt!

What’s a yurt?

A yurt is more tent than cabin. The yurts in Clear Lake, Iowa come with beds and a table.
A yurt is more tent than cabin. The yurts in Clear Lake, Iowa come with beds and a table.

A yurt is essentially a glorified tent. It bridges the gap between a tent and a cabin, actually. It has a door that locks, windows that you can open and close using flaps, and a little patio. They’re unique in that they’re round. The closest yurt to Omaha is in Clear Lake, Iowa.

Clear Lake, Iowa
Clear Lake, Iowa

McIntosh Woods State Park in Iowa has two yurts that are mere steps from the lake. The Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce invited us to stay in one for a night so I could tell you all about it.

Here's the view from the dock by our yurt. Nice, huh?
Here’s the view from the dock by our yurt. Nice, huh?

The yurts in Clear Lake have a bunk bed and futon, plus a table and chairs. Outside, each yurt had a couple picnic tables, charcoal grill and a wood fire pit.

All you "Big" fans out there now have the legit chance to tell your spouse "I get to be on top." This yurt has a bunk bed, plus a futon.
All you “Big” fans out there now have the legit chance to tell your spouse “I get to be on top.” This yurt has a bunk bed, plus a futon.

Pretty much, you get to feel like you’re camping without having to sleep on the ground or struggle with a tent.

Tips for staying in a yurt

Yurt Clear Lake title

– Bring your own bedding – and don’t forget pillows.

– Bring your usual camping supplies. If you’re making any meals during your stay, you’ll need to bring all of your cooking supplies in addition to the ingredients. Don’t forget to bring paper towels or wet naps, especially if you have kids.

– Bring towels, both for showering and if you’re visiting the lake.

– Clean up after yourself. There is a broom in the yurt, which was a good reminder to tidy up before leaving.

More about Clear Lake Yurts

A glamorous morning in our yurt
A glamorous morning in our yurt

The bathrooms are a short walk – there is a shower. You share it with whoever is staying in the other yurt. We were the only ones staying there that night, so it felt private.

Like a tent, though, there is no air conditioning, just a fan and windows for a breeze. We stayed at the end of June and with unseasonably cool nights, it was incredibly comfortable. But I’m no fool, I know what Midwestern summers can be like, so I can imagine how it’d be hot if the weather is.

What to do at McIntosh Woods

The quiet beach at McKintosh Woods State Park in Clear Lake, Iowa.
The quiet beach at McIntosh Woods State Park in Clear Lake, Iowa.

The state park is fairly small, but it does have a beach – one of three beaches easily accessible for families visiting Clear Lake.

It wasn’t our favorite one, but it’s a nice place to cool off if you’re staying in the park.

There’s also a playground.

Younger kids will enjoy the playground at McKintosh Woods State Park.
Younger kids will enjoy the playground at McIntosh Woods State Park.

Most people go to Clear Lake to boat, and there is a boat ramp to access the lake within the park. There were quite a few people fishing, as well.

It’s not a park for serious hikers.

Clear Lake is the main draw to McKintosh Woods State Park.
Clear Lake is the main draw to McIntosh Woods State Park.

What’s near the yurts

Clear Lake is a short drive from McIntosh Woods State Park, where you’ll find great restaurants, more beach access and cute local shops in the downtown area. I wrote about Clear Lake places to visit if you want some recommendations.

If you’re looking for dining with a view, I recommend PM Park – it’s not the closest restaurant, but it is the only one with a tiki bar. So it’s got that going for it.

The breakfast there is pretty good, too – try their French pancake.

If you go

Clear Lake Yurts at McIntosh Woods State Park

Where: 1200 E. Lake St., Ventura, Iowa

Cost: $35 a night/minimum 2 nights

Website

Yurts are one step above camping and one step below a cabin. Here's what it was like to stay in one near a lake in Iowa. #outdoors #camping #familytravel #familyvacation

* * * * *

Plan your own Great Iowa Road Trip

Iowa Collage

Here’s an itinerary to plan your own Great Iowa Road Trip! To learn more about some of the destinations on this trip, check out these posts:

Rustic charm in suburban Iowa at Wildwood Lodge in Des Moines, Iowa

A room with a view: South Shore Inn in Clear Lake, Iowa

Fun on the rails with Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad

Get even more inspiration from my bucket lists for Des Moines and Clear Lake!

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July 21, 2016

Room With A View: South Shore Inn In Iowa

Update in 2019: South Shore Inn is now called Lakeside Inn. The building has been renovated into boutique rooms. The information in this post may no longer adequately describe the hotel.

The longest stop of the Great Iowa Road Trip was Clear Lake, a charming beach town in northern Iowa.

There are several lodging options around Clear Lake, but very few have a lakeside view. We lucked out with South Shore Inn, though. You couldn’t get much closer than our room!

View of the patio from a hotel room at South Shore Inn in Clear Lake, Iowa
Here’s the view from our room at South Shore Inn. Why hello, Clear Lake!

Our stay was hosted by Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce. Let me tell you about the place!

What to expect at South Shore Inn

I’ll be honest with you, when you pull up to the inn’s parking lot, you’re not going to be impressed. Don’t turn around. Go in, walk through your room, and check out the view. This is what you came for.

Sunset from the table right outside our room at South Shore Inn in Clear Lake.
Sunset from the table right outside our room at South Shore Inn in Clear Lake.

One of our neighbors walked by one morning and said to me “This is God’s country.”

All rooms face the lake, and you either have a walkout door to the patio or a balcony. It’s not exactly private on the ground level, as you share the view and area with The Landing Patio Bar & Grill, a popular restaurant, and your neighbors. I’m not complaining – I was smitten with the view.

I think my son was smitten with the view and private dock at South Shore Inn, too.
I think my son was smitten with the view and private dock at South Shore Inn, too.

We used the patio frequently, bringing the inn’s complimentary breakfast outside.

We let our son stay up late one night to watch the sunset.

And one quiet morning, I walked out with my son to just sit on the dock. It was one of those moments you wish for when planning a vacation but never actually plan on happening.

Nothing beats comfy jammies and being lakeside in the morning.
Nothing beats comfy jammies and being lakeside in the morning.

The inn has its own dock. Here’s a great timelapse video we took from that dock:

View from South Shore Inn in Clear Lake, Iowa

Check out the time-lapse we took from our hotel's dock at The Landing on Clear Lake Clear Lake, Iowa! I'll be sharing stories from our #GreatIowaRoadTrip soon.

Posted by Oh My Omaha on Wednesday, June 29, 2016

South Shore Inn amenities

The rooms come with the standard inn items: Flatscreen TV, desk, mini refrigerator, that sort of thing. But the big selling point (besides the view) was the huge whirl pool tub.

There’s also a complimentary breakfast each morning, featuring a favorite of my kids’, the waffle maker. There was also fresh fruit, which is a nice score when on vacation. You’re going to want to eat breakfast outdoors.

Waffles for breakfast at South Shore Inn.
Waffles for breakfast at South Shore Inn.

One downside to the inn is the parking lot. Inn guests share it with diners at The Landing. It’s not a problem during the day, but if you go out for dinner and return later in the evening, you might not find a spot. There’s overflow parking across the street, though, so you’re not totally out of luck.

I take it back, there’s a second downside, at least, if you ask a kid: There’s no pool. But there’s a gigantic lake and a couple beaches nearby, so if this is a complaint coming from your kid, point that out.

The owners also keep a fridge stocked with bottled water, which is super helpful when you’re on the go. There’s also coffee that’s always available in the lobby.

What’s near South Shore Inn

You can see The Landing crowd at the right of the photo with South Shore Inn guests seated on the right side of the photo.
You can see The Landing crowd under the green awning and the South Shore Inn guests seated to the right side of it.

The Landing Patio Bar & Grill is on the premise. It was literally 10 steps from our bedroom. The waitstaff is friendly and the burgers are great. There’s also a kids menu.

There’s a playground across the street to tire your kids out.

But you’re there for the lake, right? You want a beach. There are three beaches around Clear Lake. The two closest are City Beach and the Clear Lake State Park beach. They’re not far away at all.

Playing at City Beach in downtown Clear Lake, a short drive from South Shore Inn.
Playing at City Beach in downtown Clear Lake, a short drive from South Shore Inn.

If you go

South Shore Inn

Where: 1603 South Shore Drive, Clear Lake, Iowa

Website

* * * * *

Plan your own Great Iowa Road Trip!

Iowa Collage

Here’s an itinerary to plan your own Great Iowa Road Trip! To learn more about some of the destinations on this trip, check out these posts:

Rustic charm in suburban Iowa at Wildwood Lodge in Des Moines, Iowa

Adventure in a Yurt in Clear Lake, Iowa

Fun on the rails with Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad

Get even more inspiration from my bucket lists for Des Moines and Clear Lake!

June 6, 2016

My Clear Lake Bucket List

This summer, my family will road trip through central Iowa, and one of the stops I’ve been looking forward to is Clear Lake. 

Here are a few things I’m looking forward to do (or will be saving for another trip):

Clear Lake Iowa Bucket List - A wish list of things to see and do in Clear Lake, Iowa #USA #travel #bucketlist

My Clear Lake Bucket List

Beach time. If you know me at all, you know I love the outdoors and I love a good beach. Clear Lake has three beaches to try out: Clear Lake City Beach is near downtown, Clear Lake State Park has a 900-foot sandy beach on its 55 acres, and McIntosh Woods State Park has an unsupervised beach on a peninsula that juts into the lake. We’ll be in the area long enough to hopefully visit all three.

Clear Lake Bucket List - Visit a beach
Fun on the beach in Clear Lake, Iowa. Photo courtesy Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce

Stay in a yurt. A yurt is a round tent – think, fancy camping. And Clear Lake’s McIntosh Woods has a couple you can stay in, right by the lake! When’s the last time you had a chance to stay in a yurt? 

Clear Lake Iowa Bucket List - Stay in a yurt
A yurt at McKintosh Woods in Clear Lake, Iowa. Photo courtesy The Walking Tourists

Update: We did get to stay in a yurt when we traveled through Clear Lake! Here’s my review of the experience.

Visit Surf Ballroom. Clear Lake is probably most known for this concert hall, known as the last concert hall played by Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson. They still have concerts there.

Clear Lake Bucket List - Visit the historical Surfside Ballroom
Inside the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake. Photo courtesy Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce

Visit the place where “the music died.” If you make the trek to Clear Lake simply for the Surf Ballroom, your next stop is likely the crash site trail head marker and crash site memorial. Those are about 5 miles north of the concert hall. The memorial is a ¼ mile walk into the field from the trail marker – a huge replica of Holly’s glasses.

Clear Lake Iowa Bucket List - Visit the crash site memorial to Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper
The crash site memorial to Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper near Clear Lake, Iowa. Photo courtesy Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce

Eat good food. I love planning trips around local restaurants. Among the ones I’ve seen recommended are PM Park, known for a good breakfast according to Midwest Living; Barrel Drive-Inn, recommended by any as having the best broasted chicken; and dining with a view a The Landing (or maybe just a drink – doesn’t the photo for this post’s graphic make you want to head straight to The Landing?). On the blog Jeni Eats, I also read that Louie’s Custom Meats is a great family-owned butcher, and we might check it out if we grill out while there.

Clear Lake Bucket List - Dine outdoors by the lake, like at PM Park
The crowd at PM Park at dusk in Clear Lake. Photo courtesy Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce

Fun on the water. I’d love to rent a boat one of the days we’re there, but if we don’t swing that, a ride on the paddle-wheeler Lady of the Lake will still be a novelty for our kids.

Clear Lake Bucket List - Take a ride on the Lady of the Lake
Lady of the Lake offers tours to visitors. Photo courtesy Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce

Celebrate America. We’re going to Clear Lake in time to enjoy the Fourth of July celebration they’re known for. I’m looking forward to experiencing how a small town on a lake celebrates.

Clear Lake Bucket List - Visit during the town's multi-day Fourth of July celebration
This year, Clear Lake starts its annual multi-day Fourth of July celebration on June 30. Photo courtesy Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce

Your turn: What else do you recommend for me to try while we’re in Clear Lake?? Please share your tips in the comment section!

Planning a trip to Clear Lake, Iowa? Here's a bucket list for inspiration, including the must-see historical sites and summer fun ideas. #Iowa #familytravel #midwest

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