April 2, 2017

Visiting The Western Historic Trails Center

The Western Historic Trails Center in Council Bluffs is one of those notable historic landmarks within a few miles of Omaha that you know you ought to visit at least once, but you probably haven’t.

The Western Historic Trails Center is located in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

At least, that was my family’s case until recently.

 

One unseasonably warm winter day, we decided we wanted to get outdoors, but we were tired of going to the same park, the same trails. And then I remembered the paved trails on the Council Bluffs side of the Missouri River. Why not do something new that combined a hike with a bit of local history?

About Western Historic Trails Center

Some exhibit pieces at the trails center were interactive, making it more engaging for children and adults.

This small center is dedicated to teaching us about four historic trails that passed through this area: the Lewis and Clark, Oregon, California and Mormon Trails. You can learn about the pioneers who traveled the trails, as well. The National Park Service designed and built the center and admission is free.

The exhibit space includes photos, maps, some interactive pieces sculptures, and my kids’ favorite, audio records (must be the thrill of holding a phone? I dunno). There’s also a small theater space to watch a film. If you want to learn more about the area’s significance, read this.

What is it about phones? This might have been my kids’ favorite exhibit just because they could listen to people on this audio device.

We didn’t spend a whole lot of time here. Only one child could read, for one thing; for another, they still have a rough concept of time. Everything “old” to my preschooler is 99 years old, no matter what.

Outside the Western Historic Trails Center, you’ll find paved and unpaved trails, as well as interpretive sculptures.

Still, it’s worth peeking in before going on to my favorite part of the area: The trails.

Trails By The Western History Trails Center

Flat terrain make it easy to keep an eye on speedy kids.

The paved trails will take you toward the Missouri River for a nice walk, or if you’re on bike, you can take the trails further along north toward two casinos and the Tom Hanafan River’s Edge Park, or further south toward Lake Manawa State Park. Part of the trail is unpaved if you’re going to try to get a view of the river.

We weren’t expecting to find a pond along the way to the Missouri River. The kids loved drawing in the sand.

We were on foot and with our dog, so we opted for the easy walk to the river. We passed by a small pond, which was a nice diversion to explore. It was disappointing to see how much trash has been left in the area.

That’s the eastern side of Omaha across the river.

In short order, we made it to the river and got a fairly plain view of Omaha (it was winter, after all). Still, your kids should be able to spot some landmarks, including the zoo and the train engines at Kenefick Park near Lauritzen Gardens.

Events at Western Historic Trails Center

Inside the Western Historic Trails Center.

This year, the center is celebrating its 20th anniversary, and the theme is Wild West. Events will be held throughout the year, though I don’t have much details on them. So far, I’ve heard of some documentaries screened there as a part of that celebration. The next screening coming up is on April 30 showing the film “American Experience Documentary: Annie Oakley.”

In the past, there have been music jams, live re-enactments along the trail, and holiday events. I recommend following WHTC on Facebook to keep up to date.

If you go

Western Historic Trails Center

Where: 3434 Richard Downing Ave., Council Bluffs, Iowa

When: Wednesday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; closed official state holidays

Cost: FREE

Website

 

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September 2, 2016

10 Things You Must Do In Council Bluffs In The Fall

Fall is an ideal time to visit Council Bluffs, Iowa. A gorgeous time.

I was recently asked by the Council Bluffs Convention and Visitor’s Bureau to write about the city which inspired this sponsored post. I’m not exactly a local expert but the city has a special place in my heart. I spent about 10 years working in Council Bluffs, and even though my daily commute doesn’t bring me down West Broadway anymore, I return with my family to revisit my favorites.

If you haven’t visited in a while, here’s a list of fun things you must do in the fall in Council Bluffs.

10

Shady Lanes Ranch

Hayrack ride time at Shady Lanes in #CouncilBluffs!

A post shared by Kim Reiner (@ohmyomaha) on

 

Shady Lanes Ranch Inc. has fun hayrack rides that end with your group being dropped off at your own bonfire. We brought friends last year for the first time and had so much fun. The kids enjoyed the hay fights between with passing hayracks.

Ditmars Orchard

 

It’ll be tough to find a closer apple orchard than Ditmars. My family enjoys the relaxed pace of the orchard, which is perfect for younger children. You can walk out to the orchard or hop on a hayrack to go further into the orchard (if you’re going with little kids, this hayrack ride is a hit). They also have a pumpkin patch for later fall activities. While there, kids will enjoy the playground and corn maze. Before you leave, do not skip the concession stand. You must get the fresh apple donuts. You’ll thank me.

Ditmars is a hot spot in the fall for events. In September alone, there’s the AppleGrass Festival, Fields of Flight hot air balloon weekend, and a kite-flying weekend.

Bayliss Park

Bayliss Park in downtown Council Bluffs is pretty visit any time of day, but the modern fountain lit up at night is a sight to see. The park has a splash ground that’s great for kids on hot summer days, too. The park also has free concerts and movies throughout the summer.

Union Pacific Railroad Museum

So many buttons to push in this place

A post shared by Kim Reiner (@ohmyomaha) on

 

If you have a train-loving kid in your house, you need to visit Union Pacific Railroad Museum in downtown Council Bluffs. This FREE museum features some interactive displays, and lots and lots of memorabilia.

If you’re kids are really into trains, plan for a second train stop in C.B. at RailsWest Railroad Museum.

 

Wabash Trace Trail

This long, crushed limestone trail is great for cycling (not with your road bike, mind you) and running. Wabash Trace Trail starts in Council Bluffs and takes a scenic route southward through the Loess Hills and tree-lined fields for 63 miles. It’s an old railroad route so the slopes are never steep. On Thursday nights, hundreds of bike riders take the famous Taco Ride from Council Bluffs to Mineola for food and drinks, and then ride back. It’s a ton of fun! If you try it, make sure your bike lights are working – it gets very dark on the trail.

 

Dixie Quicks

 

Few restaurants in the metro area can compare to the creativity and taste of Dixie Quicks and for that alone, you should visit. The cool setting, quirky shop and gallery connected to the restaurant, and the dinosaurs kids can play with while you wait are icing on the cake. Brunch is my favorite time to dine there. Find Dixie Quicks on the historic 100th block of Council Bluffs, a pretty part of the city not to be missed.

Arts Center at IWCC

The Arts Center at Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs has two performance spaces where you can see student performances and touring productions. There’s a full season of shows, so it’s not just a fall thing to do. Occasionally a kid-centric show will be presented there, so keep an eye on the schedule.

Lake Manawa State Park

 

Lake Manawa is definitely busy in the summer with boaters, fishers and swimmers enjoying the beach. In the fall, take advantage of the cooler weather to bike the paved trails or if you’re the adventurous sort, the 8 miles of mountain bike trails. If’ you’re there with younger children, don’t skip Dream Land Park.

 

Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge

I like running to another state over my lunch breaks, how about you? #Nebraska #Iowa #runner

A post shared by Kim Reiner (@ohmyomaha) on

 

Probably one of the top 5 photographed attraction in the metro area, the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge spans the Missouri River, connecting Iowa to Nebraska. The photo opp of all photo opps is straddling the state line. Summer on Council Bluffs’ side can be pretty busy, especially on the green space of the park that’s right near the bridge, Tom Hanafan River’s Edge Park. There are concerts and outdoor movie screenings there, especially during Loessfest.

 

Stir Outdoor Concert Cove

OK, this is more of a summer place to be for live music, but the Stir Concert Cove schedule stretches into the fall so I’m including it. The outdoor music venue at Harrah’s Casino and Hotel brings in some of the best touring bands that come to the metro area. While they are all-ages shows, I usually find a sitter when I get tickets to a show.

 

Bonus!

Where to eat in Council Bluffs

I can’t limit myself to just 10 great things about Council Bluffs, at least, not if it means I have to cut out some food talk. Dixie Quicks is great, but it’s not the only restaurant in town. If you’re hungry for pizza, head to the local favorite, Pizza King. If you’re at Bayliss Park, my favorite spot for a treat afterward is Ellie’s Deli & Ice Cream Shoppe. Christy Creme is another ice cream place to visit in the summer; we usually stop there after a trip to nearby Hitchcock Nature Center in Honey Creek.

For a filling breakfast a cozy diner, head to Duncan’s Cafe on Main Street. I dare you to tackle the serving of hashbrowns – I swear the plate is the size of a hub cab.

If you’re in Council Bluffs without kids, my favorite spots I recommend visiting is 1892 German Bier House, 360 Steakhouse at Harrah’s (the best view!), and Cellar 19, and wine bar and deli.

 

Places Still On My To-Visit List

For all the years I’ve worked in Council Bluffs, I’m a little embarrassed to say I’ve never been to two of its biggest historical attractions: Squirrel Cage Jail and the Gen. Dodge House. The Dodge House often has events with actors dressed in period costumes and at Christmas time, they have special nights for families. (drips), a new-to-me coffee shop on Main Street, is also a place on my list.

 

Your turn: What are some of your favorite Council Bluffs attractions and restaurants?

August 1, 2016

Fun On Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad

The only place you can take your kids on a steam engine train ride in Nebraska or Iowa is on the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad in Boone, Iowa.

Boone is a small town between Des Moines and Clear Lake, our two main stops on our Great Iowa Road Trip. It’s about 2 1/2  hours from Omaha. We ended up with a diesel engine pulling our train, but no big deal – it didn’t dampen the experience of riding in on authentic train.

Boone & scenic valley railroad title

What to expect on the train ride

– Expect to buy a ticket for anyone in your party who can walk (babe in arms do not need a ticket). I received complimentary passes to ride the train so I can tell you about my family’s experience.

– The train depot has a museum – admission is included with your train ticket – and a gift shop. Allow some time before your ride to walk through both, especially if you’ve planned this pit stop to be a chance to stretch your legs.

Outside the train depot in Boon, Iowa.

Outside the train depot in Boon, Iowa.

– The steam engine is used on the Saturdays, so when we went during the week, we had a diesel engine. That’s no big deal for me or the kids, it’s still a train ride. If it’s a big deal to you, go on a Saturday.

– Your ride will not be air-conditioned – these are 1920s rail cars (though, dinner trains are enclosed with heating and air-conditioning). We went in June and thanks to some temperate weather, it was not a hot mess. It was, in fact, quite comfortable.

The Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad 1920s era coach cars are not air-conditioned. On our trip in June, it was a comfortable ride without needing air-conditioning.

The Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad 1920s era coach cars are not air-conditioned. On our trip in June, it was a comfortable ride without needing air-conditioning.

– Seating is first come, first served in the coach cars. If you ride on the dinner or dessert train, your seats are reserved. We arrived late and had to ask a couple to switch seats so that the four of us could be seated together. Arrive early and avoid the hassle.

Even on a weekday, the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad cars can be crowded. It was for us on a Tuesday afternoon.

Even on a weekday, the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad cars can be crowded. It was for us on a Tuesday afternoon.

– The ride is out and back, about an hour and a half ride. Each car has a volunteer who’ll share interesting facts about the train and the area you pass through. Ours shared the story about Kate Shelley on the way back to the station.

– There is a concession car, but since the kids slept through lunch, I had also brought their lunch with us. I didn’t see anyone else eating. If you get tickets to ride in the caboose, you will not have access to the concession car.

Mooch enjoyed her picnic on the train.

Mooch enjoyed her picnic on the train.

Highlights of the train ride

The highlight has to be crossing the Bass Point Creek High Bridge, which you’ll do twice since it’s an out-and-back ride. If you’re afraid of heights, this will be the ultimate low.

The Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad crosses the Bass Point Creek High Bridge, which, at 156 feet tall, is the tallest single-track interurban railroad bridge in the United States.

The Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad crosses the Bass Point Creek High Bridge, which, at 156 feet tall, is the tallest single-track interurban railroad bridge in the United States. It’s a doozy of a drop.

We also liked the concession car. The kids got some ice cream, and Mr. Wonderful and I enjoyed a craft beer from a Boone brewery. Cheers!

Special Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad Events

Outside the train depot in Boone, Iowa.

Outside the train depot in Boone, Iowa.

There are daily rides with the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad, as well as regular dinner and dessert trains. From time to time, special themed events are planned – several I can see being very, very popular with families.

2016 special events:

Day Out With Thomas – Sept. 17, 18, and Sept. 23-25

Pumpkin Express – Oct. 8, Oct. 15, and Oct. 22

Fall Motorcar Day – Nov. 5

Santa Express Train – Nov. 25-27, Dec. 2-4, Dec. 9-11,  and Dec. 16-18

Be sure to check the dates here as they may change. You will want to purchase your tickets in advance since these are popular.

If you go

Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad


Where: 225 10th St., Boone, Iowa

When: Memorial Day Weekend through Oct. 31; departs Mondays-Fridays and Sundays at 1:30 p.m.; departs Saturdays at 1:30 and 4 p.m. Ride lasts about an hour and 45 minutes. Always check dates and times before you go.

Note: The steam locomotive is only scheduled to pull Saturday trains, Memorial Day Weekend through Oct. 31 (excluding Day Out With Thomas).

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

Upscale casual dining at SIPS North Shore Kitchen & Bar in Clear Lake, Iowa

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

Clear Lake Yurts: A Unique Iowa Experience

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

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

 

* * * * *

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

Upscale casual dining at SIPS North Shore Kitchen & Bar in Clear Lake, 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!

July 21, 2016

Room With A View: South Shore Inn In Iowa

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!

Here's the view from our room at South Shore Inn. Why hello, Clear Lake!

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 sweet video we took from that dock.

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

Upscale Casual Dining at SIPS North Shore Kitchen & Bar in Clear Lake, 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!

July 18, 2016

Sips, A Casual Upscale Clear Lake Restaurant

We visited several highly recommended restaurants during our Great Iowa Road Trip. There was only one where the food was so good, I wanted photographic evidence of its greatness, was a Clear Lake restaurant: SIPS North Shore Kitchen & Bar.

Ryan, one of the chefs at SIPS, found out I was headed to Clear Lake and invited my family to dine there. He was tempting me with this baby, the Spicy Tuna Avocado Boat.

Who would've guessed you'd find an appetizer like the Spicy Tuna Avocado Boat in Clear Lake, Iowa? Photo courtesy SIPS North Shore Kitchen & Bar

Who would’ve guessed you’d find an appetizer like the Spicy Tuna Avocado Boat in Clear Lake, Iowa? Photo courtesy SIPS North Shore Kitchen & Bar

I told him that’s the kind of food I love – local and creative – but I was traveling with a 4- and 6-year-old. What could my kids eat there? He told me kids were welcomed, that they have a great kids menu. I was sold.

Dinner at SIPS

Craft beer on the Sips North Shore Bar & Grill patio on a warm summer evening - does it get any better than that?

Craft beer on the SIPS North Shore Kitchen & Bar patio on a warm summer evening – does it get any better than that?

We arrived at Sips for an early dinner on a warm, summer weekday. We found a table on the patio. Perfect!

As much as I wanted sushi, I knew my kids well, and ordered the Lamb Lollipops. Served over a bed of red and napa cabbage with some mint vinaigrette drizzled over it, my whole family devoured them. This ended up being the kids’ favorite part of the meal.

The Lamb Lollipops looked too tempting for my daughter to wait for the picture to be done.

The Lamb Lollipops looked too tempting for my daughter to wait for the picture to be done. The bed of cabbage underneath the lamb tasted great, too.

While we waited for the entrees to arrive, Mr. Wonderful and I ordered some craft beer. I was surprised by the beer list here! Our waitress, Kaitlyn, told us it was one of the best around, and I believe her. I counted seven Iowa beers among dozens of others on the four-page beer list.

 I ordered the Tomahawk Chop with a side of roasted cauliflower, and Mr. Wonderful went with the pan seared lamb served with risotto and the best asparagus.

The Tomahawk Chop comes with caramelized rum apples - yum!

The Tomahawk Chop comes with caramelized rum apples – yum!

My dish was masterfully seasoned and cooked. I didn’t want to share.

Mooch had chicken strips and Farley ordered the steak dinner. Both were served with fries. Kids meals were reasonably priced, especially the steak dinner, between $5 and $6.

Farley contemplating the steak. Should he have ordered the cheeseburger? Deep thoughts by a 6-year-old.

Farley contemplating the steak. Should he have ordered the cheeseburger? Deep thoughts by a 6-year-old.

Ryan prepared dessert for us, and thoughtfully modified them with kids’ pickiness in mind (topping on the side). He brought out caramelized pineapple served with a bourbon and rum reduction, rehydrated star-fruit, candied nuts and a lime yogurt quenelle (which the kids wouldn’t touch). It’s a summer treat that you don’t feel guilty about eating after a big meal, and a strawberry cheesecake.

Dessert at SIPS North Shore Kitchen & Bar - caramelized pineapple and cheesecake (modified for my slightly picky kids).

Dessert at SIPS North Shore Kitchen & Bar – caramelized pineapple and cheesecake (modified for my slightly picky kids).

The cheesecake was rich and delicious and, again, I really didn’t want to share it.

Service at SIPS

Service on the patio at SIPS North Shore Kitchen & Bar was prompt and comfortable with my squirrely kids.

Service on the patio at SIPS North Shore Kitchen & Bar was prompt and comfortable with my squirrely kids.

I’m not sure how many families go to Sips on any given day but Kaitlyn, our waitress, was unfazed with us. We had spills, we had coloring books crowding the table. She rolled with it. She was fantastic!

What’s near SIPS

SIPS North Shore Kitchen & Bar is right next door to one of the main draws in Clear Lake: Surf Ballroom.

Can any kid resist getting on stage? My kids loved being on the Surf Ballroom's stage, where many musical legends have played.

Can any kid resist getting on stage? My kids loved being on the Surf Ballroom’s stage, where many musical legends have played.

The ballroom is free to visit, and you can take a self-guided tour until 4 p.m. If you’re trying to time a visit to both, go around the lunch hour. SIPS has several signature sandwiches that sound like a perfect midday meal, or salads, for those looking for something lighter.

If you go

SIPS North Shore Kitchen & Bar

Where: 444 North Shore Drive, Clear Lake, Iowa

When: Tuesday through Saturday, 4 to 9 p.m.

Find them on Facebook

* * * * *

Iowa Collage

Plan your own road trip!

Check out the Great Iowa Road Trip itinerary here. To learn more about some of the destinations on this trip, visit the blog over the next few weeks. I can’t wait to tell you about these places:

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

A room with a view at Southshore Inn in Clear Lake, 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!