Oct 21, 2022 - Things to Do

10 things to do in Clear Lake, 2 hours from Des Moines

clear lake iowa mural

Photo: Brianna Crane/Axios

Clear Lake is a popular warm-weather destination (for good reason), but nothing beats being by the water on crisp fall days, long after the summer crowds are gone.

If a slow weekend on the lake sounds dreamy to you, too, here’s what to do and where to eat and stay while you’re there.

What to do

Stroll or bike along the lake

If you want a short easy stroll, there’s a bike lane and walking path right along the water. You can weave in and out of the neighborhood to take in the charming lake houses. Park on Main Avenue and head toward the water.

  • If you want something longer or more challenging, consider one of these trails.

Visit City Park

If you’re traveling with kiddos, this lush green space has a playground and lakefront views. It’s in the heart of downtown so you can get some energy out between meals and shopping.

  • It’s a community hub in the summer, so check the calendar for local events.

Head to the beach

Bring some chairs, bundle up and pack picnic lunch. It may be too cold to get in the water, but sitting in the sunshine is soul-warming year round.

  • Find public accesses here.
Where to eat/drink

Cabin Coffee Co.

This cozy coffee shop is a must-stop for your caffeine fix. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can try their signature drink. October’s is white coffee with steamed milk, toffee crunch, dark chocolate and caramel.

  • Address: 303 Main Ave.
  • Hours: 7am-2pm Monday-Saturday; closed Sunday

173° Craft Distillery

This distillery was recently opened by a chemist, engineer and physician. The menu features cocktails, beer and wine, appetizers and charcuterie.

Bonus: There’s a rooftop with ample seating and twinkly lights.

  • Address: 306 1st Ave. N.
  • Hours: 4-9pm Wednesday-Thursday; 4-11pm Friday; noon to 11pm Saturday; 11am-6pm Sunday; closed Monday-Tuesday

Starboard Market

Grab provisions for your lakefront picnic from this charming little eatery. They have sandwiches, desserts, salads and soups.

  • Address: 310 Main Ave.
  • Hours: 11am-2pm Tuesday-Saturday; closed Sunday-Monday

South Shore Donut Co.

From cherry pie to pumpkin spice, the toppings are piled on at South Shore.

  • Address: 1205 S. Shore Dr.
  • Hours: 7:30am to noon Thursday-Sunday; closed Monday-Wednesday

Of note: Tiki Bar/PM Park is a waterfront watering hole open seasonally. Bookmark it for summertime.

Where to stay

Airbnb: Lakefront retreat

Right on the lake, this cozy cabin sleeps up to 10 people. Plus, it has an outdoor fire pit and private dock so you can soak up the scenery and stay warm.

  • Nightly rate: $135+
Airbnb: Lakefront retreat clear lake iowa
Photo: courtesy of Airbnb
Airbnb: Lakefront retreat clear lake iowa
Photo: courtesy of Airbnb

Airbnb: Modern cabin near Main Avenue

Fully renovated, this charmer sleeps up to eight people and is an idyllic residential setting just a few blocks from Main Avenue.

  • Nightly rate: $360+
Airbnb: Modern cabin near Main Avenue
Photo: courtesy of Airbnb
Airbnb: Modern cabin near Main Avenue
Photo: courtesy of Airbnb

Airbnb: Luxury lakefront home

With a large private beach, home theater, spacious kitchen, and plenty of places to lounge, this house was made for large groups (up to 15 people).

  • Nightly rate: $795+
Airbnb: Luxury lakefront home
Photo: courtesy of Airbnb
Airbnb: Luxury lakefront home
Photo: courtesy of Airbnb
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