20 Best Things to Do in Mason City, IA

Mason City
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So, are you planning a trip to Mason City and at a bit of a loss where to start?

The place can be overwhelming when first looking into it; there are so many activities you can do in the span of a vacation.

If that’s the case, don’t fret.

There are many things to do, but you’ll get the whole experience with just a little planning and enthusiasm.

Here are the best things to do in Mason City, Iowa:

Learn Fun Facts at the Stockman House

Exterior of Stockman House
Jim Packett / Shutterstock.com

The world-renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Stockman House.

It’s an iteration of Wright’s fireproof house, a compact and efficient design with four appendages on the sides, an entrance foyer, and a sun porch.

Side view exterior of Stockman House
Jim Packett / Shutterstock.com

The establishment hosts tours for visitors who want to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s skill as an architect and impact on the city around him.

You’ll hear exciting stories about the site and the man himself.

Plus, you can take pictures of the gorgeous interior, which will make any trip to this place worth the time.

Eat a Delicious Meal at the Northwestern Steakhouse

Start off your journey in Mason City with a tasty meal at the Northwestern Steakhouse.

Established in 1920, the steakhouse is the place to go if you want a taste of genuine T-bone steaks.

A pair of Greek immigrants founded the restaurant.

Pete Maduras and Tony Papouchis set out to serve authentic food to the people around them.

Today, Tony's son, Bill Papouchis, and Bill's wife, Ann, run the establishment.

Stop by the place to sample the restaurant’s rich history and culture with every bite.

Visit Meredith Wilson's Boyhood Home

Meredith Wilson is one of Mason City’s most famous residents.

He is renowned for writing the book, music, and lyrics for the favorite Broadway musical “The Music Man.”

Wilson was a flutist, composer, musical arranger, conductor, bandleader, author, and playwright.

Today, Meredith Wilson’s restored birthplace and boyhood home at 308 Pennsylvania Ave. is an excellent site for all music enthusiasts.

Get a glimpse of the great man's childhood by joining a tour group.

The house also doubles as a museum, where you'll find artifacts celebrating the great musician’s life and many achievements.

Wander through the Music Man Square

Preserving Meredith Wilson's boyhood home is just one of the ways Mason City celebrates its favorite son. The city has also dedicated an entire square to him.

Consider stopping by the Music Man square to round out your Mason City visit.

The park is a duplicate of the town square in the movie “The Music Man.”

Let yourself be transported into a world of music and make-believe as you walk down the cobbled streets and pass by the quaint storefronts.

There’s also a statue of the Music Man in the parade pose, so take a few pictures to preserve the good memories you’ll make at the square.

Play Sports at East Park

The band shell of East Park
Dan Breyfogle, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

East Park is one of the oldest parks in Mason City, located near the Winnebago River.

The city established the park in 1909.

In 2014, it officially became a historic district.

St. Louis Railway steam engine displayed at East Park
TLCIowa, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The park features a picnic area, a playground, a sledding hill, and fishing grounds.

Do you love sports?

You'll enjoy the park's basketball court, volleyball court, tennis court, and nine-hole golf course.

You’ll also find a Minneapolis and St. Louis Railway steam engine in the middle of the park.

Create unique memories by dropping by this historical display and taking all the photos you need.

Follow the Prairie Land Trailhead

Another nature trail worth visiting in Mason City is the Prairie Land Trailhead.

It’s a 21-mile recreational corridor that runs along an abandoned railbed, starting from Nettle Ave. and ending in Apple Ave. SW of Meservey.

The trail provides splendid rustic rural scenery, an Iowa staple alongside the summer prairie wildflowers.

It also intersects with several country roads, so it’s a great starting point if you really want to get lost in the area.

Appreciate the Arts at Charles H. MacNider Art Museum

A pathway leading to Charles H. MacNider Art Museum's entrance
OmgWhizBoyOmg, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Pay a visit to the Charles H. MacNider Art Museum if you ever find yourself in Mason City.

It’s a great place to visit for both locals and tourists who want to learn more about the city's culture.

One of the most magical things about the art museum is that the building--a cliff structure overlooking Willow Creek--has a profound story.

It started off as a private residence; over the years, it went through several changes during its transformation into a public arts center.

Today, the museum's activities have either an aesthetic or educational purpose.

The museum exhibits a collection of American art, temporary exhibits of miscellaneous pieces, maintains an art library, and offers art programs.

Moreover, exhibits aren't the only things you can see in the museum.

They also host events like puppet shows to entertain visitors.

Have Fun at the Margaret Macnider Park

Located along the Winnebago River, the Margaret Macnider Park is a terrific spot for outdoor recreation.

The park offers camping space for weary travelers, so stay for the night of stargazing and spend quality time with your loved ones.

You can take an RV with your family or set up a tent and chat around the campfire with your traveling companions.

There’s also a small playground for children, so everyone can have a fun time during their visit.

Eat and Chat at Papa’s American Cafe

Take a break from all the traveling by popping in Papa’s American Cafe for a quick bite.

This cafe is known for its legendary dishes and the pleasing atmosphere it exudes.

They serve pasta, pizza, dinner dishes, and chicken barbecue, so you're likely to find a meal to suit your exacting palate.

You can also enjoy spirits to lift the mood.

However, if you're in the mood for something else, you can check their specialty drinks for cocktails.

Catch up on the big game with other sports fans at Papa's, also a sports bar.

Go Camping at Lester Milligan Park

Another park worth visiting in Mason City is Lester Milligan Park.

This park used to be a quarry containing raw materials to produce brick and clay products.

After the quarry closed, the area transformed into a venue for entertainment and recreation.

The park's main attraction is the variety of activities open to you, such as canoeing and fishing.

You can also follow bike trails if you want to test your endurance while appreciating the beautiful scenery.

The park also has a shelter house with electricity, water, and restrooms.

You can also visit their picnic areas, swimming beach, and playground for travelers who are more interested in those activities.

Interact with Wildlife at the Lime Creek Nature Center

The Lime Creek Nature Center sits above the Winnebago River.

The site's design blends well with the natural environment.

It also uses energy-conservation techniques in its architecture and facilities.

One of the first things you’ll see when you enter is an impressive display of mounted animals.

The facility also has several aquarium displays containing different amphibians, fish, and reptiles.

Walk further inside to find a backyard wildlife area with a flowing water habitat alongside a bird-feeding station.

You'll love getting up close and personal with the animals.

The center also houses an open-air shelter and a picnic area open for public use.

Take a breather from the breathtaking places around you inside these shelters.

Marvel at the River City Sculptures on Parade

One of Mason City's unique attractions is the River City Sculptures on Parade.

A nonprofit organization established the site, which aims to bring public art to the city.

The project involves a nearly two-mile-long walking tour around the city.

You'll follow a path heading into the Cultural Crescent before heading back to the heart of Mason City.

Various sculpted pieces line the trail.

Moreover, you can even buy or lease these sculptures, save for the permanent installations.

During your visit, try to vote for your favorite sculpture.

Dine at The Quarry

End your trip by visiting The Quarry and enjoying the refined dining atmosphere while savoring their fresh seafood dishes.

The restaurant also offers a mean steak that you need to try, especially if you love meat.

Wash your food down with the restaurant's full drinks menu to satisfy your tastes.

They prepare specialty drinks, such as a margarita, a lady in red, a Moscow mule, and other cocktails.

You can also order wines and beers if you prefer familiar options.

Explore the Woodlands of Mike Zack Wildlife Area

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, you’d be hard-pressed to miss out on the opportunity to be immersed in nature at Mike Zack Wildlife Area.

It’s a sprawling nature preserve found in Mason City, just along 230th Street—allowing you to stay close to the city’s heart while enjoying a great natural respite.

You’ll find tons of wildlife and botanical life at Mike Zack Wildlife Area; it’s a popular place to fish and do photography.

Some of its walking trails are exciting as they’re unpaved, giving you access to the more rustic woodlands of Mason City.

From butterflies to all sorts of fish, there’s a ton to see at Mike Zack Wildlife Area, so try including it in your itinerary.

Watch a Racing Game at Mason City Motor Speedway

If you’re into racing, Mason City Motor Speedway is a no-brainer attraction for you to check out.

Found along 4th Street Southwest, this is a convenient place to immerse yourselves with the locals over a fun car racing event.

The track is wide and the amenities for the audience gets the job done, giving you a seamless experience that’s sure to leave a nice memory.

Mason City Motor Speedway also has some monster truck events year-round, so be on the lookout for their events and announcements.

A great place to bond with friends and family, Mason City Motor Speedway is a great addition to your itinerary.

Cool Down at Mason City Family Aquatic Center

If you’re visiting during the summer months, Mason City Family Aquatic Center is the perfect getaway destination to cool down.

A public aquatic center for the city, this place is a popular relaxation and family bonding area for both locals and guests of Mason City.

They have everything you’d want in an aquatic center, ranging from wide swimming pools to kiddie slides.

Mason City Family Aquatic Center also has a competent and friendly staff, ensuring everything’s safe and your experience is top-notch.

A great place to visit when Iowa gets too hot, this aquatic center is found along Birch Drive.

Take a Stroll at Georgia Hanford Park and Arthur J. Gerk Arboretum

If you want a great all-rounder to experience the natural beauty of Mason City with your family, you can’t go wrong with Georgia Hanford Park and Arthur J. Gerk Arboretum.

This park and arboretum has it all—from scenic woodlands, well-maintained walking trails, to playground and picnic areas.

There’s a pond here that accentuates the scenery, along with plenty of various trees that even have information signs to give you a bit of learning.

Georgia Hanford Park and Arthur J. Gerk Arboretum’s aesthetic can be best experienced during spring and summer.

Access this serene place along Jersey Avenue.

Check the Art Installations at Rancho Deluxe

Rancho Deluxe is an outdoor museum in Mason City, found along 2nd Street Northeast.

This is one of the best free things to do in the city, as you can appreciate all sorts of eclectic art installations here, primarily sculptures scattered throughout its vicinity.

This makes Rancho Deluxe a haven for street art photography as it’s brimming with colors, asymmetrical shapes, and all sorts of cool objects that’s part of the artworks.

The vicinity also doubles as a garden, so this urban attraction has a bit of scenic appeal to it as well thanks to the lush greenery.

Overall, Rancho Deluxe is a must-see for budget travelers or those with an affinity for art.




Other Things to Do Nearby

Visit the Kinney Pioneer Museum

The Kinney Pioneer Museum at Suite G, 9184 265th St. is the best place to go if you want an in-depth look at North Iowa history and traditions.

The museum was started by Mrs. George Ludeman in 1957 when she and others started collecting items that had great historical value.

Afterwards, the Kinney Lindstrom Foundation gave them a hundred-thousand-dollar donation, and the museum proper was opened in 1968.

Now, the museum hosts several exhibits that’ll surely pique the interest of all the history buffs out there.

There, you can find quilts dating back to the 1800s, several military items from the Civil War, and North Iowa’s largest doll collection.

Relax at the Wilkinson Pioneer Park

Walking along the Wilkinson Pioneer Park is an excellent activity if you’re looking to get the lay of the land.

The park's 80-acre area contains trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding, promising an afternoon's worth of activity.

Likewise, the park has a designated camping site with 42 electrical areas that provide 30 amp service for people spending the night.

You can also go fishing in their one-acre pond or canoeing in the designated area.

Once you get tired of wandering outdoors, the park offers peaceful spots for you to relax.

You can take a few pictures of the lovely landscape while winding down for the day.

Final Thoughts

Mason City offers a lot of recreation options. You'll never get bored during your trip.

The city has an activity for everyone: art for the enthusiasts, good meals for the foodies, nature walks for the outdoor fans, and museums for history buffs.

Its well-preserved history and culture help welcome all visitors, showcasing its exciting and unique qualities.

Explore as many sites as you can to experience this wonderful and lively city.

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