The 5 Best Reasons to Visit Central Gardens of North Iowa

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The 5 Best Reasons to Visit Central Gardens of North Iowa

I recently took a road trip from my hometown of Holland, Mi, through Iowa and into Minnesota.  Part of my trip included a full day exploring Clear Lake and enjoying the sites and sounds of this wonderful town.  A morning garden tour of the Central Gardens of North Iowa was the perfect way to begin my day!

Let’s take a look at many of their FREE offerings and see the five best reasons you must visit the Central Gardens of North Iowa!

#1 – To Learn About Public Garden Space

What are the Central Gardens of North Iowa?

Central Gardens of North Iowa is a public garden space.  The only one of its kind within a 90-mile radius of Clear Lake, Iowa, all daily garden events are free!  And you can’t beat free!

The Central Gardens is three acres of city property privately maintained by a work crew of over 100 volunteers, the adopt-a-garden program, and funded by many grants, community partners, and related companies such as the FFA, Healthy Harvest, and the local art center. 

The over 18,000 guests who visit annually will enjoy themed garden spaces, including a child’s garden with organized activities, an open area for running, jumping, or walking, and garden tables where friends can meet up and share lunch or a cup of tea!

#2 – To Be Inspired!

While wandering the gardens, you won’t want to miss the 23 themed gardens on site, such as the Hosta Garden, a Butterfly Garden, a Bird Garden, a Shade Garden, a children’s garden, and so many more I can’t list them all.  All garden spaces connect with beautiful walking paths.  With all the paths, running water, and shady areas, this is a great place to enjoy a peaceful afternoon.

I am not a naturally skilled gardener, so wandering the themed garden spaces gave me ideas of what I can plant together in my yard. I also got to take a look at some mature plants to see how large some plants can get.

a sign in front of butterfly-friendly plants reads "Monarch Waystation"
Image by Veronicajune Photography
Pink background with "Hip Grandma Merch" available on front

#3 – To Get Exercise!

When I was recently visiting, I enjoyed a free line dancing class held in a shaded area.  The instructor had a microphone so I could hear her loud and clear, and the dance moves were simple and fun.  As a woman with two certified left feet, I felt no worries about taking a spin around the dance patio with these ladies!  Everyone in attendance was in great spirits and was welcoming and happy to share the shaded spaces.

A woman with pink hair makes dance moves in a group setting

Don’t miss out on reading about my journey to Iowa in: The 9 Best Roadside Attractions You Must See on Your Road Trip Through Iowa

#4 – To Entertain the Grandkids (or kids)!

Are the Central Gardens Child-Friendly?

You bet they are!  The Bee Happy Discovery Garden is a large area dedicated to children and their families.  This space boasts raised garden beds, stone pathways, and lots of room for running and jumping.  There’s even a chicken coop on site with chickens in residence.  A community grant provided funding for the chicken coop.

The day I visited, temperatures were in the 90s. Volunteers temporarily relocated the chickens to a space off-site where they could be out of the hot summer sun.  I’m glad to know that no chickens were harmed for the sake of our visit!

A wooden work of art to look like a person made of 2 x 4's in North Iowa's Central Gardens
Image by Veronicajune Photography

I had the pleasure of chatting with volunteer Lee in the children’s area. Lee told me about the many offerings for kids at Central Gardens.  The volunteers choose plants for the raised beds based on an annual theme, so you will find vegetables growing that fit.  This year’s theme is Asian and Italian cooking, so you will find delightful items such as giant radishes, broccoli rapini, mustard greens, bok choy, and basil, to name a few.

If I lived closer to the gardens, I would certainly bring my 14-year-old son and my 3-year-old grandson over on Friday mornings to learn with them about gardening, since it doesn’t come naturally to me!

Every Friday morning, the gardens host an event called “Fresh on Friday,” and visitors can purchase a variety of items grown in the Busy Bee Discovery Garden by donating.  What a great way to learn and get your child involved in digging in the dirt and watching their seeds grow into edible plants!

a volunteer waters the raised garden beds at the Central Gardens in North Iowa
Image by Veronicajune Photography

You can follow their Facebook page HERE to see updates on all the kids’ events! 

multi-colored background with the words "let's be friends" printed on top with "click here to join the facebook group"

Special Events at Central Gardens

Central Gardens hosts many, many events annually.  In 2022, the Gardens have over 70 special events scheduled, including the annual Garden Party Fundraiser, a Garden Fiesta celebrating Latinx culture, a Recycling Education Class, Golf Croquet, Cooking Classes, and so many more!

Be sure and keep an eye on their website to see all of the upcoming events!

If you’re looking for a proper location to celebrate an outdoor wedding or another private event, you will want to check it out. Visitors and locals can rent the gardens and wowza! I would be booking in advance because, with this level of beauty, I’m guessing they book up fast!

chairs are set up in rows on green grass in front of a large circular structure
Image by Veronicajune Photography

The 9 Best Roadside Attractions You Must See on Your Road Trip Through Iowa

#5 – To Learn About Local History

One of my traveling buddies who lives in the Clear Lake area pointed out that the land on which Central Gardens sits used to be the home of the “Central Schools” of Clear Lake.  The school building was 100 years old and actively served to educate local children from 1888 to 1988.  The time finally came to relocate the school and house the students in a shiny new building. The City of Clear Lake eventually came to own the property and chose to turn the land into a green space just shy of 3 acres.

The townspeople rallied around this idea, and many community members saw the value in a green space and a public garden.  These community members made the dream a reality that over 18,000 people enjoy each year!

Workers broke ground in 2002, and have since added the Moon Gate (as seen in the Garden Party area), the Nature Education Pavilion, and several other beautiful structures.

a pathway winds through a well-tended public garden
Image by Veronicajune Photography

Wrapping it all Up

The Central Gardens of North Iowa dazzles.  There’s no doubt about it; this is a beautiful place to spend a summer morning line dancing, an afternoon tea in the gardens, or an evening garden party!  The best way to spend a summer day is in nature, and Central Gardens has you covered!  Check it out.  Tell them the Hip Grandma sent you!

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PIN image for Central Gardens Post showing wooden man statue with title

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