Whenever we visit a new destination, we keep our eyes open for a theme. Some cities are all about history, while others can focus on family fun. As we made our way through Mason City, we quickly realized this Iowa city is overflowing with artistic subjects. While it has plenty of history to discover, it was the promise of art that caught our attention. With just about 24 hours in Mason City, we were going to have to make the most of every minute. After a quick stop at the local tourism bureau, we dove into our artful explorations.
We want to thank Visit Mason City and all of the local businesses for hosting our visit. Rest assured all opinions are our own.
We parked our car at Central Park, which is located in the heart of downtown. Our research had shown us that this is a very walkable town, which would allow for some up-close views. A visit to Mason City would be incomplete without a stop at the home of a local celebrity. Meredith Willson is a name that is synonymous with The Music Man. The first attraction on our list was the composer’s boyhood home. After our informative tour, we made our way into Music Man Square. This recreation of a 1912 street feels like walking onto the set of the musical. It also includes a museum featuring artifacts from the classic movie.
Our appetite for art was now primed, so we made our way to stop number two. The Charles MacNider Art Museum is FREE to the public, which is an added bonus for art lovers. Inside, we found plenty of local art from around the Midwest. There were pieces from familiar artists, like Thomas Hart Benton, as well as plenty from people new to us. We enjoyed learning about new-to-us artists who we will watch for in future excursions.
Our next point of interest took us down the road to grassroots art. Rancho Deluxe is a collection of miscellaneous artifacts. This stop would end up reminding us of our time in Lucas, Kansas, which is referred to as the Grassroots Art Capital of Kansas. This place is easy to spot with the shiny hubcaps and bicycle arch marking the entrance. The inside brought more eye candy into view. Large concrete blocks were decorated with interesting artwork. Weaving through the maze of rocks, we found some recognizable images that brought smiles to our faces.
Fueling Our Exploring
Not all art has to be for viewing. We found plenty of artistic images in the meals we devoured around Mason City. Whether we were just grabbing a quick sandwich for lunch, a light breakfast, or a chef-inspired dinner, there were plenty of reasons to celebrate. The town has quite the collection of dining options and our only regret was only having 24 hours in Mason City. We even squeezed in time for a visit to an iconic local ice cream shop, which has been serving guests since 1931.
We made our way back to Central Park to grab our bags from the car. Our lodging for the night was right across the street, which was quite convenient. The Historic Park Inn has the distinction of being the last remaining hotel designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. This Midwest architect is widely considered the greatest ever to design structures in America. His “Prairie School” style is easily recognized by the familiar geometric shapes and patterns. The Park Inn is a 27-room boutique lodging option that is a delight to experience.
During our 24 hours in Mason City, we learned that it has the nickname of River City. With the Winnebago River cutting a path through the heart of the town, this made perfect sense. The town’s residents have embraced the moniker and we found it repeated in the name of various businesses. They even have an abundance of outdoor artwork that is viewable as the River City Sculptures on Parade. With nearly six dozen unique statues, we had a blast checking as many as possible off of our map. The entire collection encompasses a 1.7-mile walk, so it was quite reasonable to add it to our day’s walk.
24 Hours in Mason City
As you can tell, we spent a very busy 24 hours in Mason City, Iowa. This Midwest town is filled to the brim with artistic endeavors and we only wish we would have had more time to explore. While our time ran out far too soon, you can plan your own escape to the city and be sure to allow even more time for discovery. We are sure that you will fall in love with the small-town charm that is found throughout the city. Make sure you allow opportunities to interact with the locals, who are friendly and welcoming. It’s another great destination for a weekend getaway that’s easy to reach from all over the Midwest.