Things to do in Storm Lake, Iowa
Come for the lake – and be surprised by the parks and the diverse dining.
I was ready for swimming, biking, and putting my feet in the lake. And those things were wonderful. But the two items that surprised me the most were their city parks and diverse dining. They have a number of lakeside pocket parks that each have unique features or attractions. As you walk or ride bikes, you’ll be anxious to get to the next park to see what it offers.
Storm Lake is just over 10,000 people and is one of the most diverse communities in Iowa – and it shows in its dining. Storm Lake is blessed with an abundance of local and authentic dining experiences.
Disclaimer: This trip was hosted by Storm Lake United, they provided lodging and a portion of our meals. However, we selected all of the locations to visit and the opinions are our own.
Why is it called Storm Lake?
There are multiple stories related to the naming of Storm Lake: the most popular story and the most romantic. Let’s start with the most romantic. A Sioux maiden was forbidden to marry into another tribe, so the two eloped across the lake in a canoe. A storm capsized their canoe and they both drowned, leading the Sioux to name it Storm Lake.
The more widely accepted version involves surveyors who were checking out the area and found that the lake was unnamed. The surveyors were forbidden from naming the lake, so they asked an old trapper if he would name the lake. The trapper responded that he would wait until the morning. That evening a storm rolled through which blew away the trapper’s tent – leading him to provide the name of Storm Lake.
Attractions in Storm Lake, Iowa
The star attraction in town is, of course, the lake. Storm Lake is the fourth largest glacial lake in Iowa and is known for boating and fishing. You can fish for channel catfish, black crappie, walleye, white bass, and yellow perch. In fact, we were told that the walleye were biting from the shoreline just a few weeks before our visit. There are two marinas on the lake, as well as a number of other entry points. There are also a number of public courtesy docks, especially at King’s Pointe Resort and Awaysis Park.
If you don’t own a boat – you can still enjoy the lake by using their rental watercraft. It’s located on the beach at Awaysis Park and is an automated rental system run by Kaloni. They have one and two-person kayaks, canoes, and paddleboats. If you see a watercraft secured to the rack, you simply take a picture of the code with your phone and it will pull up the Kaloni app, which will take your payment and get you access to the rental. The great part of this system is that there’s no waiting in line and no waiting until the rental place is open. If you spot something you like, use the Kaloni app to rent it, and be on your way! They also have life jackets (which are required) and oars/paddles.
Bike/walking trail along Storm Lake
Along the north shore of the lake is a paved trail that connects you to the numerous lakeside parks that feature public artwork. Either bring your own bike, rent one from King’s Pointe Resort or head to Lakeshore Cyclery for tandem or other unique bikes.
The bike rentals at King’s Pointe are also run by Kaloni (same as the small watercraft rentals) and is an automated system. There’s no waiting in line or waiting till the rental shop is open. If you feel like renting a bike for a sunrise ride – you can do just that!
Although there are plenty of options for renting – we elected to bring our own bikes. In fact, we were able to score a shoreline room at King’s Pointe Resort, which means we had ground-level access to the trail. And we took advantage of it. We were able to store our bikes in our room and then head out through the sliding glass doors to hit the trail early in the morning and even once at night.
Storm Lake should be incredibly proud of its parks. Most of the lakeshore parks are connected via a bike trail and each park has something unique, such as public art, docks, shelters, or sand volleyball. Every morning, I was up before sunrise to walk or bike along the lake – and every morning, I saw crews from the City of Storm Lake taking care of their parks, emptying trash, mowing lawns, and caring for flower beds. Their hard work shows as the city of Storm Lake has some gems for parks!
Here’s a quick look at some of the parks:
Adjacent to King’s Pointe Resort and is best known for the lighthouse that you can climb for views of the area. Also has a beach, family playground, automated kayak and canoe rentals, snack shack, greenspace, gardens, and public docks.
Best known for the Living Heritage Tree Museum, an odd collection of trees that are a descendent of a significant person or place in history. Some examples:
American Sycamore Moon – grown from a seed carried to the moon and back by Apollo 14.
Charter Oak is a descendant of the original Charter Oak tree in England.
Various trees with ties to Presidents Washington, Lincoln, and Grant.
Although the chainsaw sculptures are located all over town, Chautauqua Park has the largest concentration of sculptures.
Little Lake Discovery Boardwalk
It has an observation tower (not handicap accessible), but I thought the highlight was the floating boardwalk that takes you through the marsh to show you what wetlands are like. Most of the time, you get to view a wetland area from a distance, so it was unique to be able to walk into it. The signage along the boardwalk could use some updating, but it was certainly helpful in understanding the wetlands.
Public Art in Storm Lake, Iowa.
Scattered around the community of Storm Lake, you’ll find these painted lighthouse sculptures that were decorated by local artists.
When it comes to chainsaw sculptures, Storm Lake is king. Chautauqua Park appears to have the largest concentration of chainsaw sculptures. However, you’ll find them all over town, at parks, along trails, and even while shopping downtown. They recently started an annual event called Wood, Wine, & Blues which brings in chainsaw artists for a competition.
When we needed a break from the sun, we went into the downtown district in Storm Lake. Here’s a few of the shops we visited:
Sugar Bowl Gift Shop is a classic Hallmark store with lots of extras, including some unique sections on: Lake life, Iowa/Iowa State kids gear, kitchenware, farm toys, kids games, and more.
Junk Rescued It’s a co-op featuring restored and repurposed finds.
We also enjoyed Celia’s Antiques
During the summer months, also be sure to check out their Farmers Market which is held on Saturday mornings. We weren’t in town on Saturday during the market, but it’s something we certainly would have checked out – and encourage you to check out their online information at Storm Lake United Farmers Market Page.
Buena Vista University
We spent time touring the campus at Buena Vista University, which sits on the north shore of Storm Lake. Be sure to go into the Libray / Union area that is north of the stadium. The facilities on campus are gorgeous!
Places to eat in Storm Lake, Iowa
Your food options in Storm Lake are as diverse as the community itself. Options include Cuban, Mexican, Thai, and more. Here’s a quick glimpse of what we sampled.
(left) pina colada and pineapple margarita at La Isla Restaurant #2
(middle left) shrimp empanadas from La Isla Restaurant #2
(middle right) carne asada (beef steak) tacos at Taqueria La Juanita – Storm Lake
If it’s your first trip, order the Carne Asada (beef steak) taco and have them come just as they are, just the way they make them. You won’t be disappointed. I’ve heard from Iowa Road Trip followers who told me that they would drive for several hours just to eat at La Juanita and now I understand why.
(right) A few years back, Smokin’ Hereford BBQ won the award for the best hamburger in the state of Iowa. So I tried the half-pound burger with pepper jack cheese and it appears that they haven’t lost their touch.
Some other locations to consider while visiting Storm Lake:
Ying’s Kitchen for Thai
Regatta Grille – Located at Kings Pointe Resort featuring a variety of cuisine and a view of Storm Lake.
Time for a treat
After time in the sun and water, you’ll want to pick up some treats. Here are some of the places we sampled treats in Storm Lake, Iowa.
(left) Creme-filled bismark from Storm Lake Bakery. After my morning walk along the lake, my first stop was the Storm Lake Bakery. Lots to pick from, you’ll need a few minutes to decide.
(middle) Villager Restaurant – Thank you to the Iowa Road Trip followers who suggested that I stop at Villager just for a soft-serve sherbet cone. I certainly did not have this on my original list – but when I drove by the store, the digital signage flashed the word “SHERBET” and I instantly knew that I needed to pull a U-turn. This is a pineapple sherbet and vanilla twist cone – and it’s the SMALL size. I will admit, I was not expecting this to be sooooo good!
(right) Satisfy your sweet tooth at Storm Lake Candy Co. The highlights are their homemade ice cream and fudge. This is a shake made with homemade cookies and cream ice cream. This is just the regular milkshake (and it sure is pretty), but if you’re ready for a work of art, order one of their crazy shakes. They have a photo collection of their crazy shakes on the wall or ask them to create a unique masterpiece just for you!
Also stop at BozWellz Pub and Eaterie for their deserts. The owner makes all of her own deserts, including the ice cream!
Places to stay in Storm Lake, Iowa
Besides the lake itself, the most popular attraction seems to be King’s Pointe Resort. Accommodations include regular rooms, suites, and even 8-person cottages. There’s an indoor waterpark, an outdoor waterpark, and a courtesy dock for boats, fishing, or jumping in the lake!