116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
STORM LAKE — Sure, you’ve heard of Okoboji, Spirit Lake and the Iowa Great Lakes, but do you know about their underrated cousin a few miles south?
In the heart of northwest Iowa’s Buena Vista County, a little more than three hours away from Cedar Rapids, is a hidden gem offering almost as much as the popular resort destinations at a fraction of the price.
Storm Lake — the fourth largest glacier lake in Iowa, spanning 3,200 acres — is a destination that feels like somewhere in the middle of nowhere.
Dip your toes in the water with me as we look at the amenities of the lake, places to see, and diverse international restaurant flavors that helps Storm Lake punch in well above its weight in the Iowa dining scene.
Little Storm Lake
Next to the “big” Storm Lake, let’s look at Little Storm Lake. The wetland adjacent to the lake, a small habitat for birds and aquatic vegetation, offers an even quieter calm away from the waves of Storm Lake, near the corner of 85th Avenue and Iowa Highway 110 in the city of Storm Lake. This wetland serves as a place for the lake’s rushing waters to slow and drop sediment before entering larger lake basins. There, microbial activity detoxifies water in the process.
After walking past informational signs on a short trail through a wooded area, you’ll reach a pier. Climb to the top for a view that goes for miles over cattails, wind turbines and fields with a stillness that seems almost impervious to the prevalent wind, at times.
Venture onto the boardwalk to be immersed in the cattails, where red-winged black birds, cardinals and other birds rehearse a cacophony of different songs whose melodies somehow work together for a calming presence.
Big Storm Lake
Storm Lake’s primary body of water offers several parks stretching across the shoreline with miles of trails, multiple docks and an array of recreational opportunities.
From Buena Vista University on the town’s west side, start at Scout Park and work your way east to Chautauqua Park, where a recently restored jetty offers a chance to be right on the water without getting wet. Multiple entry points around the lake offer the chance to go fishing, boating or water skiing.
Thanks to an unusually diverse population brought to The City Beautiful by a nearby meatpacking plant, you’ll hear dozens of different tongues around town and as you taste nearly as many types of food ready for the most adventurous palates.
In this small town of around 10,000, you can sample cuisine from El Salvador, Honduras, Vietnam, Thailand, Macedonia, Laos, Mexico and several African nations.
Be sure to check out local favorites like La Juanitas taqueria for Mexican food, Lakeshore Pho for pan-Asian options and La Original for pupusas (a thick corn tortilla stuffed with your choice of meats, beans and cheese) from El Salvador. Most restaurants, run by immigrants who have come to call Storm Lake home, offer unparalleled authenticity at prices significantly cheaper than similar cuisine found in other cities.
Visitors will find several budget friendly hotels and motels around town. Cabins like Sunrise Cottages and other campground options, including Sunrise Campground, offer a place to stay just a few steps away from the shore.
If you’re looking for more luxe accommodations, check out King’s Pointe Resort and Waterpark. On the shore of Storm Lake, King’s Pointe has a variety of room options, including suites with balconies overlooking the lake and cottages. A downstairs restaurant, bar and indoor and outdoor water park complement other nearby amenities for guests like mini golf, nine-hole golf and fire pits.
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