Mason City Iowa

Mason City Iowa inspired playwright Meredith Willson when he created the iconic play The Music Man. The northern Iowa town has come a long way since Wilson lived there at the beginning of the 20th century, but it continues to celebrate its connection to the much-loved tale. Mason City is also home to fantastic architecture inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright and one of the coolest art museums in the region, the MacNider Art Museum.

Mason City Iowa History

Mason city, Iowa
Mason city, Iowa

Before the European settlers arrived, the land near Clear Lake was home to the Winnebago and Sioux. The first settlers came in 1853 and named it Mason City. By 1870, the town had its first mayor. Mason City found early success shipping freight and making bricks, thanks to the railroad and the Winnebago River. In 1907, Frank Lloyd Wright and his associates began working on new buildings around town. Today, Mason City Iowa remains one of the best places anywhere to find Prairie School architecture, including homes, a hotel, and the City National Bank, one of the proud features of downtown today called the City Center.

Mason’s City brush with fame began in the 1950s when Willson composed a musical based on his experiences playing in the high school band. After a successful run on Broadway, Warner Brothers made a movie of The Music Man. It debuted on June 19, 1962, in Mason City when Robert Preston, Shirley Jones and the other cast members came to Iowa.

Mason City Iowa Attractions

Mason City Iowa Attractions
Mason City Iowa Attractions

The fun of the movie lives on with Music Man Square, styled as a 1912 streetscape. Beyond the square, the list of things to do in and around Mason City Iowa includes a mix of favorite activities and one-of-a-kind attractions. Wilson’s childhood home, a Queen-Anne gem, is open for tours, as is the factory where they make Winnebago RVs. With a visit to Clear Lake, you could go swimming or fishing or take a relaxing trip on the Lady of the Lake. For those interested in the Prairie School of Architecture, they can pick up a tour booklet at the McNider Museum of Art to learn more about Mason City’s architecture. A visit to the Frank Lloyd Wright Stockman House & Interpretive Center is in order too.

Mason City Hotels & Lodging

Mason City Hotels & Lodging
Mason City Hotels & Lodging

The Park Inn Hotel was also designed by Wright; it’s the last hotel he designed that still welcomes overnight guests. While maintaining its historic character, the hotel has transformed into a boutique hotel with 27 rooms and modern amenities. Several of the familiar-name brands have properties in Mason City. Diamond Jo Casino in neighboring Northwood is across the street from a Country Inn and a Holiday Inn Express.

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