Nestled in the heart of Clear Lake, Iowa, Central Gardens of North Iowa is North Iowa’s largest public garden. Central Gardens of North Iowa sits on 2.75 acres of land that was the former site of Central Intermediate School. Central Gardens of North Iowa (Central Gardens) is a 501(c)(3) non–profit corporation created in response to the need for green space in the region. Since opening its gates in 2005, Central Gardens has become a premiere outdoor educational, recreational, cultural, and social space not only for north Iowans, but for many other visitors as well, dedicated to making this public garden truly public.
There is no charge, although we always welcome donations! (There are donation boxes at both the south visitor entrance and in the Bee Happy Discovery Garden.). We are proud to be the only free, public garden space of its kind within a 90-mile radius.
We are located close to downtown Clear Lake, kitty corner from the Clear Lake Fire Department, on the corner of N. 8th Street and 2nd Ave. North.
We are open from May 1 through November 1, sunrise to sunset.
Yes. There is no password needed.
Yes, public restrooms are located in the northeast corner of the Mother Earth’s Workshop building. View our Garden Map.
Gardening engages kids by supplying a dynamic environment to observe, discover, experiment, nurture and learn. We aspire to help grow healthy kids from the ground up; growing fully not quickly. Gardens are really living laboratories where learning occurs from real life experiences and is fueled by a child’s natural curiosity and enthusiasm, resulting in an environment that encourages participation and responsibility. Our Growing Green Gardeners program is divided into Garden Explorers, aimed at kids from 0-12 and Team Harvest-Unite-Grow-Share(HUGS) for Middle school/High school youth. All youth programs are offered free of charge. We hope you will come grow with us!
Check out our upcoming events and calendar for details of special events.
Yes, we do! Our dedicated volunteers will welcome groups and give them a personalized tour.
Fresh on Fridays is one of our most popular programming events. Every Friday from 9 am-11 am, beginning in June, volunteers will pick fresh flowers for you and arrange them into a bouquet which is available for purchase. Informative lectures and fun programming for children also occur, and there are coffee, tea, and goodies available. Come catch up with your friends and enjoy the beauty of the Gardens!
Absolutely! There are so many beautiful vantage points for staging, most stunning of which is our Moon Gate Arch. If you’re a professional photographer and are bringing clients to the grounds, we ask that you become a member of the Gardens. View our Garden Policies.
By all means! We love having people meet at the Gardens for coffee, picnics, and other informal gatherings. We do not offer food for purchase, although at Fresh on Friday events we do have coffee, tea, and iced beverages available for which we welcome donations. We have receptacles throughout the garden in which to dispose of picnic waste materials.
Yes, there are sloped walkways throughout the Gardens and pavers leading to the public restrooms. Both floors of the Nature Education Pavilion are also accessible to people with limited mobility issues.
Not right now, but we’re hoping to have that in the future. Maps are available at the Gazebo at our main south entrance. Most visitors enjoy just strolling through the grounds, letting their interests and instincts guide them.
Yes. Central Gardens of North Iowa is the site of many outdoor weddings, birthday parties, reunions, and other celebrations. Not only are the grounds available for rent, so is our Nature Education Pavilion. Learn more about rental information.
Yes. We want to keep the Gardens beautiful for all to enjoy so we do have guidelines that we expect our guests to follow. View our Garden Policies.
We love having volunteers who have a green thumb come help us plant, prune, water, and weed. And we also welcome others who may not know the first thing about gardening, but appreciate the beauty of the Gardens and want to help in other ways. For example, we need help hosting coffees on Fresh on Fridays, soliciting members, giving tours, contributing to our Little Free Library, cleaning out our Mother Earth’s Workshop where we store gardening supplies, etc., etc. Learn more about volunteer opportunities.
It is the mission of Central Gardens of North Iowa, Inc. to provide a public, intergenerational garden environment that is welcoming, beautiful, calm, educational, recreational, and fun.
We have three permanent buildings on the grounds. The Nature Education Pavilion (NEP) has two meeting rooms and houses our non-profit corporation offices. The Mother Earth’s Workshop (MEWS) is where we store all of our gardening equipment, tools, and other supplies. The welcoming School Bell Gazebo at our south entrance is where you can find announcements, a visitor’s log, and other helpful information.
The city of Clear Lake leases the grounds to Central Gardens of North Iowa.
Not all of our visitors sign the guest log at the gazebo, but we conservatively estimate that we have nearly 18,000 visitors annually. We are proud to be a regional public garden.
The vision for a beautiful public garden space began in 2000, and was nurtured by many civic-minded and visionary individuals who saw the benefit of using the former school grounds for such a purpose. Major donations from both public and private entities provided the seed money. We’ve relied on the generosity of many groups and individuals since then to create and maintain such a beautiful space. Learn more about our history.
Memorials directed to Central Gardens of North Iowa are a lovely and permanent way to honor a loved ones memory. Learn more about donation and memorial opportunities.
No, although we can appreciate that people would like to see their own tastes reflected on the grounds. In order to preserve artistic and aesthetic consistency, our design committee identifies what types of donations we would welcome. Learn more about donation opportunities.
We have various membership levels. Learn more about our memberships to support Central Gardens of North Iowa. We would love to count you as a member!
We rely on memberships, gifts and donations, memorials, revenue from plant and flower sales and other special events, and grant awards to keep our gates open. Find out the many ways you can support the Gardens.