2021 T-Bone Trail · Iowa Food · Northwest Iowa

Clay County, Iowa: Hitting the Highways, Byway, & Spencer in a Grand Way

*There’s a lot of sunny-warm days left on the calendar, and that means it’s still prime time road trip season. NW-Iowa saw a lot of our travels this year, and that included a visit to Spencer for us! It was a rainy day, when we showed up to Spencer, but that wasn’t going to stop us! Our trip was sponsored by the Iowa Lakes Corridor Development Corporation. Some of the goods, services, and meals were complimentary. The views expressed in this blog post are of our own. Now, let’s Gallivant!

This is a big giant slide. You know what they call it? The Big Giant Slide! It’s Clay County Fair week and you’re going to see some great Clay County sites that you can enjoy when you’re in the area anytime of year!

Clay County, Iowa

Who doesn’t love a huge annual event like the local county fair. However, Clay County’s is not your average run of the mill collection of rides, farm animals, food trucks, and packed grand stands. Yes, they have all of that, but this event is HUGE! It’s one of the world’s largest county fairs and that’s why they call it the World’s Greatest County Fair! Seriously folks, the town of Spencer swells with visitors that travel from all over the country to experience this massive event that showcases an unbelievable amount of entertainment. County fairs drip with nostalgic Americana moments with every minute you spend at them, and the Clay County locals organize one of the best you’re ever going to enjoy. That being said, there’s a lot of the area you can see while you’re here that’s outside of the fairgrounds. Let’s get out and take in as much of this exciting, relaxing, entertaining, and food loving county in NW-Iowa!

Grand Avenue

Did you remember your lunchbox today? You’ll never have to worry about finding it when you’re in Spencer, Iowa. The Lunchbox on Grand Ave has the home cooking you want! See that liver and onions special? I wasn’t kidding about that home cooking!

A Lunchbox breakfast! Now, I like how that sounds especially when there’s going to be a busy day ahead, and when I’m in need of a great meal first thing in the morning. I also like it when I can order my breakfast and get right back on the road when I receive it. The Lunchbox was just the restaurant I was looking for with a local feel to it!

Breakfast burrito coming right up and flying out the to-go window! There’s a big Spencer smile greeting you in the morning right there!
Served nice and hot and loaded with all the lovely ingredients we like in a fulfilling breakfast and then wrapped in a warm flour tortilla. Eggs, bacon, salsa, potatoes, cheese….Just get to The Lunchbox and take a huge bite from your own beautiful breakfast burrito in Spencer!

Icons come in many shapes and sizes. Some icons come in delicious patty form and smothered in peanut butter. Spencer is known for some great reasons and one of them is the Weaser Pleaser at Weasy’s!

It’s not hard to find. Put the GPS down and look for that bright green signage on Grand Ave!
Do I dislike a rainy afternoon while I’m gallivanting? Not when I can duck into Weasy’s and ride out the weather with a couple cold ones!
The Weaser Pleaser! A mixture of ground beef and sausage that’s topped with bacon, Pepper Jack cheese, creamy peanut butter, and served on grilled Texas toast. You’re looking at a Spencer legend right there!

You like to stay active? Then bring your bike to Spencer and hit the trail while you’re here! Grand Ave is home to a trusty bike shop called Bikes, Boards & Shades which means they can supply you with anything your cycling heart desires. Having a local bike shop is a big plus for visitors when their multiple wheeled friends need babied and taken care of a little.

Great place for all you thrashers and Hollywood types needing a new pair of shades….

Those trails I was talking about are just off of Grand Ave and Leach Park is one of my all-time favorite happy places in all of Iowa. This trail runs parallel with the Little Sioux River and into some wonderfully shaded stretches.

Down the path, through the timber, and along the banks of the Little Sioux that has been linking up with us through so many of our travels throughout NW-Iowa this summer.
It’s right here. For some reason this muddy spot in Spencer gets my imagination swirling every time. It’s where NW-Iowa comes together at the confluence of the Little Sioux and Ocheyedan rivers.
I don’t care if I’m gushing with praise. I respect and cherish this sliver of Iowa and I will always do my best to return to this very confluence whenever I’m in Spencer.
I’ll happily share these moments in Spencer with my girl, Gigi any day. I love this trail in Leach Park.
Yup. Not leaving Leach Park until sunset. Watch as many as you can from this historic bridge on Grand Ave in Spencer.

Highway 18

There’s another district of businesses that Spencer is home to and there’s some tasty options on its path as well. HWY 18-Spencer is home to restaurants, big box retailers, more shops, hotels, and a very unique grocery store. Yes, I am in need of some tacos at the local taqueria!

La Morenita can bring you in for some taco loving moments we all crave.
Authentic and amazing. Tacos loaded with delicious meats of your choice, cilantro, chopped onions, lime wedges, and served on warm soft corn tortillas.

La Morenita isn’t the only Mexican food option that’s just off of HWY 18-Spencer. Plaza Mexico had the appetizer that was calling to us! Just for your information…I have no willpower when I know there’s a quesadilla around the corner. An I know I’m not the only one….

A big platter is needed for Plaza Mexico’s powerful quesadilla!
Cheesy, beefy, and much needed for a late afternoon snack for a table of Gallivanters!

Check-In

We’re not done with this HWY 18 promo just yet. We have a hotel to check into and it was time for us to get to know Spencer’s Days Inn & Suites!

On the south end of town and not far from where you want to go in Spencer, Iowa! 10 11th Street SE 712-580-4077
Sun shining into the lobby and where you’ll be devouring your complimentary breakfast in the morning at the Days Inn & Suites!
The indoor pool didn’t look like that for long. Team Goodvin was about to cause some waves in Spencer!
Once again…These comfortable beds, with clean sheets in a very nicely air conditioned room, didn’t look like this for long. This inviting room had some nap time qualities, and that was going to happen!
That’s right, Charlie! Load up that fridge with our road trip snacks! And get out of the way of the flat screen TV. Geesh, dude….

Check-in and forget about climbing back into the car for awhile. We needed a break and Spencer’s answer to that was at the Days Inn & Suites! Very clean room and well managed throughout the entire hotel. The staff was getting many rooms ready for a busy weekend ahead any still took time to make us feel welcomed. Positioned just off of HWY 18 which means there’s plenty of options to get a meal. However, I wanted to keep the car parked and forget about revving it up for the rest the night. The Days Inn & Suites is perfectly located for just that sort of request. Let’s meet the Clay County rep on the Western Iowa T-Bone Trail!

Let’s Eat Steak!

Are you getting the hang of this “just off of HWY 18” theme? One of the most popular NW-Iowa steakhouses was in the backyard of our hotel and I think you can guess what The Prime Rib Restaurant & Lounge is famous for! Hey, they have a Grand Ave address, too! What a great stretch of Spencer!

The Prime Rib is where you’ll find Spencer’s local crowds congregating and they know how to bring in the visitors as well. I was so glad we were able to experience this Spencer, Iowa legend! 1205 South Grand Ave
Look at that huge smile! Another cold one was waiting for me at The Prime Rib! How’d they know I’d like one of those?

The Prime Rib atmosphere was a trip into the Spencer night that’s been entertaining their large fan base for a very long time. The talented cooks were preparing some of the classic dishes that have made this restaurant so popular for so many reasons. Great food, delightful service, caring ownership, and plenty of cold beverages getting poured and mixed for the constant incoming customers!

Don’t waffle over your decision on whether or not to get an appetizer at The Prime Rib. Just come in with a game plan and order a plate of these fried Walleye cheeks. You don’t see them on every menu, so treat a yourself to a plate while you’re in Spencer!
The Prime Rib could very well have one of the best salad bars in the state. House made dressings and nostalgic mayonnaise based salads that us Midweties go ga-ga for. Chilled shrimp, pickled herring, and a lot of crisp veggies to pile onto your plate as you watch it carefully run out of real estate with every spoonful. Where would I be in life without cottage cheese?

It’s go-time! That means it’s time for the entrees and my buddy Oscar to make their headlining appearances in Spencer at The Prime Rib! Who the heck is Oscar? Just click on the video below and see what I have say about this historic steakhouse that’s a friend to many!

The story of an extremely pleased traveling lover of Iowa’s restaurants. Played out again in Spencer!
There was no way I was turning down a thick-cut slice of Prime Rib at a place called The Prime Rib! Creamy hollandaise, crab, and asparagus covering a juicy meal in Spencer…Yup, that was a pleasure to write. And eat! That’s ordering a steak Oscar-style, my dear readers.
Loaded mashed potatoes to round out this extravaganza at The Prime Rib. Crispy bacon, melted cheese, and chopped green onions. Not just for baked potatoes anymore!

Kiss my wife goodnight-that was awesome! I loved the ambiance, the brilliant salad bar, and that precious Prime Rib here at The Prime Rib. (I love that phrase) What I enjoyed the most was the company I had when I showed up and throughout my meal. Carol welcomed me in and had such a genuine way of interacting with me while I enjoyed my time at The Prime Rib. Owning and running a restaurant is a busy way of life and I know how every moment of time is important during a busy night. Thank you to everyone at The Prime Rib. The front of the house and the back of the house. You all did a fantastic job and Spencer is incredibly lucky to have The Prime Rib bringing folks into town!

Highway 71

The time to hit the road and drive to the next county was going to happen at some point. We were heading south on HWY 71 and discovered more of what’s great about Clay County along the way. And you knew we would! Shall we play some disc golf….

The Royal, Iowa treatment in Clay County!
We were pleasantly surprised to see this course when we wandered into Royal. Well designed and helped us stay active during our 3 week road trip through Western Iowa. You like Connect Four? You can play it here with your own discs and Frisbees!
Beautiful Clay County skies on a nice summer day. There’s more than one way to take a “drive” into Royal, Iowa!
Time to see an old friend for the last time this summer. Kindlespire Complex was where we’d say goodbye.
Yes, we have time for another Western Iowa hike on another wooded trail in yet another memorable county park. A constant activity we were enjoying during the entire summer.
That old friend I was talking about is the Little Sioux River. Through many counties, miles of roads, and over several bridges/overpasses. The beauty of the Little Sioux highlighted some of Western Iowa’s most scenic moments we had over the summer. It’s been one of my favorite interior Iowa rivers for many years, and it was always a pleasing and a memorable sight to see over and over again. Thank you, Little Sioux and to every sunrise, sunset, chirp, breeze, buzzing insect, and memory you’ve given me this year. See you again, my friend.

Glacial Trail Scenic Byway

Hold on! Let’s go in reverse a little bit. We didn’t talk about what we did right when we got to Clay County the previous morning! We haven’t skipped a drive on Western Iowa’s scenic byways all summer long, and we weren’t going to pass-up another trip down the Glacial Trail!

Going through multiple NW-Iowa counties including Clay’s southern reaches is the Glacial Trail Scenic Byway!

This wasn’t the first time the Glacial Trail Scenic Byway made it to The Iowa Gallivant. It’s more like the 6th and most of those appearances happened this summer! This byway is for anyone who thinks that Iowa’s scenery “never changes”. How about “never” thinking that again. Save some time to wander off our main interstate systems and enjoy our scenic byways from time to time. One day on the Glacial Trail will put away that “Iowa is so flat” myth as well.

Near the town of Peterson, Iowa is this break from the road and a charming way to get a walk in. Stretch out those legs and keep the energy up when you’re on the Glacial Trail!
We adore road tripping and staying active is big part of that. We also search for ANY historic landmarks along the way and off our set path. That’s the essence of The Iowa Gallivant. Now we know a little something about Peterson’s former schools. One room and up!
These local memorials find their way into our travels all the time. I find myself reading the names more and more the older I get.

Clay County is bursting with county fair goers this week. The late summer rites of NW-Iowa that always follows the state fair in Des Moines. I love it when a community cherishes everyday of summer and Spencer certainly does that in a massive way. There’s much more to see in this area and I encourage anyone to see all you can when you’re visiting Spencer during the fair and all year long. You can get those funnel cakes to go, by the way. Grab one and Gallivant through the area and create your own amazing road trip in this scenic and inviting county. Then put the car into a grinding stop and circle back to Spencer for another funnel cake! Repeat….

Be sure to like the T-Bone Trail-Western Iowa on Facebook!

Make your reservation for Days Inn & Suites-Spencer on their website.

Like Iowa Lakes Corridor Development Corporation on Facebook.

Like Western Iowa Tourism Region on Facebook.

Like the Iowa Beef Council on Facebook and keep up with info, updates, events, and promotions!

See everything we’ve covered on The Iowa Gallivant in the Northwest Region of Iowa!

Goodnight from the Little Sioux River….

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