Thousands of people visit the Surf Ballroom every year and many of these visits could be considered as musical pilgrimages. Because going to Surf Ballroom is like going back in time to the early days of rock ‘n’ roll as this venue played an important role in the development of twentieth century music in the USA. There is also a rather macabre element.

Surf Ballroom was where Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper played their final gig – just a few hours before their fatal plane crash.

The ballroom remains largely as it did on the evening of 2nd February, 1959 when Buddy Holly bowed to his delighted audience and left the stage never to perform again. Just a few hours later, the chartered aircraft carrying Holly (22), Valens (17), J.P ‘The Big Bopper’ Richardson (28) and their pilot Roger Peterson (21) crashed in bad weather killing everyone on board.

And the ballroom where that final gig was played is now a time capsule, even though it is still a venue for concerts and dances.

But it has also become a tourist attraction over the years and now features a museum. But much of the ballroom itself can be classed as a museum in its own right as it has hardly changed since the day of Buddy Holly’s last performance. You can even see the 1950s style telephone from which Holly called his wife, Maria Elena, just a few hours before he died.

Depending on the season, the ballroom is open every day for visitors, For no charge (but a suggested $5 donation) you can  take a self-guided tour and explore the entire place, including the backstage and dressing room areas. If you prefer a guided tour, the cost is only $6.


The crash site is only a short distance from the Surf Ballroom. Please see the following directions or the map below.

From the Surf Ballroom drive north on Buddy Holly Place. Turn right at the stoplight onto US Hwy 18. After half a mile, turn left at the stoplight onto N. 8th St. Drive. Drive north for about five miles. As the road bends left, turn right onto gravel 310th St. Drive a quarter-mile, then turn left onto gravel Gull Ave. Drive a half-mile. You’ll see the big eyeglasses on the left, at the intersection of 315th St.


Surf Ballroom

460 North Shore Drive
Clear Lake, Iowa 50428

Crash site




JJ is originally from the UK and has lived in South Florida since 1994. She is the founder and editor of JAQUO Magazine. You can connect with her using the social media icons below.

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