Explore Cedar Rapids: 15 Best Things to Do in Cedar Rapids Iowa

Discover the best things to do in Cedar Rapids Iowa with our comprehensive guide. From cultural landmarks and outdoor adventures to culinary delights and artistic treasures, uncover the exceptional experiences that await in this vibrant city.

Table of Contents

  1. Discovering the Czech Village and New Bohemia District
  2. Uncover History at Brucemore Estate
  3. Engage with Nature at Indian Creek Nature Center
  4. Celebrate African American Heritage
  5. Artistic Encounters at Cedar Rapids Museum of Art
  6. Step Back in Time at Ushers Ferry Historic Village
  7. Adventure Awaits at Cedar River
  8. Marketplace Fun at NewBo City Market
  9. Performing Arts at Paramount Theatre
  10. Family-Friendly Outings at Bever Park
  11. Ice Skating Thrills at Cedar Rapids Ice Arena
  12. Golf and Recreation at Ellis Park
  13. Hiking with a View at Mount Trashmore
  14. Fresh Finds at Cedar Rapids Farmers Market
  15. Cycle the Scenic Hiawatha Bike Trail
  16. Summary
  17. Frequently Asked Questions

Discovering the Czech Village and New Bohemia District

Experience the pulse of Central European culture as you stroll through the historic Czech Village and New Bohemia District of Cedar Rapids, savoring their delectable cuisines. This district, located in eastern Iowa, exudes a distinctive Central European aura, a testament to the Czech and Slovak immigrants who made the city their home in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Wandering through the streets reveals a myriad of unique culinary experiences, from the craft beers and pretzels at Lion Bridge Brewery to the fresh sandwiches, salads, and soups at Lu’s Deli. The district’s commitment to arts is evident in the large murals and numerous pieces of public art that celebrate its culture, heritage, and growth.

Savory Bites and Cultural Delights

Explore the Czech Village and New Bohemia District, biting into Cedar Rapids’ diverse culinary scene. Embark on a gastronomic journey, tasting everything from:

  • Lucky’s on 16th’s breakfast offerings
  • Midwestern comfort food at Rodina
  • Plant-based food at The Full Bowl in the NewBo City Market
  • Treats from Almost Famous Popcorn, Sweet Mercantile, or Lori Ann’s Candies

No doubt, the district’s food options are among the best things to enjoy in Cedar Rapids!

Art and History Collide

Food isn’t the only draw in the Czech Village and New Bohemia District; it’s also a key center for cultural events. This district is a key center for National Czech cultural events that reflect the rich heritage of the Czech and Slovak communities, including the Slovak Museum.

Imagine attending weekly concerts at the CSPS Hall, where new, upcoming, and international artists take the stage. Or perhaps you’d like to join the monthly Art Walks, a collaboration between The Cherry Building and CSPS Hall, transforming the district into a showcase for local art and artists.

Make sure you visit the Gilded Pear Gallery, which boasts an impressive collection of contemporary art. The gallery features works from over 70 artists. Indeed, the district is a haven for history buffs and a vibrant hub for American art.

Uncover History at Brucemore Estate

Let’s now venture to the historic Brucemore Estate, a National Trust Historic Site. This 26-acre estate is a hub for history, preservation, and the arts, offering a platform for art and theater events that captivate the community. Here, you can explore the unique character of the site through a variety of seasonal events that invite visitors to enjoy the estate’s gardens and seasonal changes on their own terms.

From creative seasonal workshops to festive holiday events, Brucemore Estate offers a delightful blend of history and entertainment.

Seasonal Splendor and Events

Brucemore Estate springs to life with each changing season. The estate hosts a variety of seasonal events that showcase its unique charm. Some of these events include:

  • Modern Salon featuring music, stories, wine tasting, and desserts in the mansion’s Great Hall
  • Creative workshops in collaboration with the Iowa Ceramics Center and Glass Studio
  • Holiday Nights event during winter, with over a dozen Christmas trees and twinkling lights
  • Hands-on workshops to create your own glass holiday trees or clay holiday gnomes

These events offer a chance to experience the beauty and magic of Brucemore Estate throughout the year.

Whether it’s spring, summer, fall, or winter, Brucemore Estate offers a myriad of activities that make it a must-visit destination year-round. Its reputation as a hub for history, preservation, and the arts is well-deserved, as it has been voted a USA Today Top 10 Best Historic Holiday Home in 2019 and 2021. From the vibrant colors of the gardens to the festive holiday lights, the estate promises to offer a visual treat, no matter the season.

Arts and Performances

Beyond history and seasonal events, Brucemore also serves as a vibrant stage for the arts. The estate hosts the following:

  • “Live from the Artisan Studio” series, where you can enjoy acoustic performances from emerging artists
  • Musical productions in collaboration with Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre
  • Outdoor summer theatre camps for children in collaboration with Theatre Cedar Rapids, providing educational experiences in the performing arts.

From musical concerts to theatre productions, the Brucemore Estate offers a rich array of artistic experiences.

Engage with Nature at Indian Creek Nature Center

Nature enthusiasts are sure to fall in love with the Indian Creek Nature Center. This center offers educational programs designed to connect visitors with Iowa’s natural landscapes and wildlife. You can engage in a variety of activities, from workshops and programs to nature walks, all designed for visitors of all ages and backgrounds.

And while you’re there, don’t forget to check out the Amazing Space building, which serves as a sustainable gateway to the trails and offers interactive displays for indoor bird watching.

Trails and Bird Watching

Exploring the Indian Creek Nature Center uncovers:

  • Over 200 acres of trails winding through restored wetlands, prairies, and woodlands
  • Trails designed to be accessible year-round, allowing for nature walks and bird watching in every season
  • A variety of outdoor activities, from hiking and fishing to cross-country skiing in the winter

And if you’re a bird lover, you’re in for a treat. The center is recognized as a prime location for bird watching, with a diverse variety of bird species observed in their natural habitats. Whether you’re a hiker, a bird watcher, or simply a nature lover, the Indian Creek Nature Center promises a delightful outdoor experience.

Sustainability Education

The Indian Creek Nature Center uniquely commits to sustainability. The Amazing Space building at the center has received LEED Platinum certification, demonstrating sustainable features such as geothermal heating, solar power, and rainwater harvesting. These features aren’t just for show; they’re also used as educational tools in the center’s sustainability programs.

So, as you explore the trails and observe the wildlife, you’re also learning about eco-friendly practices and the importance of sustainability.

Celebrate African American Heritage

Also nestled in Cedar Rapids is the African American Museum of Iowa, a hub that honors the contributions of African Americans through culture and education. The museum showcases the rich heritage and pivotal experiences that have shaped the region and beyond. Welcoming over 30,000 visitors annually, the museum serves as a beacon of knowledge and understanding, illustrating the significant role it plays in the community.

Interactive Exhibits for Kids

More than an educational resource, the African American Museum of Iowa doubles as a fun and interactive learning playground for kids. The museum features exhibits like a replica of a 1950s-era barbershop that allows children to engage with historical experiences. Plus, the museum hosts Family Fun Days three times a year, offering a variety of activities for all ages and free access to museum exhibitions.

But the fun doesn’t stop there. The museum also conducts a week-long Summer Camp for students, with fun learning activities themed around current exhibitions. And let’s not forget the Pajama Storytime, where children up to 7 years old can listen to a story in the galleries and engage in a related art activity, all while wearing their pajamas with a stuffed friend. These are just a few examples of the fun things you can experience at the museum.

From interactive exhibits to engaging events, the African American Museum of Iowa fosters a must-visit atmosphere for hands-on learning and family fun.

Community Programs and Events

Beyond the exhibits, the African American Museum of Iowa enriches the community with its diverse programs and events. The museum engages in community and fundraising events to promote understanding and preservation of African American history in Iowa, also featuring a history series on relevant topics.

For those who prefer to learn from the comfort of their homes, the museum provides virtual exhibits and storytime sessions celebrating African American culture and history. By joining the museum’s mailing list, community members can receive updates on upcoming events and community partnerships.

Artistic Encounters at Cedar Rapids Museum of Art

Art enthusiasts should not miss a visit to the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art. Home to the works of Grant Wood, a native Iowan who left a lasting impact on the American art scene, the museum fosters artistic engagement through its free program ‘Art Bites,’ which highlights current exhibitions and allows for complimentary gallery admission. After exploring the museum, consider stopping by the Cedar Rapids Public Library to further immerse yourself in the city’s rich cultural offerings.

The museum also offers intellectual enrichment through the Art Lovers Book Club, where discussions on literature related to current exhibitions are held monthly. And for those who prefer a modern educational platform, the museum presents ‘One Night Stand with the CRMA,’ a swift 20-minute Zoom talk diving into singular artworks and artists.

Grant Wood Studio

Your visit to the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art won’t be complete without stepping into the historic Grant Wood Studio. This is where the iconic artist lived and worked from 1924 to 1935, and where he painted the famous ‘American Gothic’ in 1930. Visitors can enjoy free admission and docent-guided tours on weekends from April to December, thanks to the Esther and Robert Armstrong Charitable Trust.

Although the studio space on the second floor is not handicapped accessible, the Armstrong Visitor Center at the studio is. Step into the studio and immerse yourself in the world of Grant Wood, a towering figure in American art.

Workshops and Art Talks

The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art further broadens your understanding of art through its variety of workshops and art talks. The museum offers the following programs:

  • ‘Doodlebugs’ classes: These classes are held monthly at local libraries and combine storytelling and art activities themed around museum exhibitions.
  • ‘Art Bites’: This educational series provides presentations and discussions on current exhibitions.
  • ‘Art Chats’: This educational series offers artist insights and discussions on current exhibitions.

For those seeking a deeper understanding of art, special arrangements for educational purposes can be made through the museum’s Education Director. Whether you’re an art enthusiast or a novice, the museum’s workshops and art talks offer a unique opportunity to engage with art on a deeper level.

Step Back in Time at Ushers Ferry Historic Village

Ready for a journey back in time? Ushers Ferry Historic Village lets you experience the daily life and traditions of early 1900s Iowans. Visitors can explore a preserved 1900s village that includes nine historic structures with live demonstrations showcasing rural Iowa life.

Located at 5925 Seminole Valley Trail NE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52411, the village is a living testament to the city’s rich history.

Living History Experiences

Ushers Ferry Historic Village brings history to life. The village provides educational workshops emphasizing historical perspectives of life in a small Iowa town at the turn of the 20th century. Visitors can engage with history through role-playing experiences, becoming students at Cherry Valley School or exploring interactive parlor games from the early 20th century.

With guided tours that take you to key historical buildings like the Saloon, Print Shop, General Store, and various village homes, Ushers Ferry offers a unique and immersive historical experience.

Educational Workshops

Ushers Ferry Historic Village is not merely a time capsule, but also a vibrant place of learning. The village hosts educational workshops as a way to preserve historic trades and traditions. These workshops include hands-on activities such as blacksmithing, woodworking, and traditional cooking methods.

Through these living history experiences, participants can role-play as early 1900s students or townsfolk, making history education interactive and immersive.

Adventure Awaits at Cedar River

Let’s now set our sights on the Cedar River, the next stop on our Cedar Rapids adventure. This river is an ideal setting for a variety of water-based recreation, including boating, kayaking, and fishing. Whether you’re interested in a serene river experience or a thrilling water adventure, the Cedar River has something to offer.

Water Recreation

Water enthusiasts will find much to love about the Cedar River. The river offers boating opportunities, including launching canoes and kayaks. Anglers can enjoy fishing at the Prairie Park Fishery, known for its population of crappie, bluegill, largemouth bass, and walleye.

Or perhaps you’d like to try your hand at fishing from the banks of Palisades-Kepler State Park, known for its excellent fishing of catfish, bass, and bluegill. With seasonal boat docking available at Ellis Harbor, the Cedar River offers a diverse range of water-based recreational activities.

Trails and Wildlife Observation

The Cedar River, while perfect for water sports, also acts as a gateway to nature. The Cedar Valley Nature Trail is a 12.6-mile paved trail that passes through urban areas alongside McCloud’s Run, Cedar Lake, and the Cedar River. As you journey along the trail, you’ll be treated to areas showcasing the native Iowa prairie. The Prairie Park Fishery Loop Trail also offers scenic views, perfect for river, fishery, and wildlife observation.

Whether you’re hiking, jogging, or cycling, these trails offer a unique opportunity to explore the natural beauty of Cedar Rapids. And if you’re a bird lover, Ellis Harbor is a must-visit. Not only does it serve as a summer living location, but it also provides public access for fishing and bird watching, attracting nature lovers to its serene environment.

From the diverse habitats at the Indian Creek Nature Center to the fishing spots along the Cedar River, Cedar Rapids offers a wealth of nature and outdoor activities.

Marketplace Fun at NewBo City Market

Next, we’re heading to the vibrant community hub of Cedar Rapids, the NewBo City Market. This market showcases the region’s entrepreneurial spirit, offering a wide range of locally produced goods, including:

  • fresh produce
  • foods
  • delicacies
  • trinkets
  • accessories

Culinary Exploration

NewBo City Market is nothing short of a paradise for foodies. With a vast array of food options on offer, you can taste everything from international cuisine to vegan dishes at The Full Bowl. And don’t forget to satisfy your sweet tooth with handmade chocolates and an assortment of sweet treats at Lori Ann’s Candies.

With so much to choose from, the market offers a culinary exploration like no other.

Artisan Shopping

NewBo City Market, while a foodie’s paradise, also doubles as a shopper’s haven. The Artisan’s Emporium, for example, offers an array of regional artisan products, including clothing, jewelry, and home décor. Each item is carefully crafted by skilled local artisans, ensuring that you’re not only buying a unique product, but also supporting local businesses.

So, whether you’re looking for a unique gift or a souvenir to remember your visit, visiting Cedar Rapids and exploring the market has something for you.

Performing Arts at Paramount Theatre

As evening falls, we turn our attention to the performing arts at the Paramount Theatre. This restored 1920s venue is a central fixture for performing arts in Cedar Rapids, with a seating capacity for 1,700 audience members. From concerts and Broadway shows to live theater, the theatre offers a diverse array of performances.

Whether you’re a fan of classical music, rock, comedy, or drama, there’s something for everyone at the Paramount Theatre.

Family-Friendly Outings at Bever Park

Traveling with family? Bever Park is a must-visit. Here, you’ll find Old MacDonald’s Farm, a petting farm that has been entertaining tourists and Iowans for over 100 years. Kids can interact with cows, lambs, goats, chickens, and pigs, creating an unforgettable farm experience.

But the fun at Bever Park doesn’t end with the farm. The park also offers:

  • A pavilion with kitchen amenities, perfect for picnics and social gatherings
  • Birthday party packages that include guided farm tours and hands-on animal interactions
  • Bocce ball courts, flower gardens, a swimming pool, and tennis courts

Whether you’re planning a family outing, a picnic, or a birthday party, Bever Park is the place to be.

Ice Skating Thrills at Cedar Rapids Ice Arena

For some thrilling action, make your way to the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena, also known as ImOn Ice. This arena has been a focal point for community ice sports and events in Cedar Rapids for over two decades. With two sheets of ice, the arena hosts a range of activities including:

  • Public skating sessions
  • Skill-building learn to skate programs
  • Youth and adult hockey leagues
  • Figure skating
  • Speed skating

But the fun doesn’t stop there. The Cedar Rapids Ice Arena is also the proud home of the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, showcasing high-level junior ice hockey as part of the United States Hockey League (USHL). Whether you’re a seasoned ice skater or a beginner, the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena offers a thrilling experience for everyone.

Golf and Recreation at Ellis Park

Rejoice, golf enthusiasts! Ellis Park is right here in Cedar Rapids, known as the ‘Crown Jewel’ of Cedar Rapids municipal golf courses. The Ellis Golf Course combines historical charm with a contemporary design, making it one of the oldest and most challenging courses in the state. With the first 9-hole course established in 1919 and the back nine completed between 1948-49, the course offers a blend of generous fairways and challenging greens amidst an urban forest.

If you’re looking to improve your game, the course offers private golf lessons with PGA Professional Mark McMahon. And for those who just want to enjoy a relaxing day on the greens, the course caters to different levels of golfers with multiple course ratings. Plus, the course underwent renovations in 2003, making the back nine more walkable and improving accessibility with continuous cart paths.

Whether you’re a seasoned golfer or a beginner, Ellis Golf Course promises a delightful golfing experience.

Hiking with a View at Mount Trashmore

Feeling up for a challenge? Consider hiking to the summit of Mount Trashmore. Once a landfill site with 6 million tons of garbage, Mount Trashmore has been reinvented into a recreational area offering panoramic views of Cedar Rapids.

You can hike the Stumptown Trail, featuring 1 mile of boardwalks and stairs with sections of steep grade, or take the Overlook Trail, which accommodates both bikers and walkers, providing a direct 5/8 mile route to the summit. From the top, you’ll be treated to one-of-a-kind views of the surrounding area.

Fresh Finds at Cedar Rapids Farmers Market

No adventure in Cedar Rapids is complete without a visit to the Downtown Farmers Market. Here are some reasons why:

  • It is one of the largest open-air markets in the Midwest.
  • It attracts an average attendance of 12,000 people each week.
  • It has been recognized as a ‘Best in Class’ Farmers Market by American Farmland Trust.

Here, you’ll find over 200 vendors offering more than just fresh produce. The market also features local goods and hosts entertainment, making it a significant summer event in downtown Cedar Rapids.

Cycle the Scenic Hiawatha Bike Trail

As we conclude our Cedar Rapids adventure, we’ll venture onto the Hiawatha Bike Trail. Part of the Cedar Valley Nature Trail, this trail is a pioneering linear park built on the former Waterloo, Cedar Falls and Northern railroad, connecting the towns of Hiawatha to Evansdale over 52 miles. Whether you’re a cyclist, a jogger, or a walker, the trail offers an opportunity to explore the diverse environments of woodlands, wetlands, and prairies, all while enjoying the great outdoors.


From exploring historic districts and museums to immersing ourselves in nature and arts, our adventure in Cedar Rapids has been truly unforgettable. We’ve discovered the city’s rich cultural heritage, indulged in its vibrant culinary scene, and connected with its beautiful natural landscapes. We’ve also stepped back in time at the Ushers Ferry Historic Village, experienced water-based recreation along the Cedar River, and shopped for locally crafted items at NewBo City Market.

Cedar Rapids, with its diverse attractions and experiences, is a city that promises to both educate and entertain. Whether you’re a foodie, a history buff, a nature enthusiast, or an art lover, Cedar Rapids has something for everyone. And as our adventure comes to an end, we hope that you’re inspired to embark on your own journey and discover the magic of Cedar Rapids for yourself.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Cedar Rapids Iowa worth visiting?

Yes, Cedar Rapids, Iowa is worth visiting, especially for those interested in their central European heritage and looking for interesting day trips. The city offers a wealth of information for anyone with Czech or Slovak ancestry.

Why is Cedar Rapids famous?

Cedar Rapids is famous for being the largest corn processing city in the world and one of the leading manufacturing regions in the United States. It is also known as a major bio-processing and food ingredient center in North America.

What food is Cedar Rapids known for?

Cedar Rapids is known for their Czech heritage and traditional dishes like kolaches and sauerkraut.

What kind of food can I find in the Czech Village and New Bohemia District?

You can find a diverse array of food options in the Czech Village and New Bohemia District, including craft beers, fresh sandwiches, salads, soups, plant-based dining, and sweet treats. Enjoy exploring the culinary delights of the area!

What kind of activities can I do at the Indian Creek Nature Center?

You can participate in workshops, programs, nature walks, and bird watching at the Indian Creek Nature Center. Enjoy a wide range of nature-focused activities!