Top 10 Things to Do in Waterloo Iowa

Explore the vibrant array of things to do in Waterloo Iowa, where every interest is catered to with calming river excursions, engaging museum tours, and a lively downtown dining scene. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, our guide highlights the must-see attractions and hidden gems that make Waterloo a memorable destination.

Table of Contents

  1. Discover the Cedar River
  2. Get Lost in Adventure
  3. Immerse Yourself in History
  4. Experience Downtown Waterloo
  5. Unleash Your Inner Scientist
  6. Indulge in the Arts
  7. Savor Local Flavors
  8. Try Your Luck
  9. Celebrate Waterloo
  10. Extend Your Stay: Explore Cedar Falls
  11. Summary
  12. Frequently Asked Questions

Discover the Cedar River

The Cedar River, a winding 338-mile marvel, is the lifeblood of Waterloo, offering a myriad of activities that beckon nature lovers and adventure seekers alike. Here are some of the activities you can enjoy along the Cedar River:

  • Kayaking along the Cedar River Water Trail in Black Hawk County, where every paddle stroke cuts through the calm waters, guiding you through a network of lush landscapes and wildlife.
  • Exploring the 10-mile Cedar Valley Paddlers Trail, connecting George Wyth State Park and the Cedar River for an expansive kayaking experience that’s simply unmatched.
  • Enjoying water activities at George Wyth State Park, from fishing to canoeing, complete with boat ramps and a beach area for those sun-soaked Iowa afternoons.

But the allure of the cedar river doesn’t end with water sports. If you’re more inclined to stay dry, the paved trails of the Cedar River Greenbelt Trail in Mitchell County beckon. This naturalistic setting invites you to hike or bike amidst wooded hills and limestone bluffs, offering a peaceful retreat and scenic views that are a photographer’s dream.

Whether you’re an avid outdoorsman or simply looking for a serene escape, the Cedar River holds a special place in the heart of Waterloo.

Get Lost in Adventure

After immersing yourself in the tranquility of the Cedar River, prepare for a splash of excitement at Lost Island Water Park. This tropical oasis, complete with palm trees swaying to the rhythm of island tunes, is a beautiful place where more fun awaits around every corner. With 11 adrenaline-pumping waterslides, a lazy river, and a wave pool that meanders like a serene stream, Lost Island provides a water park adventure for every level of thrill-seeker. And if you’re not ready to dry off just yet, the park’s attractions extend to Monaleo Speedway and adventure golf, ensuring that the excitement never wanes at the lost island waterpark.

But the adventure doesn’t stop at the water’s edge. Lost Island is also a sanctuary for relaxation, offering over 25 cabanas where you can recline after a long day of play. These cozy havens are perfect for families looking for a meeting spot or anyone wishing to bask in the sun with a bit of privacy. Whether you’re racing down waterslides, competing in mini-golf, or lounging by the water, Lost Island Theme Park captures the essence of a summer well-spent.

Immerse Yourself in History

From the splashing waves of Lost Island to the echoing halls of history, Waterloo’s story is told through its museums and historical sites. Step into the Grout Museum District, where the past comes alive across multiple venues, including the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum and the Rensselaer Russell House Museum. These institutions are a great place to visit for families eager to connect with the city’s heritage, and with more information visit, you can delve even deeper into the stories that have shaped Waterloo.

At the John Deere Tractor & Engine Museum, you’ll discover:

  • Interactive exhibits that trace the evolution of John Deere machinery, from its humble beginnings to the technological wonders of the modern age
  • The history of American agriculture unfolding before your very eyes
  • An educational outing that’s accessible to all, with free admission

The Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum, located in northern Iowa, further honors the bravery and sacrifice of Iowa’s veterans, offering a poignant reminder of the state’s role in our nation’s history.

Experience Downtown Waterloo

The heartbeat of the city is found in downtown Waterloo, a bustling center where the community’s pulse is felt in every street and storefront. Here, culinary adventurers can feast at diverse dining establishments, including:

  • American Legion Becker-Chapman Post 138
  • LaPlacita Grill & Mexican Store
  • Basal Pizza
  • SingleSpeed Brewing Company

These establishments signify a melting pot of flavors that reflect the town’s eclectic spirit and capacity to both innovate and satisfy the most discerning of palates.

Retail therapy is just around the corner with downtown Waterloo’s array of specialty shops. Some of the shops you can explore include:

  • Roth Jewelers, with its glittering displays
  • Levi Brothers Jewelry & Loan, a treasure trove of unique pieces
  • The Soul Book Nook, for a different shopping experience
  • Style Avenue, offering a variety of tastes
  • Splash of Pearl Boutique, where you can find unique finds

Every visit to these shops is as unique as the finds you’ll take home.

Unleash Your Inner Scientist

If curiosity fuels your soul, then the Carl A. & Peggy J. Bluedorn Science Imaginarium is your next must-visit destination in Waterloo. This interactive science center ignites the imagination with hands-on exhibits that transform complex scientific principles into fun, tangible experiences. Kids and adults alike can marvel at the wonders of light, sound, and plasma, or get their hands dirty with exhibits that demonstrate the mysteries of electricity and gases. It’s not just about observing; it’s about engaging with the building blocks of our world in a way that’s both entertaining and enlightening.

The Bluedorn Science Imaginarium isn’t just a place to visit; it’s a place to participate. With activities that illustrate the Bernoulli Principle or a weather station that turns meteorology into an accessible science, the Imaginarium is a hot spot for friends and family to explore together. And when you need a breather, the Family Fun Zone offers a space where everyone, regardless of age, can sit back and enjoy interactive games and displays designed to educate as much as they entertain.

Indulge in the Arts

After stimulating your scientific senses, dive into the arts at the Waterloo Center for the Arts. Open most days of the week and always welcoming with free admission, this cultural hub is a cornerstone for the arts in the city. The center boasts an array of artistic wonders, including the largest public collection of Haitian Art in the United States, with ongoing exhibitions that span across five galleries. Whether you fancy contemporary art or historical pieces, the center is a weekend destination that promises an enriching and enjoyable experience.

For the younger art enthusiasts, the Phelps Youth Pavilion at Mark’s Park stands as a beacon of creativity. With nominal admission fees, this part of the center is dedicated to engaging children with the arts through play, music, and hands-on activities. It’s a place where families can spend a day absorbed in artistic discovery, and kids can leave with a newfound appreciation for the myriad forms that art can take.

Savor Local Flavors

Waterloo’s tapestry wouldn’t be complete without its local flavors, and there’s no better place to savor them than at Morg’s. This beloved eatery serves up classic Iowa dishes that are as comforting as they are delicious.

Take a bite of the iconic loose meat sandwich, known locally as Maid Rite, and you’ll understand why this simple yet scrumptious meal has become a staple in the Iowan diet. It’s a taste of the heartland that’s not to be missed, whether you’re just passing through or looking for a new favorite spot to eat.

Try Your Luck

For those feeling lucky or simply in search of more fun, Isle Casino Hotel Waterloo beckons with its bright lights and endless entertainment. Here are some of the exciting options available:

  • Test your skills on one of the over 800 gaming machines
  • Take a seat at the table games for a chance to win big
  • Sports fans can dive into the action at the full-service Caesars Sportsbook, making every game an opportunity for victory.

And when it’s time to call it a night, the hotel’s premium rooms and suites offer the perfect respite, complete with a resort-style indoor pool to unwind and recount the day’s excitement.

Celebrate Waterloo

The true spirit of Waterloo shines through during My Waterloo Days, an annual event that brings the community together in celebration. Free to all, this festival has been a part of the city’s fabric for over four decades, combining parades, concerts, and a variety of food and entertainment that capture the essence of Waterloo life.

It’s a time when the city unites in joy and pride, offering a glimpse into the communal heart that beats strong within its streets.

Extend Your Stay: Explore Cedar Falls

Don’t let your journey end in Waterloo. A stone’s throw away, Cedar Falls awaits with its historic downtown, brimming with dining options, museums, and unique attractions like:

  • Hurling Hatchet Urban Axe Throwing
  • Montage, where you can treat your taste buds to boutique wines and Iowa favorites
  • Whiskey Road, with its vast whiskey selection and American Fusion menu

Embrace the night and explore all that Cedar Falls has to offer.

The Downtown District’s blend of over 30 unique shops and more than 20 bars and cafes is a testament to Cedar Falls’ vibrant Arts and Entertainment District, maintained by the diligent efforts of Community Main Street.


Waterloo, Iowa, offers a journey of discovery that spans the serene to the sensational. From the Cedar River’s inviting waters to the historic halls of its museums, the city is a living storybook where every page turned reveals something new. As you wind down your visit, carrying memories of thrilling theme parks, delectable dining, and cultural escapades, let the spirit of Waterloo inspire you to return, and perhaps next time, to delve even deeper into the heartland’s hidden treasure.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Waterloo Iowa best known for?

Waterloo, Iowa is best known for being the hub of manufacturing tractors and farm equipment, including John Deere tractors, which you can tour. Additionally, the city is the home of Olympian Dan Gable and the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Dan Gable Museum. These factors contribute significantly to the city’s identity.

What is the nickname of Waterloo Iowa?

Waterloo, Iowa is known as “The Factory City.” So, this city has become synonymous with its industrial heritage, reflecting its historical role as a center of manufacturing.

What are some of the best outdoor activities to do along the Cedar River?

Some of the best outdoor activities to do along the Cedar River include kayaking and canoeing on the Cedar River Water Trail, exploring the Cedar Valley Paddlers Trail, and enjoying water activities at George Wyth State Park. So get ready to have some water-filled fun!

Can you recommend a place for families to have fun in Waterloo?

Sure, Lost Island Water Park is a fantastic place for families to have fun in Waterloo, with waterslides, a lazy river, and additional attractions like go-karts and mini-golf. Enjoy your visit!

Are there any free attractions to visit in Waterloo?

Absolutely! You can visit the John Deere Tractor & Engine Museum and the Waterloo Center for the Arts for free. Both are great attractions to explore without spending a dime.