Cedar Rapids in eastern Iowa is the second-largest city in Iowa and the former residence of one of America’s most famous artists, Grant Wood. The city has a Central European feel because of the Czech and Slovak immigrants who arrived in Cedar Rapids from mainland Europe during the 19th and 20th centuries.
The city features some of the best entertainment, dining, shopping and attraction options in the state and is a significant regional arts and culture hub. The city is packed to the brim with outdoor, historic and cultural destinations, ranging from the opulent Brucemore estate built for industrialist widow Caroline Sinclair to the African American Museum of Iowa, which recounts some of the darkest times in American history. Cedar Rapids is a gem of a city in the heart of the American Midwest and an international destination with something unique to see and experience around every corner. Here are the best things to do in Cedar Rapids.
- Cedar Rapids, Iowa
- 20 Things to Do In Cedar Rapids
- 1- Unwind At Palisades-Kepler State Park
- 2- Tour The Magnificent Brucemore Estate
- 3- Discover The Beauty Of Prairie Park Fishery
- 4- Discover The Stories Of The Settlers At The National Czech & Slovak Museum
- 5- Explore The Charming Czech Village & New Bohemia
- 6- Interact with farm animals at Old MacDonald’s Farm
- 7- Catch A Live Event At McGrath Amphitheatre
- 8- See A Show At Paramount Theatre
- 9- Learn About America’s Dark Past At The African American Museum
- 10- Enjoy A Quiet Read At Cedar Rapids Public Library
- 11- Hike or Bike Cedar River Trail
- 12- Tour Ushers Ferry Historic Village
- 13- Explore The NewBo City Market
- 14- Get Creative At Cedar Rapids Museum of Art
- 15- Visit The Grant Wood Studio
- Whether you’re a fan of American art, architecture and design or just interested to learn more about one of Cedar Rapids’ most famous residents, the studio is a fantastic place to soak up local history.
- 17- Explore The Gilded Pear Gallery
- 18- Walk The Cedar Valley Nature Trail
- 19- Have Fun At Bloomsbury Farm
- 20- Discover Indian Creek Nature Center
- 20 Things to Do In Cedar Rapids
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
20 Things to Do In Cedar Rapids
1- Unwind At Palisades-Kepler State Park
Located just outside of Cedar Rapids on the banks of the Cedar River, the magnificent Palisades-Kepler State Park is a stunning outdoor area with dramatic river bluffs, deep ravines, towering hardwood trees and wildlife.
Featuring Native American Indian mounds that reflect the park’s early history and first inhabitants, the park as we know it today was created when Louis H. Kepler donated his estate in 1928.
Complete with several park buildings constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, this rustic yet refined state park is Cedar Rapids’ premier outdoor venue and one you don’t want to miss.
Palisades-Kepler State Park is at 700 Kepler Dr, Mt Vernon, IA 52314.
2- Tour The Magnificent Brucemore Estate
Brucemore, situated in the centre of Cedar Rapids, is an incredibly scenic and historic 26-acre (11 ha) estate built between 1884 and 1886 for Caroline Sinclair, widow of industrialist T.M. Sinclair.
Three families have left their mark on this Cedar Rapids landmark, which features a perfectly preserved Queen Anne-style main house, several manicured gardens, and a thick woodland forest.
A major cultural and historic landmark in Iowa, the estate is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is the only National Trust Historic Site in Iowa, making it well worth touring.
Brucemore is at 2160 Linden Dr SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52403.
3- Discover The Beauty Of Prairie Park Fishery
A haven for anglers and nature enthusiasts, the Prairie Park Fishery is one of Cedar Rapids’ biggest and most popular outdoor public recreation areas.
Covering an area of over 65 acres (26 ha), this former quarry-turned-public park is home to outdoor activities such as fishing, ice fishing and boating, as well as hiking, biking and picnicking.
The park’s 1.7-mile-long (2.7 km) paved pathway circles a large central lake, making it easy for joggers and cyclists to enjoy the scenic natural beauty.
Open from sunrise to sunset every day, this dog-friendly outdoor retreat is a lovely destination in Cedar Rapids.
Prairie Park Fishery is at 2125 Otis Rd SE, Clear Rapids, IA 52403.
4- Discover The Stories Of The Settlers At The National Czech & Slovak Museum
The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, located in the city’s Czech Village, is an award-winning centre honouring and celebrating the many Czech and Slovak-descent Americans and Iowans who fled war and persecution in Europe.
Opened in 1974, the museum is an incredibly significant landmark for Czechs and Slovaks living in the United States, showcasing and preserving their unique customs, traditions and artefacts for future generations to see.
The centre became a Smithsonian-affiliated museum in 2018 and is home to impressive and thought-provoking permanent and rotating exhibits, making it a must-visit destination in Cedar Rapids with something to see for visitors from all backgrounds.
National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library is at 1400 Inspiration Pl SW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52404.
5- Explore The Charming Czech Village & New Bohemia
The Czech Village & New Bohemia areas of Cedar Rapids are unique historic neighbourhoods reflecting the city’s diverse population.
Established in 1852 when the first immigrants from the modern-day Czech Republic and Slovakia started arriving in Iowa, the districts were the main shopping areas back in the day for fresh-of-the-boat Central European immigrants.
Beautifully maintained and restored, these thriving districts feature shops, restaurants, entertainment options and museums, all closely associated with traditional Bohemian, Moravian and Slovak cultures.
Stroll along its charming streets and avenues, stop by the popular Sykora Bakery or visit the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library.
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6- Interact with farm animals at Old MacDonald’s Farm
Old MacDonald’s Farm in Cedar Rapids’ Bever Park is a free-to-visit petting zoo with a legacy of entertaining tourists and native Iowans of all ages for over 100 years.
The venue is home to an extensive collection of farm animals, such as cows, lambs, goats, chickens and pigs, which visitors can pet and feed.
Formerly the Bever Park Zoo, this beloved Cedar Rapids venue is bound to delight kids and adults, making it one of the best free attractions in Cedar Rapids.
Old MacDonald’s Farm is at 2700 Bever Ave SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52403.
7- Catch A Live Event At McGrath Amphitheatre
Perched on the west bank of the Cedar River and within walking distance from the shops and delights of Downtown Cedar Rapids, the McGrath Amphitheatre is the city’s premier summertime entertainment destination.
Opened in 2014, the outdoor venue can seat up to 6,000 people depending on the event and was designed to accommodate local community-led events and large music concerts.
Be sure not to miss out on catching a live performance in Cedar Rapids’ most picturesque outdoor entertainment space.
McGrath Amphitheatre is at 475 1st St SW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401.
8- See A Show At Paramount Theatre
Deemed by many to be Cedar Rapids’ crown jewel of entertainment venues, the 1,700-seat Paramount Theatre is one of the most elegant and majestic performance venues in the Midwest.
The venue was built during the roaring 1920s and is one of only 300 movie palaces left in the United States.
Listed on the National Register, the theatre is home to Orchestra Iowa and regularly hosts concerts and theatrical performances.
It’s the grandest venue in Cedar Rapids.
Paramount Theatre is at 123 3rd Ave SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401.
9- Learn About America’s Dark Past At The African American Museum
The African American Museum of Iowa is the only statewide museum in the United States solely dedicated to preserving and celebrating the history, culture and legacy of African Americans.
Opened in 1994, the venue welcomes over 30,000 annual visitors and offers guided tours of the museum’s vast collection of permanent and rotating exhibits, as well as community fundraisers, education programs and travelling exhibits.
Covering periods of history stretching from the African Slave Trade to present-day America, the museum is one of Cedar rapids’ finest and most thought-provoking museums to visit.
African American Museum of Iowa is at 55 12th Ave SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401.
10- Enjoy A Quiet Read At Cedar Rapids Public Library
Established in 1897 in a small room inside the Granby building, the Cedar Rapids Public Library is one of Cedar Rapids’ oldest cultural and educative venues.
The flood of 2008 destroyed the library, including its adult and reference collections, and although the library’s most treasured books and documents could be saved, a new venue had to be built to house them.
The new library building opened in 2013 and features a state-of-the-art design that includes automated book sorting technology, a rooftop garden, and the 200-seat Whipple auditorium.
Its vast collection of rare and informative books and texts is well worth a visit and is one of the best free things to do in Cedar Rapids.
Cedar Rapids Public Library is at 450 5th Ave SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401.
11- Hike or Bike Cedar River Trail
Running from Blairs Ferry Road through Downtown Cedar Rapids until it reaches the Hoover Trail, the 12.6-mile-long (20 km) Cedar River Trail offers visitors the rare opportunity to enjoy the region’s most spectacular scenery with one convenient outdoor attraction.
The trail winds past Cedar Rapids landmarks such as the Cedar River, McCloud’s Run and Cedar Lake, and is bordered by wildflowers, floral displays and grassland native to the region.
Officially completed in 1997, this popular attraction is a must-do activity and one of the best free things to do in Cedar Rapids.
12- Tour Ushers Ferry Historic Village
The Ushers Ferry Historic Village is a historic 1900s village perfectly preserving what life looked like in rural Iowa during the turn of the century.
Situated in Iowa’s Seminole Valley region, the village features nine historic ADA-accessible structures spread across 10 acres (4 ha).
A popular venue for weddings and other private functions, the village organises guided tours and live demonstrations to perfectly illustrate life during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Touring the stuck-in-time village is a highlight that will delight and educate visitors of all ages.
Ushers Ferry Historic Village is at 5925 Seminole Valley Trail NE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52411.
13- Explore The NewBo City Market
The NewBo City Market is the dining and shopping capital of Downtown Cedar Rapids’ historic New Bohemia Main Street District, serving as the neighbourhood’s gathering spot.
Featuring a unique warehouse-inspired design, the market sells all sorts of produce, foods, delicacies, trinkets and accessories made and produced locally.
With everything from cooking demonstrations to live music, the market is the place to be in Downtown Cedar Rapids, especially over the weekend, when the venue becomes a hive with locals and travellers scouring for the best deals.
NewBo City Market is at 1100 3rd Street SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401.
14- Get Creative At Cedar Rapids Museum of Art
Founded by the Cedar Rapids Art Club in 1905, the internationally-acclaimed Cedar Rapids Museum of Art is home to large collections of traditional and contemporary artwork.
The venue has the largest collections of Mauricio Lasansky, Bertha Jaques, Grant Wood and Marvin Cone works in the world, as well as its acclaimed Roman portrait busts collection.
This American art-centred venue displays over 7,000 individual art pieces, making it Cedar Rapids’ best and most expansive cultural venue to explore.
Cedar Rapids Museum of Art is at 410 3rd Ave SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401.
15- Visit The Grant Wood Studio
Owned by the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, the Grant Wood Studio is home to the world’s largest collection of Grant Wood’s art.
The studio served as Wood’s home from 1924 to 1935 and is where he perfected his mature style of painting, culminating in his famous painting, “American Gothic”, which was worked on in the studio.
Wood also made several design changes to the house to maximise its living space and add useful design elements.
Whether you’re a fan of American art, architecture and design or just interested to learn more about one of Cedar Rapids’ most famous residents, the studio is a fantastic place to soak up local history.
Grant Wood Studio is at 810 2nd Ave SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52403.
16- Discover The Past At The History Center
The History Center is one of Cedar Rapids’ most significant cultural and historic landmarks, featuring a research library with over 20,000 texts and documents and over 50,000 historical artefacts and items on display.
With an expanding collection sourced by the centre itself and through donations made by the community, the venue’s interactive displays cover topics ranging from Linn County food to the region’s Native American tribes.
Always a fun and informative venue to discover, the centre is certainly one of Cedar Rapids’ best attractions.
The History Center is at 800 Second Avenue SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52403.
17- Explore The Gilded Pear Gallery
With an impressive contemporary art collection featuring works from more than 70 artists, the Gilded Pear Gallery is one of Cedar Rapids’ finest art institutions.
Opened in 2011 by Suzy McGrane-Hop, the full-service gallery sells, appraises, restores and frames paintings, jewellery and sculptures.
Featuring a star-studded collection complimented by rotating exhibits throughout the year, the gallery is the perfect destination to shop for that quintessential piece of art to display in your living room back home.
Gilded Pear Gallery is at 808 3rd Ave SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52403.
18- Walk The Cedar Valley Nature Trail
The Cedar Valley Nature Trail became one of Iowa’s first “linear parks” in the early 1980s when it was established on the site of the former Waterloo, Cedar Falls and Northern railroad.
Spanning over 52 miles (84) and spilling over into four counties, the trail connects Cedar Rapids with nearby towns and cities such as Lafayette, Urbana and Evansdale.
Easy to navigate and perfect for hikers, joggers and cyclists, the trail is open year-round, with snowshoeing a popular wintertime activity to partake in along the trail.
Winding past grassy banks and wide open prairie along the Cedar River, the trail is the pinnacle outdoor attraction in Eastern Iowa and a truly unmissable landmark when visiting Cedar Rapids.
19- Have Fun At Bloomsbury Farm
The Bloomsbury Farm was established as a homestead in 1856 near Cedar Rapids before being converted into the tourist-centred functioning farm it is today.
Owned and operated by Dave Petersen, the 5th generation to run the farm, the venue is a haven for Iowans in Eastern Iowa looking to escape from city life.
Organising events and activities throughout the year, the farm is always abuzz with visitors.
Featuring a petting zoo, a 10-acre (4 ha) corn maze and a corn palace, the farm is worth stopping by whenever you’re looking for something fun and unique in Cedar Rapids.
Bloomsbury Farm is at 3260 69th St, Atkins, IA 52206.
20- Discover Indian Creek Nature Center
Nestled on over 210 acres (85 ha) of prime Iowa nature, the Indian Creek Nature Center enables visitors to explore prairie, wetlands and forests in a sustainable and eco-friendly manner.
The venue’s roots can be traced back to 1849, making it one of Iowa’s oldest outdoor venues.
The centre is home to many summertime activities, including hiking, fishing, bird-watching, and cross-country skiing during the winter.
Not only can you partake in virtually any outdoor activity at the centre, but the venue also organises workshops, programs and nature walks to connect visitors of all ages and backgrounds with nature in spectacular fashion.
Indian Creek Nature Center is at 6665 Otis Road SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52403.
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