A charming European-looking small town, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has interesting history and a distinctive Czech, Slovak and Moravian vibe. Besides cheerful ethnic festivals that celebrate the city's origins with music and food, Cedar Rapids also has a rich art scene and interesting architecture. Art lovers can enjoy Grant Wood's quirky studio that he built, which is where he painted iconic American Gothic painting, and the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art which has the biggest collection of Wood's work as well as 7,000 other significant artworks focusing on 20thcentury. Certain attractions may be temporarily closed or require advance reservations. Some restaurants are currently offering pickup only. Hours/availability may have changed.
1.National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library
© National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library
Located in the charming Czech Village in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library has achieved great standing in the community as well as in the nation. In2013 it was awarded the National Medal for Museum and Library Service for its first class exhibitions and activities and for its philosophy which celebrates freedom and human dignity.
The museum's permanent exhibition is called "Faces of Freedom: The Czech and Slovak Journey." It is a multimedia interactive experience that covers the World Wars, life in Czechoslovakia under Communist rule and the journey to America in search of a better future. The museum also features Slovak and Czech ethnic costumes, music, art, woodworking and family attractions and offers a range of concerts and events for the Czeck, Slovak and American community.
1400 Inspiration Pl SW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52404, Phone: 319-362-8500
2.Brucemore, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Brucemore is a magnificent 19th-century mansion located on a historic 26-acre estate in Cedar Rapids, a memorial to the lives of three prominent local families. Built in 1884 for the young widow, Caroline and her children, on the slope overlooking the main route into town, it was considered "the grandest house west of Chicago."
The house was built in Queen Anne style, but as the style went out of fashion, the next owners, George and Irene Douglas, renovated the house in a much more simple Craftsman style. Margaret and Howard Hall moved into Brucemore in 1937 and left their own whimsical touches, including the "man cave". There are guided tours of the beautiful 21-room Mansion and visitors can enjoy the art, furnishings, architecture, landscape, and many family objects which have been preserved at Brucemore. The mansion offers regular concerts, theater performances and other social events.
2160 Linden Dr SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52403, Phone: 319-362-7375
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3.Paramount Theatre, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
© Paramount Theatre
Opened in 1928 as the Capitol Theatre, what is today the Paramount was a stage for live shows with singers, comedians, dancers, acrobats, the Wurlitzer organ and films. the theater hosted some of the all-time great artists such as Willie Nelson, B.B. King and many others. It was designed as an opulent palace, with a "Hall of Mirrors" like the one in Versailles, valuable oil paintings, sculptures, extravagant furniture and many other treasures.
In 1929 it was bought and renamed by Paramount Studios. After being severely damaged by a flood, the theatre was extensively renovated and reopened in 2012. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Paramount Theatre is one of only 300 movie palaces still left in the States. Today the theatre hosts concerts, corporate meetings, fundraisers, a Broadway Series and dance recitals. The Paramount is home to the Orchestra Iowa and the Cedar Rapids Area Theater Organ Society.
123 3rd Ave SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401, Phone: 319-398-5211
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4.Cedar Rapids Museum of Art
© Cedar Rapids Museum of Art
The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art was established in 1905 by the Cedar Rapids Art Club, which started exhibiting art for the public in the gallery in the new Carnegie Library. When the library moved to a new location, the building was renovated to become the new Cedar Rapids Museum of Art which formally opened its door in 1989.
The museum has the largest collection of works by Grant Wood, Bertha Jaques, Marvin Cone and Mauricio Lasansky in the world. It also has a significant collection of ancient Roman portrait busts in its Riley Collection. Grant Wood’s studio, where the artist lived and worked between 1924 and 1935, is now part of the museum and is open to the public. There is also a significant collection of the works of Marvin Cone, Grant Wood’s friend and collaborator, in the Museum. That collection includes some of his best abstracts and landscapes. The museum focuses on 20th century American Art and has more than 7,000 works of art. There are also popular art classes for children and adults.
410 3rd Ave SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401, Phone: 319-366-7503
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5.Czech Village - New Bohemia Main Street District
© Czech Village
Cedar Rapids is home to many Czech, Slovak and Moravian immigrants as well as their descendants. They came at the turn of the century and settled on nearby farms and villages around Cedar Rapids. Czech Village is a historic fully restored part of the original shopping district.
In 2009, the city created Czech Village and the New Bohemia Main Street District as a way to bring a breath of fresh air to the community. The district hosts festivals, performing arts from all over the world, visual arts and much more. The district is home to several world-class museums such as the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library, a range of great restaurants and rich nightlife.
101 16th Ave SW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52404, Phone: 319-432-9785
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6.Veterans Memorial Stadium, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
© Veterans Memorial Stadium
Veterans Memorial Stadium is a baseball stadium built in 2002 to replace the original 1949home of the Cedar Rapids Kernels, which had to be torn down. The new Stadium was finished just in time for the opening season, which the Kernels celebrated by achieving record attendance with 196,066 visitors.
The Cedar Rapids Kernels is a minor league baseball team affiliated with the Minnesota Twins. On the outside, the stadium is a brown brick structure with an aluminum upper part, but on the inside it is great expanse of green grass, perfectly designed for baseball. The stadium has also hosted some great concerts by artists such as Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson.
950 Rockford Rd SW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52404, Phone: 319-363-3887
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7.African American Museum of Iowa
© African American Museum of Iowa
The African American Museum of Iowa is located on the banks of the Cedar River, at the heart of downtown Cedar Rapids. Since its opening in 1994, it became one of the major educational institutions on the subject of Iowa African American history.
The museum offers tours, a number of diverse exhibits and thematic programs, family activities, youth education for students, Iowa Communications Network Programming, fundraising events, a summer camp and many other programs. The museum also publishes The Iowa Griot, the quarterly newsletter that has a goal of keeping history alive to make the future better.
55 12th Ave SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401, Phone: 319-862-2101
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8.Things to Do in Cedar Rapids, Iowa: NewBo City Market
© NewBo City Market
The NewBo City Market is found in the heart of the New Bohemia Main Street District, and it's home to a wide range of dining, shopping, and entertainment. Located in a unique warehouse setting, the Market serves as a "Town Center" where people can mingle, shop, and enjoy food from some of the area's best restaurants.
Visitors can purchase local produce, specialty foods, flowers, meats and seafood, and home accessories from local growers, artists, artisans, and businesses. Cooking demonstration classes are offered regularly, and live music can be enjoyed every Friday night from May through September.
1100 3rd Street SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401, Phone: 319-200-4050
9.Indian Creek Nature Center, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
© Courtesy of ZaZa studio - Fotolia.com
The Indian Creek Nature Center aims to promote a sustainable future by encouraging responsible interactions with nature and providing environmental education to the public. The Center is situated on 210 acres of diverse land, including prairie, forest, and wetlands, which visitors can use to go hiking, bird watching, cross-country skiing and fishing.
A number of public programs are offered, including beekeeping classes, free nature walks for preschoolers and their parents, and workshops that teach the basics of raising chickens in an urban setting. Children can attend summer nature camps, which are offered in both four-day and single-day sessions.
6665 Otis Road SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52403, Phone: 319-362-0664
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10.Ushers Ferry Historic Village
© Ushers Ferry Historic Village
Ushers Ferry Historic Village is operated by a charitable organization and serves as a venue for a variety of community-building activities, events, and programs. Located in the Seminole Valley, Ushers Ferry is made up of 20 historic buildings that help to illustrate what life in a small Iowa town at the turn of the 20th century was like.
Large groups that want to explore the Village can purchase a two-hour bonfire and hayrack ride package at a cost of $200 for up to 25 people. Walking tours are offered for a small fee during June, July, and August, Monday-Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
5925 Seminole Valley Trail NE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52411, Phone: 319-286-5763
11.The Play Station, Cedar Rapids, IA
© The Play Station
The Play Station is an imaginative three-level playground that takes up 12,000 square feet and is designed for children aged 12 and under. Parents must supervise their children at all times, and are welcome to join them on the interactive playground.
Other attractions onsite include arcade games, a large dining area that serves pizza and snacks, and an arcade-style laser maze. Special events take place year round, and a variety of party packages for children's birthdays are offered. Group rates are available, and large groups can rent the entire facility after-hours. Regular visitors can purchase seasons passes.
200 Collins Rd NE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52402, Phone: 319-373-1111
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12.Masonic Library & Museum, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
© Masonic Library & Museum
The Iowa Masonic Library is one of the top five largest masonic libraries in the world, and it was the first to have its own building. Located in Cedar Rapids since 1884, it's home to over 150,000 volumes and open to the public. Both Masonic and general books are found in the collections, and a catalog of available volumes can be found online.
The library also contains three extensive museum collections, including the Charles H. Swab Memorial collection, which was donated in 1958. The building is open Monday - Friday from 8 a.m. until noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
813 1st Ave SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52402, Phone: 319-365-1438
13.Things to Do in Cedar Rapids, Iowa: The History Center
© The History Center
The History Center is a unique community resource that preserves and shares stories about Linn County history. The Center is home to a research library containing over 20,000 items, as well as a collection of over 50,000 well-preserved historical items, many of which have been donated by the community.
The center offers interactive presentations on the history of food in Linn County, as well as weekly walking tours. Families can attend educational programs developed for children and their parents, and staff can work with you to develop customized programs for learners of all ages.
800 Second Avenue SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52403, Phone: 319-362-1501
14.Lindale Mall, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
© Lindale Mall
Lindale Mall is an enclosed shopping center that's home to over 100 stores and restaurants. Visitors can find a large selection of jewelry, clothing, specialty gifts, and shoes, and the 500-seat food court offers a number of quick meal options.
The mall puts on seasonal holiday displays, and hosts occasional community events, including charity car shows, science fairs, and charitable auctions. It also offers the free KidX Children's Club, where children can participate in a wide range of playful, educational experiences while their parents shop. Laser tag, mini golf and bumper cars can be found at Planet X.
4444 1st Ave NE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52402, Phone: 319-393-9393
15.Things to Do in Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Hawkeye Downs
© Hawkeye Downs
Hawkeye Downs Speedway and Expo Center has been a Cedar Rapids entertainment hub since 1925. It houses a 1/2 mile and 1/4 paved racing venue that offers a weekly motocross racing series and attracts 10,000 visitors annually. The Center also hosts bingo games twice weekly, and often serves as a venue for concerts, trade shows, conventions, and educational programs.
Visitors to the center can participate in go-cart racing, bicycle racing and auctions, while large groups can book the 35,000 square-foot expo center to host reunions, wedding receptions, and other private events.
4400 6th St SW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52404, Phone: 319-365-8656
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16.Ellis Park Golf Course, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
© Ellis Park Golf Course
The Ellis Park Golf Course has been open for play since 1919, and is one of the most challenging courses in the state. The front nine consists of holes with expansive elevated greens, while the back nine has continuous cart paths and is set in a scenic, fully wooded area with tight, undulating holes.
Wildlife can often be spotted on the back nine, including white tail deer, heron, foxes, and eagles. The layout of the course will require you to use every club in your bag, and the current pace of play for 9 holes is 2 hours and 15 minutes.
1401 Zika Ave NW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52405, Phone: 319-286-5589
17 Best Things to Do in Cedar Rapids, Iowa
- National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, Photo: National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library
- Brucemore, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Photo: Brucemore
- Paramount Theatre, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Photo: Paramount Theatre
- Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, Photo: Cedar Rapids Museum of Art
- Czech Village - New Bohemia Main Street District, Photo: Czech Village
- Veterans Memorial Stadium, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Photo: Veterans Memorial Stadium
- African American Museum of Iowa, Photo: African American Museum of Iowa
- Things to Do in Cedar Rapids, Iowa: NewBo City Market, Photo: NewBo City Market
- Indian Creek Nature Center, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Photo: Courtesy of ZaZa studio - Fotolia.com
- Ushers Ferry Historic Village, Photo: Ushers Ferry Historic Village
- The Play Station, Cedar Rapids, IA, Photo: The Play Station
- Masonic Library & Museum, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Photo: Masonic Library & Museum
- Things to Do in Cedar Rapids, Iowa: The History Center, Photo: The History Center
- Lindale Mall, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Photo: Lindale Mall
- Things to Do in Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Hawkeye Downs, Photo: Hawkeye Downs
- Ellis Park Golf Course, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Photo: Ellis Park Golf Course
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of GoCedarRapids
Attraction Spotlight: The Brucemore Estate
Brucemore is a 19th century historic center and mansion seated on 26 acres. It is located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The Brucemore mansion was built in 1880’s for the young widow Caroline Soutter Sinclair. Her late husband, T.M. Sinclair owned a very successful meatpacking facility. She lived in the mansion with her six children.
Located two miles from the center of town, the mansion became a symbol of the progress and industrial revolution taking place in Cedar Rapids. It was called the “grandest house west of Chicago”.
In 1906, George and Irene Douglas took ownership of the Brucemore estate and extensively renovated the interior. The Douglas family owned the company that would later become Quaker Oats and provided employment for many citizens of Cedar Rapids. Their industries were largely responsible for the industrial and cultural development that took place in the early 1900’s in Cedar Rapids. Throughout their 30-year ownership, the Douglas family continued to update and remodel the estate.
In 1937, George and Irene Douglas passed ownership of the Brucemore mansion to their daughter Margaret Douglas Hall and her husband Howard Hall. The Halls added their own touches to the house including a Tahitian Room and Grizzly Room. Howard Hall even had a pet lion that was kept on the grounds of the estate.
It remained in the Hall’s ownership until it was gifted to the National Trust in 1981. The house carries stylistic influences of all three families that owned and cared for the properties through the years. Each owner also impacted the landscape of the Brucemore estate adding meadows, gardens, a variety of trees and a timber-lined pond. The beautiful estate represents over a century of community and history.
The Brucemore estate provides a variety of activities and events both in and around the mansion.
The 26-acre property offers many opportunities to explore the outdoors. The formal gardens are surrounded by four walls consisting of a grape arbor and a brick terrace. The beautifully manicured gardens boast beautiful perennials and annuals in a variety of colors. The vegetable and cutting gardens, planted in 1907, include fruits, vegetables, and seasonal florae. The inhabitants of Brucemore, during its time as a primary residence, used these gardens for cooking and as a small source of revenue. Today, the vegetable and cutting gardens provide a beautiful setting for a leisurely stroll.
The Servant’s Village provided housing for the employees of Brucemore and their families.
An orchard with nut-producing trees, pool, guest house, tennis courts, Alfalfa field, pet cemetery, night garden and pond are also included on the extensive grounds.
An area fittingly called “The Timber” provides a place of solitude, tranquility and relaxation among the towering trees. It includes two rustic gazebos with picnic tables.
Visitors can tour the 21-room Queen Anne style mansion. The main floor houses the Great Hall, the library, and the simplistic and efficient kitchen which was managed by a single cook. The second and third floors contain the nursery, Swan Room, and additional bedrooms. The Tahitian Room and Grizzly Room are located in the basement and were added by Howard Hall as a retreat or “man cave.”
The style of the mansion changed with the owners over the years, but restorations by the National Trust have brought the estate back to the Queen Anne style the house had during the Douglas era. The home originally had more of a Victorian style under the Sinclair’s ownership.
The Visitor’s Center
The visitor’s center is located in the Central Hall of the Carriage House which was built in 1911 and has since been restored. The visitor’s center gives an overview of the history of Cedar Rapids over the past 150 years. It also displays pictures, artifacts, home movies and other information about the families who lived at Brucemore throughout the years. Also included in the visitors is a scale model of the Brucemore estate as it looked in the 1920’s.
Events and Educational Opportunities
For over 30 years, the Brucemore estate has served as a leader in community involvement and cultivation, hosting over 45,000 visitors annually. Festivals, theatrical performances, specialty tours, garden walks, and landscape hikes are among the many activities that take place at the Brucemore.
The Brucemore’s handsome estate provides the perfect backdrop. While weddings are not permitted, areas of the Brucemore are available for certain functions and are open to the community. Located in the heart of Cedar Rapids, the Brucemore estate is the perfect location for functions in Cedar Rapids.
2160 Linden Dr SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52403, Phone: 319-362-7375
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Attraction Spotlight: Belmont Hill Victorian Bed & Breakfast
Set in 1882 National Register Home and Carriage House on a private estate in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the Belmont Hill Victorian Bed & Breakfast is a charming and elegant retreat that offers a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Surrounded by pristine woodlands and beautiful natural landscapes, the charming inn features three beautifully appointed guest rooms with country-style décor and Victorian furnishings. Boasting beautiful finishes with wood salvaged from vintage Victorian buildings, private bathrooms, and modern-day conveniences, guest rooms provided a warm and welcoming home-away-from-home ambiance.
The Belmont Hill Victorian Bed & Breakfast features three beautifully appointed guest rooms with country-style décor and Victorian furnishings. All guest rooms have hardwood floors, king or queen-size pillow-beds dressed in high-quality linens, down comforters, and plush pillows, and en-suite bathrooms with shower/bath combinations, single vanities, fresh towels, and branded bath products. Hypo-allergenic pillows are available upon request. Modern amenities include individual climate control with cooling and heating, flat-screen televisions with cable channels, hairdryers and irons and ironing boards, and complimentary wireless Internet.
Named after the original owner and builder of Belmont Hill, the Wolff Room is a spacious ground-floor room furnished with queen-size walnut Amana bed dressed in high-quality linens, down comforters, and plush pillows, and an en-suite bathroom with shower/bath combination, single vanity, fresh towels, and branded bath products. The room also has an antique dresser and romantic loveseat.
Located on the ground floor of the mansion, the Heisel Room features a hardwood four poster king size bed dressed in high-quality linens, down comforters, and plush pillows, and an en-suite bathroom with shower/bath combination, single vanity, fresh towels, and branded bath products. The spacious room also has an oak cylinder desk, an oak dresser, and a romantic loveseat.
A complimentary continental-style breakfast is served every morning in the elegant dining room and includes freshly baked bread and pastries, seasonal fruit, cereals and homemade granola, yogurt, fruit juices, freshly brewed coffee, and tea. Gluten-free, lactose-intolerant, vegetarian, and vegan diets can be accommodated on request.
Attractions in the area include the Amana Colonies, the Antique Car Museum, the Brucemore Mansion, the Hoover National Historic Site, the Ushers Ferry Historic Village, Historic Mt. Vernon and Cornell College, the University of Iowa Campus and the Cold Capitol Museum. Also of interest is the Amish Community in Kalona, Amish Community, the Newbo Market/Czech Village Historic District, the National Czech & Slovak Museum, and Library, and the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art.
1525 Cherokee Drive NW, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Phone: 319-366-1343
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