Blake Walsh

16 Best Things to Do in Cedar Falls, IA

  • Published 2022/11/17

Cedar Falls is a bustling city in Iowa, part of Black Hawk County, just a few miles north of Cedar Rapids.

The city is also close to Minneapolis, usually a three-and-a-half-hour drive away.

Despite its proximity to these bigger cities, Cedar Falls has its own intrinsic beauty worth discovering.

As the name suggests, it’s rich in natural wonders, particularly waterfalls, rivers, lakes, and wetlands that serve as wildlife habitats.

Despite this, the city’s bustling economy is also rich in urban attractions, such as fun amusement centers, shopping districts, and museums.

You’ll have lots of fun visiting this city, so check out this list of the best things to do in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Go Boating at Big Woods Lake Recreation Area

Scenic view of Big Woods Lake Recreation Area

Tony Webster from Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Big Woods Lake is one of the best natural wonders in the city, together with Cedar River, and you can enjoy it best through Big Woods Lake Recreation Area, accessible along Big Woods Road.

The most famous activity here is exploring the sizable lake via boating activities.

Kayaking is particularly common here, where you can traverse its calm waters and see its picturesque shorelines.

Other activities at Big Woods Lake Recreation Area are picnics, fishing, biking, and even disc golfing, thanks to its well-maintained amenities.

Camping is also popular among locals because of its scenic campsites.

Immerse Yourself in Nature at Hartman Reserve Nature Center

Hartman Reserve Nature Center is one of the larger expanses of land in Cedar Falls, giving you a holistic feel of nature.

Located along the Cedar River, the nature reserve is full of various trails and outdoor activities for children of all ages.

There are paved and unpaved paths, but all lead to scenic trails that show the preserve’s beauty.

You’ll see a variety of flora and fauna here, especially flowers and animals like turtles, deer, and birds.

Hartman Reserve Nature Center also has a learning center that shows the ecology of the land, known for its taxidermy exhibits.

Accessible along Reserve Drive, put this place atop your Cedar Falls itinerary!

Watch Drag Racing and Other Auto Events at Cedar Falls Motorsports Park

Whether you’re a car or racing enthusiast, Cedar Falls Motorsports Park is a tourist hotspot for year-round motorsport events.

Various unique and sometimes even uncanny vehicles parade on this drag strip.

Spanning almost 70 acres, the drag strip has an excellent layout fitted with comfortable bleachers for the ultimate viewing experience.

It’s also a perfect place to meet fellow hobbyists and enthusiasts, as many people from Minneapolis and other neighboring cities visit here, too.

Cedar Falls Motorsports Park is on the northern outskirts of Cedar Falls, found along Waverly Road.

Camp at George Wyth State Park

The waters of George Wyth State Park

Melissa L Oltman /

Across the Cedar River from Hartman Reserve Nature Center lies George Wyth State Park, a haven for outdoor adventure because of its ecological diversity.

George Wyth State Park’s proximity to Hartman Reserve Nature Center makes it an ideal stop in your itinerary.

Not only is it convenient, but it also offers activities such as camping and fishing at George Wyth Lake.

The park offers an ideal combination of facilities and untouched wilderness, making it the perfect place to camp.

The grounds of George Wyth State Park

Melissa L Oltman /

Enjoy Recreational Activities at Pfeiffer Springs Park

Pfeiffer Springs Park is an ideal place to relax and exercise.

It’s right next to Hartman Reserve Nature Center, which makes it a convenient stopover before or after your trip.

You can do several activities here that are great for children, such as playing baseball, picnics, or cycling along the trails.

Since it runs along Cedar River, the park also has a nice breeze and scenic views, perfect for a simple stroll.

Pfeiffer Springs Park is located along Grand Boulevard near the city’s interstate highway that connects to Cedar Falls neighbor, Waterloo.

Fire a Gun or an Arrow at Black Hawk Park

Black Hawk Park is another expansive park in the city, located far up the northwestern side of Cedar Falls.

While you can do the usual park activities like fishing, camping, and hiking here, the main attraction in Black Hawk Park is its shooting and archery range.

It has amazing shooting facilities ideal for both beginners and seasoned veterans.

The shooting range has dedicated areas for rifle and pistol shooting, as well as an area for archery.

Both scenic and fun, Black Hawk Park is an amazing destination if you want to try something new with friends or family.

Explore the Bustling Districts of Downtown Cedar Falls

Buildings along Downtown Cedar Falls

RifeIdeas, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As mentioned earlier, Cedar Falls is a city that harmonizes urbanization with natural wonders.

Downtown Cedar Falls is one of the most iconic areas in the city and one that you should check out if you’re into urban exploration.

The downtown area, along the city’s Main Street, is packed full of interesting shops, restaurants, and some historical buildings.

It’s the perfect place to get lost and get a feel of the urban but quaint life in Cedar Falls.

You can try many local restaurants, cafes, and dessert stations in Downtown Cedar Falls throughout your adventure.

Enjoy a Round of Golf at Beaver Hills Country Club

Cedar Falls is also home to a great golf club if you prefer to swing a club instead of firing a gun or bow.

Beaver Hills Country Club boasts well-maintained fairways that offer a bit of challenge to golfers, thanks to the natural terrain of the city.

The country club also has excellent staff and food and is a great venue for hosting private events.

Beaver Hills Country Club is west of Black Hawk Park, along North Union Road.

Buy Travel Essentials at Fleet Farm

If you need to stop by an all-around shopping center in Cedar Falls, Fleet Farm is a great place to get travel-related gear and other merchandise.

It’s a huge department store ideal for window shopping or buying fishing and hiking gear.

Fleet Farm also has a selection of food products and clothing.

Accessible along West Ridgeway Avenue, keep Fleet Farm in mind should you need a department store that offers a wide range of merchandise.

Visit the Ice House Museum

Exterior of the Ice House Museum

RifeIdeas, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Ice House Museum is one of the most famous attractions in the heart of the city, located at Center Street along the bank of Cedar River.

Dating to 1921, the Ice House Museum is on the National Register of Historic Places as a historic facility dedicated to ice harvesting.

A good number of displays here show the rich history of the now often-forgotten ice harvesting industry local to Cedar Falls.

Information board of the Ice House Museum

RifeIdeas, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Include this in your itinerary, as the Ice House Museum would take only about an hour of your time.

Afterward, you can enjoy the Cedar River along its banks.

It’s a nice scenic spot where you can observe lots of fish and enjoy a calming breeze on a good day.

Cool Down at The Falls Aquatic Center

The Falls Aquatic Center is the premiere water park facility of Cedar Falls, attracting locals and neighboring tourists during the hot summer months.

If you’re visiting during a hot day, check out The Falls Aquatic Center, which offers excellent facilities such as the lazy river, slides, and diving boards.

They also have competent staff and lifeguards, making it an ideal destination for large families with children.

An overall great place to relax and cool down, The Falls Aquatic Center is located along South Main Street.

Discover Local Art at Hearst Center for the Arts

Hearst Center for the Arts is a quaint little museum on West Seerley Boulevard near Downtown Cedar Falls.

Here, you can discover various works from local artists and literary writers.

Hearst Center for the Arts also holds occasional live performances in its event space, which features a stage and several classrooms.

Outside, you can also see many artworks in the sculpture garden.

Watch a Live Performance at Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center

Piano performance in the Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center

james.a.mick /

Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center is a premiere facility of the University of Northern Iowa, home to some of the best art and cultural events in the state.

It’s a state-of-the-art performing arts center boasting several concert halls and a theater auditorium, making it an ideal destination to enjoy a live performance.

Check out their website to see the various events available year-round.

Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center is located along Dakota Street inside the university campus.

Attend the Festival of Trees

If there’s one iconic annual event in Cedar Falls, it’s without question the Festival of Trees.

Usually held in Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center around mid to late November, the Festival of Trees is a week-long celebration of the natural beauty of Cedar Falls’ rich flora.

If you participate in this festival, you’ll see beautifully decorated trees and other artistic works featuring wreaths and lanterns.

Other fun activities at the festival include live performances, workshops, and competitions.

A tradition since 1989, the Festival of Trees is both a cultural celebration and a social act, as its proceeds go to MercyOne Hospital.

Take a Stroll at Cedar Falls Industrial Park

Cedar Falls Industrial Park is a convenient way to enjoy a nice stroll while visiting some of the major commercial establishments in Cedar Falls.

Across Prairie Lakes along Viking Road, Cedar Falls Industrial Park offers activities such as fishing and trekking.

The park has paved trails that can be connected with the unpaved ones in Prairie Lakes.

It’s also accessible to some establishments such as Target, Martin Bros. Grocery, and other dining establishments.

Stop by Cedar Falls Industrial Park during the afternoon to relax and have a nice lakeside dinner.

Catch a Game of Football or Basketball at the UNI-Dome

Exterior of UNI-Dome

Vossman at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Another prime facility of the University of Northern Iowa is the UNI-Dome, easily the best sports stadium in Cedar Falls.

It’s home to the University of Northern Iowa’s (UNI) Panthers football and basketball teams.

The two teams have a rich history of success, and the Cedar Falls locals are known to be passionate and lively during their games.

Besides the sports games, the UNI-Dome also hosts concerts and other live performances, depending on the time of the year.

Check the schedule of games during your visit to Cedar Falls to not miss out.

Final Thoughts

An unassuming city that its neighboring cities may overlook, Cedar Falls has a lot to offer any tourist planning to visit Iowa.

It offers numerous attractions, from rich parks to bustling urban districts.

It’s also great for families and large groups, as many scenic trails are easy to explore, and the city isn’t too crowded.

Before traveling, plan ahead and check out these best things to do in Cedar Falls, Iowa!

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