Blake Walsh

25 Best Things to Do in Cedar Rapids, IA

  • Published 2023/03/09

The second-largest city in Iowa, Cedar Rapids is one of America’s most progressive and “happening” cities, with some of the lowest crime rates.

The city, which ranked eighth among the top cities to live the American Dream in the United States, sure sets some standards.

Cedar Rapids has a top-tier combination of nature, modernity, and heritage in the form of gorgeous rivers and nature sanctuaries and high-rise towers and mansions.

This city is also known for its distinct European impact and Slovakian artifacts like those in the Czech Village & New Bohemia District or the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library.

These stay as beautiful landmarks for tourism today.

The historic mansion and gardens of Brucemore, the Paramount Theatre, the top-tier Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, and the multiple nature centers and nature parks are among the city’s top attractions.

In addition, heritage museums, the Cedar River, the bustling city market bustling, gorgeous libraries, and the edgy downtown will make you fall in love with this destination.

These are the best things to do in Cedar Rapids, Iowa:

Visit the Breathtaking National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library

National czech and slovak museum in Cedar Rapids

Rosemarie Mosteller /

This museum was established in 2012 and hosted an exhibit called Alphonse Mucha: Inspirations of Art Nouveau, where more than 230 priceless artifacts came directly from Europe, namely Prague and London.

The other two parts of the museum concentrate on Czech and Slovak history and culture.

The grounds comprise a two-room home that served as a residence for Czech immigrants for five generations from the 1880s.

The grand building of National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library

ArtisticAbode, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There is a gift shop with a collection and service so fine that it was awarded as the top gift shop in the US.

Numerous exhibits are held throughout the year in different parts of the museum, ranging from Medieval European history to the American War and political history.

There is an ample amount of intriguing information on the Czechs and Slovaks.

There are also exhibits on both the World Wars.

This place can also be called a heaven of folklore, with tales, customs, traditions, and an endless collection of gorgeous costumes, including baby dolls dressed in Czech and Slovakian clothes.

All these dresses are handmade by the finest craftsmen and will surely steal your heart.

The migration history is beautifully and accurately portrayed through these models, costumes, stories, audio tours, informative areas, and memorabilia.

Witness the Historic Brucemore Estate

Huge garden at Brucemore Estate

Florida Chuck /

This estate and 26-acre park is a living landmark sketching the glorious history of Cedar Rapids.

This mansion has a whopping 21 rooms!

Cedar Rapids is known as the land of five seasons, and with each changing season, this mansion, along with its vast woods and garden, is given a whole new look.

The exteriors are a treat to witness, with a cottage-like 20th-century finish, red brick walls, and multiple cones and pockets.

The red brick exterior of Brucemore Estate

ArtisticAbode, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The interiors are a whole new area to cover, and this place isn’t simply a heritage site.

An array of fun and massive activities are held at Brucemore throughout the year, from general parties and concerts to events and exhibits.

The gardens are expansive and highly well-maintained, with lots of flowering and fruit-bearing trees and wooded trails to make your trip all the more enjoyable.

Stroll around NewBo City Market

To discover the soul of any land, one must experience a taste of living like a local.

The best way to do that is to travel through the city’s markets and learn about its atmosphere.

NewBo City Market will provide you with an exciting experience at Cedar Rapids.

This indoor marketplace is a one-stop solution for your needs, whether you’re after food, architecture, local products, or simply being amongst lively crowds.

A well-equipped and well-facilitated modern area with a varied range of stores, NewBo City Market is a community gathering place and a favorite among locals and tourists.

It boasts a wide range of restaurants, cafes, a common food court, gaming zones, and clothing stores.

There is live music for free on weekends.

NewBo will give you a comfortable space to dine, shop, and have a good time.

Look around the Czech Village & New Bohemia District

Bakery in Czech village

Rosemarie Mosteller /

Located on 10th Avenue, this area has shops and markets where you can buy an exotic mix of products at reasonable prices.

The Czech Village is a prime location for authentic Czech products, authentic Czech architecture, paintings, heritage buildings, and other markers.

Street view of Czech Village

Davumaya, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There is the White Elephant Building of 1889, numerous famous bakeries serving mouth-watering delicacies, age-old bars, Czech cottages, and many antique shops with pretty rare collections.

Here, you’ll see streetside shops selling gorgeous jewelry that you will not usually see on American streets, plus colorful houses just waiting to be explored.

Feed Your Inner Artist at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art

Entrance of Cedar Rapids museum of art

ericjames, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A museum of nearly every traveler’s choice and boasting a range of awards, the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art is one of the most prestigious institutions in Cedar Rapids and in all of Iowa.

Located on 3rd Avenue, this place has an array of art to offer to its visitors from very ancient periods to as early as the last decade.

The works featured here span periods as broad as 2,000 years.

There are paintings, sculptures, fossils from different parts of the world like Egypt, and remains of different civilizations.

Take a Break at Indian Creek Nature Center

If you get overwhelmed after spending an entire day sightseeing, you might want to take a relaxing break in the arms of nature.

This is when Indian Creek Nature Center comes to the rescue.

Situated along Otis Road, this nature park provides a heavenly ambiance as there is no sign of artificiality in its gardens.

The nature center boasts deep green woods with trailing paths, butterfly gardens, and meadows.

Activities you can enjoy here include beehive watching, birdwatching, fishing, touring the greenhouses, and spending the day at the playground for children.

You might also spot beautiful deer while taking a walk in the forest.

Sit and Enjoy the Views by the Cedar River

Calm water flowing in Cedar River with cityscape in the background

Jonathannsegal /

The scenic Cedar River frontage is a pivotal landmark in Cedar Rapids.

Its vast surrounding area comprises a massive parking space, numerous eateries, and walking trails along the river.

Walking by the old bridge is also a way to enjoy the views of the area.

Bird's eye view of Cedar River

Jacob Boomsma /

You can go down and walk on the grassy shore, too.

If you are lucky, you might spot bald eagles or geese.

Scenic view of Cedar River

SNC Art and More /

Come by for a picnic with your family or simply sit quietly by the river, go for a swim, or go fishing.

Enjoy the beauty of this river on your own terms.

Pay a Visit to the Grant Wood Studio

The Grant Wood Studio is located on 2nd Avenue and marks a profound history of the American painter Grant Wood.

The cozy and humble studio looks sharp with its red brick structure, and as you enter, you’ll find the exact ambiance of an artist’s abode.

American Gothic, one of Wood’s most famous portraits, was painted in this studio and presently remains here as his memorabilia.

Other works of the artist are found here, too.

Enjoy a Beautiful Evening at the Paramount Theatre

Front view of Paramount Theatre

RifeIdeas, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

To enjoy the best of Cedar Rapids’s old-time charm, visiting the Paramount Theatre is a must.

The true beauty of this theater becomes evident as you enter the place and find massive, larger-than-life pillars accompanied by long velvet curtains, classic and comforting gallery seats in a semi-circle, a vintage organ, and chandeliers.

Visit and enjoy high-standard orchestras and musicals with live instruments, dramas, plays from Greek tragedies, American comedies, and concerts.

The Paramount Theatre is ready to engage you in superior quality entertainment.

Relax at the Lovely Bever Park

Located by the Bever Park Trail, this lively park gives off the perfect countryside energy.

Bever Park is surrounded by lush green gardens and is perfect for visitors of all ages.

Take your friends and family here and sit by the benches, explore one of the walking trails, or enjoy a therapeutic tour amid the park’s calming scenic beauty.

You can also bring your children here and accompany them to the petting zoo.

Your kids will surely have a wonderful time petting and feeding cows and goats and watching ducks swimming around.

Tour the Historic African American Museum of Iowa

African American museum of Iowa in Cedar Rapids

Griot2012, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The African American Museum of Iowa is one of the most humbling and educational attractions in the state.

It covers Iowa’s deep range of African American history and holds numerous items that show how the African Americans here lived and were treated.

Aerial view of the exhibits at African American Museum of Iowa

Griot2012, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There are cafeterias dating back to that age, as well as rooms marked as “whites only” and “colored,” all of which bring flashbacks of the horrific racism that used to reign here.

This institute regularly holds exhibits, educational tours, and shows enlightening visitors about these facts from the past.

Be Dazzled by the Cedar Rapids Public Library

Art piece on the entrance of Cedar Rapids Public Library

Kiyah /

The award-winning Cedar Rapids Public Library was recreated after the major flood of Cedar Rapids.

Many reference and adult books were lost in the flood, but the children’s and teenage sections still remain one of the finest.

Their coverage ranges from African American to European and American literature, books on applied science and biosciences, economy, commercial books, and more.

There is a green space on the roof, a nursing room, and other fun activities for everyone to enjoy.

The architecture will win your heart with its spacious, modernized 21st-century designs and facilities like automated book sorting.

Quench Your Thirst at the Perfect Clock House Brewing

Clock House Brewing is located on 1st Street and is the perfect place to sit down and enjoy excellent brews.

The building looks lovely, with a red brick structure.

The indoors are spacious, featuring a vast seating area that protrudes to an outside patio.

There is always music being played here, and the dishes served are classics.

For beer tasting and knowledge on brewing beer, the friendly owners also offer tours of the brewery.

The available drinks include craft beers, Belgian whiskeys, English rums, vodkas, and more.

Go on a Trip to Ushers Ferry Historic Village

If you have an afternoon or evening free, this is the best place to have a quick tour around.

Located in the beautiful Seminole Valley, this is technically a reception hall, but different activities take place here throughout the year.

Events, exhibitions, concerts, tours, and more are regularly held here.

Apart from this, the area is a natural beauty, and going for a walk to enjoy the softwoods with amber trees would not be a bad idea at all.

The house’s architecture is also brilliant-looking and belongs to the 20th century.

Watch a Live Performance at the Mcgrath Amphitheatre

To make your visit to Cedar Rapids as joyous as possible, one must pay a visit to the McGrath Amphitheatre.

Concerts are held at the venue every other day, so you are sure to find your musical match here.

There is plenty of seating space, and it is open-air, which adds to the place’s gorgeous nighttime lighting.

The food is fabulous, and drinks are available, too.

So, grab a bite and go for an evening show to see the entire city come alive in front of your eyes at a single location.

Learn More about Cedar Rapids at the Fascinating History Center

They say you can’t get to know a place unless you know its history, and if that’s something you believe, this should absolutely be one of the places you visit on your trip to Cedar Rapids.

The History Center, located on 2nd Avenue, is dedicated to providing unique resources for locals and visitors alike to share stories about the community and its history.

When you get there, you’ll see the connections between the past and the future.

What was Cedar Rapids like back then, what is it like now, and what are the many possibilities for its future?

Walk the Gorgeous Cedar River Trail

Not everyone appreciates the act of simply being in nature, feeling the cool forest breeze against your skin, and hearing the gentle flutter of leaves all around you.

However, Cedar Rapids can give you a chance to understand what makes something like that so amazing without pushing you too far out of your comfort zone.

Follow the Cedar River Trail and witness the natural beauty of the area.

It’s an urban river walk that follows a former rail bed and goes on for miles and miles.

So, try it out and see how long you can go; but don’t go in a rush and take as much time as you need to appreciate the scenery around you.

Fall in Love with the Art at Gilded Pear Gallery

Art enthusiasts are surely in for a treat when visiting Cedar Rapids, as it’s home to numerous art galleries.

One of these is the Gilded Pearl Gallery, located on Third Avenue.

The gallery features different exhibitions throughout the year, showcasing the work of modern and contemporary artists.

Take a look around and see what you end up liking.

Whether you like abstract or more concrete pieces, this place will surely have something you’ll find interesting.

Try Your Luck at Prairie Park Fishery

Have you ever tried fishing?

Well, whether you’re a newbie who wants to try it out for the first time or a veteran looking to go back to a familiar pastime, Prairie Park Fishery will give you the opportunity to fish to your heart’s content.

Before you get started, make sure you’ve obtained the appropriate permissions for fishing; once you have that, you’ll be good to go.

The fishery has two main basins, so do your research to figure out which one will work better for what you want to do.

Some of the species you’ll find there are walleyes, bluegills, and black crappies.

Show Your Support for Local Artists at CSPS

CSPS, which can be found on 3rd Street, started in the 1980s when an independent art company presented pieces and performances across the globe.

Eventually, they settled into the historic CSPS Hall in 1991, creating the art hub that exists today.

Now, when you’re there, you’ll be treated to a multicultural and multidisciplinary center.

The place showcases various artists and shows off their skills by creating exhibits or hosting their original performances.

Shop at Cedar Rapids Downtown Farmers Market

If you’re here for a visitduring the summer season, you’ll get to catch theCedar Rapids Downtown Farmers Market.

This seasonal annual market has been around for more than 15 years and is among Midwest’s largest and most popular open-air markets.

Shop from over 200 market vendors on selected Saturday mornings from May to August; you can also watch out for the Fall Market every September.

Get fresh local produce, meats, artisan cheeses, wines, and baked goods, along with unique handcrafted artisan pieces, pet products, plants, botanicals, specialty products, services, and more.

The market is always lively with local musicians and performers to entertain shoppers.

And kids will also have fun with activities made especially for them.

Also, don’t forget to try the lines of delicious fares at the Cedar Rapids Downtown Farmers Market.

Come and Visit the Collins Aerospace Museum

Get to see thehighlights at the Collins Aerospace MuseumonCollins Road.

The museum is housed in Building 120 at the East door and welcomes guests for tours every Wednesday at lunchtime.

For one hour, volunteers from Friends of the Collins Aerospace Museum will guide you on a tour.

They have also been authorized to preserve the Collins Aerospace and Collins Radio Company’s history and legacy.

View the artifacts and learn about the early days of radio transmission and the company started by Arthur Collins in 1931.

You’ll also see vintage transmitters, early receiver models, phone sets, and prototypes of early GPS antennas on display.

Have an enjoyable learning experience at the Collins Aerospace Museum.

Enjoy Some Family Time at The Fun Station

Your family is sure to have loads of fun amusement atThe Fun Station located on Collins Road.

For more than 25 years, the President and CEO of Edwards Entertainment Company, Nick Edwards continues the tradition of giving fun family entertainment for its patrons.

Kids of all ages will have fun at the multi-level interactive Play Maze and the different 22-foot Climbing Walls.

Love arcade games? Get your game mode on with over 35 video arcade and redemption games you can play.

Enjoy with your friends with a friendly competition of interactive Laser Maze game.

And after all the fun activities, get some energy with food and drinks at Box Car Cafe.

Choose from yummy Shareables like Box Car Nachos, Mega Pretzel, and Steam Engine Fries, or go for mouthwatering Wings in different sauce flavors.

Order some pizza, burgers, or chicken, or you can try other items on the menu like quesadillas, wraps, mac n’ cheese skillets, kiddie meals, and beverages.

Get any of the Ultimate Milkshakes or satisfy your sweet tooth with assorted sweet treats.

The Fun Station also has weekly specials like Tuesday’s Kids Eat Free, discounts on Play Maze on Wednesdays, and Family Fun Night every Thursday.

Catch Amazing Stage Performances at Theatre Cedar Rapids

For riveting stage performances, catch the shows atTheatre Cedar Rapids.

The theatre is located on 3rd Street in the southeast area.

They’re also one of the largest volunteer theatre organizations in the country and the state’s largest producing community theatre.

The company has also been a leading institution in theatre arts in Eastern Iowa for a hundred years already.

Catch and be immersed in the musicals and plays performed by the company from comedies to burlesque, and others.

You can get ticket packages and check out scheduled on-stage performances at the website.

Theatre Cedar Rapids also offers educational programs for students, along with camps and classes for all ages, from small proteges to master classes for adults.

Try Assorted Coffee Brews at Dunn Brothers Coffee

Get your caffeine fix and try tasty fares atDunn Brothers Coffee.

This locally-owned coffee shop is open daily and is around Blairs Ferry Road Northeast; they also have other locations in Coralville, Davenport, and Bettendorf.

It was started by sibling tandem Ed and Dan Dunn in 1987, who thought of providing the freshest brews made in small batches and offering a warm coffee experience for everyone.

They only use carefully sourced beans to make fresh, roasted brewed coffee that you’ll enjoy in a welcoming and cozy ambiance.

You can also take your pick of their Espresso selections like Latte, Mocha, Cappuccino, Americano, or the traditional double-shot Espresso.

Try any of their specialty drinks like Caramelized Almond Latte, Raspberry White Mocha, Mint Mocha, and Caramel Mocha.

Otherwise, try other items like the Infinite Black Cold Brew Selection, Blended Coffee, Mocha, or Caramel Frappe.

They also have non-coffee drinks like Iced or Hot Loose Leaf Tea, Iced or Hot Chai Latte, Hot Chocolate, and Mango and Strawberry Fruit Smoothie flavors.

For delicious hearty fares, you can Build-Your-Own Egg Sandwich or go for freshly baked options like Apple Pie Donuts, Chocolate Lava Donuts, Coffee Cakes, and much more.

Other menu options at Dunn Brothers Coffee include Umpqua Oats oatmeal cups, sandwiches, wraps, Naan Pizzas, and healthy salad choices.

Final Thoughts

With historical monuments and art galleries, river trails, and nature walks, Cedar Rapids is definitely a place that’ll pique your interest no matter what kind of person you are.

It’s hard not to marvel at how many things you can do in a place like this, and it could be called overwhelming if it wasn’t so exciting.

Give it a try and see what part of the area you’ll fall in love with, or maybe you’ll find yourself falling in love with the entire place.

Discover More of Cedar Rapid

Best Coffee Shops in Cedar Rapids, IA

© All rights reserved.