Cedar Rapids: Recreation


A trip to Cedar Rapids might include a visit to Brucemore Mansion and Gardens, which is a National Trust Historic Site. A 21-room Queen Anne-style mansion on a 26-acre estate, Brucemore is the ancestral home of three prominent families who used it as a center for culture and arts. Built in 1884, it is now used for a variety of cultural events, including dance and drama performance, historical tours, garden walks, lectures, workshops, and educational programs.

The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library preserve the city's ethnic heritage; they offer two exhibit galleries that focus on Czech and Slovak history and culture. In the area downtown along the Cedar River known as The Czech Village, shops, bakeries, and stores feature authentic crafts and foods. The Science Station, housed in a refurbished brick 1917 fire station, offers hands-on science and technology exhibits for children and adults. In 2001 the McLeod/Busse IMAX Dome Theatre was added to the property, offering science and nature themed movies on a six-story wraparound screen. The Iowa Equestrian Center at Kirkwood Community College is one of Cedar Rapids' newest attractions, and the state's most comprehensive facilities for horse shows, workshops, programs, and equestrian events. It has indoor and outdoor arenas and facilities for 266 horses.

Several points of interest are within driving distance of Cedar Rapids. The Amana Colonies, 20 minutes south of the city, is Iowa's primary tourist attraction. It is composed of seven villages first settled in 1855 by German immigrants searching for religious freedom. Today, the Colonies are home to furniture stores, wineries, bakeries, and German restaurants run by the settlers' descendents. The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and National Historic Site is in West Branch, 25 miles from Cedar Rapids. Attractions there include the presidential library and museum, a Quaker meeting house, a blacksmith shop, Hoover's birthplace, and Hoover's grave site.

Arts and Culture

An important part of cultural life in Cedar Rapids is the Museum of Art, with 5,000 works of art under its roof. The museum houses the world's largest collection of works by Grant Wood, Marvin Cone, and Mauricio Lasansky. They also have strong collections of early twentieth century paintings, Malvina Hoffman sculptures, and Regionalist art from the 1930s and 1940s. In 2003 Cedar Rapids also became home to the African American Historical Museum and Cultural Center of Iowa. This building features exhibits on Africa, the nation, and Iowa, and holds community and educational programs.

The city's cultural community presents a variety of concerts and shows and hosts visiting international performance groups. The renovated Paramount Theatre for the Performing Arts, with a hall of mirrors and Broadway-style marquee, is the home of the Cedar Rapids Symphony Orchestra. The symphony performs four concert series: Classics, Pops, Chamber, and Discovery Family. In 1998, the Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre began performing two to three operas per season. Past performances have included Pirates of Penzance and La Traviata. Its Young Artists Program allows pre-professional singers the opportunity to perform in mainstage productions.

Theatre Cedar Rapids presents eight mainstage shows in a repertoire ranging from musicals to drama, and is one of the 20 largest community theatres in the country. It is housed in the Iowa Theatre Building, first opened in 1928 and extensively renovated in 1980. Off-season the building is busy hosting a variety of other performances, including comedy shows and concerts. The Old Creamery Theatre Company performs an April-to-December season at the Amana Colonies. Area colleges sponsor a host of cultural programs. Among them is the Summer Rep series at the University of Iowa University Theatres, which features works each season by a single modern playwright. The university's Hancher Auditorium hosts more than 40 major international cultural events each year in its 2,500-seat auditorium.

For a taste of small-town Iowa during the turn of the century, visitors can walk through the Ushers Ferry Historic Village. Composed of more than 30 authentic buildings and homes

The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, opened in 1989, encompasses a restored Beaux Arts building and a newly constructed gallery.
The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, opened in 1989, encompasses a restored Beaux Arts building and a newly constructed gallery.
over 10 acres of land, the facility gives tours, workshops, and historical reenactments. Turn-of-the-century farm life can be relived at Seminole Valley Farm, where the restored family farm and outbuildings are now home to tours and history exhibits. In nearby Marion, the nineteenth-century Granger House is open for tours of the Victorian home and carriage house.

Festivals and Holidays

A festival, parade, or show is scheduled nearly every weekend of the year in Cedar Rapids. The Cedar Rapids Freedom Festival, a city staple for more than 20 years, is an 11-day festival encompassing more than 75 events for all ages during the month of July. Also in July, nearby Hiawatha hosts its Hog Wild Days, a week-long festival that raises money for community programs. During the spring, the Marion Arts Festival brings together 50 artists from across the country, displaying and selling a wide variety of art. Live music, food vendors, and family-friendly activities are also featured. In January, the Amana Colonies is home to WinterFest, a day of Winter fun including a 5K run/walk, wagon rides, cross-country skiing, ice skating, and winery tours.

Sports for the Spectator

The Cedar Rapids Kernels, a Class A farm club of the National League Anaheim Angels professional baseball club, play a full home schedule in the Midwest League at Veterans Memorial Park, which seats 5,300 people. For automobile-racing enthusiasts, Hawkeye Downs Speedway hosts a number of sanctioned racing events in modern facilities. Visiting regional and national series have included the NASCAR REMAX Series, American IndyCar Series, and the IMCA Summer Series. Hockey enthusiasts are crowding games of the new RoughRiders junior hockey team at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena. In 2004 Cedar Rapids acquired the Cedar Rapids River Raiders, a member of the United States Basketball League. They play home games at U.S. Cellular Center.

The full range of major college sports is presented at the University of Iowa in nearby Iowa City, where the Hawk-eyes engage in Big Ten competition. Coe College, Mount Mercy College, and Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, and Cornell College in Mount Vernon compete in a number of sports.

Sports for the Participant

Cedar Rapids has the largest park system in Iowa, with more than 75 parks on more than 4,000 acres of land. Recreation facilities include 6 aquatic centers, 50 ball fields, 30 volleyball courts, 3 outdoor ice rinks, 4 cross-country ski trails, 50 tennis courts, and 30 soccer fields. For the golfing enthusiast, the city also has 4 municipal golf courses, 4 privately owned golf courses, and 3 country clubs. At Cheyenne Park, dog owners can use an 18-acre, fenced, off-leash dog exercise area. The area is also home to many miles of nature trails. The Cedar Valley Nature Trail, once a railroad bed, offers 52 miles of trails for biking, hiking, and skiing through recreation areas, along riverbanks, and through small towns. The Sac and Fox National Recreational Trail follows Indian Creek through wooded areas and is used for hiking, horseback riding, bicycling, skiing, and dog sledding.

Recreation Information: Cedar Rapids Parks Department, telephone (319)286-5080

Shopping and Dining

The Cedar Rapids area offers a wide range of shopping and dining attractions. The city is home to two enclosed malls with a combined total of more than 170 shops. Downtown, more than 103 individual stores are woven through the city streets. In nearby Williamsburg, shoppers can find the Tanger Factory Outlet Center, with more than 70 outlet stores. Additionally, Czech Village and the Amana Colonies offer an assortment of specialty shops. Dining choices consist of a mix of ethnic and traditional cuisines, with an abundance of regional and national chains as well as unique locally owned restaurants. Three farmer's markets operate in the warm-weather months, offering locally grown fruits, vegetables, flowers, and baked goods.

Visitor Information: Cedar Rapids Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, 119 First Avenue SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52406; toll-free (800)735-5557.