Cedar Rapids, IA


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Cedar Rapids, Iowa’s second-largest city, is located 20 miles north of Iowa City in the eastern central part of the state. Cedar Rapids’ nickname is the “City of Five Seasons.” The additional season represents residents’ dedication to enjoying life, which is apparent in the thriving local arts scene. The Tree of Five Seasons sculpture, a landmark on the northern riverbank in Downtown, symbolizes that appreciation of variety and culture.

An ideal place for visitors to experience Iowa culture is at one of the city’s top attractions, the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art. The downtown museum, a few blocks from the Cedar River, holds over 7,200 works of visual art. Its permanent collection includes regional depictions by Marvin Cone and the world’s largest assemblage of American painter Grant Wood’s art.

Wood, originator of the famous American Gothic, lives on in many ways throughout the community. Art lovers and historians visiting Cedar Rapids can also view his works in a more intimate space, from within the walls of his former home. The Grant Wood Studio, where the artist lived and worked, has been preserved by the art museum and is located downtown on Second Avenue.

For lunch, hungry tourists flock to Pei’s Mandarin restaurant on Sixth Street. The establishment features Chinese fare as well as one of Cedar Rapids’ few sushi bars. Those who prefer cooked fare opt for crispy crab rangoon followed by a selection of meats and veggies grilled on the hibachi tables.

Along the banks of the Cedar River, Czech Village, another of the top attractions in Cedar Rapids, highlights the area’s diverse heritage. Journey through the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library, where paintings, crafts and sculptures bring European-American culture to life. Afterwards, stroll through the restored Czech Village, where boutique shops now adorn the quaint streets.

By far the biggest tourist draw to Cedar Rapids is the Brucemore Historic Site and Community Cultural Center. History and architecture buffs visiting Cedar Rapids explore the Queen Anne-style, 19th-century mansion via guided tour. The tour includes information on the three families that resided at the home, including the family of George Douglas, who was among the founders of Quaker Oats. The last of the families to reside at Brucemore, the Halls, are best remembered for their pets, which included numerous German shepherds and three lions.

The estate’s 26 acres now play host to many cultural activities for the community. Those visiting Cedar Rapids in the summer party on Brucemore’s lawn for the annual Balloon Glow, while kids take in a show at the Outdoor Children’s Theatre.

For year-round family fun and outdoor recreation, Cedar Rapids tourists head to Ellis Park, north of the city on the banks of the Cedar River. The 416-acre park offers boat rentals, swimming pools, tennis courts, an 18-hole golf course and an outdoor ice-skating rink for the winter months. The park’s grounds also contain a unique tribute garden to William Shakespeare, which is landscaped only with plantings mentioned in his works.