Head to the Midwest! Whether it's history and culture, outdoor adventures, or a culinary treat you are after, there are plenty of things to do in Cedar Rapids, Iowa for the entire family.
One of Eastern Iowa's most exciting cities is Cedar Rapids. This family-friendly city boasts numerous bike paths, thrilling sporting events, stunning gardens, and a thriving culinary scene. While the town is most known for its art and culture, visitors will also discover incredible theater, live music, and thought-provoking museums. Because there are so many things to do in Cedar Rapids Iowa, book a stay at Belmont Hill Victorian Bed and Breakfast—a fabulous historic hotel—for your home base as you explore the area.
Belmont Hill's History
In 1882, Philip Andrew Wolff, a third-generation brickmaker and mason, purchased a 45-acre parcel on a hilltop in Cedar Rapids. Phillip and his new wife, Rosina Yerker, named the area Belmont Hill. Phillip opened a brickyard, crafted hand-molded bricks, planted a vineyard, built a basement winery, and constructed a 2½-story residence. As if that weren't enough, he added a carriage house for their horses and buggy. The couple went on to raise six children at Belmont Hill during their 70-year marriage, filling the house with love. And that same spirit continues there today.
Belmont Hill Victorian Bed and Breakfast
The vineyards and brickyard that Phillip Wolff built in 1882 are gone. Current owners Kent and Shelley Sullens live in the main house and operate Belmont Hill Victorian Bed and Breakfast in the 1890s carriage house. The carriage house features stunning Victorian wallpaper that complements the historic brick walls and woodwork salvaged from buildings of the same era. Period furnishings and hardwood floors decorate the rooms. Although antique in appearance, the rooms offer modern luxuries. For instance, you'll enjoy central air conditioning, satellite TV, and high-speed Wi-Fi. Each room has its own private bath.
I arrived in Cedar Rapids toward the end of my Iowa road trip in the early part of 2021. For my stay, I booked the Wolff Room, located on the bottom floor of the carriage house.
Life at the Bed and Breakfast
Every guest room at Belmont Hill is tranquil and spacious. Breakfast is served each morning in the large dining room of the main house. Both Kent and Shelley are extremely hospitable, and I so enjoyed the cheerful and engaging conversations each morning.
Breakfast always began with fresh fruit and yogurt, followed by a hot dish and a tasty quick bread. Although the egg dish with ham, bacon, and cream cheese was savory, my favorite was the French toast with sautéed apples and sausage. Shelley's white linen tablecloth is decorated with beautiful china and seasonal fresh flowers, giving breakfast a formal yet relaxed vibe.
While I loved relaxing at Belmont Hill, I was ready to get out and explore. Cedar Rapids offers visitors numerous exciting ways to spend each day.
Art and History in Cedar Rapids
The Midwest city of Cedar Rapids has a wide variety of exciting museums and stunning historical buildings. The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art offers an eclectic array of paintings, sketches, and sculptures. The works by local artist Grant Wood captured my attention. The Brucemore Estate displays historical pieces in its 1880s mansion, and both visitors and locals enjoy walking and picnicking in the vast onsite gardens.
If you love theater, purchase tickets for one of the touring shows in the 1700-seat Paramount Theater downtown. The beautiful facility is the Crown Jewel of Cedar Rapids.
Culture in Cedar Rapids
I recommend visiting The National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library. The historical and cultural exhibits depict the migration and life of 19th-century Czech and Slovak immigrants. As a result of exploring the museum, I realized the extreme persecution and suffering these people endured before arriving in America. I was fascinated by the exciting neighborhoods the immigrants established in Cedar Rapids and their different cultures expressed in the local food and markets.
Specific culturally-distinct neighborhoods are worth perusing. The Czech Village has cute shops and delicious coffee and pastries at Café Saint Pio. The Newbo City Market offers a variety of food and craft booths and is a must-stop while wandering the Newbo neighborhood. There are a plethora of things to do in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
The city is the top grain producer in the country. Quaker Oats and General Mills make a variety of desserts, pizzas, cereals, soups, and pet foods distributed from this part of the country.
Outdoor Things to Do in Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Be sure to add checking out hiking and biking trails to your list of things to do in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The Cedar Valley Nature Trail runs for 67 miles. It connects the town of Evansdale to Ely while zigzagging through several other small towns. Cyclists and walkers love the trail. Bever Park is a fantastic place for families to enjoy skating on the ice rink, swimming at the pool, and visiting with resident farm animals.
Ragbrai, an epic eight-day bike ride across Iowa, is the oldest, most extensive, and longest multi-day bicycle touring event in the world. A variety of music and food is available for participants and spectators to enjoy.
Culinary Finds in Cedar Rapids
When you start exploring things to do in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, be sure to include the culinary scene. Here are two of my favorite restaurants in the area.
The Class Act
Having attended culinary school years ago, I am a big fan of dining at culinary schools and restaurants where students train. The Class Act, located inside the Hotel at Kirkwood, is a fabulous place. The culinary students at the local college work and learn at the fine dining restaurant, alongside seasoned chefs, servers, and bartenders.
I began the evening with the Air Mail, a featured cocktail crafted with white rum, lime, honey syrup, and Prosecco. My first course was a perfectly-dressed beet and goat cheese salad on mixed greens. This was followed by smoked pork ribeye, with a side of prosciutto macaroni and cheese, seasonal vegetables, and a mustard chimichurri. Yum! It was delicious.
Cobble Hill Eatery & Dispensary Origins
It is always exciting to find a talented chef in an unexpected place! Chef Andy Schumacher attended the French Culinary Institute in New York City. After working for different restaurants to learn about the industry, he went on to open his own catering company. This brought Chef Andy to appear in the second season of The Next Food Network Star. Although Guy Fieri won the competition that year, the two became friends in the process.
Chef Andy and his wife Carrie moved to Cedar Rapids, and in 2013 they opened Cobble Hill Eatery & Dispensary. In 2015, Cobble Hill earned a semifinalist award of excellence from the James Beard Foundation. The restaurant was labeled one of the “Most Romantic Restaurants in Iowa” in the same year.
Dinner at Cobble Hill
When I visited Cobble Hill, German food was on the menu. During my visit, Chef Andy was serving an international-themed dinner menu each month to build local enthusiasm after the hardship of the COVID-19 pandemic.
My dinner experience at the Cobble Hill restaurant began with a smooth and tasty drink. The house-bottled French Oak Old Fashioned is made with Old Forester bourbon, demerara, orange blossom water, and house bitters.
My favorite dish of the evening was the short rib sauerbraten. Chef Andy marinated the ribs in red wine, bay leaves, and vinegar for 48 hours. He thickened the sauce with raisins and served the meat with roasted Brussels sprouts and savory dumplings. I was impressed with the selection of in-house crafted ingredients he used to make the flavorful and unique sauces throughout the evening. Staff at Cobble Hill are well trained and professionally present each dish.
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Vacation in Cedar Rapids
Cedar Rapids, Iowa is an eclectic and fun place to visit for a few days or a week. Book your stay at The Belmont Hill Victorian Bed and Breakfast, bring your bicycle to ride on the trails, and make reservations to dine at some of the city's delectable and noteworthy restaurants.
Whether it's history and culture, outdoor adventures, or a culinary treat you are after, there are plenty of things to do in Cedar Rapids, Iowa for the entire family. Let Wander help you plan your next family travel adventure to Iowa and beyond.