10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Cedar Rapids, IA

Written by Brad Lane
Updated Dec 28, 2023
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Author Brad Lane attended the University of Iowa near Cedar Rapids and lived in the area.

Cedar Rapids is the second-largest city in the state of Iowa, just behind the state capital of Des Moines, and it's packed to the brim with interesting things to do throughout the year.

From the historic Brucemore estate to the expanded collection of Grant Wood paintings and others at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, and the many trails and ecosystems at the Indian Springs Nature Center, it's easy to find something to stimulate your interest.

Whether you visit Cedar Rapids for a weekend or longer, you'll find plenty to explore in this Midwestern gem. Discover things to do and places to visit with our list of top attractions in Cedar Rapids.

1. National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library

National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library
National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Highlights: Large museum and library dedicated to Iowa's Czech and Slovak cultures

The National Czech & Slovak Museum and Library has permanent and rotating exhibits that shed light on Czech and Slovak culture found in Iowa and beyond, striving to expose all members of the community to this storied heritage.

While touring the many different artifacts, photographs, and living history by yourself is worthy of a trip, the Czech & Slovak Museum and Library also offers guided tours to enhance your experience.

The National Czech & Slovak Museum hosts several events and programs throughout the week. Teen workshops, acoustic concerts, and movie screenings often fill the museum's calendar. The National Czech & Slovak Museum and Library is open seven days a week.

Across the 12th Avenue bridge, the African American Museum of Iowa offers more cultural perspectives nearby.

Address: 1400 Inspiration Place SW, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

2. Brucemore

Brucemore | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Highlights: Storied mansion hosting guided tours and special events on its sprawling lawn

Brucemore Estate started its saga as a family mansion in the mid-to-late 19th century. Over the next 100 years, different influential families moved in and out of the mansion and the 26-acre estate, enhancing the property and adding touches of their own. In 1981, the last resident of Brucemore bequeathed the property to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Since 1981, Brucemore has served as a community cultural hub that invites locals and tourists alike to tour the mansion and surrounding gardens. Brucemore also has quite the reputation in Cedar Rapids for hosting exciting events, giving special tours, and providing the perfect place to unwind and appreciate the beauty of things collected from decades past.

The standard tour of the 21-room mansion includes detailed information about the architecture, furnishings, and the estate's storied past. Other tours at Brucemore go into more depth, focusing on aspects such as servants' life and the beautiful gardens. Brucemore also features special winter tours, when the mansion is decorated in holiday cheer.

Address: 2160 Linden Drive SE, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

3. Cedar Rapids Museum of Art

Grant Wood painting at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art
Grant Wood painting at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Highlights: Extensive art collection and historic Grant Wood studio

Established in 1905 and centrally located in the downtown district near the Cedar Rapids Public Library, the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art provides endless outlets for cultural exploration and art appreciation. The museum features constantly rotating exhibits plus permanent collections, including the world's largest collection of work from the Iowa-native Grant Wood. The museum also proudly displays more than 600 years of art from early Roman life.

The museum has a total of 60,000 square feet to explore, and the facility also operates the nearby Grant Wood Studio. Located three blocks from the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, the Grant Wood Studio is the authentic place where the artist painted his American Gothic masterpiece. Visitors are welcomed to tour this small space of creativity during open studio hours.

Address: 410 3rd Avenue SE, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

4. Paramount Theatre

Paramount Theatre
Paramount Theatre | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Highlights: Historic venue hosting all types of live entertainment in downtown

On the National Register of Historic Places, the Paramount Theatre brings the past and present together with first-class performances in a restored, grandiose theater setting.

Originally constructed in the 1920s as a movie palace and vaudeville performance space, the theater has seen some renovations and repairs over the years, especially after the devastating floods of 2008. Presently, it has been restored to its original grandeur and welcomes all sorts of live performances, including Broadway plays and community concerts.

The Paramount Theater is also home to Orchestra Iowa, the state's definitive source of orchestra music. Other performances regularly on stage include stand-up comedians, professional speakers, and nationally touring live music performances. While many of the names that fill out the marquee put on a pretty good show, it's also the historic setting of the auditorium that makes for a memorable show.

Address: 123 3rd Ave SE, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

5. Czech Village and New Bohemia

Czech Village
Czech Village | Rosemarie Mosteller / Shutterstock.com

Highlights: Bustling area of downtown with shops, restaurants, and city markets

Czech Village and New Bohemia are two historic downtown neighborhoods also known as The District. These river-adjacent streets span out from 12th Avenue and comprise some of the best shopping and restaurants in the city. This bustling pedestrian area also extends across the river and includes the award-winning National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library.

The NewBo City Market is a staple of New Bohemia and the larger District. This large, non-profit gathering space is home to several local startups and small businesses and several annual events. Celebrations take place inside NewBo City Market and outside on the expansive lawn.

6. Palisades-Kepler State Park

Palisades-Kepler State Park in autumn
Palisades-Kepler State Park in autumn

Highlights: Adventurous place to explore outside with the Cedar River and scenic bluffs

Palisades-Kepler State Park is one of the top places to visit to explore the outdoors in Cedar Rapids, located on the Cedar River, less than a 15-mile drive from downtown Cedar Rapids. Popular activities at this Iowa state park include hiking, canoeing, and rock climbing on the exposed river bluffs. Fishing is also a popular activity, with most anglers aiming for catfish, bass, and bluegill.

A beautiful lodge at Palisades-Kepler State Park was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps and can be reserved ahead of time for special events. The state park also features modern camping options and cabins available for rent.

For a fun side-adventure on the way to Palisades-Kepler, the route from Cedar Rapids leads right past the original home that inspired Grant Wood's masterpiece, American Gothic.

7. African American Museum of Iowa

Exhibit at the African American Museum of Iowa
Exhibit at the African American Museum of Iowa | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Highlights: Detailed exhibits showcasing African American culture and history in the U.S.

The African American Museum of Iowa strives to highlight, embolden, and illustrate the continuing history of African American culture in the United States and abroad. It features rotating and permanent exhibits dealing with prominent points in African American history, ranging from origins in West Africa to present times. The museum offers much to absorb. Guided tours are available to help put it all in perspective.

The experience doesn't stop with guided tours; the African American Museum has a constant stream of events, speakers, and community classes that can help enrich your knowledge of the world around you. The museum also hosts an annual Juneteenth celebration to commemorate the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of slavery in America. Festivities include live music, local vendors, and a block party affair.

Address: 55 12th Ave SE, Cedar Rapids

8. Iowa Masonic Library and Museum

Iowa Masonic Library and Museum
Iowa Masonic Library and Museum | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Highlights: Fascinating library in a historic Masonic building

Serving as a community symbol for freemasonry, not only in Iowa but across the world, the Iowa Masonic Library and Museum hosts one of the largest collections of Masonry reading materials and artifacts in the nation.

Whether you are a dedicated researcher who wants to comb through the 15,000-plus volumes of rare Masonic books or you are an interested observer wanting to check out the many Masonic and non-Masonic museum offerings, there is plenty to see here. The museum staff happily share the wealth of knowledge with visitors.

Address: 813 First Avenue SE, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

9. Indian Creek Nature Center

Indian Creek Nature Center
Indian Creek Nature Center | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Highlights: Education space with a sprawling trail network through several Iowa habitats

The Indian Creek Nature Center doesn't just help educate the public about different outdoor ecosystems, it offers visitors a chance to explore them. This educational nature space features a wide network of nature trails and plenty of room to roam and explore the outdoors.

Whether you're interested in learning more about woodlands, wetlands, prairies, or wildlife, Indian Creek Nature Center has you covered. You can explore the different landscapes alone or join a guided tour or special event.

Address: 5300 Otis Road, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

10. Iowa City

Old Capitol on the University of Iowa Campus
Old Capitol on the University of Iowa Campus

Highlights: Beautiful campus town with history, creativity, and a youthful culture on the streets

Iowa City is less than 30 miles south of Cedar Rapids. It's home to the University of Iowa, and its several academic and cultural institutions draw visitors from across the globe. Iowa City was the original capital of the state before Des Moines, and the University of Iowa campus is centered around the scenic Old Capitol building in the downtown Pentacrest.

Iowa City is a UNESCO City of Literature and an acclaimed space for creative work, thanks to the university's acclaimed Writers Workshop graduate program. The campus is also home to a world-renowned Children's Hospital.

Iowa City was the original capital of the state before Des Moines, and the University of Iowa campus is centered around the scenic Old Capitol building in the downtown Pentacrest.

Where to Stay in Cedar Rapids for Sightseeing

We recommend these great hotels in Cedar Rapids, with easy access to shops and town:

Map of Attractions & Things to Do in Cedar Rapids, IA

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More to Explore in Iowa: The top-rated tourist attractions of Iowa span every direction in the state. The densest collection of things to do is found in the capital city of Des Moines. For a great couple of days in the Hawkeye State, the best weekend getaways in Iowa represent some of the best scenery and communities the state has to offer.

Best Time to Visit Cedar Rapids, IA

Cedar Rapids experiences the full spectrum of seasons. The best time to visit is during the summer months, including June, July, and August. This time of year provides the longest days and the warmest weather, although sometimes it's downright hot. Still, Cedar Rapids is most alive in the summer with weekly events, celebrations, and a full selection of things to do.

Summer begins to simmer down in September in Cedar Rapids. The end of the month and nearly the entirety of October are also lovely times to visit. The surrounding natural attractions take on autumn colors this time of year. Expect colder temperatures and the beginning of winter by the end of October.

Spring can start in March in Cedar Rapids, but the month can also bring snow. Expect variable conditions throughout April, mixing between sunny stretches and rain by the end of the month. May is an excellent time to visit Cedar Rapids — even though occasional rain may occur, warm weather defines most of the month.