9 Top Attractions & Things to Do in Cedar Rapids, IA

Written by Brad Lane
May 4, 2020

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Cedar Rapids
Cedar Rapids

The second largest city in the state of Iowa, just behind the state capital of Des Moines, Cedar Rapids is 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.

See also: Where to Stay in Cedar Rapids

1. National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library

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

Featuring permanent and rotating exhibits that shed a light on Czech and Slovak culture found in Iowa and beyond, the National Czech & Slovak Museum and Library strives 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 perspective nearby.

Address: 1400 Inspiration Place SW, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Official site: http://www.ncsml.org/

2. Brucemore

Brucemore | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The 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

Official site: http://www.brucemore.org/

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

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

Official site: http://www.crma.org/

4. Paramount Theatre

Paramount Theatre
Paramount Theatre | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

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

Official site: http://www.paramounttheatrecr.com/

5. Palisades-Kepler State Park

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

One of the top spots to explore the outdoors in Cedar Rapids, Palisades-Kepler State Park, on the Cedar River, is 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.

6. 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

Open Monday through Saturday, 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. Featuring 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.

7. Iowa Masonic Library and Museum

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

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

Official site: http://grandlodgeofiowa.org/library-2/

Address: 55 12th Ave SE, Cedar Rapids

Official site: http://blackiowa.org/

8. Indian Creek Nature Center

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

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

Official site: http://indiancreeknaturecenter.org/

9. Iowa City

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

Home to the University of Iowa, Iowa City is less than 30 miles south of Cedar Rapids. Several academic and cultural institutions draw visitors to Iowa City from across the globe. Much in thanks to the university's acclaimed Writers Workshop graduate program, Iowa City is a UNESCO City of Literature and an acclaimed space for creative work. The campus is also home to a world-renowned Children's Hospital.

Hawkeye sporting events also tend to draw big crowds to Iowa City on home games. Football at Kinnick Stadium is a state-wide treasured event. Basketball games at Carver Hawkeye Arena also drum up significant energy throughout the season.

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:

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