It’s August. Time to sweat off that Freshman 15 hauling a two-ton sleeper sofa up five flights of stairs. Time to say good bye to momma’s home cookin’ and hello to microwave grilled cheese and cold pizza. Time to bid farewell to some friends and hello to others.
Ahh. Back to campus time. Ain’t it grand?
Sure. For about five seconds, until the novelty of a new year has worn off and you’re back to whining that same old bored tune.
Well. We’re here to help you break out of that campus bubble. Whether you’re in Iowa City, Cedar Rapids or somewhere in between, you may not realize what treasures lie in your backyard, let alone down the road a bit.
So tuck these pages away and the next time you’re bored, hop in the car and take a road trip.
And for those of us for whom college is a distant fond memory or four years we’re still trying to live down, keep reading too. You never know what you might learn about this place you call home. — CARLY
The second largest city in Iowa, Cedar Rapids, and its neighbors Marion, Robins and Hiawatha, offer big city amenities with Iowa convenience and charm. The city’s nickname — The City of Five Seasons — and motto — “the time to enjoy them all,” may be made fun of often (we’re not saying it’s not well deserved), but in the end, it’s true. There really is a lot to enjoy and plenty of time to do it. Here’s a few ideas for starters. — ERIN
Eateries abound in Cedar Rapids, and a large number are locally owned an operated. For creative and upscale dining, try downtown neighbors Zins or blend. Daniel Arthur’s offers a taste of history while you dine. Take the time to tour this 1800s mansion turned restaurant. Off the beaten path a bit, find dishes to delight more exotic palates. If your tastes tend to wander south of the border, then head over to El Super Burrito, where they serve burritos better than anything you’d find at a chain restaurant and the bakery features authentic Mexican pastries and cakes baked fresh daily. Aladdin, Pita’z and La Ziz offer a trip to the Mediterranean. Try Phong Lan for Vietnamese. Thai Moon or Thai Flavors for other Asian cuisine. Fans of curry also will appreciate a trip to Taste of India and Taj Mahal. Want to try your hand in the kitchen? Saigon Market next door to Phong Lan has everything you need to make your own Pad Thai.
Artist in residence
Campbell Steele Gallery, in Marion’s Uptown district, showcases artwork in a wide variety of mediums. The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art features collections of works by local artists, including extensive collections by Cedar Rapids-own Marvin Cone and Grant Wood, plus temporary exhibitions of works by world-renowned artists. CornerHouse Gallery and Frame make art accessible with pieces by regionally known artists.
Coe College boasts a permanent art collection of over 450 works in its Dows Fine Arts Center. The Janalyn Hanson White Gallery at Mount Mercy College also features monthlong exhibitions of nationally and regionally know artists who work in a variety of mediums. Both schools regularly feature student exhibitions. Check them out to see tomorrow’s up and coming artists.
Shop ’til you drop
Shopaholics can get their fix and support local business owners by checking out one of the many locally-owned boutiques and retails stores in the area. Marion’s Uptown district has something for everyone, from antiques and gifts to clothing and accessories. If you’re looking for that perfect outfit for a night on the town, check out Joy, a boutique in Uptown Marion, that offers a selection of one-of-a-kind clothes and accessories.
If you’re looking to soak up some sun and fresh air, check out the Cedar Valley Nature Trail. The 50-mile trail starts just south of Cedar Rapids and winds through the Cedar River bottomlands across four counties north to Waterloo. Abundant wildlife and native Iowa wildflowers can be easily spotted along the trail.
Or visit Pleasant Creek State Recreation Area. Only 15 miles northwest of Cedar Rapids, the lake, near Palo, boasts a beach on the north shore and four boat launching sites. Motorboats, canoes, kayaks and paddleboats are available for rent at the boathouse.
Gym teacher’s pet
If you’re looking to get your blood pumping check out a weekend run with Running Wild. A shoe retailer with locations in Cedar Rapids and Coralville, Running Wild offers runs and walks at both locations beginning at 7 a.m. Saturday in Cedar Rapids and Sunday in Coralville. The runs are free and open to runners and walkers of all abilities, ages and speeds.
Want something a little more competitive? Head out to Thomas Park in Marion to try your hand at their 20-hole disc golf course.
History buffs can soak up the past at the Carl and Mary Koehler History Center in Cedar Rapids. In addition to permanent displays on archaeology, American Indians, farming, immigration and local industries, the museum has temporary exhibits featuring highlights of Linn County history.
A Queen Anne-style mansion in the heart of Cedar Rapids, Brucemore is a museum and much more. The National Trust Historic Site features ongoing exhibits about the house and Cedar Rapids’ history. The 26-acre estate is also host to many events throughout the year.
Learn about diversity in Cedar Rapids at the African American Museum of Iowa. The building was affected by the June 2008 flood and the new permanent exhibit won’t be open until December, but you can still check out the changing exhibit gallery and get an inside look at the history and lives of African Americans in Iowa. The National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library was also affected by the flood, but it is open at temporary location in Lindale Mall in Cedar Rapids. At the Czech museum, learn about the history of Czech immigration in Cedar Rapids.
Kid at heart
The Science Station, too, was flooded out. Head to its temporary location at the Lindale Mall to relive your childhood with some hands-on fun.
Iowa City may be home to the University of Iowa and its tens of thousands of college students, but with a little exploring, one can find Iowa City isn’t just a town for someone looking to party. — KELSEY
Go to the Pedestrian Mall. Yes, it is where a greater majority of the bars are located, but few realize the multitude of tasty places there too. Just off the top of my head I can already think of a few deemed necessary to visit, but I don’t have nearly enough space to describe: Z’Mariks Noodle Café, Quinton’s Bar & Deli, Atlas Restaurant, The Vine, The Brown Bottle and OneTwentySix. Each is unique and has a legion of fans willing to fully endorse the menus, which is how I stumbled upon most of them.
I do have one small confession. I have been told repeatedly I cannot be considered a college student until I have tried Gumby’s Pizza’s Pokey Sticks. Even though I have sat as close as an arm’s length away from a box of these secret treats, all I can vouch for is their delicious smell. So go out and try some, then be sure to tell me all about it.
Just as the Coralville Lake and Lake Macbride are hot destination spots for those in the north end of the Corridor, it’s even more so if you’re in Iowa City, just a few miles away. Whether sunbathing on a beach or the deck friend’s boat and then heading over to a dockside restaurant, it’s a great place to spend the day away from the day-to-day bustle of college life.
Gym teacher’s pet
The University of Iowa offers outdoor equipment rental for trying your hand at activities like cross-country skiing or kayaking. There’s a club for practically everything, like rowing and rock climbing. More into doing your own thing? Cities like Iowa City were made for runners, with sidewalks winding through town and a running trail by the Iowa River.
Shop ’til you drop
An afternoon could easily be lost wandering the stores at Coral Ridge Mall in Coralville, but if spending a day there just isn’t quite what you’re looking for, head back to the Ped Mall. My favorite place to just unwind and peruse the shelves is Prairie Lights Books. The setting is intimate and there is a Java House right upstairs where I can sip my coffee and read my latest novel undisturbed. Plus, readings by different authors happen weekly.
If clothing is more in your shopping pleasure, the Ped Mall is full of unique boutiques. Stop by the Velvet Coat and Catherine’s. I have yet to meet someone who hasn’t raved about these stores. The Old Capitol Mall also lies right across the street with a few boutiques, like The Silver Spider (yes the same as in Mount Vernon) to entice.
Rock you all night long
The music scene is huge in Iowa City and it took me nearly two years to figure that out, so I am sharing it with you. Music festivals and specials are not uncommon; in the springtime check out the Mission Creek Festival for awesome new bands performing around the city. Some great places to hear some new tunes are The Mill, The Yacht Club, Summit and The Picador. The great thing about these places is that sometimes you will have a close encounter with the band members performing, sort of like a mini-celebrity moment.
For other concerts, campus organization Scope Productions hosts several events open to non-students throughout the year with some pretty big-name musicians. Tickets usually go fast, so it is always good to check the schedule ahead of time. The Englert Theatre and Hancher also put on some awesome shows. Who knows, maybe you could grab some Pokey Sticks afterward.
Think the phrase “small town charm” is code for boring? Think again. The towns of Mount Vernon – home to Cornell College — nearby Lisbon and Solon to the south have plenty to offer everyone. You just have to know where to look. — ERIN
Of course there’s the Lincoln Cafe in Mount Vernon. It’s been featured in magazines like “Midwest Living,” “Better Homes & Gardens” and “O.” You may not know, though, that the same owners also run the Lincoln Wine Bar. Just up the block from the cafe, they offer a small but well-chosen selection of wines and beers and occasionally have live music as well. The best part? Buy a bottle of wine from the Lincoln Wine Bar to accompany your dinner at the Lincoln Cafe and they’ll waive the corkage fee.
Green foodies out there should check out Big Creek Market. They carry a selection of organic and bulk foods and the small cafe in the back has pastries, sandwiches and quiche. If family style dining is more up your alley, try Gwen’s in Lisbon or Joensy’s in Solon. Gwen’s offers a classic selection of home-cooked favorites for breakfast, lunch and dinner in addition to a large Sunday buffet. The hometown atmosphere of Joensy’s is cozy, and their pork tenderloin sandwiches are notoriously huge and deep fried to perfection.
Shop ’til you drop
Don’t miss The Silver Spider in Mount Vernon. With everything from clothes and accessories to novelty buttons and stickers, plus a room of children’s toys in the back, the Silver Spider is perfect for one-of-a-kind finds.
The Czech Feather and Down Company can help keep you warm during those cold Iowa winters. Originally located in the Czech Village in Cedar Rapids, the store moved to Mount Vernon after the June 2008 flood and decided to stick around. Here they preserve the dying art of handcrafted feather and down pillows and comforters.
Artist in residence
Visit the Peter Paul Luce Gallery at Cornell College in Mount Vernon. With rotating exhibits of works by regional and nationally known artists, as well as talks and lectures sponsored by the Henry Luce Foundation, there’s always something different to see. The gallery also hosts Cornell College senior art shows every April and May.
For something a little more off the beaten path, check out Liberty Iron Works just north of downtown Mount Vernon. This metal art studio and gallery offers a selection of handcrafted unique pieces and also takes custom orders.
For the outdoor enthusiast, these small towns offer a plethora of ways to get outside. With the Cedar River running through it, the Palisades-Kepler State Park, around halfway between Cedar Rapids and Mount Vernon on Highway 30, offers fishing, boating, camping and hiking along with scenic views of the dramatic river bluffs.
Located just west of Solon, Lake Macbride State Park boasts beautiful beaches and great fishing either by boat or on the shoreline. Picnic shelters, camping and trails are also available at the almost 2,200-acre park.
If you’re looking for something a little smaller, check out the Mount Vernon Nature Park. Walk or bike the trails around a lake that fills the old quarry, fish from the dock or have your next get together at the picnic pavilion.
Gym teacher’s pet
For the more athletically inclined, check out the Underhill Skate Park in Mount Vernon or ride your bike from Lisbon to Solon along scenic Sutliff Road, around a 13 mile trip one-way. Of course, this trip wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the Sutliff Cider Company, where they use a variety of local apples to produce both hard and soft apple cider.
If you’re a history buff, don’t miss the Lisbon History Center in downtown Lisbon. The front room is filled with shelf after shelf of binders chock full of information about Lisbon and Franklin Township, from genealogies and schools to local landmarks and important events. The back half is more like a museum with exhibits that range from Lisbon High School athletics to a traditional farm kitchen replicas.
Another hidden historical gem is the Anderson Geology Museum at Cornell College in Mount Vernon. Free and open to the public, the museum displays an extensive collection of geological books, maps and periodicals in addition to more than 20,000 specimens of rocks, minerals and fossils.
Looking for learning that’s a little more hands-on? Spend an evening at the Pal-Dows Observatory, located just west of Mount Vernon. The Cedar Amateur Astronomers host public observing nights each month with a guest speaker followed by free celestial viewing through the telescopes.
Quad Cities/Dubuque/Waterloo-Cedar Falls
The Quad Cities (Rock Island and Moline in Illinois and Bettendorf and Davenport in Iowa) and I go way back. I spent the summer exploring Dubuque and I’m only just realizing what the Cedar Falls and Waterloo area have to offer. One thing all of these locations have in common? Just one hour or so away from the Corridor, they are all a day-trip or a weekend getaway without having to spend the time, or money, driving long distances. — KELSEY
• Quad Cities — Trattoria Tiramisu, a cozy Italian restaurant nestled in downtown Bettendorf, boasts tasty surprises and a one-of-a-kind experience. The Woodfire Grill in downtown Davenport may be a bit pricey, but once you have tasted the smoky deliciousness of their food, the bill is easily forgiven (I highly recommend the Fried Pickles). Willing to spend a little more? Cross over the bridge into Moline to find Johnny’s Steakhouse. My only bit of advice? Eat slowly, you’ll want to enjoy every bite.
• Dubuque — My first Dubuque restaurant experience was at the Bricktown Brewery at the Blackwater Inn. It has a Granite City feel with some local edge mixed in. Go little further inland and you’ll find two delicious Mexican restaurants, Las Margaritas and Los Aztecas. For a more formal experience, Star Restaurant and Ultra Lounge, has gotten rave reviews and promises to be unforgettable with great views of the river.
• Cedar Falls/Waterloo — Start the night off at the Voodoo Lounge, or The Stuffed Olive with some mixed drinks then head on over to Bourbon Street for some southern cuisine new to the area. Or, you could try myVerona and Montage. The names alone instigate feelings of a big city feel without the price of one. If a light dinner is more in mind, head over and try the Soho Sushi Bar and Grill in Cedar Falls. My favorite so far, has been Farraday’s Restaurant in the Isle of Capri Casino. Their steaks and appetizers are delicious and truly unforgettable.
• Quad Cities — Trails litter the shores of the mighty Mississippi River providing great opportunity for photos, biking, exercising and merely enjoying the scenery. On the Illinois side of the river, check out Arsenal Island in Rock Island. Watch barges go through the locks or explore the cemeteries. During the winter the island has become a great place to scout out bald eagles. In Iowa, Davenport’s SkyBridge is an architectural masterpiece and has drawn crowds since its completion. Be sure to take the stairs, that way you can see the view all the way up.
• Dubuque — Put on those tennis shoes and go outside. Park, parks and more parks. A heavily wooded area, Dubuque definitely takes advantage of the striking river and bluff landscapes. Beside walking along the trails by the Mississippi River, hop in the car and spend the day at one of Dubuque’s beautiful parks. Eagle Pointe Park is a must-see with leisurely trails flowing throughout. It’s worth the $1 fee.
• Cedar Falls/Waterloo — George Wyth State Park is the place for those looking to spend the day outside in the sun. The lakes at the park are perfect for just chilling on a boat or wandering the shores. The adventure is entirely up to you, just be sure you don’t miss out on it.
Kid at heart
• Quad Cities — Spend an afternoon exploring the John Deere Museum in Moline. It is hard not to feel like a little kid again when standing next to the big tractors and combines.
• Dubuque — The Grand Harbor Resort and Waterpark, an indoor waterpark, is perfect for those wanting to stay overnight in a hotel room, have some fun splashing around at the waterpark, then spending the night out on the town.
• Cedar Falls/Waterloo — Don’t be afraid to get wet. Lost Island waterpark promises a day full of laughs, screams, and giggles with its wide selection of rides. Race your friends down the slides on toboggan-like sleds or spin down the “toilet” in a group tube seeing who gets wet the most. Located right next to the Isle of Capri Casino, check-in to the hotel and spend the night relaxing after a day of fun at Lost Island.
Gym teacher’s pet
• Quad Cities — The more adventurous sort might head over to Crystal Lake Cave for an afternoon expedition into the depths. Claustrophobics, like me, might want to beware. Everyone else, though, won’t have problems exploring.
Shop ’til you drop
• Quad Cities — The Village of East Davenport is full of intimate shops and restaurants beaming with old-fashioned charm and a view of the river. Shops have also been springing up in downtown Davenport.
• Dubuque — Downtown Dubuque has been undergoing a revitalization lately. Head down to historic Main Street, where you’ll find cute shops like River Lights, 2nd Edition, a locally-owned bookstore. Bluff Street too offers unique shops in restored buildings.
• Cedar Falls/Waterloo — Cedar Falls’ Main Street offers numerous boutiques and shops. Plus, I can’t not mention how great the atmosphere is while you’re there. It just can’t be explained until you experience it.
• Quad Cities — The Figge Art Museum, in Davenport, is noteworthy not only for its unique architecture but also its collection of art and classes for the public. While you’re there, check out the Putnam Museum and IMAX Theatre.
• Dubuque — After visiting the Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium you’ll have appreciation for the mighty Mississippi River. The displays of wildlife, including the aquatic, are fascinating. History also beckons with numerous exhibits about steamboats, barges and floodwaters.
• Cedar Falls/Waterloo — Find a hero from your hometown. The Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum in Waterloo’s The Grout Museum District honors the service Iowa veterans from the Civil War to present.
Rock you all night long
• Quad Cities — The Redstone Room and the River Music Experience (or as locals call it, the RME) are both great places to hear live music. Davenport is also home to the Adler Theatre which, throughout the year, hosts a dozens of performances for ticket prices that won’t break the bank. Stop by Penguins Comedy Club or head on over to the Isle of Capri Casino or Rhythm City to try your luck.
• Dubuque — Check out Diamond Jo Casino’s Mississippi Moon Bar with its regular big-name acts, dueling pianos and tasty drinks. You can even bowl at the casino’s Cherry Lanes.
• Cedar Falls/Waterloo — The Isle of Capri Casino can almost feel like a mini-city itself. Go spend the night and see where it takes you. Check out Joker’s Comedy Night Club for a good laugh or the Lampost Theatre and Coffee Co. for some theatrical entertainment and a cup of joe.