1. Dobry Den!
The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library is located in Cedar Rapids. It was founded in 1974 by a group of second and third-generation descendants of Czech immigrants. In 1995, Czech President Václav Havel, Slovak President Michal Kovác and U.S. President Bill Clinton presided over the museum’s new building dedication.
2. An Island In the Middle of Iowa
Mays Island is a small island in the Cedar River. Cedar Rapids is one of just a handful of cities in the world (think Paris’s Île de la Cité) with government offices on a municipal island.
3. It’s Number Two
It’s the second largest city in Iowa, with just under 130,000 residents. Des Moines has nearly 210,000.
4. Forget The Shire; This Is Frodo’s Hometown
The city doesn’t like to boast, but it’s a hometown to some pretty famous actors, including Elijah Wood, Ashton Kutcher, Ron Livingston, Bobby Driscoll and Michael Emerson.
5. It’s Rockin’ The Suburbs
As Cedar Rapids has grown, its borders have expanded, and its surrounding small towns have become suburbs or bedroom communities. These include Atkins, Bertram, Ely, Fairfax, Hiawatha, Marion, Palo, Robins, Shueyville, Swisher and Walford.
6. It’s Home To A Longstanding Muslim Community
The first Muslims arrived in the area in 1895, from the Bekaa Valley in what is today Lebanon and Syria. Islamic Services of America, which provides Halal Certification services, was established in Cedar Rapids in 1975. The Mother Mosque of America, dedicated in 1934 and located just west of the Cedar River, is the longest standing mosque in North America.
7. It’s Back To Nature
Long before Iowa became farmland, it was a vast expanse of prairie. On the edge of Cedar Rapids, Indian Creek Nature Center aims to preserve and protect natural wildlife and plant habitats, while giving visitors a chance to learn more about the environment and the nature surrounding them. Visitors can explore trails through prairie, wetlands and woodlands, as well as check out special displays and exhibits.
8. It’s American Gothic
Painted by Grant Wood in his home and studio in Cedar Rapids in 1930, American Gothic may be the most iconic painting in the United States. The studio is now owned by the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, which houses the largest collection of Wood’s work in the world.
9. It’s In Your Gas Tank
Cedar Rapids is home to one of Archer Daniels Midland’s largest plants, which produces 420 million gallons of ethanol a year, more than any other plant in the country. Other grain processors have facilities in the city as well, including Cargill, General Mills and Quaker Oats.
10. The City That Has Five Seasons
Throughout the city, you may notice a design that looks kind of like a stylized tree. That is the symbol for the “City of Five Seasons,” a tagline the city uses. The five seasons are, of course, spring, summer, fall and winter, and the fifth is a reminder to enjoy all the seasons, and to enjoy life.
11. Its Dining Scene Is Top Notch
Every city has an “It” restaurant – a little classy, and with excellent food. In Cedar Rapids, that restaurant is Zins. The menu offers tapas-like small plates, main courses and an excellent wine selection. It has won the hearts of the locals in the best way possible, through their stomachs.
12. It Has Roots In Flight
Orville and Wilber Wright may have tested their theories of flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, but their imaginations of flight began in 1878, when their family moved to Cedar Rapids. Their father, a bishop with the Church of the Brethren, was assigned to a post in Cedar Rapids. He gave the boys a helicopter-like toy, which flew around the room using a rubber band. The boys loved the toy, and even duplicated it a number of times before moving to Dayton, Ohio, where they eventually built their historic airplane.
13. Just For A Little While, Pretend This Is Your House
Everyone loves to explore an old mansion, and Cedar Rapids has one of the best. Brucemore is Iowa’s only National Trust Historic Site. It offers tours, holds special events throughout the year, and also hosts musical and fine arts performances. Its grounds are also beautiful, and a great place to take a stroll.
14. You Can Go Back In Time
If visiting Brucemore has whet your appetite for more historical touring, Cedar Rapids has you covered. Ushers Ferry Historic Village is home to 20 historic buildings, set on 10 acres, that depict life in a small Iowa town between 1890 and 1910.
15. Get Your Jog (Or Stroll) On
This mid-sized city has more recreational space than most big cities. With 74 parks, four golf courses and six swimming pools (not to mention the athletic fields, pavilions and playgrounds within), you have no excuse not to take advantage of some recreational time.
16. Share In The Bounty
Thanks to a growing farm-to-table movement, farmers markets everywhere seem to be growing. But Cedar Rapids was holding a farmers market long before anyone heard of the word “locavore.” Its market has been around in one form or another since 1902. Today there are two markets, the Noelridge Farmers’ Market and the Downtown Farmers’ Market.
17. Frank Was Here
The Douglas and Charlotte Grant House in Marion is a Usonian home designed by famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. It was constructed in 1946.
18. Go Read A Book … To A Dog
The Cedar Rapids Public Library has two branches, Downtown and the Ladd Library, on the city’s southwest side. It offers programs for everyone from toddlers, to teens and beyond. One program invites children to read to trained, certified therapy dogs, an activity that has been proven to improve reading skills and gain confidence.
19. Walk Through The Trees
The Morgan Creek Arboretum is home to more than 250 species of trees and shrubs, as well as a butterfly garden. It is part of the Morgan Creek Park, which also offers camping, a trail system, cross country ski trails, a field sports area, picnic areas, a playground, prairies and wetlands.
20. Art From Home And Around The World
The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art’s roots go back to 1895, when local community leaders were inspired by the World’s Colombian Exposition in Chicago. Today the museum is located in its original building, a Carnegie Library, complete with a 42,000 square foot addition. It also owns the Grant Wood Studio just three blocks away, which is open for guided tours several days each week.
21. It’s A Movie
Cedar Rapids is a 2011 comedy about Tim Lippe, played by Ed Helms, who goes to Cedar Rapids to represent his company at an insurance convention. The movie also stars John C. Reilly, Anne Heche, Sigourney Weaver, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Alia Shawkat, Rob Corddry, Kurtwood Smith, Stephen Root and Thomas Lennon.
22. Play Ball!
You don’t have to go far to see some great baseball. True to its corn production-surroundings, the Cedar Rapids Kernels are a Class A minor league team, affiliated with the Minnesota Twins. The Kernels play at the Veterans Memorial Stadium.
23. Run River
The Cedar River is an important part of the city, and enjoying it is important to residents. Trails alongside the river make for scenic views while walking, jogging or biking. Locals also enjoy boating, and Ellis Park, alongside the river, is a great place to just sit back and watch the river run past.
24. Home To Iowa’s African American Museum
The African American Museum of Iowa was launched in 1994, and has become one of the foremost educational resources on African American history in the state. The museum offers tours, exhibits, a summer camp, family programs and more.
25. Flood Prevention
The city is continuing to recover from a massive flood that devastated much of the city in 2008, but years later, that recovery has also turned into prevention. In December 2013, the state’s Flood Mitigation Board awarded the city $264 million for a flood mitigation project to protect both sides of the Cedar River.
26. It’s The Best Place To Live
Cedar Rapids ranked No. 1 in Iowa for the “Top 100 Best Places to Live” list by Livability.com, and came in 29th in the nation.
27. It’s Getting Greener
The city has been working toward becoming more environmentally friendly, and in 2012 established five guiding principles of sustainability. They are: 1) Build a community that embraces diversity and history; 2) Advance opportunities for business, individual and community growth; 3) Promote economic and social growth while restoring relationship between the city and its natural environment; 4) Create a city that is affordable and accessible to all members of the community; and 5) Serve as a leader in creative, successful strategies to lead progression toward a more sustainable future.
Cedar Rapids has a wonderful arts and history scene. And where there is culture, there is (usually) wine. The area is home to three vineyards and wineries: Cedar Ridge Vineyards in Swisher, Fireside Winery in Marengo and John Ernest Vineyard & Winery in Tama.
29. The Play Really Is The Thing
The city is home to not just one or two live performance theaters, but six. The Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre presents two or three operas each season, as well as special events; the Legion Arts/CSPS is a former Czech social hall that presents contemporary art, music and theater; Orchestra Iowa is one of the oldest symphony orchestras west of the Mississippi River; SPT Theatre Company is a professional performing arts organization; The Old Creamery Theatre Company stages comedies, dramas, musicals and children’s shows; and Theatre Cedar Rapids is the area’s largest community theater.
30. A Modern Bohemian Market
The NewBo City Market goes on all year round in the city’s New Bohemia neighborhood. You can buy locally grown, specialty prepared foods, meat, seafood, flowers and baked goods. The market also holds festivals, flea markets, concerts and cooking classes.
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