Iowa. Why on earth would one write a travel blog about Iowa?
I am writing about Iowa because I had to be there (for work). There’s a lot of corn in Iowa. A. Lot. Of. Corn. And, that opinion comes from an Indiana girl! But besides the corn, I was pleasantly surprised by some of the very interesting sights in the Cedar Rapids area. Read on.
I flew into the Eastern Iowa Airport (it’s tiny) for a work presentation the next morning. After my presentation was over at 11:00 AM and my flight out wasn’t until 7:00 PM, I had to find a few things to occupy my time. Luckily, I have lots of experience finding things to do in small cities around America.
Cedar Rapids, lies on the banks of the Cedar River and is the second largest city in the state. The motto of Cedar Rapids is “The City of Five Seasons.” What’s the fifth season do you suppose? According to the Wikipedia web page for the city, the fifth season is “time to enjoy the other four.” Insert eye roll here. I won’t hold it against you, Cedar Rapids.
Cedar Rapids is perhaps best known as the home of artist, Grant Wood, painter of the well known work of art, American Gothic. And Cedar Rapids is American Gothic crazy. Wood, born in Anamosa, moved to the Cedar Rapids area as a boy. Although he was a prolific painter, Wood is most well-know for American Gothic which is reproduced in many different forms throughout the Cedar Rapids area. You can see a tile mosaic in the ladies room at
the Eastern Iowa Airport, but my very favorite
is the American Gothic Barn. The barn, located right off of US Route 30 on the way to Mount Vernon, Iowa, is on the south side of the highway and is hard to miss. The sides are painted like a prairie and the front of the barn painted to replicate the Wood masterpiece. You, of course, will want to pull over to take a look and probably a photo. Just take care as you are on a busy route.
If you want to learn more about Wood, I’d suggest a trip to downtown Cedar Rapids to the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art. This museum houses the largest collection of Wood’s works. (Note: you will not find American Gothic here. It resides at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Now, if you’re like me and you cannot resist the draw of an historic mansion, Cedar Rapids has a great one in Brucemore.
I missed the opportunity to tour this beauty by one day – Tours only run March – December. This 19th Century mansion sits upon a 26 acre manicured site and it is spectacular. Home to three Cedar Rapids families since its construction in 1884, the last family had lodgings added for their pet lion – you read that right…. Built in the Queen Anne style, the 21 room home, housed three families until it was gifted to The National Trust for Historic Preservation. The house and grounds now serve the community in several different capacities.
I made a quick stop at May’s Island in downtown Cedar Rapids. It’s here, on this tiny island where the civic buildings are housed. I read an article that Cedar Rapids is one of only three cities worldwide that have government buildings located on an island in a river. (Paris and Oslo being the other two – so there you go). There isn’t a whole lot here, but the history is interesting and there is a gorgeous Federal Building in the Beaux Arts style.
On my way out of town, I made a decision to stop at the Czech Village and I’m so glad I did. Cedar Rapids had a large population Czech, Slovak and Moravian immigrants. The families, that began arriving in the mid-1800s, settled in this section of Cedar Rapids. Today, Czech Village is a restored street of what was the shopping district in this area of the city. The history and the charm is still prevalent and bakeries, antiques shops and other businesses line the street. The Czech Village was a lovely place to walk around a bit before my flight home. Stop in at a few of the shops to pick up some fun (and well priced!) antiques. If I hadn’t been limited by a suitcase and a flight, I might have come home with several pieces of furniture!