Cedar Rapids, Iowa, population 130,000, occupies a small swath of the enormous portion of the United States colloquially referred to as “flyover country.” This term refers to the idea that the most important, exciting, and prettiest things to see in the United States are to be found on the coasts.
It’s a common joke and the large number of people from flyover country are used to it…
They either say they’re from the nearest major city (even if it’s several hours away by car) or puff out their chest a little and proudly proclaim the name of the little town they come from (even if no one knows where that is). Here’s your guide to the best of the Little Cities of American Flyover Country: Cedar Rapids…
What makes Cedar Rapids famous?
Nicknamed “The City of Five Seasons,” Cedar Rapids is located in eastern Iowa, a state famed for being nationally important once every four years when it becomes the eye of the presidential campaign season hurricane.
Candidates begin campaigning as early as a year and a half before the actual election, and while the Iowa primary winner is not certain to be the next President, Iowa has a long-established history of identifying the candidates to watch. The local Cedar Rapids paper, The Gazette, even hosts a live, regularly scheduled radio show (in partnership with Iowa Public Radio) during the presidential cycle called Pints and Politics.
Iowans are a friendly, hospitable, and quixotic bunch, given to smiling amiably and then doing exactly the opposite of what you’d expect. Most will tell you that if they haven’t personally shaken a presidential candidate’s hand, they won’t vote or them.
It thus comes as no surprise that Paul Conrad (1924-2010), winner of three Pulitzer Prizes for editorial cartooning and one of America’s most prolific political cartoonists, came from Cedar Rapids.
Iowa’s Second-Largest City
Cedar Rapids offers travellers a quaint skyline and hidden foodie wonders waiting to be discovered, particularly in the Main Street District. The best time to visit is in the summer or the fall. Located just south of the business district, Main Street District is comprised of New Bohemia and The Czech Village and straddles the scenic Cedar River.
The historically Czech neighbourhood is a small business, arts, and entertainment hub, with historically industrial architecture and buildings finding new purpose as newly renovated spaces for gathering. In 2008, a flood devastated the city, with water levels reaching 8 ft (2.5m) in most buildings.
Many people left in the wake of the destruction, though the few that remained were determined to rebuild. In 2009, The Czech Village/New Bohemia Main Street District was officially founded to revitalise the local economy. Below are just a few of the neighbourhoods most delectable foodie finds.
Address/ 1202 3rd St SE #101, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401, United States
A wood-and-brick interior with a sky-high ceiling gives Brewhemia a uniquely cozy, yet open-spaced, vibe. Formerly known as Brew Café, the Danielson family purchased the space in 2014 and changed the name to reflect the emphasis on a quality product.
Today, Brewhemia is a café offering specialty coffee and homemade pastries in addition to full breakfast and lunch. In the evening, the place transforms into an evening eatery featuring tap beer, spirits, and great wine.
Newbo City Market
Address/ 1100 3rd St SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401, United States
A dynamic and open market space offering myriad cuisine and local artisan selections, Newbo City Market was established as a place for the local community to come together. A wide selection of events and classes are offered daily and the vendors are extremely friendly.
Café Saint Pio
Address/ 99 16th Ave SW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52404, United States
Café Saint Pio is warm and inviting with soft, teal-coloured walls and dark wood interior. They specialise in coffee, tea, and pastries, and also offer breakfast, sandwiches, and salads. Incredibly well-reviewed, the lattés are even served with pretty coffee art designs on the top.
Lion Bridge Brewing Co.
Address/ 59 16th Ave SW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52404, United States
Diners come to Lion Bridge Brewing Co. first and foremost for the phenomenal craft beer. With contemporary brick and industrial interior and a large outdoor terrace, this eatery perfect for long evenings whiled away over strong drinks and stimulating conversation. Lion Bridge also makes excellent food. To start, I recommend the Pierogis and Gouda Bites.
Parlor City Pub & Eatery
Address/ 1125 3rd St SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401, United States
A family-run establishment, Parlor City is the perfect sit-down restaurant after a long day of exploring the city. Located on the corner of 3rd Street SE and 12th Avenue SE, in the heart of New Bohemia, Parlor City regularly hosts evenings of live music accompanied by their signature burgers and sandwiches, with a large selection of craft beers on tap.