Downtown Cedar Falls brims with independent shops, cafes, breweries and restaurants. Plan on a full day or a weekend exploring the area. Photo courtesy of Cedar Falls Tourism and Visitors Bureau.
Sister cities Cedar Falls and Waterloo, separated by the Cedar River, serve up a fun fall getaway complete with art, culture, dining and outdoor rec. Here’s our guide to a complete weekend.
STAY: Located in Cedar Falls, the Black Hawk Hotel exudes a vintage vibe. In fact, it’s the second-longest continuously operating hotel in the country. Originally built as a stagecoach hotel and used as housing during the Civil War, the building was rebuilt after a fire in the 1860s and stands strong—and full of charming touches like intricate woodwork and exposed brick. But it also has plenty of modern amenities like a fitness center, a speakeasy, complimentary breakfast, and local coffee and tea. The Black Hawk has just 43 rooms, so be sure to book early. Find modern lodging options in both Waterloo and Cedar Falls downtowns.
EAT: Waterloo’s historic downtown has undergone significant updates and investment over the past few years. And there’s no better way to start a day than diner-style at Newton’s Paradise Cafe in the art deco Newton’s Jewelry building. The cafe’s menu features four types of pancakes, biscuits and gravy, and breakfast pizza, but we recommend the Iowa Toast. It’s their luscious riff on French toast and comes with bacon, ham or homemade sausage. For lunch, snag a sandwich or wood-fired Neapolitan pie from Basal Pizza, also downtown.
Come dinnertime, relax over local beers and upscale bar food including the Iowa Taco (yes, it’s topped with corn, bacon and ranch) at Singlespeed Brewing. Once home to a 1927 Wonder Bread factory, the spot offers tasty bites, beer flights, patio dining and areas for the kids to play or for you to store your bike. And for old-school Italian in the lobby of a former historic hotel, the Russell Lamson Building, check out the Brown Bottle. It’s been a downtown institution since 1974 and serves classics like lasagna (the seafood is also super tasty).
DO: Make the most of your sightseeing time by renting wheels at Waterloo Bicycle Works, located in the 1912 Kistner Building (originally a funeral home). Tool around both Waterloo and Cedar Falls on trails edging the Cedar River on a regular bicycle or an e-bike; there are over 80 miles of trails in the sister cities.
When you return from your ride, be sure to stock up on local souvenirs to keep or share—they offer Iowa books, stickers, socks, stationery and more.
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