Even your lodging in Cedar Rapids will be historic when you check into Belmont Hill Victorian Bed and Breakfast. Located on a wooded hilltop on the city's west side, this quaint carriage house - built in 1882 - offers luxurious accommodations and a glimpse of what life may have been like for early settlers to the community. You’ll also enjoy the beautiful landscaping, quiet surroundings, and gracious hosts.
A Salute to our Troops
After you’ve unpacked, head into town to visit the Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Tours end at 4:30 during the week. Located on an island in the middle of downtown Cedar Rapids, the building was recently fully restored. As soon as you step inside, you’ll discover its beauty. Perhaps the most remarkable feature is the large, ornate, and stunning stained glass window (created by Cedar Rapids’ famed artist Grant Wood) that commemorates Lady Liberty and our armed forces. You’ll find a variety of regularly changing exhibitions dedicated to our nation’s veterans.
Make time on Friday afternoon to check out the Iowa Masonic Lodge & Museum to see some truly astonishing historic artifacts. This impressive white marble building is home to the most complete Masonic library in the world—some say the largest in the world—with more than 150,000 volumes.
Go Back in Time
On Friday night, we recommend dinner at The Lighthouse Inn Supper Club. Fun fact: This historic restaurant was a favorite dining spot of infamous mobster Al Capone when he’d pass through town. Today the traditional dinner club atmosphere is still alive and we promise you’ll leave with a satisfied stomach. Many people say The Lighthouse has the best barbeque ribs in town.
Notable Cedar Rapids Artist
After a restful night’s sleep at the Belmont, get ready for a busy Saturday. Our itinerary is jam packed with activities so you can soak up as much history as possible. Begin your sightseeing tour with a stop at the Grant Wood Studio, which is open for weekend tours from April through October. This small carriage house was once home to Grant Wood and it’s where he painted “American Gothic.” Ask a volunteer docent for a guided tour so you can hear stories about the budding artist and his years in Cedar Rapids.
Next, head to the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art (CRMA). You can continue to learn about Grant Wood, as the museum owns the largest collection of his works. You’ll also find galleries filled with Roman antiquities, large prints by acclaimed Argentinean printmaker Mauricio Lasansky, and more contemporary art than you can imagine. CRMA always offers a delightfully surprising mix of special or traveling exhibitions.
For lunch stop in the historic Czech Village neighborhood. This area is a great place to relax and enjoy a good meal while talking about your morning adventures.
“Czech” out the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library (see what we did there?).This stately museum near the Cedar River is the anchor of the Czech Village neighborhood. Spend some time exploring the galleries inside to learn about the rich history of the Czech and Slovak people and their deep connection to Cedar Rapids. Don’t forget to stop in the gift shop. You’ll find a huge collection of decorative glass Christmas ornaments, jewelry, and one-of-a-kind treasures.
Rich Iowa History
Next on the docket is a visit to the historical Brucemore mansion. This 26-acre estate is the former home to several prominent Cedar Rapids families. Now a National Trust Historic Site, the docents at this grand home and surrounding gardens and property tell fascinating tales about the 1886 Queen Anne-style mansion and her inhabitants.
No doubt you’re hungry after all this sightseeing. You’re in luck; Popoli Ristorante and Sullivan's Bar is the perfect spot for another history-infused meal. This new restaurant is housed in a beautifully restored jewel box bank. It’s hard to say whether you’ll enjoy the atmosphere - remember to look up to see the lovely murals - or the food itself more.
Historic Small Town Iowa
We hope you’ve enjoyed learning a bit about the rich history of the Cedar Rapids community. Before you wave goodbye, make one last stop at Usher's Ferry Historic Village. Take a step back in time as you tour this small historic village. It’s been designed to replicate life in a small Iowa town between 1890 and 1910. There are 20 historic buildings to explore spread out across ten acres. The grounds are open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, with public tours offered June through August.