Small Town Fun: Summer Festivals Outside of Cedar Rapids

Both my husband and I have spent a majority of our lives living in the Mount Vernon/Lisbon area. We both moved here young, graduated from Mount Vernon, left for college, and had brief stints living in “The big city” (Chicago and Phoenix, respectively). But we both felt the pull to come home to Mount Vernon after awhile. After we met and settled down, we “moved across the tracks” to Lisbon. (Locals understand this.)

There are a million things I love about living in not only a small town, but the town I grew up in. (It’s definitely not for everyone though!) We do our fair share of commuting to Cedar Rapids and Iowa City for work and play, but we also find ourselves hanging around town for some pretty awesome things our area has to offer and traveling to other small communities in the area for family fun things as well.

This upcoming weekend Mount Vernon kicks off a series of family-friendly summer events, so I thought I’d compile a list of fun things to do outside of Cedar Rapids this spring/summer.

small town fun

Chalk the Walk

Mount Vernon – May 7 & 8

If you haven’t been to Chalk the Walk, you NEED to do this. Main Street in Mount Vernon is closed down, and tons of artists converge for two days to create some pretty awesome sidewalk art. Some of the stuff these artists create is beyond amazing. As the artists work, there is live music and food, of course, and kids can draw with chalk on their own, or they can buy a square and help complete a huge chalk canvas. It’s hard to explain, but just trust me, if you’re looking for some economical family fun this weekend, check it out. For more information, check out their Facebook event.

Chocolate Stroll

Mount Vernon – June 4th

This is pretty much as awesome as it sounds. Walk around uptown Mount Vernon, enjoy activities with the kids, live music and of course – Chocolate! Again, the best information can be found on their Facebook event.

Sutliff Cider

Sutliff Cider is a hard cider that is made in a barn near Sutliff, Iowa. If you’ve not tasted Sutliff Cider, you definitely need to; it is especially refreshing on a warm Sunday afternoon. As luck would have it, Sutliff Cider has live music Sunday afternoons, and there is plenty of room for the kids to run around!

Small-town “Days”

(aka Town Celebrations)

A lot of small towns have their own “days” throughout the summer. By this I mean a 2-3 day celebration that typically includes a parade, carnival rides/games, tons of kids activities, and enough food to stuff you for a week. I could probably devote an entire post to listing these all out, but I know for sure Mount Vernon, Lisbon, Solon, West Branch and Atkins all have their own town celebrations, with themes ranging from Beef, to Sauerkraut, to Watermelon!

Riverside Trek Fest

Riverside – June 24 & 25

Did you guys know we live really close to the future birthplace of Captain Kirk? I don’t think I knew this until I met my husband, but Riverside celebrates this future milestone with a festival every year. This could technically fall under a small town celebration, but given the notoriety, I gave it a special shout-out.

Geyer’s Oven

Tiffin – 2nd & 4th Thursday Nights of the Month

I have not yet been to this place, but it’s on our summer bucket list. Two Thursday nights a month in Tiffin, bring your family to the “pizza farm”. You bring plates, forks, etc. enjoy pizza on the farm. The cost is $10 for adults and whatever parents think is fair for kids – how awesome is that!?

State Parks

There are several state parks that are just a short drive from Cedar Rapids. Palisades-Kepler state park is east of Cedar Rapids on Hwy 30, and there is the Wapsipinican state park in Anamosa, northeast of Marion. There is also the Lake McBride state park south of Solon.

Dining Establishments

As a final thought, don’t under estimate the dining establishments you’ll find in a small town. Mount Vernon has a great wine bar (Lincoln Wine Bar), Lisbon has some fantastic home-cooking at Gwen’s, Solon has one of the best Mexican restaurants (Frida Kahlo) I have ever been to, and Stone City (General Store Pub) has a really cool restaurant, complete with food being served in a bucket and roasting s’mores right at your table.

I know this list is far from complete and I’m always looking for new activities for my family, so let me know:

What’s going on in your small town this summer?

Katie is a mama of two rambunctious, sweet, cuddly and highly energetic boys. Growing up in Mount Vernon, Iowa, she briefly left the area to attend college at the University of Northern Iowa, had a brief stint living in Chicago before settling down in Lisbon with her husband Bryan. Katie has been in the marketing field for over 10 years and is currently a marketing manager for an area health care organization. When she is not balancing life as a working mom, Katie enjoys binging on Netflix/Hulu, learning about all things boy and squeezing in a workout from time to time. Her current addictions include coffee, LaCroix, and cookies.