A Few of MY Favorite (Cedar Rapids and Marion) Things

 

We’ve had lots of time in self-isolation since this pandemic business started, and it’s made my heart grow fonder of the things I love about Marion and Cedar Rapids. We don’t have the bustle of a big city, but there’s no shortage of family-friendly activities within close distance. 

A Few of MY Favorite (Cedar Rapids and Marion) ThingsHere’s just a short list of the great amenities and attractions our family enjoys in the Cedar Rapids and Marion communities:

Food

Gone are the days when only chain restaurants were widely available in our neck of the woods. Today, our cravings for bold and fresh Mexican flavors are quenched at Caucho and our desire for fresh and spicy Asian cuisine at Mandarin Spice in Cedar Rapids. The atmosphere at The Goldfinch in Marion is trendy enough for a quick date night, and their patio has plenty of space to keep socially-distanced and enjoy a quiet evening. (And don’t let their exterior fool you- their menu has palate pleasers for adults and kids alike. My kids love the buttermilk chicken sandwich.)  Need more ideas? Embrace the novelty of being in Iowa with the Southwest side’s Leonardo’s with its vintage interior, or farm-fresh dairy and ice cream from Ely’s Dan and Debbie’s Creamery. Donutland was started in Cedar Rapids and remains an icon with donuts made fresh daily.

Get Outside

We’re all tired of being inside, so head out and enjoy our ever-changing seasons. Once the snow flies, see if you can reach our friends at Indian Creek Nature Center and check into snowshoe rental to tromp through beautiful Iowa countryside. Spring is usually sloppy and slushy, but Wickiup Hill has a relatively new outdoor playscape and some raised trails to enjoy the outdoors. And if the mess is too much, see if you can explore Wickiup’s fun (and free!) indoor play area for kiddos. A visit to Palisades Kepler State Park will give everyone a chance to stretch out and enjoy great sunny views over the Cedar River. My kids like going down by the water’s edge to skip rocks, an activity that keeps them happy for hours. 

Other Entertainment Ideas

We are a sports family and are still mourning the loss of baseball since the Cedar Rapids Kernels baseball team had to cancel their season. Then the derecho in September took away our beloved RoughRiders Hockey for this winter.

But we need to look harder to find gems that still exist in our community. Check out the fan guidelines for Coe, Kirkwood, Mt. Mercy, Cornell, and the University of Iowa athletic events. Many are still building their protocols for the winter season and might give sports fans a glimpse of a sporting event with fewer people in the stands.

We also love our local arts community, so we’ve been sending support to some of our favorites as they struggle with reopening.  When was the last time you checked out the art in the gallery at CSPS? The gallery at this former Czech social hall is a great place to see local artist’s work, and they’re slowly beginning to incorporate live theatre and music back into their intimate space. The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art has reopened and has installed new exhibits. Did you love the comfy, living room-style seating at Marion’s Giving Tree Theatre? They’re back in session with performances, limited seating, and mask restrictions. And let’s hope the Outdoor Children’s Theater performances will be back on the Brucemore lawn next summer. (Last year’s performance of Charlotte’s Web was MAGICAL!)

Embrace Downtime

Wander around the beautiful Lowe Park in Marion and let the kids play on the accessible playground or enjoy the flower gardens. Head to NewBo City Market and check out the titles at Next Page Books. Then, send an adult with the kids to get ice cream and popcorn next door from Almost Famous while you browse Raygun’s shop (a great place to visit and to buy fun items for yourself and friends, but their edgy slogans aren’t always kid-appropriate.)

COVID and isolation have gone hand-in-hand this year, but both have helped me gain a real appreciation for all the ‘extras’ available to those living in our communities.

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Renee Nelson
Renee holds three titles that are of utmost importance to her: mom to Cale and Ian; wife to Andy; and Communications Director for Grant Wood Area Education Agency. Although she has a Master’s degree from the University of Iowa, her heart still shines cardinal and gold for Iowa State University where she received her undergraduate degree. Renee’s a foodie who loves cooking, travel, her friends, her family, the Oxford comma, and happy hour. Cheers!

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