A Staycation Could be Your Best Vacation

posted on Wednesday, June 17, 2020

A Staycation Could be Your Best Vacation

Cedar Falls Downtown District (Photo credit: Community Main Street, Karen Everling) 


A staycation? What’s that? A staycation is experiencing your own city or surrounding area as a visitor. Like any vacation, it means getting away from your daily routine with little or no packing, no lines or layovers at an airport and money saved on gasoline and airline tickets.

Why don’t we take more staycations? Well, we all do it. We want to visit attractions close to home, but laundry, cooking, dishes, errands and yard work take priority and special places and restaurants are saved until guests visit. This summer, be intentional. Set aside the chores for a couple of days and “visit” Cedar Falls. You might discover an outdoor adventure, culture, something for the family, a shopping trove or something historical.

Local businesses and attractions are working hard to provide a safe experience for their guests. Here are a few staycation ideas…


Start your day with a hike on the soft trails at Hartman Reserve Nature Center and then head to the Cedar Falls Downtown District along South Riverside Trail on your bike to grab lunch on the patio at Whiskey Road, a Street Taco at The Pump Haus or a quick sandwich at the Maid-Rite. Don’t forget to stop for dessert at Cedar City Creamery across the Cedar River next to Gateway Park on your way to Big Woods Lake for an afternoon of kayaking (with rentals available from Cook’s Outdoors).   


Pick up your morning coffee at Sidecar Coffee on College Street and then step around the corner to ICON Donuts & Sweetery on 23rd Street and find a unique selection of donuts like the Java the Nut, Ziggy Stardust or the Pink Floyd. Before heading to The Hearst Center for the Arts for a stroll through the sculpture garden, pop in at the UNI Bookstore to purchase a Panther t-shirt or pick up something unique at Mohair Pear. At The Hearst, it’s free to wander their exhibits. This summer, enjoy the pop-up exhibit that celebrates the life of Iowa-born poet Amy Clampitt as well as works by Soo Hostetler. The Hearst Center for the Arts is also a great place to start a Public Art Tour. More than 20 public sculptures dot the Cedar Falls landscape and it’s easy to view most of them by car. Because several are located in the Cedar Falls Downtown District, it's a perfect opportunity to stop for an afternoon snack at Chocolaterie Stam or Scratch Cupcakery before doing a little shopping.


Although things are a little different this summer, there are plenty of activities to keep the kids busy. In lieu of summer camps, the Hearst Center for the Arts offers Take-Home Camps in a box for ages 5-12. Kids can learn about photography, the art of science, design a special event for their family and get messy! Hartman Reserve Nature Center will offer several camps for the kids this summer including Hunger Games, Cultivation Crew, Wild Kratts, Wizards Wands & Whizbangs, Nature Fashion and many more. The Cedar Falls Public Library also has live events for the kids on Facebook. Another great activity for the kids is the open studio hours in the craft studio at Hatchlings & Hens in the Cedar Falls Downtown District (check their website for details and policies). And, the kids (and grownups) would love a stop at Here’s What’s Poppin’ and Main Street Sweets before leaving the district. When the kids aren’t crafting or working on camp activities, schedule a tour of Hansen’s Dairy Farm. Tours need to be reserved in advance and are available Monday through Saturday. When the day is wrapping up, a Friday evening during the summer may not be complete without family time at Movies Under the Moon. This year, it’s drive-in style and free tickets need to be ordered a week in advance of each movie. They’ve added extra showings and capacity so be sure to check for ticket availability!  


It’s easy to shop in Cedar Falls. Wednesday-Saturday, a visit to Barn Happy is a must. Not only do they have coffee and treats for purchase, their renovated barn is filled with a variety of gifts, most of which are made in Iowa. They also have antiques and vintage items for sale in the barn’s loft. Another stop is Real Deals in Greenhill Plaza near the corner of Hudson and Greenhill Roads. It’s a fun new shop just a short drive from stores in Industrial Park and the Cedar Falls Downtown District. In the district, wander along several blocks of shops that include Vintage Iron Co., Miss Wonderful, Kitchen Essentials, LBL, Spotlight and Pepper Boutique (to name just a few). After a day of shopping, eat local and enjoy some live music in the Cedar Falls Downtown District on select Friday evenings at Live to 9.


Cedar Falls history is walkable! The Victorian Home and Carriage House Museum, Ice House Museum, Little Red Schoolhouse and Behrens-Rapp Filling Station are all located within a couple blocks of each other as well as the Cedar Falls Downtown District.  While at the Victorian Home, peruse this exhibit, “The Fight for the Right: Women and the Vote.” And, have you ever visited the William J. Lenoir Model Railroad Collection? On W. 1st Street, the Ice House Museum is the “coolest” museum in Iowa. The ice house contains Cedar Falls history as well as a large display of ice harvesting artifacts. The Behrens-Rapp Filling Station is the perfect spot to pick up brochures about the Cedar Valley and the Little Red Schoolhouse is host to the Historical Society’s Summer at the Schoolhouse program. Once you’ve discovered local history, head to the downtown district for lunch or a treat and coffee at Cup of Joe (or a beverage at the Tea Cellar) and then begin a historical Downtown Tour & Hunt. Identify 30 unique architectural details found throughout the downtown district. Some clues are easy and some are tough!

We think your staycation could be your best vacation. If you'd like to find more Places to Eat & Drink or more Things To Do, contact the Cedar Falls Visitor Center at 800-845-1955 or stop in at 6510 Hudson Road and pick up a visitor guide and a trail map. To find events taking place in the Cedar Valley, visit CedarValley365.com

PLEASE double check the hours of operation of your destinations as they often differ by day of the week or due to COVID-19. 

Cedar Valley Trails through Gateway Park
A Staycation Could be Your Best Vacation

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