In 2008, the flood that ravaged downtown Cedar Rapids inundated more than 10,000 square feet of the downtown and affected nearly 500 homes. The Cedar River eventually crested at 31.3 feet before receding, leaving a trail of mud, mold and destruction.
Just seven years later, it’s hard to believe this once water-logged area has been given a rebirth of attractions, restaurants and shops. Here are just a few of the new places in Iowa’s second-largest city that you may want to visit.
NewBo City Market: Though this area was heavily damaged during the flood, the Bohemian and Czech neighborhoods housed here are coming back strong, says Jennifer Pickar, director of communication for the Cedar Rapids Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. Opened in 2010, the NewBo City Market houses merchants selling everything from soap to fresh herbs, hand crafts to vegetables.
“In addition to the Market itself, NewBo has spawned all sorts of development in the neighborhood, including an independent bookstore, an ice cream/popcorn store, a boutique clothing store, and many restaurants,” Pickar says. Keep an eye out, also, for the many festivals taking place in the area, such as the Art Festival or Bacon Fest. Go to www.newbocitymarket.com.
McGrath Amphitheatre: Located right along the west side of the Cedar River downtown, this outdoor amphitheatre has played host to a wide variety of acts, including Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion to Brit Floyd’s Tribute to Pink Floyd. “It’s in a beautiful setting,” Pickar says. “In addition to hosting national touring acts, it’s also protection from future flooding for the west side of the river.” www.mcgrathamphitheatre.com.
The National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library: After four years of operating from interim locations, the museum and library re-opened in 2012 to rave reviews. With both permanent and temporary exhibits, the museum reaches out to people of all ages and backgrounds. Its current exhibit "The Year of Beer" takes visitors through an interactive exhibit that showcases all things beer. Next year, an exhibit on Andy Warhol and his Slovak background will be in place. www.ncsml.org.
Renovated historic theaters: Both Theatre Cedar Rapids, a local community theater, and the Paramount Theatre, were damaged severely in the flood. Both have been completely renovated. “The Paramount really is the crown jewel of Cedar Rapids,” Pickar says. Built in 1928 in the lavish Art Deco design, the building offers concerts, fundraisers, corporate meetings, dance recitals and a Broadway series and is the home to Orchestra Iowa. Go to www.paramounttheatrecr.com. Theatre Cedar Rapids rolls out a full season of musicals and plays, both drama and comedy. www.theatrecr.org.
Cedar Rapids Public Library: Heavily damaged in the floods, this new library offers state-of-the-art facilities, a garden rooftop (pictured above) and great views of the city. “It’s a very visitor-friendly place,” Pickar says. “The views of the city from the roof can’t be beat.” www.crlibrary.org.
U.S. Cellular Arena: With a $25 million makeover, the Cedar Rapids Doubletree by Hilton Hotel added a new convention center and renovated the U.S. Cellular Arena. This area now hosts national acts such as Miranda Lambert, ZZ Top and Celtic Woman. www.uscellularcenter.com.
A vibrant restaurant scene: More than a dozen new restaurants have made their opening in downtown Cedar Rapids since the flood of 2008. Some of these include Cobble Hill, a fine dining establishment known for its cocktail menu and locally sourced food, and Sauce, a restaurant that relies solely on a seasonal menu. Go to www.cobblehillrestaurant.com or www.crsauce.com.
For a complete overview of the Cedar Rapids scene, go to www.cedar-rapids.com.
Van Kooten is a freelance writer from Pella.
Cedar Rapids renaissance
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