Tourism Cedar Rapids Blog

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Cedar Rapids Museums and Historic Sites

Take a culture crawl through the city of Cedar Rapids!

African American Museum of Iowa

The African American Museum of Iowa is devoted to preserving African American history and culture throughout the state. Their staff works to educate over 30,000 people each year through museum tours, traveling exhibits, research services, youth and adult education programs and community and fundraising events. In the fall of 2022, the museum will undergo a renovation on the interior and exterior of their space! Check out their future plans.

Must See: Experience a remake of Katz Drugstore from 1930’s Des Moines, where Edna Griffin led a series of sit-ins protesting the governor’s lack of enforcing Iowa’s Civil Rights laws.

Brucemore National Historic Site

Brucemore inspires community interaction with history with the 26-acre, park-like estate gardens, grounds, and 21-room Mansion. Discover fascinating stories about the families who lived there over a century of time. Each season, nature's changing beauty entices visitors to the estate offering new experiences including concerts, theater, festivals, garden walks, holiday celebrations and tours.

Must See: With decorations and trees lining the halls, Brucemore is beautiful during the holidays, even making USA Today’s list for 10 Best Holiday Historic Home Tours in 2021.

Cedar Rapids Museum of Art (Grant Wood’s Art Studio)

The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art houses more than 7,800 works of art spanning many eras from Roman antiquity to the present. The collection is particularly strong in American art, especially from the first half of the 20th century. There are a number of artists the Museum features, including the largest collection of works by Grant Wood. The Museum also possesses an impressive collection of Roman portrait busts and an extensive print collection from the 15th century forward.

Must See: Located just three blocks from the museum you will find Grant Wood’s loft studio, where he lived and worked between 1924 and 1935.  It was there that he painted American Gothic and many of his most famous paintings. The Grant Wood Studio is open April-December.

Iowa Masonic Lodge and Museum

In 1884 the first Masonic library building anywhere in the world was opened to the public right here in Cedar Rapids, Iowa! The collections grew so quickly that, in 1955, marble building we know today was built on the same site. The Iowa Masonic Library and Museum is regarded as one of the best facilities in the world to perform Masonic research, with over 250,000 volumes of varying topics from rare Masonic books to Iowa History and more. The Library’s Museum is also home to decorative arts, artifacts, medallions and jewels from around the world. Plus, if you’re looking for local family history, visit the Genealogical Society of Linn County on the lower level.

Must See: Check out the museums historic collection of Lincoln memorabilia and an authentic civil war battle flag.

National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library

The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library (NCSML), a National Smithsonian Affiliate, welcomes tens of thousands of visitors each year from across the country and around the world to learn about and celebrate Czech & Slovak culture. Museum guests can explore permanent exhibits including Faces of Freedom, along with other traveling exhibits throughout the year. In addition, the library attracts scholars, authors and Czech and Slovak Americans looking to research their family heritage.

Must See: Step back in time with the 1800s Sleger Immigrant Home. This one-and-a-half story house was the home of five generations of the Sleger family beginning in the 1890s through 1984 after they emigrated from Bohemia to the United States.

The Granger House Victorian Museum

The Granger House Victorian Museum is a snapshot in time from the Victorian Era. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this home is a wonderful example of Victorian Italianate architecture. Occupied by a single family, the Grangers, for nearly 100 years. The 2-story brick house contains many of its original furnishings and reflects the lifestyle of a successful, late 19th-century middle-class family.

Must See: Reportedly alive with paranormal activity including disembodied voices, cold spots, moving objects and apparitions, discover the house’s secrets for yourself and book an overnight stay for a chance at your own paranormal experience.

The History Center and Douglas Mansion

This History Center makes history both accessible and enjoyable while connecting the past to the present through a full schedule of walking and bike tours complimented by community events and museum exhibits ranging from a Mystery at the Museum Escape Room, Oral Histories LIVE and Annual Root Beer Festival. Located in the historic Douglas Mansion, a Colonial Revival completed in 1897, the mansion has been home to much of the city’s history. Fun fact, it was part of the most well-known “house swap” in Cedar Rapids when the Douglas family traded homes with the Sinclair family and moved into what is now known as the Brucemore Mansion National Historic Site.
Must See: The Carriage House! Worth a second mention, the Carriage House also happens to be Grant Wood’s loft studio where he painted the classic, American Gothic.

Ushers Ferry Historic Village

Experience life in a turn of the 20th century Iowa small-town and explore the 20 historic buildings on the 10-acre site. The original Usher family, among the earliest settlers in Linn County, established a ferry across the Cedar River that operated until the 1860's. Although the real Ushers Ferry was not actually a town, the village buildings you see today were relocated to the original ferry landing to depict life between the years of 1890 and 1910.

Must See: Visit the old school house for an original look at how classes were taught in the early 1900’s.

Veterans Memorial Coliseum and Museum

Located on Mays Island in the city’ center, you can’t miss this grand, art-deco inspired building topped with a gold-plated “eternal flame.” One of many Cedar Rapids sites included on the National Register of Historic Places, as you browse through the building, you will explore multiple floors paying homage to veterans of all wars including displays on the Korean War, Cold War, Spanish-American War and more. Of note, you will also find a magnificent 24-foot-tall stained-glass window by artist, and Cedar Rapids Native, Grant Wood.

Must See: Check out the exbibit In Flight: The Horsky Collection of Model Airplanes, considered rare by today’s standards.

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