14 Best Day Trips From Cedar Rapids (for All Seasons!)

Are you planning day trips from Cedar Rapids, Iowa?

If you’re in Cedar Rapids and want to explore the nearby attractions in Iowa, this guide is here to help you discover some great places to visit.

In this article, we’ve put together a list of the best day trips from Cedar Rapids. These are perfect if you’re staying in the city for a while and want to explore the surrounding areas.

We’ve also included a few weekend trip ideas if you have more than just a day to spare!

1. Field of Dreams in Dyersville

This iconic location from the famous baseball movie offers tours of the field and the attached 3-bedroom home. For baseball enthusiasts and movie fans, it’s a unique experience just about 1.5 hours away. Visitors can walk the same grounds where the movie was filmed, soak in the nostalgic atmosphere, and even play catch on the field.

The site also hosts special events and movie nights, making it a lively destination throughout the year. Whether you’re reliving childhood memories or introducing a new generation to this classic film, a visit to the Field of Dreams is sure to be a home run.

2. Amana Colonies

An ideal destination for history buffs and those looking a quaint, culturally rich excursion.

Just 20 miles from Cedar Rapids, these historic villages offer a glimpse into a unique communal lifestyle with historic buildings, crafts, art, wineries, and family-style dining. It’s a step back in time and a chance to experience Iowa’s largest National Historic Landmark.

The Amana Colonies, comprising seven villages, showcase a rich cultural heritage with their roots in German Pietism. Visitors can explore the artisans’ workshops, indulge in traditional German fare, and sample locally produced wine and beer.

If you get hungry, here are the best restaurants in Amana Colonies and if you want to sleep over check out these hotels in Amana.

3. Cedar Rock State Park

Spread over 426 acres, Cedar Rock State Park beautifully blends architectural history with Iowa’s natural landscapes. The park is centered around the historic Walter House, designed by the renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright in the mid-20th century for Lowell and Agnes Walter.

This Usonian style home is a testament to Wright’s architectural genius, featuring the only original Wright-designed boat pavilion still in existence. The estate, located on a limestone bluff overlooking the Wapsipinicon River, offers free seasonal tours to the public.

Visitors can explore the park’s landscapes, including lovely gardens and trails. The visitor center and the Walter Residence are open to the public for a significant part of the year, with free tours available by reservation.

The park also has a unique QR Code Hike. On this hike, visitors can walk to the Walter Estate and use QR codes along the trail to discover information about the park’s natural and cultural resources.

4. Iowa City/Coralville

Known as North America’s only UNESCO “City of Literature,” in Iowa City you’ll find cultural experiences, high-end restaurants, and a vibrant downtown district. The city’s literary legacy, university town atmosphere, and diverse cultural offerings make it a must-visit.

Coralville, a short distance away, complements this with attractions like the Iowa River Landing, which features a variety of dining options, shopping, and comfortable hotels.

5. Villages of Van Buren

This destination is a hidden gem in Iowa, featuring 12 quaint villages such as Bentonsport, Bonaparte, Birmingham, Farmington, and Keosauqua.

Known for its historic charm, the Villages of Van Buren are devoid of fast-food restaurants and stoplights.

6. Manchester Whitewater Park

This unique whitewater rafting experience in Iowa is at Manchester on the Maquoketa River.

It’s an 800-foot stretch of river with six whitewater “drops,” to experience adventurous outdoor just over an hour away.

Thrill-seekers and water sports enthusiasts will find this spot perfect for a day of excitement. The park caters to all skill levels, so whether you’re a beginner or an experienced rafter, there’s fun to be had.

7. Mississippi River cruises

The Riverboat Twilight, resembling a Victorian steamboat, hosts 1.5-hour sightseeing excursions and longer two-day trips, including meals, lodging, and entertainment. The Celebration Belle, a large paddlewheel boat, sails for sightseeing, lunch, dinner, and full-day cruises.

For closer encounters with nature, the Blue Heron pontoon boat navigates the Mississippi’s backwaters and sloughs, offering sunset and morning cruises.

The Channel Cat Water Taxi in the Quad Cities provides open-air rides, while Maiden Voyage Tours in McGregor includes daily cruises and specialized tours.

In Dubuque, the American Lady River Cruises enables guests to enjoy lunch, happy hour, or sunset dinner cruises on a luxurious yacht.

8. Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Prairie City

For nature lovers, this refuge preserves a large area of tallgrass prairie and is home to herds of bison and elk. About 1.5 hours west of Cedar Rapids, it’s a great spot for wildlife viewing and hiking.

This refuge offers a unique opportunity to see North American wildlife in a natural habitat. The trails here are perfect for a peaceful hike, and the chance to spot bison and elk in their natural surroundings is a rare treat.

9. John Deere Tractor and Engine Museum in Waterloo

Ideal for tractor and farming enthusiasts to explore the evolution of farming technology and its impact on agriculture. This museum features a blend of rare artifacts, antique tractors, and interactive displays.

It’s an educational and entertaining trip, especially for kids, and is just over an hour’s drive from Cedar Rapids. The museum offers a thorough exploration into the history of John Deere and farming equipment, along with interactive experiences that attract visitors from various age groups.

10. Lost Island Waterpark in Waterloo

A great destination for families looking for a fun and refreshing day trip. This park has waterslides and attractions for all thrill levels. Located about 1.5 hours away, it’s perfect for a family outing.

With a variety of slides, pools, and water-based activities, there’s something for everyone, from the adrenaline-seeker to those looking to relax and float along a lazy river.

11. Maquoketa Caves State Park

Located just under an hour north of the Quad Cities, Maquoketa Caves State Park is one of Iowa’s most unique and impressive cave systems. Discovered in the early 1800s, the park now features 16 caves, scenic landscapes, recreational facilities, and hiking trails.

Among the main attractions are the Dancehall, Rainy Day, and Ice Caves, each equipped with lighting and sidewalks for easy access. More adventurous cavers can explore tighter tunnels like Dug Out Cave with appropriate gear.

The park also has the 50-foot-tall Natural Bridge and a 17-ton Balanced Rock. While open year-round, the caves are accessible to the public from April to October, and it’s advised to visit on weekdays to avoid crowds. For those wishing to extend their visit, there are 29 reservable campsites within the park​​.

12. Des Moines’ Historic East Village

Des Moines’ Historic East Village, reminiscent of New York’s Greenwich Village, is a hub of arts and culture in Des Moines.

With a wide range of dining options, including the famous Zombie Burger, this neighborhood invites visitors to dive into its unique atmosphere.

13. Sioux City Art Center

The Sioux City Art Center is a prime destination for art enthusiasts. It features a variety of beautiful exhibits and art pieces, and also hosts numerous art classes. While you’re there you should visit the Hard Rock Cafe for lunch.

14. Canoeing near Decorah

Canoeing down the Upper Iowa River near Decorah is a great way to spend the day. You can explore the local ice caves, waterfall, and the Vesterheim Norwegian Museum.