Your 3-Day Staycation in Cedar Rapids
“Are you going on any trips this year?” I’ve been repeatedly asked by friends, family members, and even strangers waiting at the car wash with me. Instead of a big trip, do a 3-Day Staycation in Cedar Rapids!
Let’s talk about escaping this gray and cold wasteland. It feels like the obvious following best conversation in the middle of winter. Spoiler, we are not. We have no travel plans for many reasons, the number one being that some Covid-escape trips and grocery bills rivaling our mortgage are making our bank accounts catch up.
But unlike the two homebodies I live with, who would be perfectly content never leaving our tv room, my daydreams involve living out of a renovated school bus in New Zealand. Somewhere in the middle, with a budget of Aldi groceries and a tank of Costco gas, here’s how we’re still getting out of the house. Whether it’s your spring break or a free weekend, here’s my 3-day itinerary for a budget-friendly yet adventure-fulfilling staycation in Cedar Rapids.
Disclaimer: My son is 5. I only have one kid, so obviously, going out and about is a bit more manageable than if you have enough kids to fill a basketball team. If you have babies or teenagers, your three days may look different. Many stores are closed on Sundays or Mondays, so check their hours before heading out!
BREAKFAST AT BREWHEMIA
Start your day with breakfast at Brewhemia. Their breakfast burritos will always hold a special place in my heart. My son loves their chocolate chip pancakes, and if you’re lucky, their legendary cinnamon rolls won’t be sold out when you get there. Try their Bohemian or Horchata for a rich and creamy drink option, but bring a Lactaid if you’re sensitive to dairy!
PRAIRIE PARK FISHERY + INDIAN CREEK NATURE CENTER
Grab your bikes/scooters/strollers and head to Prairie Park Fishery. It’s a paved 1.8-mile loop, so pack a few snacks and plan to pause for geese and answer questions about abandoned trains. If you’re still up for another outdoor adventure, Indian Creek Nature Center is nearby and has an outdoor education/play area and lots of trails to explore.
CZECH VILLAGE SHOPPING
Drive seven minutes to Czech Village for a bit of shopping. Our favorite kid-friendly stops are Czech Village Antiques or Vintage Market & Supply Co for their buckets of antique toys. A few dollars can get you a cool race car and a happy meal toy. On the weekends, Soko Outfitters has an indoor climbing wall. While you’re there, check out the hut behind the building for outdoor consignment gear and rentals like snowshoes and x-country skis for a snowy adventure.
End at Sweet Mercantile Soda Fountain and Candy Shop. The shop sells nostalgic candies and toys. A $10 budget usually takes you pretty far regarding a wind-up car and a few sweets. If you don’t mind the sugar high and ice cream for lunch, get our favorite banana split or their incredible ice cream sundaes, scoops, and floats.
Go to the Cedar Rapids Public Library for its kid-friendly main floor with toys, nooks for reading, and endless books that are mainly forward facing. It’s a great place to rest and keep an eye on your kids. If the weather is nice, head to the rooftop for a great view of the city.
If you didn’t get ice cream for lunch or need some real protein, bring lunch from Newbo Market. The market has endless food options sure to please even your pickiest eater. Try to find Little Taco Truck at the library and see if you can spot any of the types of food from the book to try. Bring a few toys and shovels to play in the giant sandbox on the front lawn or kick around a soccer ball after lunch.
ICE SKATING + ROUGHRIDERS GAMES
My 5-year-old would need some rest after a long morning and afternoon, so we’ll be home for movies, reading our new library books, and quiet play. When you’re ready to venture out again, try ice skating at ImOn Ice Arena. They usually have public skates for $7 admission and $3 skate rental. The Cedar Rapids Roughriders games are also fun to attend in the evenings if you have a sports-loving kid. Just be prepared to listen to more cowbell than you’ll ever care to again. Bring headphones for your sound-sensitive kids.
DINNER AT SACRED COW TAVERN OR QUARTER BARREL
If you have an adventurous eater, Sacred Cow Tavern has a quirky and low-key vibe with tons of fun decor for your kids to check out, incredible skillet cookies, and lots of options if you’re vegan/vegetarian or gluten-free. They have a kid’s menu with crayons, activities, and menu items like mac and cheese and burgers.
For older kids (and adults, too!), Quarter Barrel has a vintage arcade and pinball games to entertain you while you wait for some of the most delicious pizzas to arrive. Their menu is kid-friendly, with burgers, fries, mac and cheese, and dessert pizzas.
BREAKFAST AT DONUTLAND
Donutland is an iconic CR spot where the same group of grandparents have their donuts and coffee every morning. We love the cherry donuts and sprinkled nibblers.
JUMP TIME AT AIRFX OR SKY ZONE
Burn off some energy at one of our trampoline parks. AirFX has Junior Jumpers every Thursday-Sunday from 9-11am, where kids six and under jump for $10 with one free adult jumper.
SkyZone offers a $14.99 ticket for Little Leapers (6 and under) plus a free adult jumper on Sundays from 9:30-11am.
Trampoline parks are our saving grace in the winter, and we have a membership to come and go whenever. Check out both parks’ membership deals. Usually, going twice a month will make it well worth your money.
WICKIUP HILL LEARNING CENTER
Pack a picnic lunch and drive out to Wickiup Hill Learning Center. Plan to spend at least a couple of hours inside and outside. Admission is free, and their indoor space is as creative and inventive as their natural playscape. Highlights include a giant zip line, sandbox, building materials, and a water table.
Spend your afternoon at the movies. Marcus Theaters has specials on movies for kids, and every Tuesday, movies are $5 with food discounts too. Collins Road Theater also has $5 Tuesday tickets, and all weekday matinees are $6.99 for kids and adults.
DINNER AT HU HOT
Here’s a sleeper pick for dinner, but Hu Hot’s interactive meal experience is one of my kid’s favorites. He loves picking out his ingredients and watching the chefs cook them. There’s usually no waiting for food to arrive, and we always order the roast-your-own smores for dessert.
BREAKFAST AT WEST END DINER
We’re heading to Marion! The Cedar Rapids/Marion divide is pretty seamless and is one of the most kid-friendly spots. Start with breakfast at West End Diner; if it’s nice, grab a table outside. The kid’s pancake and egg are perfect – and their Santa Fe breakfast burrito is fantastic.
THE SHOPS AT WEST END
Right outside West End Diner are tiny little shops that your kids will love to explore. Some kid favorites are the Purple Wagon (all things baby/kid), the Jack (legos, cards, and vintage toys), and the Swamp Fox Book Store (with a great kid section too).
MARION CHOCOLATE SHOP
Walk to the Marion Chocolate Shop and pick a few favorite chocolates from their gorgeous display cases.
LOWE PARK OR THOMAS PARK
Two of our favorite parks are Lowe Park and Thomas Park. Lowe Park is a relatively new all-inclusive playground with a giant walking trail, so bring your bike or dog too! Thomas Park is an older park that boasts the tallest slide in the area. With multiple play structures, swings, a giant sandbox, and a splash pad open in the summer, it’s a kid favorite.
LUNCH AT FRYDAE
Frydae is a Marion must-stop. It’s the perfect combination of loaded street fries and shakes or sundaes. While you can get a typical ice cream cone, try one of their Instagram-worthy loaded shakes. My son’s favorite is Candyland for its colorful and sugary toppings! It’s vacation, so skip a sandwich and grab a shake for your lunch.
MARION PUBLIC LIBRARY
The Marion Public Library is a short drive or walks away and is brand new. The kid section has a large play structure with a slide and a giant Lite Brite wall. There are nooks for reading, baby/crawler zones, and interactive play tables with puzzles and games.
DINNER AT THE HIP-STIR
The Hip-Stir has a fun and delicious menu, and your kids will love the decor of motorcycles, vintage doors, and an airplane wing. It’s an I Spy adventure, and ask to sit in one of the barrels for a more intimate seating area for your kids to sprawl out with crayons and toys.
As always, follow along with CR Moms for many weekly events in the area for moms and kids. Share your favorite Cedar Rapids and surrounding area day trips and adventures! Happy staycationing!
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