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15 Places for Family Fun in The Cedar Valley

by Kristen

Since initially writing this post, my family has moved away.  If you have anything else you would like me to add to this list, please feel free to contact me.  My e-mail is makethebestcrafts @ Gmail. com 

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I loved raising my family here in Cedar Falls, Iowa.   Cedar Falls and Waterloo are two larger Iowa towns attached to make up an area in Northeast Iowa called the Cedar Valley.  The whole area together is the home of about 160,000 people.   There is so much for families to do here!  I grew up in the Western Suburbs of Chicago, and sometimes I am convinced there are more family-friendly activities here in the Cedar Valley than there are in the western suburbs!  I now consider myself an expert on having fun with the family in the Cedar Valley!

When I first moved here, I was a little lost and had to research to find things to do.  I know that many people with small kids are always looking for fun activities to keep them busy, and that was the case for me when my family moved to Cedar Falls, Iowa, back in 2013.  There is so much for kids to do in Cedar Falls, Iowa, Waterloo, Iowa, and the surrounding small towns.   I wished I had had a resource to turn to when I first moved here.  So now that I am heading out ( I have moved to Dubuque since I started writing this post)

Here are 15 of my favorite Family-Friendly activities here in the Cedar Valley!

1. Cyclone City Playground 

In 2015, the folks in Denver, Iowa, got together and built the most fantastic playground!  Denver, Iowa, is about 20 minutes northeast of Cedar Falls and is worth the drive!  Cyclone City Playground is such an excellent playground and is truly a hidden gem.  There is also a splash pad!   If you’re looking it up on your GPS, you will want to search for “City Park” in Denver.  This park is such a great outing for any family!

2) Kruger-Hemman Sports Complex in Dyke, Iowa

Here is another excellent new playground just outside of the Cedar Valley.   This time we will head over to Dyke, Iowa, to check out the Kruger-Hemman Sports Complex.  Another completely free place to take your family for a fun afternoon!  This park has baseball fields, but also a considerable shelter, yard games, and this awesome playground!  My kids and husband love this zip-line swing!

Here is a 10-second video of my husband and son enjoying this fun playground!

3. Hansen’s Dairy– My family has done the tour of Hansen’s Dairy several times.  When we have out of town guests, we almost always take them on a journey of Hansen’s.  It is such a great way to spend an afternoon.   Hansen’s is a family-owned dairy farm located in Hudson, Iowa, and serves the whole Cedar Valley, providing local milk, cheese, and ice cream!  On Hansen’s tour, your family will get to

  • Milk a cow
  • Feed a baby calf
  • Pet kangaroos
  • Learn about dairy farming
  • See where ice cream is made
  • Make butter!
  • And have a few treats!

To book a tour of Hansen’s Dairy farm, you will need to call in advance.

4. Cedar Valley Sportsplex 

The Cedar Valley Sportsplex is one of my favorite places in all of the Cedar Valley.  This is a great place to take kids on a rainy or cold day.  Here you can:

  • Swim
  • Play basketball
  • Play soccer or other games on the turf
  • Play on their indoor playground

This is a great place to have a birthday party!

5. Sunrise Children’s Zoo

Sunrise Children’s Zoo is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day and is entirely FREE!  ( Although donations are accepted, this place runs purely on volunteers.)  This little animal farm is located behind the Cattle Congress in Waterloo.   At Sunrise, you might see:

  • Chickens
  • Goats
  • Peacocks
  • Pigs
  • Kittens
  • Rabbits
  • Ducks

You can also purchase foods for some of the animals!  This zoo is a fun little outing!

6. Kid’s Kingdom Parkin Waverly, Iowa

Kid’s Kingdom Park in Wavery, Iowa, is a fun day trip for a family.  Waverly is just about 15 minutes north of Cedar Falls/Waterloo.  This playground is unique and fun.  It is entirely made out of wood, and my kids love calling it the castle park”  and is a little bit of a maze.  Your kids will have a blast here!

7. Heartland Acres Agribition Center

The Heartland Acres Agribition Center is located in Independence, Iowa, which is about 30 minutes East of Cedar Falls/Waterloo.  It is worth the trip, though, and a great weekend outing for your family!  This museum is quite large and has something that will interest any age group.   Here you will

  • Learn about farming
  • Learn about the progression in technology when it comes to agriculture
  • See many old cars and tractors
  • See many old antiques
  • Lots of hands-on exhibits
  • Tour an old schoolhouse
  • See animals

It is entertaining and worth the price!  It will take you several hours to see everything here!

8. Cedar Valley Arboretum & Botanic Gardens

I am a sucker for arboretums in general, but the Cedar Valley Arboretum is an exceptional place to take your kids for a day of fun!  It is inexpensive to get in, and your kids will be entertained for hours.  We LOVE packing a picnic and spending a day there!  At the Cedar Valley Arboretum, you will find.

  • A Hobbit House!
  • A goldfish pond ( you can feed the goldfish)
  • Garden Instruments
  • A large sandpit with toys
  • A play “general store.”
  • Gnomes to find
  • Tons of beautiful flowers and plants to look at
  • An amazing view!

We love visiting any time of the year!

9.  University of Northern Iowa Sports and performances

I love living in a college town!  When you live near a University, there always seems to be something going on!  We love going to football, basketball, and volleyball games over at the University.   Also, Gallagager Bluedorn still has performances going on that are fun to bring your kids!

10. Phelps Youth Pavilion- Waterloo Center for the arts 

I have to take my kids to the Phelps Youth Pavilion so many times! If you live in the Cedar Valley Area, purchasing a family membership is a great idea!  I was telling my husband the other day, that I just noticed that my kids find something new to do each time we go!  They have activities for babies, toddlers, preschool, or elementary kids!  There is so much to do here!

  • Play on an indoor playground with a two-story slide!
  • Light tables
  • Dress up in costumes on a performance on the stage!
  • Put on a puppet show
  • Do an art project
  • build a house out of blocks
  • go exploring in a “cave.”
  • Milk a pretend cow
  • Learn about Grant Wood

And so much more!

11. Bluedorn Science Imaginarium 

The Bluedorn Science Imaginarium is a fun place to take kids, especially elementary-aged kids.   It is one of the museums under the Grout Museum umbrella.  Here, you will find physical science exhibits, reptiles, a toddler area, and fun play exhibits.  We also had a great time at the Veterans museum, but this is the best Grout museum for kids.

12. Heartland Farms 

My family visits Heartland farms twice a year.  Once during the early summer for Strawberry picking and once in the fall to the Pumpkin patch.  Heartland farms is located on the east side of Waterloo and is a fun outing for the whole family.  During the fall you can expect to find

  • Farm animals
  • A Haunted House
  • Bouncy Houses
  • A hayride
  • Goodies to eat!

13.  Ninja U 

I will be the first to admit. I was skeptical when I heard that an obstacle course gym was opening in Cedar Falls.  As a mom of three sons, I am always concerned about their safety.  But actually, Ninja U is a fun place for kids of all ages.  Both of my older kids have been to several birthday parties at Ninja U, and I can barely get them to leave!

14. Palmers Family Fun 

I am so sad that it took me such a long time to finally visit Palmers!  This family fun park has

  • a big bouncy pillow
  • Go-karts, including kid-sized go-karts
  • mini golf
  • batting cages
  • laser tag
  • driving range
  • archery

This park is well-done and very reasonable.  This is a great place to bring out of town guests for a day of family fun!  This will entertain your family for hours!

15. Hartman Reserve Nature Center 

Hartman Reserve is a great place for a family hike!  They have special events throughout the year, such as the Maple syrup festival and Halloween hikes.  You can go snowshoeing in the winter, and they also hold summer camps.  You should find them on social media to see if they have an event that fits your fancy!

I hope that you try some of the fun family activities on my list!  You and your kiddos will have a great time exploring Cedar Falls, and Waterloo!  There is so much for kids and families to enjoy here!


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