An award-winning organization, the Iowa Children’s Museum engages and expands the imaginations of youngsters with interactive exhibits and hands-on programs. The Move It! Dig It! Do It! event invites pintsized minds to stretch themselves around the enormous equipment wielded by construction professionals, farmers, and bus drivers, and then witness how each vehicle fits into the next to defend the galaxy as Voltron. More than 40 activities and machines ensure all-day entertainment. Tots can scramble into the driver’s seat of a fire truck for a hero’s-eye view of the engine’s three-alarm chili dispenser or enjoy a haystack ride. Create your own cement garden stone before retiring to the Volunteer Guild’s Dig It! Café for purchasable snacks and water divvied up out from under a big tent.
Nestled on the banks of the Cedar River, the 17,000-square-foot nonprofit museum educates more than 30,000 people annually through tours, exhibits, and community programs celebrating African-American heritage and culture. Packed with more than 2,000 artifacts, 200 oral histories, and a library with more than 1,000 volumes covering African and African American topics, the museum crams craniums full of historical knowledge. Endless Possibilities, part of the flagship permanent collection, traces the history of Iowa's African American citizens through photos, objects, stories, and multimedia. A rotating lineup of compelling exhibits includes Unconditional Loyalty, running through December 17, which pays tribute to African-Americans who've served in the U.S. military from the Revolutionary War era to the present day. The museum is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday
Hoisting a digital trophy for being awarded the Best Museum in 2009 by CityVoters, the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art delights culture connoisseurs of all ages with 16 exhibition galleries comprised of more than 7,200 pieces of art that span 2,000 years. The century-old building is home to the largest collection of works by American Gothic artist Grant Wood, and it offers tours of his antique local studio, during which a scholarly docent fields questions, admires its décor, and monitors the progress of Wood's 80-year-old reality show. Current exhibits include the pastoral photography of Joan Liffring-Zug Bourret and David B. Heusinkveld and an assembly of more than 50 Roman busts, coins, lamps, and sculptures that produce a glimpse into ancient Romans' daily lives and oddly-specific obsession with torso-less models.
As though scrawled by a member of the world's least-threatening street gang, the graffiti'd word "PENGUINS" on the stage's brick wall announces the venue's name. Nationally touring comics make that wall their backdrop every week, flooding the room with laughter as audience members accidentally flood their lungs with beer. The venue draws a number of recognizable industry names each month, with past appearances including Chris Kattan and Tom Arnold.
Retrace and retread tractor history at this Dyersville museum, located 90 minutes from downtown Cedar Rapids. With thousands of toys and exhibits scattered throughout its two-floored exhibition space, the National Farm Toy Museum pays tribute to historic and contemporary crop contraptions. Fun-loving farm enthusiasts may peruse the museum's frenzy of farm implements, including trucks, pedal tractors, and life-size John Deer soil-sifters. Original artwork, dioramas, and two Doug Schlesier sculptures artfully express anecdotes of American agriculture, while miniature farm replicas and Ertl Company toys convey while miniature-sized farm replicas and Ertl Company toys convey to visitors the life-sized growth of American farming. The National Farm Toy Museum is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
The Amana Colonies are a National Historic Landmark, a conglomeration of seven villages known for their self-sufficient charm, local crafts, and plentiful libations. A sagacious guide takes guests on a sip-and-swig-filled comprehensive tour of the local wineries and brewery, and the Village Stroll grants a sauntering gander of the other visual and sonic sensations the Amana Colonies have to offer. Beginning at 11 a.m. at the Amana Colonies Visitors Center, the walking tour shuffles feet down a one-hour path through the history, architecture, and culture of the colonies. Visitors will learn all about which the once-communal home of the German Pietist settlers, farmers and artisans who disappeared over the horizon on an impossible golden dirigible in the mid-1930s.
For more than 10 years, The Heart of Darkness has elicited scares from nearly 10,000 visitors every Halloween season with one of the largest haunts in Iowa. People from across the country and ghosts studying abroad brave nine separately themed areas on the terror-infested grounds, from a haunted playground to a maniacal-clown asylum. Each section crawls with grotesque creatures. A living scarecrow swipes at guests with a rusted sickle, causing them to flee right into the padded cell of Crispy, a demented arsonist whose victims gave him a taste of his own medicine by scorching his skin.
So committed to their duty to terrify, owners Kevin and Dolly Schults are affectionately known as The Halloween Family, as detailed on a 2009 episode of ABC's Wife Swap. Outside their spooky corridors, the Schults reward survivors with concession stands, a live DJ, and a photo booth that snapped the pictures Crispy uses for his online-dating profile.