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You Can Have It All in Cedar Rapids, IA

A long list of assets means everyone can live their best life here in this charming city in eastern Iowa.

By Lauren Caggiano on December 8, 2021

A trail in Cedar Rapids, IA
Justin Torner

A medium-sized community full of heart, creativity and friendly folks might describe a few cities, but add to that description a sprinkle of the unexpected – as in people are always saying, “I didn’t know that was here” – a slew of job opportunities, fun outdoor activities, and a welcoming and inclusive population, and voila … that’s living in Cedar Rapids.

Home to approximately 138,000 people, this region has all anyone could ever need to live a life they’ll love. Let’s dive into a few of its assets.

View from Cedar Rapids Public Library
Nathan Lambrecht

All Are Welcome Here

Cedar Rapids works hard to ensure it provides an open, welcoming and inclusive environment for newcomers, especially those who identify as immigrants or refugees.

This goal is something staff members at the Catherine McAuley Center are more than familiar with, as they work with these individuals regularly. The center provides a Refugee & Immigrant Services Program, which provides support to people and families for their first 90 days in the country. They also provide additional case management to help guide and facilitate acclimation.

“Through those programs, we do see a lot of East Africans — we resettle a lot of Congolese refugees, but also there’s a very vibrant Burundian population in the area as well as a handful of Kenyans and Tanzanians,” says Director of Refugee & Immigrant Services Sara Zejnic. “So that’s really who we serve predominantly, but we work very closely with our Education Services department to provide English classes, citizenship classes and computer classes and all sorts of different educational opportunities for adults.”

Also adding to the area’s vibrancy is its large Muslim population as well as the Mother Mosque of America and Muslim National Cemetery, which call the region home. Cedar Rapids also boasts a strong Czech history, as many immigrants settled here in the 1850s.

Jobs, Jobs, and Jobs

When it comes to employment, finding opportunities to start – or grow – one’s career is easy. The area is home to food manufacturers, such as Quaker Oats, General Mills and Archer-Daniels-Midland Company (ADM), Cargill’s soybean processing facility, lip balm manufacturers Eco Lips and Raining Rose, and aviation company Collins Aerospace, to name a few.

Plus, based on others’ experiences, tech startups are sure to find success here.

Fong's Pizza in Czech Village

Get Ready for Year-Round Fun

After punching the time clock, outdoor opportunities abound for area residents.

“I think the first thing to know is that recreation in our community is year-round,” says Indian Creek Nature Center Executive Director John Myers. “Some people think that during winter, things kind of stop, but that’s actually not the case. There are so many people who enjoy winter sports activities, from snowshoeing and cross-country skiing to a huge influx of people who now do fat tire bike racing, which is great in the snow.”

Looking for Indoor Activities?

In addition to outdoor recreation, residents are met with a thriving dining/drinks scene. Local favorites you’ll want to try are Bricks Bar & Grill, Quarter Barrel, Fong’s Pizza, Lucky’s on Sixteenth, NaRa Thai Cuisine
and Lion Bridge Brewing Co.

Outside of winter sports, Myers says community members have access to a network of trails systems. According to his estimates, about 40,000 people come to the nature center annually just to use the trails system. Active biking and water sports, like kayaking, canoeing and paddleboarding, are popular during the warmer months.

And if you fancy shopping, you’ll love the area’s numerous boutiques and Lindale Mall.

African American Museum of Iowa
Justin Torner

Explore Arts for All

The arts and culture scene here is just as popular. Residents can explore the African American Museum of Iowa, which preserves, exhibits and teaches visitors about Iowa’s African American heritage.

“We provide statewide resources and maintain social relevance, sharing authentic and often untold stories that encourage conversation, engagement and reflection,” says LaNisha Cassell, the executive director.

And the museum is only the beginning.

“The arts and culture scene in Cedar Rapids is underrated,” Cassell says. “We have five museums, theaters, a nature center, an orchestra and more. Besides having much to offer by way of art, talent, history and wonderfully rich stories, the proximity of the venues makes access less challenging for many families and travelers.”

If You Go

The African American Museum of Iowa
Location: 55 12th Ave. S.E., Cedar Rapids, IA 52401
Phone: 319-862-2101 • Website: blackiowa.org

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