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Things to Do in Waterloo, IA

Attractions include museums, botanic gardens and the Waterloo Black Hawks.

By Kevin Litwin on October 5, 2017

waterloo things
Courtesy of David Wilson under a CC 4.0 license.

Waterloo is the employment, education, healthcare and retail hub of Northeast Iowa, and this city of nearly 70,000 residents also features plenty of things to do. It has a thriving downtown (pictured), a casino, museums and sports teams, and here are some highlights:

Destination Downtown

Go into downtown Waterloo for a variety of activities and attractions. The district has been a Main Street Community since 1996 and features 17 specialty stores, 18 eateries and 16 bars and nighttime establishments. More than 2,100 residents live in downtown Waterloo, and there are 5,000 daytime workers.

Be Festive

Attend one of the many festivals that grace Waterloo each year, including My Waterloo Days and the National Cattle Congress. Also arriving in the city on an annual basis is Iowa’s Irish Fest, a three-day event in early August with activities like Highland Games, a motorcycle ride, rugby tournament and whiskey drinking. Wear green!

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Try Your Luck

Spend a couple hours or stay overnight at Isle Casino Hotel Waterloo, a resort facility with plenty of gaming opportunities and live entertainment shows. Also onsite are highly rated restaurants like Otis & Henry’s Steakhouse, Farmer’s Pick Buffet and The Lone Wolf.

Learn Something Cool

Waterloo has its own Museum District that showcases a number of interesting sites, including a Dan Gabel Wrestling Museum, John Deere Tractor & Engine Museum, 5 Sullivan Veterans Museum and a Grout Museum of History & Science. All are within walking distance of each other.

Savor the Fragrances

Relax for an hour or two at Cedar Valley Arboretum & Botanic Gardens, a 40-acre public garden oasis located directly east of Hawkeye Community College. The spacious campus has nearly 20 individual attractions with names like The Rose Garden, Butterfly Meadow, Forget-Me-Not Pond, Children’s Garden and Stout Daylily Collection.

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Sail the Cedar

Waterloo has good kayaking and canoeing opportunities thanks to its ideal location along the Cedar River. One highlight is paddling through the downtown area to view the city’s skyline, and another popular route is along a 10-mile-long Cedar Valley Paddlers’ Trail.

Watch the Bucks & Black Hawks

The city has two teams that sports fans can root for during the summer and winter. The Waterloo Hawks baseball team competes in the Northwoods League and plays their home games at Riverfront Stadium during July and August, and hockey fans can watch the Waterloo Black Hawks compete in the United States Hockey League and play their home games at Young Arena.

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