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Dig Deeper in Waterloo

Explore our vibrant downtown district featuring award-winning museums, locally-owned restaurants, and an impressive riverside amphitheatre. Tour the new John Deere Tractor & Engine Museum, visit the Isle Casino, and enjoy the Cedar Valley Trails via bicycle or kayak. Catch exciting sports teams and immerse yourself in arts and culture. And did we mention we're home to Lost Island Water Park? It's Iowa's largest! Plus, did a little deeper and check out our family-friendly festivals and events.

Watch episodes from our new travel series - "Travel Waterloo".
Follow the hashtag #IDigWaterloo for photos, videos, and travel inspiration.

Waterloo Convention & Visitors Bureau Blog

Matt & AaronWhile we shared some observations about Factory City Gastropub with you back in May, there is certainly more to talk about. In this week’s episode of Travel Waterloo, you'll get more of a sense of who Chef Matt Hoecker is and what to expect when dining at Factory City.

Here are some recommendations for you to consider when you visit:

  • If you’re like me, you’re going to look at the menu and have a really tough time narrowing down your choices. Bring a friend or two and share. I’ve seen people do this and then they're able to try several different things rather than having to pick just one.
  • I’d highly recommend ordering anything that says “house” in the description. That means it is prepared at the restaurant and you’re getting something truly unique to Factory City. The bacon, pastrami and BBQ sauce are all awesome!
  • SAVE ROOM FOR DESSERT. Or, if you don’t save room, have dessert anyway. I had lunch at Factory City with a friend a couple weeks ago, and he had the chocolate cake. He said it was the best dessert in Waterloo hands down.
  • Factory City Gastropub offers a unique take on traditional favorites. The front-of-house staff is extremely friendly. The kitchen staff prides itself on preparing high-quality food. You’re going to get fresh breads, locally-sourced ingredients, creative drinks, and amazing desserts.

DrinksYou’re missing out if you’ve not yet been to Factory City Gastropub. Do yourself a favor and put it on your list of places to go… soon!

Follow the hashtag #IDigWaterloo for photos, videos, and travel inspiration.

- Aaron Buzza, Waterloo Convention & Visitors Bureau

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Aaron & ZayLost Island is a place I really dig about Waterloo, and you'll see that my buddy Zay thinks so too. This week’s episode of Travel Waterloo gives you a great visual perspective of the waterpark and the experience you can have on Zay’s top three waterslide choices.

Plus, here's some fun facts and tips we want you to know to help you make the most of your visit.

  • Get there early. The park isn’t as crowded in the morning, so you won’t wait as long for the more popular slides like the Wailua Kupua hydromagnetic water coaster.
  • Lost Soul Falls is a blast to ride. You can reach a speed of nearly 44 miles per hour during the 2-3 second drop from top to bottom.
  • Bright, sunny days are great at Lost Island, but visiting on a cloudy day can actually be just as fun, if not more fun. While you might not spend as much time sitting on one of their 1,500 deck chairs, the wait in line for slides is much more comfortable, as the walkways and steps are MUCH cooler. The crowds tend to be smaller on cloudy days too, which means you get more slide time.
  • Or, you can always kick back and relax under one of their shade shells, standard or deluxe cabanas. Reservations are recommended and can be made in advance online.
  • Lost Island uses about a million and a half gallons of water and recycles all of it through the park.
  • Throughout the park, you'll find multiple locations offering a variety of food and beverages. The most popular food item at Lost Island is Dippin’ Dots. Try them. They’re awesome! The most popular non-dessert item is their chicken strips.
  • Lost Island is celebrating its 15th Anniversary this season. New this year...Tahiti Village, an interactive play area complete with slides, sprays, and plenty of places to climb and explore. This area is perfect for the little ones.
  • Discounted tickets can be purchased online or at the Waterloo Convention & Visitors Bureau office.

Aaron & MattLost Island is open every day through August 30. The park opens at 10:30 each morning and closes at 6:30 in the evening. Be sure to check out their online calendar for a list of upcoming events and contests.

Follow the hashtag #IDigWaterloo for photos, videos, and travel inspiration.

- Aaron Buzza, Waterloo Convention & Visitors Bureau

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For each of the three places featured in this week’s episode, I’ll share a fun fact or two and give you my pick (or picks) for food items not to be missed.

Morg's DinerMorg’s

After I tweeted a picture from Morg’s recently, a friend commented, “Best breakfast place ever, anywhere.” Morg’s Diner has been a Waterloo institution since 1960. The atmosphere is fantastic. Doris Anderson, who is one of the cooks, began working there a year after it opened.

Fun Fact: Morg’s uses 800 pounds of potatoes EACH WEEK. The hash browns are all handmade, as is the maple syrup.

Aaron’s Pick: If you’re going for breakfast, you MUST get a pancake or hash browns. Or both. If you’re going at lunch, I’d highly recommend looking at the specials on the board and picking one of those. You really can’t go wrong.

Cottonwood CanyonCottonwood Canyon

Cottonwood Canyon roasts coffee onsite, usually twice per week. Owner Randolph Bryan learned and perfected his craft largely out of frustration that he wasn’t able to get a good cup of coffee. The result is coffee that is unlike any you’ll find elsewhere. It has a rich, smooth flavor no matter what roast you’re enjoying. Coffee is incredibly fresh, as well. Nothing sits on a shelf more than 20 days after it is roasted, ensuring quality and flavor.

Cottonwood serves breakfast on Saturday mornings, with a rotating menu developed using fresh produce and meats.

Fun Fact: Because each cup is brewed individually, the staff at Cottonwood is able (and more than willing) to make you a cup of your favorite roast, even if it isn’t featured that day.

Aaron’s Pick: The Bourbon Pecan roast is unbelievably good. I largely steer away from flavored roasts, but this is like having a piece of pecan pie and a cup of coffee at Thanksgiving.

Newton's Paradise CafeNewton’s Paradise Café

Newton’s Paradise Cafe was recently recognized as the Cedar Valley Restaurant of the Year. They serve familiar food with a local/Iowa flair. The restaurant is located in the former Newton’s Jewelry building, which makes the atmosphere and ambience very unique. Newton’s serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and offers a freshly breaded pork tenderloin sandwich that's large enough for two.

Fun Fact: The coffee creamer is served in a cow-shaped pitcher.

Aaron’s Pick: The biscuits and gravy are amazing and it's probably the largest order you’ll ever see. The biscuits are homemade, as is the sausage patty that accompanies them. When given the choice of breads, I’d highly recommend the English muffin.

If you’re not heading to work after breakfast, be sure to order one of their famous Bloody Mary's. It is made from scratch and garnished with celery, baby bell pepper, scallion, pickle and bacon.

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day and these three restaurants have ensured that your breakfast experience recognizes the importance of the meal.

Follow the hashtag #IDigWaterloo for photos, videos, and travel inspiration.

- Aaron Buzza, Waterloo Convention & Visitors Bureau

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TractorThe John Deere Tractor & Engine Museum in Waterloo will celebrate its official grand opening on Saturday, June 13. The event will take place from 10am-6pm. There will be demonstrations, displays, merchandise, and food available. In addition, Rick Trahan, the Deere blacksmith will be on site. The first 200 adult tickets sold that day will receive a commemorative medallion made by Mr. Trahan.

Because the grand opening occurs during My Waterloo Days, anyone wearing their My Waterloo Days button that day only will receive $2 off admission.

For those unable to visit during the grand opening celebration, the museum is open Tuesday-Saturday, 10am-6pm.

A few things you’ll want to be sure to check out while you’re there:

  • Guided tours are available every day at 10:30am and 3:30pm for an additional $2 per visitor. Scheduling those tours in advance is highly recommended, as space is limited. While the museum does a wonderful job telling the story of agricultural history, the guided tours provide even more information, and personalized information from your guide.
  • The hands-on demonstrations showing what it was like to use a steel plow and what it takes to generate horsepower are not to be missed. These aren’t just for kids, either. When you find out the effort it takes to generate half a horsepower, you’ll have tremendous appreciation for the power in the tractors on display.
  • It is amazing to listen to stories being told by those who worked for John Deere or those who have owned John Deere tractors as you walk through the museum. I heard two retired John Deere employees listening to the sounds of different engines and one said to the other, “I could stand here all day. This is music to my ears.” You’ll have a ton of opportunities to hear great stories as you tour the museum.
  • The story behind the change from two-cylinder to four- and six-cylinder engines, and the development of the New Generation of Power is my personal favorite. It was very secretive – so much that the engineers who were tasked with the project couldn’t even tell their wives about it.

HorsepowerRegardless if you've farmed or worked for John Deere, the John Deere Tractor & Engine Museum is certainly an attraction worth visiting. The museum is the only history museum that John Deere operates and you have an incredible opportunity to learn a great deal about an American icon.

Follow the hashtag #IDigWaterloo for photos, videos, and travel inspiration.

- Aaron Buzza, Waterloo Convention & Visitors Bureau

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KayakingVisitors and residents alike dig all of the outdoor recreational activities Waterloo has to offer. As we explored George Wyth State Park and the Cedar Valley Trails, we learned a few great secrets ourselves that we want to share with you as you plan your getaway.

  • Get out early with your kayak. The water is extremely calm. The park is incredibly peaceful. And you'll see quite a bit of wildlife before more people are out and about.
  • Speaking of wildlife, Chuck shared with us that the more shallow waters in and amongst the trees offer a great opportunity to view some of the 200 species of birds that call George Wyth State Park home.
  • The Cedar Valley Paddlers Trail is the first looped water trail in Iowa. It includes all four lakes in George Wyth State Park, the Cedar River, and two lakes at Hartman Reserve Nature Center. It is 10 miles long, with 8.4 of those on the water.
  • Waterloo and the entire Cedar Valley has more than 100 miles of paved recreation trails. The trails take you through parks like George Wyth and into the downtown areas, along the Cedar River, and through beautiful wooded areas. The trails are built in “loops” rather than a straight line, making your riding experience unique from other trail systems in the region.
  • The Cedar Valley Restaurant of the Year, Newton’s Paradise Café, is one block off the trail in downtown Waterloo. Stop in for breakfast – something we’ll be doing later this month – and treat yourself to a fantastic meal with great coffee. Or toast your ride with one of their amazing Bloody Mary's.
  • If you have the opportunity, try riding the same portion of the trail at various times of the day. You’ll get a completely different experience depending on where the sun is positioned, plus you’ll see new people and wildlife throughout the day.
  • As Cliff told us, fishing is great at George Wyth State Park. You don’t even need a boat. Rather, just find a spot along the banks of one of the four lakes or right on the Cedar River.

BikingIf you're new to the area, don't worry. You'll find trail signage and information all along the Cedar Valley Trails. Or feel free to stop by or contact the Waterloo Convention & Visitors Bureau for printed trail maps.

Follow the hashtag #IDigWaterloo for photos, videos, and travel inspiration.

- Aaron Buzza, Waterloo Convention & Visitors Bureau

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