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

Waterloo Convention & Visitors Bureau Blog

Full disclosure to begin with: This wasn’t the first time I’d been in Paco Rosic’s studio. I've had the opportunity to see “works in progress” and talk to him about painting. But when we visited to film this week’s episode, we were treated to more than I had seen or heard previously.

Paco's StudioWalking into Paco’s studio is rather amazing. There are thousands of cans of spray paint. Multiple cans of nearly any color you can imagine. There are blank canvases and dozens of paintings in various stages of “done.” It seems a bit chaotic until you hear Paco start to explain his process. He shared with me that while he might not paint every day, he draws, doodles and sketches every day for hours. His sketch pad is his iPad and he is able to start his creative process anywhere he is with just the tablet and a stylus. As he gets inspired, he moves the sketches to a canvas and may end up locking himself in his studio for hours on end, working “until it is done.” 

Paco told me that “done” is a tough term for him, too. He struggles to see any of his paintings as complete. He showed us a picture of his parents that is hanging in his living room and he said he started it four years ago and may still tweak it because it just doesn’t feel complete to him. Or, he said, it may be done and he’ll just have to let it go.

ISpray Paintt was fascinating to see his process. He is currently painting two different commissioned works and he is working on his own projects, as well. There were more than a handful of paintings that were in various stages that he might jump back to at any point. I asked him when he first knew he might be good at what he does. He said he has been drawing as long as he can remember, but sold his first drawings when he was 13 or 14 years old. The hospital where his mother worked commissioned a series of birds and the drawings were hung in the exam rooms. He said it wasn’t terribly pleasing to be getting a shot while looking up at one of his own birds.

Aaron & PacoIt's challenging to compare how someone like Paco sees the world to how I see the world, but when he said that he sees the paintings inside the cans of spray paint, it was obvious why he’s wildly successful and how his vision is so much different than mine. Even after we realized that difference, though, he was more than willing to let me attempt to do what he does so effortlessly.  It is REALLY difficult, too. As I apologized in advance for messing something up on one of his paintings, he said, “You can’t mess it up. And if you do, I fix it.” That’s why spray paint works so well for him.

We didn’t show much of his family's restaurant, Galleria de Paco, in this episode, as we wanted to learn more about how and why Paco paints the way he does, but we will be showing what he paints in the coming weeks, and exploring the art of the food, as well. 

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

- Aaron Buzza, Waterloo Convention & Visitors Bureau

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Love is in the air here in the Cedar Valley! With a little over a week until Valentine’s Day, you may be wondering what to do or where to go. That’s where we come in. We’ve got some simple and stress-free ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

Valentines Blog Post 1Go Shopping

Whether you’re shopping for your sweetheart or treating yourself to something special, these events will give you the much-needed retail therapy your hearts been longing for this winter.

Enjoy sweet savings on all kinds of gift items during the Valentine’s Gift Store Sale at the Waterloo Center for the Arts. You’ll find sparkling jewelry, earthy woodworks, beautiful and functional pottery, kid’s books, toys, puzzles, games and more. Shop and save 20% off your purchase, February 9-13.

Wine, chocolate and shopping…sounds like the perfect way to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Grab your girlfriends and head to downtown Cedar Falls for their Downtown Delights: Wine & Chocolate Walk on Thursday, February 11. You’ll sample delicious wines and decadent chocolates all while shopping local.

Or, stop by Calico Hen House, February 12-13, for their Cabin Fever Days. Shop sales, plus save 10% off antiques and preview their new spring items. Calico Hen House has tons of antique, vintage and repurposed items you're sure to love.

Valentines Blog Post 2Go Out

Spend the day of love with the ones you love. From a fun night with the family to a romantic evening with your sweetie, make it a Valentine’s Day to remember.

What better way to kick-off Valentine’s Day than with one of Iowa’s most eligible bachelors. This Saturday, February 6, Waterloo Black Hawk fans will have the opportunity to meet Chris Soules, star of ABC’s romance reality series “The Bachelor”. Special Bachelor Night ticket packages are available and range from $10-$35 (only limited quantities of each option will be sold). The Black Hawks will host the Madison Capitols and the puck drops at 7:05pm.

They say a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Surprise the man in your life with a unique twist on a traditional Valentine’s Day dinner at one of the following establishments.

Valentine’s Dinner & Beer Pairing
Feb 11 | 6pm
Jameson’s Public House, Waterloo
Cost: $50 per person
A five-course meal and pairing each course with a beer selection from Millstream Brewing Co. Tickets are limited.

Show the Love Beer Dinner
Feb 14 | 5pm
SingleSpeed Brewing Co., Cedar Falls
Cost: $55 (includes dinner, paired beers, tax and gratuity)
Five courses + six beers. 5pm is Beer Hour (cash bar), first course served at 6pm. Reservations required with very limited availability.

Valentine’s Weekend
Feb 12-14 | 4-9pm
Beck’s Taproom Grill, Waterloo
Cost: $11.99 (dinner special only)
Baked lasagna with garlic toast and side salad. $1 off wine by the glass, plus try beer samples by the ounce from their Beer Tapwall.

There are also a variety of other area restaurants offering dining specials to celebrate Valentine’s Day. As always, we recommend making your dinner reservations in advance to guarantee a spot.

Valentines Blog Post 3And, let’s not forget about the little ones on Valentine’s Day. Bring them to Crossroads Mall this Saturday, February 6 for a Valentine’s-themed Krafty Kids. They’ll make a Valentine’s Day craft, plus get a free cupcake. While you’re there, be sure to register for their Valentine’s Day Giveaway. The prize package (worth $1,000) includes a Coach purse, sterling silver and diamond heart pendant, gift cards to shops and restaurants, and much more. Entries will be accepted February 1-10, with the drawing taking place Friday, February 12 at Noon.

The Grout Museum District will be hosting a special Valentine’s Tea on Saturday, February 13 at the historical Snowden House in Waterloo. Enjoy a British low tea, while learning about the history of Valentine’s Day. Plus, create a Danish Heart Basket, paper roses, Valentines and more.

Or, sit back and sing along to one of the world’s best-loved feel-good family musicals – “Annie”. It’s the story of a remarkable red head and her relentlessly optimistic pursuit of her dreams, and it’s coming to the Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center on Sunday, February 14.

Valentines Blog Post 4Go Share the Love

‘Tis better to give than to receive and we have some simple ideas to help spread some love to others this Valentine’s Day.

Send a Valentine. Valentines can come in a variety of formats – cards, calls, texts, emails...even hugs. The list goes on and on. And, you don’t have to spend a lot (or any money) really to let someone know they’re loved this Valentine’s Day. Here’s a few resources to help spark your creativity.

Volunteer. There are so many great local organizations that are always looking for a helping hand. Grab your co-workers, family or friends and spend a couple hours giving back to your community. After all, a little love goes a long way.

- Beth Keeney, Waterloo Convention & Visitors Bureau

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Aaron & KatyThe Cedar Valley SportsPlex has changed the landscape of downtown Waterloo in several positive ways. It has become a major quality-of-life benefit to Waterloo and Cedar Valley residents. It offers the same benefits to visitors to the community who are looking for a space to participate in fitness activities. And it is a first-class facility for hosting sporting events of all kinds.

Bball CourtsWe were able to take a look at nearly every space in the SportsPlex in this week’s episode. From the cardio and weight equipment to the running track to the basketball courts, we saw (and show you) the variety of fitness activities available to members and visitors. We didn’t try the golf simulator, which is great, because as much as I embarrassed myself in other ways, I didn’t need to be completely embarrassed showing off my horrible golf swing. We also didn’t get involved in any of the programs or classes, but I’ve tried a couple out previously and there are great opportunities throughout the day and week, no matter what your fitness level is and what you’re hoping to gain from the class. Plus they’re just plain fun. 

Aaron & KentOne part of the conversation with Kent McCausland that you don’t see in the episode is our discussion about the events that occur at the SportsPlex and their impact. We have heard from soccer coaches that the field house is the finest indoor soccer facility in the Midwest, and Waterloo has hosted a number of indoor soccer tournaments in the short time the SportsPlex has been open. Basketball, volleyball, wrestling and dodgeball tournaments have all been held at the SportsPlex, and the visitors to Waterloo for those events have a tremendous impact on our area.  From hotel stays to restaurant visits to shopping and fueling up the family van, each of those visitors to the tournaments contributes to our economy, and that impact has been a significant benefit of the SportsPlex.

PoolI do have to admit that the day we filmed this episode, I told my daughters that I got the chance to swim and go down the slide a bunch of times, and I was in trouble. The pool is an awesome addition to the community, offering the opportunity to swim and play in the water the entire year. The depth offers all ages a chance to play safely, and the amenities – slide, water spray, buckets, basketball hoop, etc. – provide hours of fun for the entire family. You’ll see me there this weekend with my family, getting myself out of trouble.

Whether you live in the area or are just visiting, I’d strongly encourage you to check out the SportsPlex. It offers a something for almost everyone from a fitness standpoint, and the atmosphere and people make it extremely welcoming.

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

- Aaron Buzza, Waterloo Convention & Visitors Bureau

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It’s winter and it’s hockey season. These two go hand in hand here in Waterloo. And, if you’re looking for a great experience in a great atmosphere (regardless if you’re a fan of sports or hockey), Party Town is where it’s at.

So in case you needed a few more reasons to dig the Waterloo Black Hawks…we’ve got ‘em right here.

Black Hawks 11. Future Stars of the NHL

The Waterloo Black Hawks are part of the United States Hockey League (USHL), which is the only Tier 1 Junior Hockey League in the United States. Over 95% of USHL players receive an opportunity to play Division 1 college hockey, so you’ll see tremendous hockey being played on the ice at Young Arena by young men who are just beginning their careers. More than 200 USHL alumni are currently in the National Hockey League, too. Players like Joe Pavelski and Patrick Sharp began their careers in the USHL in Waterloo and Thunder Bay, respectively. So when you attend a Black Hawks game you’re also seeing future stars in the making.

Black Hawks 22. Promotional Giveaways & Theme Nights

The fan experience in Party Town is second to none. And, if you’ve ever been to a game, you know that the Waterloo Black Hawks offer more than just hockey. Throughout the season, during home games, fans can enjoy a variety of promotional giveaways and theme nights. One of their more popular offerings this year is the Subway Family Four Pack Night, which includes 4 white zone tickets, 4 Subway combo vouchers, 4 chuck a pucks, and 2 souvenir programs – all for just $49 (select games only). Other fan favorites include special jersey nights, autograph sessions with the players, character nights and more.

Black Hawks 3A3. Coors Light Cold Zone

What makes the fan experience even better? New amenities like the Coors Light Cold Zone. This new area is open during all Waterloo Black Hawks home games. It features four large HDTV’s displaying live video of Black Hawks games, as well as televised sporting events such as college football, basketball, hockey and NHL games. In addition to offering beer, fans in the Coors Light Cold Zone have the opportunity to purchase mixed drinks for the first time ever at Young Arena. And, if you’re looking for an area to gather with friends, family or co-workers, keep the Coors Light Cold Zone in mind as it will soon be available for group party rentals.

Black Hawks 44. Party Town Outfitters

A trip to Party Town wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Party Town Outfitters – the official souvenir store of the Waterloo Black Hawks. Open during every home game, fans can stock up on all their Black Hawks gear here. Hockey jerseys, men’s and women’s apparel, hats, and souvenirs are just some of the items available. You can even shop online at waterlooblackhawks.com.

Black Hawks 55. Community Support

One of the things we really, really dig about the Waterloo Black Hawks is how they give back to the Waterloo community and beyond. Earlier this season, the Black Hawks auctioned off special hockey jerseys in support of local causes like the Beyond Pink TEAM, a local breast cancer support program, and the Sullivan-Hartogh-Davis Post 730 Honor Flight, a program that sends local World War II and Korean War veterans to Washington D.C. They’ve also helped out the Cedar Valley community by hosting a school supply drive, ringing bells beside the Salvation Army’s red kettles, and bowling to benefit Habitat for Humanity.

Whether you’re a die-hard Black Hawks fan or not, we hope you’ll plan a visit to Party Town this season. You’ll experience some of the traditions that keep fans coming back year after year, as well as new ones that make your visit fresh and exciting. So grab your cowbell and check out their home schedule, which goes thru April. Go Black Hawks!

- Beth Keeney, Waterloo Convention & Visitors Bureau

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I will be honest here…I was REALLY wishing for snow before Christmas. I wasn’t looking forward to giving my shovels and snow blower some activity, but I was looking forward to snow. I was, however, looking forward to wintertime activities that involve snow. I wanted to break out sleds and skis and snowshoes. I was looking forward to trying out a fat tire bicycle, too. So as luck would have it, we have snow! 

Aaron & ZayWe got in the spirit of winter over the school holiday break, and Zay, my daughters and I checked out some of the awesome activities people dig about the season in Waterloo. 

While he may have looked like Bambi as he tried ice skating for the first time, Zay had an absolute blast at Young Arena during public skating. Lunch time skating is available every Tuesday and Thursday at the Arena. Skating is also available weekends, evenings and during holiday breaks as the activity schedule allows. You’ll see all ages and skill levels on the ice, so it is a great time for both beginners like Zay and my daughters to those who have more experience and love the opportunity to get some exercise and have fun on the ice.

Aaron & LoriWe are incredibly fortunate to have great parks in our community, too. Lori at George Wyth State Park told us that many people think the park is closed during the winter, but there are often as many, or more, park visitors when the snow flies. Both at George Wyth State Park and Hartman Reserve Nature Center, the trails – both paved and soft – offer great opportunities for snowshoeing and skiing. You’ll see many people out on the lakes at George Wyth ice fishing. And, the growth in popularity of fat tire bicycles means you’ll see many of them on the trails at both places, as well.  The parks are both large enough that visitors have plenty of room to roam and it doesn’t feel congested.

Aaron & AbbeyFinally, we enjoyed one of my favorite winter activities: sledding. We picked Bontrager Park here in Waterloo (at the corner of Park Ln and W 9th St) the day we went and, as usual, it did not disappoint. My daughters and I had a great deal of fun. The hills are steep enough to get good speed and distance, but they’re not so long and steep that walking back up a bunch of times tires out little legs too quickly. We typically choose Bontrager when we go sledding, but Hope Martin Park is also a popular sledding destination. I’d love to hear other places we should check out, too. Please send me an email (aaron@travelwaterloo.com) or comment on the Travel Waterloo Facebook page under this week’s episode to let me/us know where else we should sled.

Getting outside to play in the winter may not always be on the top of your list, but I guarantee you’ll enjoy yourself when you’re participating in any of these activities. I’ll see you on the ice or the sledding hills!

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

Correction: In this episode, we mentioned that Young Arena was the only ice rink within 90 miles of Waterloo. There is also an ice rink located 57 miles south of Waterloo in Cedar Rapids.

- Aaron Buzza, Waterloo Convention & Visitors Bureau

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