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    Holiday Spirit

    Dig the holiday spirit in the Cedar Valley

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    Travel Waterloo Blog

    Dig travel ideas and inspiration

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    Waterloo Black Hawks Hockey

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    John Deere Tractor & Engine Museum

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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

PeacockThis week’s episode allows us to showcase an awesome locally-owned business in downtown Waterloo. It also provided an opportunity to do some mental holiday shopping as we toured the store and heard about the unique items available at Plaid Peacock

Plaid Peacock is an art and handmade shop that showcases and sells pieces from more than 100 Iowa artists. The shop is owned by the mother-daughter team of Heidi and Jessica who have been looking for a way to showcase Iowa art and talent. The shop is located in the renovated Kistner Building, which was built in 1912. Plaid Peacock opened just four years ago and has quickly become a “go to” for those looking for a unique, one-of-a-kind gift...even if that gift is for themselves.  

Iowa SoapIt is fun to check out the different hand-crafted items, from jewelry made from upcycled bicycle parts to glassware and toys. Every item available for purchase is a work of art. For those looking for a "Waterloo" gift, Plaid Peacock has a number of options, including soy candles made by Waterloo Candle Co. Each candle scent is named after an historic Waterloo neighborhood like Rath, Highland or Church Row.

If you've not visited, a great day to check out Plaid Peacock would be Small Business Saturday, the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Waterloo businesses are planning the 3rd annual Fudge Walk. Not only can you do some holiday shopping, each of the participating businesses will have samples of a different flavor of fudge! The Fudge Walk runs from 10am to 3pm on November 28.

Iowa WineWhile you're going to find great gifts for yourself or others at Plaid Peacock, the best part about the store is the personality. Heidi and Jessica have created a great shop and their love for what they're doing and for the art that is available in Plaid Peacock is evident. The destination they've created is inspirational, fun, friendly, ever-changing and warm. Stop in and visit. Shop. Take a class. You'll be glad you did.

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

- Aaron Buzza, Waterloo Convention & Visitors Bureau

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The holiday season is just around the corner. Crazy, right? In fact, you’ve probably even started to notice holiday catalogs, commercials and decorations popping up around you. From shopping to snowshoeing, the Cedar Valley has you covered this holiday season. We’ve rounded up all kinds of fun (and some FREE) ways to enjoy this special time of year.

Since there are so many things we dig about the holidays in the Cedar Valley, we’ll be sharing a series of holiday-themed blog posts. This first one is sure to get you in the holiday spirit!

Holiday Blog Post 1Celebrate Santa’s Arrival

What better way to kick off the holiday festivities than with Santa’s arrival to the Cedar Valley. Head to downtown Cedar Falls on November 27 to welcome Santa and celebrate a month of Holiday Hoopla. While you’re there, be sure to visit Santa, Mrs. Claus and their elves at Santa’s Workshop. Or, take a horse-drawn trolley ride down Main Street. Santa will be making his grand entrance at Crossroads Center and College Square Mall as well. Bring the little ones, or your pets even, for photos with the jolly old man himself all season long.

Other fun activities for the little ones include:

Flippin'-for-Wishes Pancake Breakfast
Dec 5 | 7:30-10:30am
HuHot Mongolian Grill, Cedar Falls
Admission: $5 in advance; $7 at the door; Ages 3 & under free

Breakfast at the North Pole
Dec 5 | 8-11am
Cedar Falls Community Center, Cedar Falls
Admission: $6

Breakfast with Elf on the Shelf & Santa Too
Dec 5 | 8:30am
Phelps Youth Pavilion, Waterloo
Admission: $8 Members; $10 Non-Members

Winter Wonder’Loo
Dec 12 | 3-6pm
Black’s Building, Waterloo
Admission: Free (charge for photos with Santa)

Holiday Blog Post 2Shop Until You Drop

Whether you’ve already started your holiday shopping or you tend to wait until the last minute, you’re sure to find something for everyone on your list right here in the Cedar Valley. The Waterloo Center for the Arts’ annual Holiday Arts Festival features original artwork for sale from some of the finest Midwest artists working in mixed media, painting, drawing, photography, wood, glass, jewelry, metal, ceramics, fiber and more. The Holiday Arts Festival is free to attend and will take place on November 14-15. Downtown Waterloo retailers will once again be hosting their Holiday Fudge Walk on November 28 as part of Small Business Saturday. Have fun shopping while sampling different types of fudge at each stop along the way. Plus, don't forget to enter their grand prize drawing!

Holiday Blog Post 3Enjoy Holiday Entertainment

This holiday season is full of excitement when it comes to entertainment. On November 30, the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Cedar Valley and wcfsymphony will usher in the holiday season with a "Cedar Valley Christmas" - an old-time Christmas Carol Sing featuring amazing music from area choirs. If you have never been to this event, it’s a MUST! The Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center also has an incredible line-up of performances, such as the Minnesota Ballet’s “The Nutcracker”, an a cappella Christmas show called “Home Free”, and “A Big Band Christmas” featuring Bill and Nola Rose Shepherd.

Other area events you won’t want to miss: UNI Varsity Men’s Glee Club Christmas Variety Show, Christmas with Wartburg, Hearst Holiday Concert, and UNI Choirs Holiday Concert.

As for theatrical performances during the holiday season, the Waterloo Community Playhouse will present “The Man Who Came to Dinner”, while the Oster Regent Theatre will present "Mary Poppins". Or, if you enjoy taking in a little dessert with your entertainment like I do, the Lampost Theatre will once again be having their Christmas Dessert Theatre.

Holiday Blog Post 4Additional Holiday Activities

The holiday season wouldn’t be complete without mentioning a few other popular area events.

Festival of Trees
Nov 18-22 | Wed Noon-8pm; Thurs 9am-8pm; Fri 9am-5pm; Sat 9am-6pm; Sun 11am-4pm
GBPAC, Cedar Falls
Admission: Free*
*Note: Other paid events available throughout the festival

A Victorian Christmas Tea
Dec 5 | 10am
Snowden House, Waterloo
Admission: Members $8; Non-Members $10

Cedar Falls Historical Society Christmas Walk
Dec 6 | 1-4pm
Victorian Home & Carriage House Museum / Cedar Falls Woman’s Club, Cedar Falls
Admission: Free

For a full listing of events taking place in the Cedar Valley, check out our events calendar. You'll find dates, times and additional event details. Plus, be on the lookout for our next blog post, where we'll be featuring ways to stay active and escape cabin fever this holiday season!

- Beth Keeney, Waterloo Convention & Visitors Bureau

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In our second look at the Isle Casino Hotel Waterloo, we wanted to look a little deeper at some of the big numbers. We looked at the restaurants, the gaming, and the hotel previously, but there are impacts bigger than what we previously presented.

Aaron & ChristOne of the stats that jumped out is the number of lightbulbs. I was shocked when Chris told us that there are 20,000 light bulbs in fixtures and lamps at the Isle. When you add the number of bulbs in the slot machines, the number is significantly greater. Chris and I had discussed that number previously, and as we talked about the facts and figures, and the big numbers, that was one we felt was impressive. It also puts into perspective the size of the facility when you compare that number to what you use in your own home or business.

Kyle talked about the total number of employees, and the busiest night of the year, which is New Year’s Eve. What you didn’t hear in the episode was that during an average shift, there are 125-150 employees on the clock. You also don’t get to see most of those staff members, either, with as many as two-thirds of the employees working in roles that aren’t front of the house jobs.

Aaron & KyleThe Isle Casino Hotel Waterloo has been open since 2007, and there are many employees who are there today that you would have seen on opening day 8 years ago. Kyle told us that they recently celebrated several employees who had been with the company 30 years. That means that as you visit, you will see your favorite dealer or food service employee each time.

We talked quite a bit about the Isle’s involvement with the community. Employees are encouraged to be involved, and donation requests are reviewed by the Isle’s committee regularly. Every week, hundreds of pounds of food are donated to the Northeast Iowa Food Bank, House of Hope, and other organizations.

Aaron & MeaganAnd, as long as we’re talking big numbers, since its inception, the Black Hawk County Gaming Association (the non-profit license-holder for the casino) has awarded $32.8 million to local non-profits and government entities. More than 350 projects in 49 different communities have been funded, ranging from public safety to arts and culture to recreation and sports.

Finally…the Presidential Suite. Wow! The suite is on the top floor of the 195-room hotel, and is absolutely incredible. We pointed out in the episode that it is bigger than some apartments and houses, and it is as home-like a hotel room as I’ve ever been in. If you want to treat yourself and indulge, this would be a perfect place to do that.

The Isle Casino Hotel Waterloo is a place for fun and games, but we learned throughout our conversations with staff that they also take their involvement and place in the Waterloo community very seriously. Most of the 600 employees live in Waterloo. Many, like Chris and Kyle, were born here. They’re a BIG part of the community, no matter how you measure it.

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

- Aaron Buzza, Waterloo Convention & Visitors Bureau

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Volks HausThis week’s episode brought us to a great downtown Waterloo establishment, Volks Haus. Hospitality is a family tradition for the Dotzlers, who own and operate Volks Haus. They’ve traced their family’s involvement in hospitality all the way back to the 1850’s in Germany. There’s a national restaurant chain that uses the phrase, “When you’re here, you’re family.” That’s not just a saying or marketing slogan at Volks Haus. Customers are part of the family, and the entire family helps operate the business. We met members of the actual family, and we met customers who are now extended family, as well during our visit.

There are a few things we learned about that we didn’t have opportunity to discuss more in this week’s episode. 

  • First, Jeannie Dotzler, the owner of Volks Haus is one of the most generous people you’ll ever meet. She has a great dry sense of humor as well. Over the years, she and her family have adopted countless families at Christmas time. She always finds little ways to help those in need, whether it is through Christmas presents or a sandwich and cup of coffee.  That generosity is something that has always been part of her life and has woven into her family’s lives as well. 
  • BootWhile we touched on the Hauntoberfest event, what you didn’t hear is that Jeannie’s famous German potato salad and brats will be served from 7-9pm on Saturday night. There are two costume contests, featuring prizes for great German and “regular” costumes. There will be live music. And there will be two stein-holding contests. While holding a liter of beer in a glass stein may seem reasonably easy, I will tell you that based on my experience, you’re probably in for a reality check. Uncle Steve and I were holding our steins for just a few minutes and you’re using muscles in a way that you don’t do on a daily basis. But you’re missing out if you don’t participate. It was a lot of fun, and I can bet that the fun Steve and I had would be multiplied many times over with more people to talk trash with, compete with and have fun with during Hauntoberfest.
  • And finally…the ghosts. I want to be clear that Volks Haus isn’t “haunted.” No one has ever been harmed, nor has anyone run out of the front door screaming. The extended Dotzler family is incredibly welcoming and hospitable. As I said before, everyone is part of their extended family. Based on the history of the building, there may be some spirits around, and they’ve been welcomed as part of what makes Volks Haus special. When we were there, I didn’t see or feel any presence. I did scare the heck out of Travis, our producer, though. But I don’t dispute that people have seen or felt a presence. We just want to be clear that Volks Haus is a safe, warm, welcoming place…not a haunted house. If you’re open to the presence of spirits (beyond the spirits behind the bar) you may want to peek in sometime, though.

CrewIf you’ve been to Volks Haus, you know that it is one of the most warm and welcoming places you’ll go to grab a drink, whether it is coffee in the morning with the regulars or a German beer in the afternoon. If you’ve not been to Volks Haus, certainly Saturday night is a great time to check it out. #IDigWaterloo because of places like Volks Haus where everyone is welcome and everyone is family.

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

- Aaron Buzza, Waterloo Convention & Visitors Bureau

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The Green Goddesses are one of the most recognizable pieces of public art in Waterloo. They are also perhaps the most mysterious. We had a chance to learn more, get up close with the Goddesses, and separate some fact from fiction in this week’s episode of Travel Waterloo.

Courthouse ColorThe six Goddesses were originally standing/kneeling atop the Black Hawk County Courthouse in Waterloo. Each is named and represents a specific idea, but more on that in just a second. In 1957, the two standing goddesses were retired from atop the Courthouse. One had fallen down and one was removed. One of those two, Peace, now makes her home at Upper Iowa University in Fayette, Iowa. When Black Hawk County moved to the current Courthouse in 1964, the Goddesses were all retired. Between 1964 and 1984, they moved from the Grout Museum District to the Waterloo Rec Center (now the Waterloo Center for the Arts) several times. 

StorageSometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s the other standing Goddess disappeared. She was the one that represented Industry and was holding a hammer, anvil and wheel. Some in Waterloo believe that her disappearance relates directly to the slowing of major industry in Waterloo. During that time, both large and small manufacturing businesses closed or moved. Whether her disappearance had something to do with it may never be known for sure, but there was a great deal of importance to what she represented to our community.

NightDonna Nelson asked for permission to display the four remaining Goddesses atop the River Plaza building (10 W 4th St) in the mid-1980s. Those four are Themis, representing Knowledge of Justice; Clio, Knowledge of Education; Ceres, Goddess of Harvest (symbolic of agriculture) and Mercury, Goddess of Commerce. 

The four Goddesses have not only survived the elements throughout their 108 years in Waterloo, they also survived World War II when metals were being converted to military supplies and ammunition. The Goddesses were left alone because of their importance to the community and to the County as pieces of art.

RooftopIt is tough to find a picture of the River Plaza building prior to the Goddesses’ arrival, but those that are available in history books are odd to look at because we’re all so used to seeing the four beauties watching over downtown Waterloo and the Cedar River.

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

- Aaron Buzza, Waterloo Convention & Visitors Bureau

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