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    10 Free Things to Do

    Dig fun + free in Waterloo

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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, dig 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

1. Local Music. Every band that performs throughout the season is live and local. You’re going to hear a variety of bands from the area. Some may be familiar to you, while others are new to the scene. Screaming Eagle American Bar & Grill has done an awesome job programming the season with bands you should look forward to seeing.

Bike Night Band

2. Great Food. Not only can you order off of Screaming Eagle’s delicious menu, Grill Master Spivey is on site with great BBQ. There's also food and drink specials each Thursday, so come hungry. I’d recommend any of the burgers!

Bike Night Bike

3. Awesome Atmosphere. Owner Ivan Wieland told us that it's a street party that's almost more of a reunion. Everyone is happy to be there and the regulars are happy to welcome new attendees. It is a social event each week, attended by your doctor, dentist or neighbor, that has a unique and friendly vibe.

Bike Night Flag

4. Plus Prizes. Attend each week and register to win a 50” TV. The more you attend, the more opportunities you have to enter to win!

Bike Night has become a Thursday night tradition in downtown Waterloo. Each week, Bike Night starts at 6pm. Music begins at 7pm, and the party continues until 10pm. Whether you’re a motorcycle rider/owner or not, Bike Night is a really fun event to attend.

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

- Aaron Buzza, Waterloo Convention & Visitors Bureau
Photo Credit: Screaming Eagle American Bar & Grill.

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1. The Oven. It's one of the most unique you’ll find. It was built in Naples, Italy, and cooks pizzas in the Neapolitan style. The oven uses only wood for heat, and reaches 900+ degrees. It is a beautifully-tiled oven, and cooks amazing pizzas in just 90 seconds.

Basal Pizza Oven

2. The Crust. As you hear in the episode, the pizza is much less about the toppings and more about the crust. Owner Tony Eischeid and Chef Matt Hoecker have created a dough that uses a sourdough culture and has amazing flavor all on its own. They’ll also be using it for some amazing sandwiches.

Basal Pizza

3. The Other Ingredients. They're hand-selected and absolutely the best of the best. The pizza “sauce” is made simply of organic, crushed plum tomatoes. The mozzarella is fresh, creamy and authentic to the Italian experience. You can taste each and every flavor.

4. The Menu. It's small on purpose. The starters, salads, sandwiches, and pizzas have all been practiced and perfected and Tony and Matt want to offer great options to their guests.

Basal Pizza Table

5. The Ambience. It's very much a nod to the pizzeria’s European roots. The large communal table brings people together and creates a social experience. That table and the countertops in the kitchen were all hand-made by Waterloo resident Tony Stammler. The wood came from pine trees in South Dakota and he crafted some beautiful and functional art. The outdoor dining area is similar to what you’d see on the streets of Italy. 

The one tip I’d offer you is this: Bring a date, a friend, a co-worker. Order something different and share. Each pizza serves one, but sharing is certainly an option and is encouraged at Basal Pizza. Enjoy! We know you will.

**Basal Pizza officially opens Tuesday, May 17**
Address: 225 W 4th St, Waterloo
Hours: Tue-Thurs 11am-3pm & 5-9pm; Fri & Sat 11am-3pm & 5-11pm; Closed Sun & Mon

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

- Aaron Buzza, Waterloo Convention & Visitors Bureau

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Spring is here and so are the Farmers Markets! The markets are open for the season beginning Saturday, May 7.

Farmers Market1

Waterloo's downtown Farmers Market, the RiverLoop Farmers Market, is located at the RiverLoop Expo Grounds, 460 Jefferson St. It will be open every Saturday from May 7-October 29 from 8am-Noon. And, they have added some new features to this year's market. Not only will you be able to purchase a wide variety of fresh produce and unique local gifts, but you'll also have the opportunity to enjoy live music, complimentary fresh hot coffee, and free games and craft activities for kids. You can also have a snack or lunch at the market with food and beverages available for purchase.

Farmers Market2

Two more Waterloo Farmers Markets are held every week in the Kimball Ridge area.

Kimball Ridge Farmers Market
May 3-October 25, 3:30-6pm
Kimball & Ridgeway Ave, Waterloo (behind Cancer Treatment Center and KFC)

Kimball Ridge Family Market
May 7-October 29 from 8am-Noon
NE corner of Kimball & Ridgeway Ave, Waterloo

Farmers Market3

Listed below are several other markets held throughout the Cedar Valley. 

Evansdale Farmers Market
May-Oct, 2:30-5:30pm
3524 Lafayette St, Evansdale

College Hill Farmers Market
June-Oct, 4-6pm
2205 College St, Cedar Falls

Cedar Falls Farmers Market
May 7-October 29, 8:30am-Noon
Overman Park, 300 Clay St, Cedar Falls

You'll find plenty of fresh, local produce and crafts no matter which market you choose. Happy Spring everyone!

- Annette Freeseman, Waterloo Convention & Visitors Bureau

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1. New Spectator Sport. The Cedar Valley Court Kings, a new minor league basketball team, will add yet another spectator sport to our community. Basketball is a great addition to what we already have with the Bucks and Black Hawks, and the atmosphere will be very similar.

CourtKings Banner

2. Recognizable Faces & Voices. The team also features a number of players who are local talent, including several from Mt. Mercy, University of Dubuque, Wartburg College, and University of Northen Iowa (UNI). You might remember guys like Marvin Singleton and Anthony James from their days as UNI Panthers. And, we can’t forget local attorney Matt Craft who walked on at Iowa State University. For those of us who are familiar with UNI basketball on the radio, there’s a familiar voice that we might hear during games offering a “KABOOM” or two as three-pointers are made. 

CourtKings Faces

3. Exciting Atmosphere. While games are the primary reason to show up, the CourtKings will offer plenty of extra fun and excitement surrounding the games. The dance team, contests and prizes during timeouts and in between quarters, plus theme nights will provide fans with an awesome experience. On May 15, it’s Jordan Eglseder autograph/picture night. The first 75 people also get a free CourtKings tee shirt.

CourtKings Swag

4. Home Court Advantage. The Cedar Valley SportsPlex, featured in Season 1 (episode 31) of Travel Waterloo, offers a great environment to cheer on the home team. Concessions will be available and seating is close enough to the guys to feel like you’re IN the game.  

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

- Aaron Buzza, Waterloo Convention & Visitors Bureau
Photo Credit: Cedar Valley CourtKings.

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Who doesn’t love a FUN, better yet a FUN + FREE experience? We’ve gathered a list of some of the top FREE things to do in Waterloo. So grab your family or friends and discover something new at "zero, zip, zilch, nada" cost to you.

10 Free Things to Do Blog Post 1

1. Cedar Valley Trails: The Cedar Valley is home to miles upon miles of FREE recreational trails. And we’re not just talking about the 106 miles of hard-surfaced trails. You’ll find plenty of soft trails and water trails to enjoy as well. Plus, there are some really great group activities available all summer long for cyclists. Check out the Cedar Valley Association for Soft Trails, Cedar Valley Cyclists, and Cedar Trails Partnership for a complete events calendar.

2. Festivals: There’s plenty of fun to be had once festival time rolls around. And, you don’t have to spend anything to experience it all. Admission is FREE at events like the 4th Street Cruise, BBQ’Loo & Blues Too, Black Hawk County 4H Fair, Cedar Valley Jaycees Fireworks Festival and many more. Start your summer planning early and visit our events calendar for more information.

3. John Deere Tours: Go behind-the-scenes to see how John Deere’s biggest machines are brought to life right here in Waterloo. Guests (13 and older) will enjoy a FREE riding tour, while tour guides take you through each stage of the manufacturing process. Tours are offered Monday-Friday (except during shut-down periods), and reservations are required.
10 Free Things to Do Blog Post 2

4. Live Music Concerts: If you’re looking for live music, you’ve come to the right place. Waterloo hosts some of the region’s finest musical acts EVERY Thursday, Friday and Saturday night (May-September) throughout the city. And better yet, it’s all FREE! From salsa to rock, to jazz and reggae, you’ll enjoy music genres of all types while taking in some of the best views of the city. Visit our events calendar for a full listing of live music taking place in Waterloo.

5. Mark’s Splash Park: What better way to cool down on a warm summer day than at an outdoor playground that doubles as a splash park. Kids (12 and under) can enjoy countless hours of FREE fun at Mark’s Splash Park. Located next to the RiverLoop Amphitheatre in downtown Waterloo, it’s open every day during the summer months, from 9am to 9pm.

6. Parks: There are literally tons, and we mean tons, of FREE activities to do throughout the extensive park system in Waterloo. Go fishing, pack a picnic, play disc golf, or bring your pooch along. Yes, we even have parks for your furry friends to explore. Make a day of it and enjoy the great outdoors at one of our city, county or state parks.

7. Star Parties: Bring the whole family and take in the view above at the Grout Museum’s Star Parties. Whether you’re a novice or expert when it comes to astronomy, staff will be on hand to help point out current constellations in the sky. Telescopes and binoculars are provided, but feel free to bring your own as well. Star Parties take place every month from now until October at either Hoover Middle School or Prairie Grove Park in Waterloo.

8. Sunrise Petting Zoo: Home to farm animals big and small, kids can get up close and personal with these friendly critters. This FREE zoo includes cows, horses, pigs, llamas, donkeys, chicks, rabbits, goats and more. Sunrise Petting Zoo is located next to the National Cattle Congress grounds in Waterloo and it’s open June-September.10 Free Things to Do Blog Post 3

9. Waterloo Center for the Arts: Discover 11 different art exhibits in just 1 building…and it’s all FREE! The Waterloo Center for the Arts features the largest collection of Haitian Art in the country, works by Grant Wood and Thomas Hart Benton, Folk Art and more. And, this summer they’re celebrating their 50th Anniversary with FREE family entertainment and activities on Sundays, from 1-3pm at the RiverLoop Amphitheatre. The Waterloo Center for the Arts is open Tuesday-Saturday, 10am-5pm and Sundays 1-5pm.

10. Waterloo Public Library: Check out a book, take a class, or simply learn something new at the Waterloo Public Library. They offer activities for every member of the family and you guessed it…they’re all FREE! Plus, be sure to visit their newest DIY-space “The Hive”, an area stocked with equipment and tools to inspire creativity. The Waterloo Public Library is open Monday-Thursday 9am-9pm; Friday 9am-6pm; Saturday 9am-5pm, Sunday 1-5pm.

Do you know of other FREE activities to do in Waterloo? Let us know by sending an email to info@travelwaterloo.com. We’d love to add them to our list!

- Beth Keeney, Waterloo Convention & Visitors Bureau
Photo Credit: Cedar Valley Trails Partnership, Waterloo Center for the Arts/RiverLoop Amphitheatre.

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