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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.