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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 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

I mentioned in a recent Facebook post that a major benefit of filming Travel Waterloo is finding out new things about some of my favorite places. As we filmed this week’s episode, I had a chance to learn new things and spend some time with some really awesome members of our community. 

Blog Bar Episode 22

The Brown Bottle is located in the historic Russell Lamson building at the corner of 5th and Commercial Streets in downtown Waterloo. The Russell Lamson, built in 1913, was the largest west of Chicago at the time. It was purchased in the early 1970s and at that time, Don Landau (Chuck’s father) was approached about putting a restaurant in the building. From 1974 to today, Brown Bottle has served amazing Italian food. I didn’t realize until we sat down to chat that the original menu had eight entrees on it. They were, for the most part, recipes developed by Chuck’s mother in the family’s kitchen. Those original eight are still part of the menu today.

Blog Appetizer Episode 22

The Brown Bottle proudly makes everything in house. The dressings, like the creamy garlic and thousand island, are crafted in small batches and you can even take home a pint. Chuck, Joanna and I talked about the garlic bread, and they shared that one person hand-cuts and hand-butters all the bread they use for both garlic bread and the toasties that come with your salad. They use approximately 100 loaves at a time, cut into 12 slices each. So there’s someone preparing 1200 slices of garlic bread daily.

Blog Food Episode 22

In the 42 years that Brown Bottle has been in Waterloo, the menu has remained very consistent. There have been some changes, but the classics like lasagna, spaghetti and chicken marsala have remained as they were originally prepared in Chuck’s mother’s kitchen. The pizza is something many don’t always gravitate to initially, but it is definitely worth venturing away from “the usual” to try. And definitely save room for dessert! The brownie pie is outstanding and the most popular dessert on the menu.

Brown Bottle’s atmosphere is really unique, and Joanna told me that they have expanded the library significantly over the years, as guests have come to love that part of the restaurant.

Blog Library Episode 22

Both Landaus told me that they are sometimes seen as a “special occasion” restaurant, but they have regulars who are in sometimes multiple times each week. We were there on a Monday and there were a number of tables, even early in the evening. The daily specials provide some additional reason to try Brown Bottle as an everyday treat, not just a night to celebrate. On Mondays, bottles of wine are half price. Kids eat free on Tuesdays. The Early Bird specials are available all night long on Wednesdays. Brown Bottle offers a special “date night” menu on Thursdays. Martinis are half price and appetizers are $2 off on Friday nights. 

Maybe you’ve never been, or maybe it has been awhile since you were a guest at Brown Bottle. Either way, you owe it to yourself to introduce, or re-introduce, yourself to some of the best food and hospitality you’ll find, served to you like family.

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

- Aaron Buzza, Waterloo Convention & Visitors Bureau

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Our visit to Heartland Farms made me excited for a return visit with my kids. Each fall, hundreds and hundreds of pumpkins are harvested and are used to decorate the grounds. Families will visit over the next several weekends and have opportunity to enjoy the celebration. While I’ve visited before, this visit gave me a new perspective on Heartland Farms.

Blog Punkinator Episode 21

1. The Punkinator. Owner, Dave Myers, built the Punkinator himself, after sketching it on a napkin with a buddy. This thing is unbelievable! There are cars that have been destroyed by pumpkins being fired at them from a metal cannon. Pumpkins can travel more than a quarter mile, and Dave has shot them more than 700 feet in the air. It is a blast (pun intended) to see the Punkinator in use.

2. Haunted House. We found out that the haunted house is Hollywood scary. There isn’t anything that reaches out and grabs you. There’s a startle, but it isn’t something that kids can’t walk through with an adult. Dave and his team have built the haunted house from scratch and take pride in the craftsmanship and showmanship.

Blog Haunted House Episode 21

3. Hay Rides. There’s a great opportunity to be pulled through the pumpkin patches and around the farm, taking in fall colors, and checking out the sights and sounds. You get a really fun perspective of the attractions and all of the activity as you look back to the south and east. 

4. Jumping Pillow & Bouncy Houses. The jumping pillow and bouncy houses are a great activity for kids of all ages. On a cooler fall day, you don’t have to worry about burning your feet or getting too sweaty, and you have the opportunity to go back and forth to jump as you spend time with other activities too.

Blog Pumpkins Episode 21

5. Animals. There are farm animals for kids to interact with, and it is great fun to see youngsters checking out the chickens, pigs, sheep and other animals who make Heartland Farms their home throughout the year.

You have opportunity to spend as much time as you want with all of these activities. In addition, with pumpkins as far as the eye can see, you’ll get into the fall and Halloween spirit. You can take a pumpkin home with you too.

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

- Aaron Buzza, Waterloo Convention & Visitors Bureau

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It's September, which means it's only the beginning of the pumpkin spice craze. From pork to popcorn, you don't have to travel far within the Cedar Valley to find some great fall-inspired foods and drinks. And we're not limiting it to just pumpkin spice either. Dig in and check them out below...

Fall Eats Treats Drinks_Barn Happy


Restaurants across the Cedar Valley are rolling out new menus, featuring fall dishes and ingredients that are sure to comfort you all season long.

Hurricane Grill & Wings is now offering some fall favorites perfect for watching the big game. Handmade Chicken Tenders, BLT Chicken Tacos, an amazing Steak Sandwich, plus plenty of fall beers to choose from.

The Hy-Vee Market Grille in Waterloo has added a couple of new food and drink items to their fall menu as well. They have several Charcuterie Boards to choose from, which include a variety of selected cheeses, artisan meats and accompaniments with complementing flavors. They'll also be featuring unlimited boneless or bone-in chicken wings in the sauce of your choice, served with unlimited French fries too. Lastly, top off your meal with a Pumpkin Pie or Caramel Coffee Martini.

Farmer's Pick Buffet, The Lone Wolf, and Otis & Henry's Steakhouse (all located inside the Isle Casino Hotel Waterloo) will be celebrating National Pork Month in October. Choose from Grilled Pork Chops with Pineapple Salsa, BBQ Pork Pizza, Bacon-Wrapped BBQ Shrimp and so much more. Did we mention bacon? Because you'll see it on quite a few of their menu items, including dessert.

Fall Eats Treats Drinks_Lone Wolf

Back by popular demand, Waterloo Brown Bottle has their Caramel Apple Cheesecake with homemade apple caramel topping. Pair it with one of their delicious pastas or pizzas and you definitely won't go home hungry.

Whiskey Road's new fall menu includes some great appetizers and entrees, like their Bison Burger, which features bison meat from a local farmer in Waverly. You'll also find some great fall-flavored drinks to complement any meal.

Fall Eats Treats Drinks_Whiskey Road 2


If you're looking for the traditional pumpkin treat, Barn Happy has it. Their pumpkin bars are some of the best, if not thee best, you'll find in the Cedar Valley. And their cream cheese frosting...muah! They have a delicious pumpkin cheesecake too.

Chocolaterie Stam has some amazing and almost too good to eat chocolates. Plus, they come in a variety of flavors and fall shapes shown below.

Fall Eats Treats Drinks_Chocolaterie Stam

Pumpkin fans can also get their fix in the form of ice cream from 4 Queens Dairy Cream. You'll love their Pumpkin Pie Snowstorm which includes vanilla ice cream, pumpkin and crushed graham crackers.

Mmm...popcorn. The perfect sweet treat with a little crunch. Here's What's Poppin' has a delicious Harvest Blend popcorn which includes caramel corn, peanuts, M&M's, chocolate covered pretzels and candy pumpkins. They also offer a Caramel Apple popcorn mix. Popcorn Heaven is offering two different fall-flavored popcorns this season, Apple Pie and Pumpkin Spice, and you can't go wrong with either of them. They also sell caramel apples and caramel apple chips.

Fall Eats Treats Drinks_Popcorn

And we can't leave out cupcakes. If there's a flavor, it can be added to a cupcake. Scratch Cupcakery is carrying several fall flavors like Apple Dumpling, Pecan Pie, Pumpkin Cheesecake, and Salted Caramel Pumpkin. The Pumpkin Cheesecake cupcake features a pumpkin cake, cinnamon cheesecake, cheesecake buttercream, and mini cinnamon chips.

Apple and pumpkin pies, Halloween cakes and cookies - Simply Yummy Baking Company has you covered. This bakery shop has tons of awesome treats to choose from this fall.

Fall Eats Treats Drinks_Simply Yummy


The cool fall weather is the perfect time to enjoy a warm drink at one of our great coffee or tea shops across the Cedar Valley.

Fall Eats Treats Drinks_Coffee & Tea

Cozy up by the fireplace at Cabin Coffee Co. with a coffee or one of their Caramel Apple Cider drinks. It's the perfect combination of apple, caramel and spices.

As for tea, Laughing Tree Tea has a variety of specialty teas to choose from. Their Golden Apple Spice Tea blends in the sweet taste of apples and mulled spice. Mmm...sounds like fall to us.

Other places you can enjoy a Pumpkin Spice Latte (aka PSL) and a yummy pastry are Cottonwood Canyon, Cup of Joe and Sidecar Coffee.

When we think of fall, we can't help but think of beer too. You can find some fantastic seasonal brews at the following local hot spots.

Fall Eats Treats Drinks_SingleSpeed Brewing

Beck's Taproom Grill will be featuring some pumpkin-inspired and Oktoberfest-style beers. Headless Heron (Central Waters Brewery), Pumpkin Down (Ballast Point Brewery), Surliest (Surly Brewing Company), and Hopzeit (Deschutes Brewery) are just a few of the beers you'll find on their wall of beers. They'll also be carrying a couple of hard apple ciders - Hoppleseed (Wilson's Orchard) and Ciderboys Royal Blueberry (Ciderboys Hard Cider).

Our friends at SingleSpeed Brewing have some new beers on tap this fall as well. They recently launched their Oktoberfest beer called 16 Days, along with beer braised brats, beer mustard and kraut. Beer and brats...sounds like the perfect pairing. Later this fall, be sure to stop in and sip on some Cranksgiving, a Cranberry White IPA.

Do you have a favorite fall food or drink? Share it with us and we'll add it to the list!

- Annette Freeseman & Beth Keeney, Waterloo Convention & Visitors Bureau
Photo Credit: Isle Casino Hotel Waterloo, SingleSpeed Brewing, Whiskey Road.

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My Christmas list now includes an ATV. Filming this week’s episode of Travel Waterloo was a blast, and quite a surprise. 

I’ve worked with the Trailblazers Off Road Club for a number of years, and I was familiar with their projects and with Riverview Recreation Area. I didn’t realize how unfamiliar I was with Riverview until we started driving around and through the park. Riverview is HUGE. From the parking lot, you don’t get a true perspective of just how much area is included. Riverview covers 200 acres, and as you make your way through, you feel as though you’re transported out of the city limits.

Riverview Recreation Area

Riverview features a variety of trails, including the perimeter trail, which covers four miles around the park. As you look at a map, or drive down the road, you don’t get the same perspective of exactly where you are in the community as you do on an ATV at Riverview. As we rode along the perimeter, right along the Cedar River, we looked left (east) and we were just across from Evansdale, and nearing Highway 20. You don’t get that perspective elsewhere in town of how the river travels and intersects the community.

Dirt Bike

Riverview has trails for ATVs and also some amazing trails for dirt bikes. We saw some riders, from about age 6 to middle-aged, using the various courses, practicing jumps and zipping around the park.

There’s a large area without trees in the middle of the park. The Trailblazers call that area “the football field”, but it is much larger than a football field. They’ve built an obstacle course for ATVs and motorcycles, and the grassy areas are used for games and group activities. The group atmosphere fostered by the club is really amazing. It feels like everyone is family.


Shawn and Lorne talked about how people can get started, and the types of machines they see at Riverview. Everyone is welcome, and as long as the machine has proper licensing, any machine is welcome as well. They see everything from the newest, most powerful ATV to dirt bikes and 3-wheelers that were picked up on Craigslist for minimal investment.

Riverview is open nearly every day of the year. There are seven other parks like Riverview in Iowa, and some close when it rains or snows. At Riverview in Waterloo, riders are welcome any time.

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

- Aaron Buzza, Waterloo Convention & Visitors Bureau

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Spend the weekend experiencing fall in the Cedar Valley. Enjoy fall events and farmer's markets. Trails and fall foliage. Pumpkin patches and Halloween haunts. Spectacular sports, golfing and more. Here's some fall-inspired activities we hand-picked just for you. Happy fall y'all!

Fall Hikes 2

1. Fall Fun. Kick off the fall shopping season, September 15-17, with great deals from over 20 businesses in downtown Cedar Falls. Pick up your Fall Shop Hop card and discover new fall merchandise, fashions, gifts and home decor. Plus, enjoy specials, giveaways and treats at participating businesses. Make a return visit with the whole family on Saturday, October 15 for their Fall Family Fun Day. Enjoy a day of FREE, fall-themed fun...face painting, pumpkin decorating, kid's activities and more. Downtown Cedar Falls will also be hosting a Witches' Walk later that month, which will include shopping, dining and wicked good specials!

2. Bicycle Rides. Hop on your bike and visit three different farms on this year's Cedar Valley Farm Ride. This 37-mile bicycle ride will take place on Sunday, September 18 from National Cattle Congress. And, there's always lots of fun to be had at the Spooks, Spokes, Sneakers & Cycles event happening on Saturday, October 8. Choose from a Halloween bike ride, powder fun run or motorcycle poker run. Food, fun and music will follow at Gateway Park in Cedar Falls.

Pumpkin Patch

3. Pumpkin Patches. Stop by Heartland Farms from September 23-October 31 for pumpkins, squash and decorative gourds. This family-friendly attraction features farm animals, a giant jumping pillow, bounce houses and much more. Don't miss their famous Punkinator too! A Family Market Place will also have their pumpkin patch set up on the beautiful grounds of the Cedar Valley Arboretum & Botanic Gardens this year.

4. Fun Runs. Strap on your running shoes and check out one of these fall fun runs...Glow Stick 5K, Pink Ribbon Run, Trick or Trot, and Indee Zombie Run 5K Obstacle Course.

5. Oktoberfest. Celebrate Oktoberfest September 23-24 at Waverly's Kohlmann Park. This new event will feature two music venues, including their new Shades of Rhythm Amphiteater, food and beverage gardens, plus a family fun zone. You can also celebrate Oktoberfest on College Hill in Cedar Falls. Beer will be flowing from the Iowa Craft Beer Tent, along with sausages and soft pretzels. Make plans to be there on Saturday, October 15!

Pumpkin Patch 2

6. Haunted Attractions. Experience haunted houses for all scare levels throughout the Cedar Valley. Choose from Harris HavenHeart of Darkness (multiple versions), and Panic Park* - or visit them all. Haunted houses open in late September and continue until Halloween. If you're looking for something a little lower on the scare scale, head to the Waterloo Public Library on Friday, October 28 for their "Haunted Library". Kids will make creepy crafts, mix scary snacks, and take a tour of their haunted halls.

*Due to flooding, Panic Park will not be open for the 2016 Halloween season.

7. Horror Films. See some of the best in Horror films, every Tuesday in October at the Hearst Center for the Arts. Be prepared to be spooked as you watch classics like "Dracula", Frankenstin", "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde", and "The Mummy".

Fall Hikes

8. Nature Hikes. Bring the whole family on October 5-7 for a Halloween Hike through a candle-lit trail. You'll visit a variety of fun forest characters on this (non-scary) walk and enjoy some hot cocoa when you're done. Or, spend an autumn afternoon at the Cedar Valley Arboretum & Botanic Gardens with arborist and historian, Paul Kammerdiner. Experience the beautiful fall colors of the Arboretum during their Fall Tree Hike on Sunday, October 16.

Cemetery Walks

9. Cemetery Walks. Join the Cedar Falls Historical Society and Grout Museum District in Waterloo for their annual cemetery walks during the month of October. Costumed actors will tell the tale of former residents as you stroll through the paths of Cedar Valley's past.

10. Tricks & Treats. Bring your little ghosts and goblins to downtown Cedar Falls and Waterloo in late October for fun and FREE trick-or-treating events. Plus, don't forget to stop by the Phelps Youth Pavilion on Thursday, October 27 to discover "The Spooktacular Lives of Pets". Enjoy (non-scary) animal skits performed by the Black Hawk Children's Theatre, fur-tastic art activities and refreshments.

For a full listing of events taking place in the Cedar Valley, check out our events calendar. Plus, share your fall photos with us or tag them with the hashtag #IDigWaterloo. You can find Travel Waterloo on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

- Beth Keeney, Waterloo Convention & Visitors Bureau
Photo Credit: Cedar Valley Arboretum & Botanic Gardens, Grout Museum District, Hartman Reserve Nature Center.

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