Outdoor Family Adventures in Cedar Falls, Iowa

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Outdoor Family Adventures in Cedar Falls, Iowa

Looking for some outdoor adventure? Look no further than Cedar Falls, Iowa in northeast Iowa. Outdoor enthusiasts will love the numerous bike trails, parks, and activities available for families of all ages and abilities to play! We had the opportunity to explore and play in Cedar Falls and I was pleasantly surprised by all the amazing parks, cute downtown, delicious restaurants, and events they have planned in their small, college town. 

Take a look below for some fun outdoor adventures (and much more) for your family during your visit to Cedar Falls, Iowa.

New mural located just off Main Street in downtown Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Places to Explore the Outdoors in Cedar Falls

Big Woods Lake Recreation Area

Address: 1228 Big Woods Rd, Cedar Falls, IA 50613

Big Woods Lake Recreation Area offers a 65-acre lake and a 10-acre natural prairie. You cannot swim in the lake, but you are allowed to fish, kayak, and paddleboard. Big Woods is not only home to water fun, but the area also offers 18-hole disc golf and trails where you can walk or bike. Keep your eyes open for the Storywalk! The area is filled with large, shady trees and would make a great place for a picnic and to hang out for the day. 

Big Woods Lake Recreation Area

Cedar Falls Farmers’ Market

Address: Located around Overman Park, downtown Cedar Falls; along W 3rd Street & Clay Street.

Enjoy fresh produce, shop local vendors, grabs some fresh flowers, fresh baked goods, a hot cup of coffee (or iced), and more. The Cedar Falls Farmers’ Market begins the first Saturday in May and runs through the last Saturday in October. We loved how it was not too big, but still had a ton of great vendors!

The Falls Aquatic Center

Address: 3025 S Main St, Cedar Falls, IA 50613

After a day of walking the trails and biking you will need somewhere to cool off! Head to The Falls Aquatic Center. This waterpark is perfect for all ages. Safari Falls is perfect for younger ages with a dump bucket, zero entry, and more. Rock Falls offers a lap pool, diving boards, a water slide, and basketball areas. Adventure Falls includes tube & raft slides and a lazy river. No matter your preferred waterpark experience, The Falls Aquatic Center has it! 

Hansen’s Dairy Farm

This is not located in Cedar Falls, but just outside of town in Hudson, Iowa. It is a must if you love animals! You can learn about their dairy farming and processing — and pet their cows and kangaroos along the way! We made a visit a few years ago. Take a look at our experience. Make sure you book your tour in advance. 

Hansen's Dairy Farm, Kangaroos, Iowa, Travel Iowa, Hudson, Cows

Hartman Reserve Nature Center

Address: 657 Reserve Dr, Cedar Falls, IA 50613

Whenever we travel we love to explore the local nature center. Nature centers are a wonderful way to explore the great outdoors, indoors on a hot or super cold day. Beyond just the nature center there are always hiking trails and other outdoor things to explore. We had the best time walking through the Hartman Reserve Nature Center. They have turtles, snakes, a reading nook, live bird cameras, a giant tree trunk kids can climb in, a bird-watching room, and so much more. They are committed to educating children about the environment via involvement and conservation. Pack a picnic and spend an entire day taking in nature in Black Hawk County. 

Hartman Reserve Nature Center – inside look of the children’s area.

Place to Play Playground 

Address: Corner of Ashworth and Algonquin, Cedar Falls, IA 50613

Our family loves a good playground and Greenhill Park/Place to Play Playground did not disappoint for good reason! This playground is an all-inclusive playground allowing children and adults of all ages and all abilities to play together. It included a sand pit, rubber flooring, a shaded area, zip-lining, swings, and so much more. 

Place to Play Playground – Inclusive Playground in Cedar Falls

Public Art

​Cedar Falls is home to a ton of public art. As you are walking and adventuring through town, you will see sculptures all over. You can take a look at where all the art is located including details about each item here. I know when we were exploring we kept tabs on which public art we came across. Kind of like a treasure hunt! 

Showtime sculpture located outside of Tata Yaya and the theater.

River Place Plaza

Address: 200 State Street in Cedar Falls (just a block off Main Street.)

​The River Place Plaza is a historical landmark in Cedar Falls. It is the heart of the downtown Cedar Falls area that offers outdoor events such as live music, yoga, and other special events. This is a fun area with local shops and breweries nearby. I love how the Main Street shop area flows into this newer area! When you visit Cedar Falls take a look at their event calendar to see what is scheduled and enjoy a great time near the Cedar River. 

A popular piece of art at The Plaza is called the Dream House.

Stroll Main Street Shops

Cedar Falls Main Street may be one of my favorite small downtowns to shop. Sometimes it can be a hit-and-miss, but as we strolled down Main Street I wanted to stop everywhere! Some of our favorites included The Cob Mercantile (I loved their setup!), Caboose Stop Hobbies, Chocolaterie Stam (for obvious reasons), PeekaBoo, and more. 

Hatchlings & Hens is a fun stop too! If it starts to rain, make a stop here. You can select and work on all sorts of art projects. They have everything you need from paint and hot glue guns to stickers and other embellishments. I loved how the kids could get messy as they wanted and it was less stressful for me! This was a great stop to make to take a break from the outdoors. 

Where to Eat in Cedar Falls

While you are exploring all the fun in Cedar Falls you will build up an appetite and they have no shortage of great places to eat! 

  • Starbeck’s Smokehouse – A fun and unique BBQ restaurant. This was the perfect spot for lunch and it is located next door to Scratch Cupcakery for dessert afterward. Starbeck’s offers a fun patio and we loved looking at all their vintage decor. 
  • Cedar Falls Brown Bottle – We loved this place for dinner. I loved the fancy feel, but they definitely catered to kids. Amelia ordered a teapot of milk with a bag of Oreo cookies. That pretty much sealed the deal. They have fun cocktails, pasta, chicken, and more. 
  • Tata Yaya – A fun place located on Main Street. We fueled up for the day here before we shopped. They serve crepes and waffles. Everything was so good! 
  • Whiskey Road Tavern & Grill – Whiskey Road is a sports bar located in downtown Cedar Falls that offers great dinner and lunch options! 
  • Cedar City Creamery – Who doesn’t love ice cream? We made this stop before we jumped in the car to head home. All of the best sweet treats. 
Cedar City Creamery

Where to Stay in Cedar Falls

You won’t be able to see and do all of these fun things in a day, so make sure you book a place to stay when you visit Cedar Falls!

  • Holiday Inn & Suites Cedar Falls – Waterloo – This is where our family stayed and it was the perfect spot. It was clean, the staff was extremely friendly, they had a pool, and their rooms were big. I loved how the kids could be in one area to unwind and watch a movie, while I could unwind in the next room. A great option for families! 
  • The Black Hawk Hotel – If you are looking to stay in a historic hotel the Black Hawk Hotel is a great place. Did you know it is the second-longest-operating hotel in the country? It is located in downtown Cedar Falls and is a great option for a girl’s weekend or a night away with your partner. 
An inside look at our comfortable and spacious room at the Holiday Inn & Suites in Cedar Falls.

Other Iowa Adventures

​We love to explore the towns and cities that make up the state of Iowa. Take a look at all these other fun places to visit. 



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