Waterloo is near one of the largest universities in the state (University of Northern Iowa), as well as one of the state’s largest waterparks (Lost Island Waterpark). The area is a draw for young people and families, and the city’s attractions make it a fun destination for an overnight or weekend getaway. Here are a few ideas on things to do in Waterloo on your next visit.
Disclosure: My visit to Lost Island Theme Park and Lost Island Waterpark was complimentary so I could write about it.
Enjoy a thrill ride or two
Lost Island Waterpark is the kind of large waterpark you’d expect in a much larger city. More than a dozen epic waterslides for single person on up to four riders are included in a pass, as well as a wave pool and lazy river.
Nearby, one of the city’s newest attractions, Lost Island Theme Park, recently opened. There are plenty of family-friendly ride options as well as a few extreme rides. The Island Hopper pass options make it possible to visit both parks in a single day or over two.
Both parks are open seasonally.
- Lost Island Waterpark, 2225 E. Shaulis Road
- Lost Island Theme Park, 2600 E. Shaulis Road
Eat all the good food
It’s funny that I went to Waterloo for good Detroit-style pizza, but I had some great pizza at Basal Pizza. I split a Supreme with my husband and we were stuffed.
The quirky restaurant in downtown Waterloo also serves Neapolitan-style pizza that’s more individual-sized. It was a toss-up between going to Basal or Mama Nick’s.
For more old-school diner fare, head to Morg’s. The diner has been around for more than six decades, serving breakfast and lunch to generations. The coffee’s good, and hash browns are great.
It’s a small place, and well-loved, so expect a wait. Once seated, enjoy flipping through the table-side jukebox (they don’t work anymore, sadly).
For classic Iowa food — the loose meat sandwich or Maid Rite — there is a Maid Rite location in Waterloo.
- Basal Pizza, 225 W. Fourth St.
- Mama Nick’s Circle Pizzeria, 1934 Washington St.
- Morg’s, 520 Mulberry St.
- Maid Rite, 2808 University Ave.
Stroll the riverwalk
The Cedar River flows through Waterloo. A 12-foot-wide concrete trail called the Riverwalk Trail extends on both sides of the river from Mullen Avenue to 18th Street, making it a nice place to stroll for families or for bikers. The Riverwalk Trail connects to the extensive Cedar Valley Trail System.
There’s an amphitheater waterside, called RiverLoop Amphitheatre, as well as a playground with a little splash ground. The Waterloo Center for the Arts presents free summer concerts on select Fridays at the amphitheater.
- RiverLoop Amphitheatre & Expo Plaza, 225 Commercial St.
Attend a celebration
The city pulls out all the stops for its Independence Day celebrations. Downtown streets are closed, two stages have music going for hours, and there are kids activities at RiverLoop Expo Plaza. Fireworks shot from the Fifth Street decorate the night sky over the river, capping the evening.
8. Mayor’s Fireworks, Saturday before Fourth of July
9. My Waterloo Days, one week annually in June
10. Iowa’s Irish Fest, first full weekend in August
Have a beer from a local microbrewery
Iowa’s microbrewery scene is growing, and includes great beer made in Waterloo. SingleSpeed Brewing Co. is located in downtown Waterloo and serves beer as well as food. I didn’t get a chance to go into the brewery but I did have a tasty pint of their Gable Munich Helles Helles during dinner at Basal.
11. SingleSpeed Brewing Co., 325 Commercial St.
Visit a museum
The city is home to a complex of museums, including a science center and history museum, called the Grout Museum District. The district includes: Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum, Grout Museum of History and Science, Carl A. & Peggy J. Bluedorn Science Imaginarium, Rensselaer Russell House Museum, and one history building only open for rentals, Snowden House.
12. Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum, 503 South St.
13. Grout Museum of History and Science, 503 South St.
14. Carl A. & Peggy J. Bluedorn Science Imaginarium, 322 Washington St.
15. Rensselaer Russell House Museum, 520 W. Third St.
Tip: For those with memberships to science centers in their hometown, know that the ASTC reciprocal membership works at the Bluedorn Science Imaginarium. The membership cardholder and immediate family receive free admission!