Captivated by Cedar Rapids, IA

On our final travel day before reaching our friends in Iowa, we awoke at Cracker Barrel. After grabbing a Harry Potter-esque butterscotch flavored soda to share at lunch, we began our trip to Cedar Rapids, IA. Much of the scenery was repetitive, with open fields and farms, but there were absolutely gorgeous moments when the landscape would open up and we’d have nothing but gorgeous hills, farms and rivers ahead of us in a scene worthy of a painting. As we headed out of Illinois there were some especially beautiful waterfront areas – Moline and Rock Island were a couple of them. And crossing the Mississippi into Iowa was very exciting! 

I really liked Cedar Rapids overall. The new development areas we were in had affordable and fancy housing mixed and right across the street from a variety of food options, big box stores, doctors, dentists, banks and more. I love these mixed use communities and wish they were more common throughout the country. I also spotted a music and dance academy. (Musician goggles and all that.)

We saw more of downtown as we headed toward our destination. As we passed the Czech Village we saw the gorgeous, gargantuan Czech/Slovak museum, which we will have to return to. Downtown had a nice mix of buildings, older homes and different types of businesses. I enjoyed the river front, hills and green spaces and loved seeing more people of color than we are used to in New Hampshire too. Lots of bicycle lanes as well to make things more accessible. 

Our destinations for today included Walmart, Videogames Etc. and the New Pioneer Co-op, but without a doubt the real destination was the African-American Museum of Iowa. It is housed in a beautiful, inviting building that has unfortunately seen major flooding since it was built, since restored. The museum has two exhibits at one time. The rotating exhibit highlighted African-American authors, poets, playwrights and more throughout the history of this country, and was a great overview of both well-known and lesser-known figures. But the permanent exhibit is a definite must-see. It has elements throughout that encourage you to contemplate, interact with and wrestle with history. We learned a lot about Iowa’s role as a more progressive state, including how African-Americans were voting and holding elected positions in the 19th century before reconstruction had begun elsewhere. Really fascinating and complicated. And as we have found elsewhere, the video oral histories they’ve collected contain some of the most powerful material on our history, in this case on the role of segregation in daily life and on the civil rights movement. 

This was the second museum I’ve been to that was founded by a church – the first was the Harriet Tubman house. The idea that churches could take on this role hadn’t been on my radar previously, but so far both have been excellent so I think it’s a wonderful model when education and history are at its core. 

After a lengthy visit to Cedar Rapids, we headed two hours north. We are now settled in with our friends. We anticipate at least a few posts while we are here.

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day!

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