The City of Waterloo, Iowa is located on the banks of the Cedar River in Northeast Iowa. Home to approximately 68,000 people, Waterloo is the county seat of Black Hawk County, one of several counties situated along the Cedar River that jointly make up the area known as the "Cedar Valley Region."
Waterloo is well positioned near several state and federal highways, making for easy access to other major Iowa locales including Dubuque, Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, and Des Moines. The community is also served by a Waterloo Regional Airport, with daily flights to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. The Metropolitan Transit Authority provides fixed-route daily bus service to locations in Waterloo and Cedar Falls along with paratransit services.
With its diverse population, charming downtown district, various entertainment options, and city leaders who focus on expanding its industrial base, Waterloo offers residents a city with a rich past and promising future.
Here are just a few highlights of living in the community:
Arts and Cultural Attractions
The John Deere Tractor & Engine Museum, located at the site of the first Deere tractor factory, invites visitors to explore the history of Deere machines, from early tractors to the latest innovations, through interactive exhibits, classic machine collections, and unique artifacts. And admission is always free!
The Grout Museum District is a collection of museums and historical homes set up as an educational non-profit with the mission of preserving and promoting history and encouraging scientific study. Its origins date back to the 1930s, when prominent Waterloo resident Henry W. Grout entrusted his large collection of historical objects to the care of trustees upon his death, with financial help from the endowment established in his will. Today, the museum district comprises several attractions:
- The Grout Museum of History & Science contains Mr. Grout's original collection (which has expanded to approximately 200,000 objects), plus a genealogical library, a planetarium, and special exhibits.
- Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum honors the supreme sacrifice of the five Sullivan Brothers of Waterloo in WWII with a museum that tells the stories of veterans through their own voices and displays exhibits chronicling wars from the Civil War to present day.
- The Carl A. & Peggy J. Bluedorn Science Imaginarium is home to exhibits, demonstrations, and interactive displays that light up and sound off and make science exciting and fun.
- The Rensselaer Russell House was built in 1861 for a family who moved to Waterloo from New York. Restored to its 1890s appearance and preserved as a museum, visitors are welcome to tour this beautiful Victorian home, admire its elegant original furnishings, and revel in its history.
The Waterloo Center for the Arts connects the community to the joys of visual and performing arts through classes, exhibitions, and other events. WCA's permanent collection includes International Folk Art, the world's largest public collection of Haitian Art, and works from Midwest Regionalism artists including Grant Wood and Thomas Hart Benton. The Riverloop Amphitheatre at WCA hosts a wide range of events, from summer film series to lively community festivals to enthralling concerts by the Waterloo Municipal Band and others. WCA is also home to the Waterloo Community Playhouse and Black Hawk Children's Theatre and a children's museum at the Phelps Youth Pavilion.
For more than 90 years, the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony Orchestra has been delighting audiences with their large repertoire and innovative musical performances. The "wcfsymphony" is also committed to engaging the community, particularly its youngest members, in the benefits of arts education.
The National Wrestling Hall of Fame Dan Gable Museum, named for Waterloo native and 1972 Olympic gold medalist in wrestling Dan Gable, celebrates the sport of wrestling by offering fans the chance to enjoy interactive exhibits, historical displays, a practice facility, and a gift shop.
Outdoor and Recreational Activities
Festivals help strengthen community bonds and let residents celebrate the seasons with friends and neighbors. Waterloo's events include such popular activities as Friday Loo, My Waterloo Days, Iowa Irish Fest, the National Cattle Congress Fair, and many more.
Who doesn't love a waterpark?! Lost Island Waterpark, with 24 acres of amazing water attractions, is routinely named to "Best Waterparks in America" lists. To add to the fun, a sister amusement park is slated to open nearby in 2022.
When the weather turns chilly and waterparks aren't viable, there are frozen water options to explore: the USHL Waterloo Black Hawks play home games at Young Arena, a large multi-purpose sports venue that also hosts youth hockey clubs and figure skating events.
Besides the Young Arena, the City of Waterloo Leisure Services Commission operates the many facilities where people come for fun and recreation. One of their newest properties is the Cedar Valley Sportsplex, a place that offers something for everyone.
Many people enjoy hiking and biking on various trails in Iowa, where navigating the terrain is generally easy to moderate in difficulty. Among the trails in or near Waterloo are Katoski Greenbelt, GreenBelt Lake Loop, Cedar Valley Nature Trail, and Robinson Bird Sanctuary. Cedar Valley Trails are a network of more than 100 miles of trails throughout the Valley region, and part of the American Discovery Trail, a coast-to-coast non-motorized path that stretches across the contiguous United States.
Black Hawk County Conservation maintains almost 9,000 acres of parks, wildlife areas, trails, and other spaces where people can canoe, hunt, fish, and camp.
Cedar Valley Arboretum and Botanic Gardens offers visitors a peaceful refuge in which to unwind, connect with nature, and enjoy the sights and smells of acres of stunning plants and flowers. Plus, it's dog-friendly!
George Wyth State Park is another wilderness wonderland that offers visitors a range of activities and some beautiful scenery.
Waterloo's neighbor, the City of Cedar Falls, is also home to many great restaurants, cultural attractions, recreational spaces, and community events. And don't forget the smaller towns and villages in Northeast Iowa! They, too, offer plentiful activities and attractions.
Children in Waterloo attend Waterloo Community Schools. Nearby higher ed options include Hawkeye Community College, University of Northern Iowa, Allen College, and Wartburg College.
For more information on Waterloo and Northeast Iowa, please explore these sites:
Silo & Smokestacks National Heritage Area
Iowa Beautiful (Northeast Region)
Northeast Iowa Tourism Association
Cedar Valley of Iowa
Grow Cedar Valley
Photos courtesy of Experience Waterloo and Waterloo Public Library