Seven Fun Things To Do With Kids In Cedar Falls & Waterloo

Seven Fun Things To Do With Kids In Cedar Falls & Waterloo 

During an exciting spring break trip, we found Seven Fun Things To Do With Kids In Cedar Falls & Waterloo! Your family will love this list and will want to consider a family trip to these eastern Iowa cities. 


Phelps Youth Pavilion (or better known as the children’s art museum)

The Phelps Youth Pavilion is truly unique and one of my all time favorite children’s museums. We have driven to Waterloo time and time again just to visit this fabulous museum.

Children build a house at Phelps Youth Pavilion in Waterloo Iowa

Picture a typical children’s play museum, now think art themed and voila! This museum is so great that I have another post dedicated to it with more pictures and information.

Stage and puppet theatre at Phelps Youth Pavilion in Waterloo Iowa

John Deere Tractor & Engine Museum 

The John Deere museum is huge, with lots of hands-on exhibits and large classroom space for group field trips and workshops. Admission is always free and age/grade specific tours are available upon request. 

Inside John Deere Tractor And Engine Museum in Waterloo Iowa.

A museum volunteer told us “Touch everything but the tractors.” However, there is one special tractor that visitors can sit on and makes a great photo. My kids really got into the hands-on displays and enjoyed testing their strength. 

Guests are issued a ticket when they check in, which can be used at the punch clock.

Boy uses punch clock at John Deere Tractor And Engine Museum in Waterloo Iowa.

Your family or class can easily spend a couple of hours at this museum if you take the time to read all the posted information and try out the displays. Make sure to stop by the gift shop and let your little tractor lovers play with the toys. 

Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum and Grout Museum of Science & History

The Grout Museum District houses a total of five different museums all within a couple of blocks from one another. The Sullivan Brother’s Museum and the Grout Science & History Museum share the same building and are accessible with one admission ticket. 

The Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum has over 35 interactive displays. Start by scanning your dog-tag to see who your character is and what role they have played in American history.

Children scan dogtags at Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum Waterloo

Older students will gain a lot of information from the quality displays. Several video viewing displays are set up to take you back in time. Students who are doing research and taking their time to learn can plan on 1-2 hours at the museum. 

Children inside a viewing room at Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum Waterloo


The museum is extensive and gives tribute to several major wars. My children’s favorite part was stopping to visit with some vets who were gathering in one of the meeting spaces. 

The Grout Museum of Science & History is smaller with limited hands-on displays. Geared more toward an older audience, the museum showcases the districts history and early American life. 

Unfortunately, during our visit, we did not get to experience a planetarium show.  We did enjoy the nature displays and the traveling exhibit. Membership to the Grout Museum District comes with many benefits including discount admission to participating ASTC Passport Program locations.

Owl display at Grout Museum District in Waterloo Iowa.

Bluedorn Science Imaginarium

The Bluedorn Science Imaginarium is part of the Grout Museum District and has over 30 hands-on displays. Children can easily spend a couple of hours playing at this museum.

Many of the displays are older but they clearly and easily demonstrate science principles. We were able to recognize several displays showcasing principles we have recently been learning in our home school. 

The lowest level has a classroom setting for group learning and a demonstration room. Visit with the science center about what programs you would like for your class or group. A special toddler room, just off the main level, is especially designed for the youngest scientist to play. 

Cedar Falls

Hartman Reserve Nature Center

Hartman Reserve Nature Center in Black Hawk County boasts a stunning 340-acre wooded oasis.  A beautiful new Interpretive Center offers hands-on exhibits and meeting space for classes or groups.

I really wanted to sneak into the reading room and soak up the view of the bluff overlooking Cedar River Valley but we were pressed for time. This would be the perfect spot to work on our nature journals. 

Reading room inside Hartmand Reserve Nature Center in Cedar Falls Iowa.

The kids enjoyed the turtles and other animals.

Turtles at Hartmand Reserve Nature Center in Cedar Falls Iowa.

During our visit in mid-March, the Sugar Shack was open. Guests can collect sap from the maple trees and bring it to the collection buckets. Staff were on site explaining the process of making maple syrup.  Children collecting maple sap at Hartmand Reserve Nature Center in Cedar Falls Iowa.

The kids couldn’t get enough of this process. They even begged to go back the next day. 

Girl dumping maple sap into collection bucket at Hartmand Reserve Nature Center in Cedar Falls Iowa.

In addition to all the maple syrup fun, there are trails, a unique bird blind and more. Finding the Interpretive Center and the Sugar Shack can be tricky. Follow the directions provided on the reserve’s map. (Located at 657 Reserve Drive, Cedar Falls. From Hwy 218, take exit 184 to Rainbow Drive. Take a right on rainbow drive and go 1-1/2 miles and turn on Laurie Ave. Follow the brown park signs through the residential area to the center.) 

Teachers and group leaders – make sure to check out their program guide

Cedar Falls Historical Society 

The Cedar Falls Historical Society operates several museums including a Victorian Home, Little Red Schoolhouse and the Ice House Museum. Several programs are available to students. Diane, the education coordinator, can tailor programs for large classroom visits or home school groups. 

Classroom space at Cedar Falls Historical Society in Iowa

The Carriage House Museum, connected to the Victorian Home, offers a yearly rotating exhibit. The 2018 exhibition is Bear Whistles, Butter Churns & Beyond – Ceramics in Cedar Falls. Several programs will be held throughout the year around this exhibit so be sure to check their website. 

There are several hands-on displays throughout the exhibit for children. Students can enjoy completing a scavenger hunt. There are a total of three: one for the current exhibit, one for the Victorian House, and one for the William J. Lenoir Model Railroad.

The Pottery Works playhouse changes each year based on the current exhibit. 

Downstairs houses the Model Railroad. A small basket of blocks and toys will keep the littlest ones entertained while older children marvel at the displays detail.

William J. Lenoir Model Railroad at Cedar Falls Historical Society in Iowa

Children will notice many details throughout the Victorian Home while they complete their scavenger hunt. Guided tours are available upon request. 

Children exploring the victorian home at Cedar Falls Historical Society in Iowa

Hansen’s Dairy Farm

Hansen’s Dairy is a 7th generation, 150 year-old working dairy farm in eastern Iowa just south of Cedar Falls. They take pride in providing high-quality wholesome food products and offering educational opportunities. 

Passionate about sharing their love for farm life, four different types of farm tours are provided during the warm weather months. Please read through their detailed descriptions carefully to choose the right tour for your family or group. An extensive FAQ list helps clarify common questions. 

 Please note, you must have a reservation to visit the farm. All guests start at the Tour Center which is the first stop after you turn onto the gravel road. Directions to the center are found in the FAQ’s on their website. Guests will be escorted from the tour center to the dairy barns via a tractor trolley ride. 

Visiting Hansen’s Dairy Farm is a great way to enjoy delicious treats, have unique animal encounters, and make special family memories. Add this destination to your Eastern Iowa travel plans! 

Other Area Attractions

We visited during spring break in March and took advantage of the Worlds Greatest Spring Break For Kids event. 

There are several other learning opportunities besides these Seven Fun Things To Do With Kids In Cedar Falls & Waterloo.

I wish we could have visited, Cedar Valley Arboretum & Botanical Gardens and for older students, UNI Museum.

Eastern Iowa has much to offer including fantastic scenic state parks.  Read all about planning an Eastern Iowa Family Road Trip and include a stop to Cedar Falls & Waterloo. 

Seven Fun Things To Do With Kids In Cedar Falls & Waterloo

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