The Waterloo Experience: A Weekend of Fun, Food, and Adventure

Cottonwood Canyon truly stood out as the gem of our entire journey. Nestled in a cozy neighborhood, this cafe welcomed us with open arms, offering a delightful array of specialty roasted coffee, mouthwatering desserts, and authentic Jamaican dishes like jerk chicken and savory meat pies. But what makes this place truly remarkable is Brian.

Waterloo Iowa Cottonwood Canyon counter menu- featured image

How to Spend a Weekend in Waterloo, Iowa

Get ready for an extraordinary weekend brimming with excitement, culinary delights, and exploration! “The Waterloo Experience” is your ultimate guide to unlocking the best of Waterloo, Iowa, packed with thrilling activities and gastronomic adventures. Dive into this post to uncover insider secrets on navigating Waterloo’s dynamic downtown, discovering treasures like the Downtown 4th Street Bridge and the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum. You can also expect recommendations for delicious dining experiences and must-visit attractions that promise to elevate your weekend escapade to new heights of enjoyment.

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Why You Should Visit Waterloo

Waterloo, Iowa, provides a blend of history, culture, and outdoor recreation, making it a great road trip (2 hours away) destination for visitors looking to explore the heartland of America. If you’re new to the area and want to see what the locals are into around Iowa, it’s just a short drive from Rock Island, making it easily accessible for a day trip or weekend getaway.

Check out these travel wardrobe tips before you travel this spring.

Downtown 4th Street Bridge

After dinner, take a walk on the pedestrian bridge. Every night, as dusk settles over Waterloo, the 4th Street Bridge becomes a beacon of tribute and admiration. At the top of every hour, a mesmerizing light show unfolds, serving as a poignant homage to our beloved Veterans and our nation. The bridge is transformed into a canvas of patriotism as red, white, and blue hues dance across its arches, reflecting radiantly upon the gentle waters of the Cedar River below. It’s a stirring display that not only illuminates the night sky but fills me with pride and gratitude, reminding me of the sacrifices made by Veterans like my father, husband, son, and daughter.

Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum

The Sullivan brothers’ story from World War II changed how the military handles family members serving together. After four of the five brothers were killed in action, the U.S. War Department made a rule called the Sullivan Rule. This rule says that family members can’t serve in the same unit or ship during wartime to prevent similar tragedies. You might recognize their story from the movie Saving Private Ryan. It’s a sad reminder of how war affects families. The Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum in Waterloo, Iowa, honors not only them but all veterans. It shows their experiences through exhibits and interactive displays, helping us understand their sacrifices and appreciate their bravery.

Newton’s Paradise Cafe

Stop in for breakfast favorites like delicious pancakes, Iowa French toast, biscuits and gravy, and Eggs Benedict. Or check out Newton’s Paradise Cafe’s lunch menu and indulge in a tasty Reuben, parmesan chicken wrap, or a fresh salad. The restaurant boasts huge windows with an uninterrupted view up and down 4th Street. The cafe/ diner is a convenient stop if you’re on a road trip looking for breakfast, brunch, or lunch across the street from Anton’s Garden, next to Wiggly (dog) Park.

Cottonwood Canyon

Cottonwood Canyon was the highlight of the entire trip. It is not exactly in Waterloo. It’s located next door in Cedar Falls. Cottonwood Canyon truly stood out as the gem of our entire journey. Nestled in a cozy neighborhood, this cafe welcomed us with open arms, offering a delightful array of specialty roasted coffee, mouthwatering desserts, and authentic Jamaican dishes like jerk chicken and savory meat pies.

What makes this place truly remarkable is Brian, the heart and soul behind it all. Personally roasting every bean with care, Brian infuses his passion into every cup. But it’s not just the coffee that’s warm here; it’s the atmosphere he has cultivated. With his children by his side, the cafe exudes a sense of family and belonging. Each bite was savored, and our conversation with Brian about his remarkable journey—from Jamaica to Taiwan, and from South Dakota to Cedar Falls—left a lasting impression. There’s something truly special about sharing stories of travel and life with someone like Brian.

Not only has Brian led an intriguing life abroad, but his stateside adventures will captivate you as well. Besides crafting exceptional coffee, he also supplies beans to other cafes in the area. Additionally, he’s a talented canner, lending his expertise to canning beer and wine for some of the best breweries and wineries around the country. Brian’s diverse talents truly make him a Renaissance man of the culinary world.

Ari’z Lounge

If you’re seeking a laid-back venue, Ari’z Lounge is worth checking out. It’s a charming martini bar offering a diverse selection and a wonderfully comfortable, inviting atmosphere. The seasonal menu was particularly impressive. I highly recommend stopping by for quality cocktails and martinis. It’s an ideal place to relax and unwind. We especially enjoyed the Spinach and Artichoke Dip. Overall, it’s a perfect spot for a date night!

Cappella Magna

Beautiful setting! Cappella Magna is a must-visit for food lovers, creatives, and artists. The recreation of The Sistine Chapel took me back to Rome—it’s an experience you don’t want to miss. It adds an extra layer of awe and wonder to the dining experience. The food is delicious and delightfully presented. The spray-painted ceiling (using 500 cans) is astounding when you consider the scale. The host, the artist’s father, is passionate and very warm-hearted. This is a must-visit for Waterloo! The food isn’t necessarily “foodie” or trendy but rather classical and charming, as an excellent meal should be. What an incredible experience! This restaurant isn’t cheap– the current 7 course meal is $95 per person.

Anton’s Garden

Anton’s Garden opened in the late Spring of 2019 in the tradition of German Biergartens to bring the spirit of Gemütlichkeit to Downtown Waterloo. Located in Newton’s Park, we are a gathering spot for food, beer, and an atmosphere of community. The German tradition of beer gardens is all about community, delicious food, and, of course, fantastic beer. Anton’s proudly features local meats, breads, and brews. Plus, all our buns and authentic pretzels are made fresh by Rocket’s Bakery right in downtown Waterloo! However, Anton’s Garden is seasonal, so if you come to Waterloo outside of the summer and fall, check out the next spot.

SingleSpeed Brewing Co. 

Fun atmosphere with casual fare and friendly, attentive service. We chose the beer hall seating with QR code tabs, making ordering easy and ensuring prompt delivery of our food and beverages. The tacos, Peanut Thai flatbreads, and the pretzel were good, too. The fish and chips were particularly delicious, with crispy skin outside and moist white meat inside. The brewery provides spacious seating both indoors and on the patio. Portions are generous, and the beer is also good. Additionally, there’s a kids’ play area, making it a very family-friendly spot.

A Few Reasons to Come Back


Anton’s Garden is not the only thing you should come back for. Cgeck out these events and attractions:

My Waterloo Days & Parade – June 6-9

Iowa Irish Fest – August 2-4

Oktoberfest – September 27-28

Waterloo Lights the Night – November 30

Cedar Valley Derby Divas April to May

Grout Museum District & Planetarium

Cedar Valley Arboretum & Botanic Gardens

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2 thoughts on “The Waterloo Experience: A Weekend of Fun, Food, and Adventure

  1. I’m enjoying your blogs. I truly feel like I’m on an adventure every time I read your blog. I’m LOVING IT!

    1. Thank you so much! I’m thrilled to hear you’re enjoying the adventures on the blog. Your enthusiasm inspires me to keep sharing more of these wonderful journeys. Stay tuned for more captivating stories and stunning visuals that await!

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