RAGBRAI’s (Register’s-Annual-Great-Bike-Ride-Across-Iowa) overnight #5 is on The Iowa Gallivant and we’re geared up to take a trip to it’s historic downtown district. Time for a Cedar Falls getaway with a gaggle of locals chomping at the bit to show us a great time! Fight back thoughts of boredom, because these folks simply don’t allow that kind of behavior in Cedar Falls…..
If you’ve been following our other RAGBRAI scouting adventures, or The Iowa Gallivant in general, you’re getting used to us seeking memories through our stomachs. We’re OK with that. Because we keep finding unbelievable places like Ginger Thai Cuisine. It was the first restaurant we walked by after putting our car to bed early for the day. The owner and head chef exuded passion and it reflected in her staff, cooking, and overall experience. It was the perfect way to start out our Cedar Falls tour. An energetic young lady named Ud was our server and she took care of us. Mainly me when I asked that my order be extra spicy. Ud’s reply, “We have levels of 1 through 5.” I asked, “How hot is number 5?” Ud’s reply, “You won’t be able to finish it.” I cowered and asked for number 4. And I was grateful that I did!
Ginger Thai Cuisine is just off of main street in downtown Cedar Falls and has the gourmet Thai charm of any “big city” restaurant we’ve been to prior to this trip. The dining room had vibrant colors and one of the most welcoming atmospheres Iowa has to offer. Between the two of us dining today we’ve lived in 9 different states and we can tell you with all honesty, Ginger Thai Cuisine is the best Thai food we’ve ever had. From the Thai-style Iced Tea to dessert and everything in between. The….BEST! And thanks again for the constant refills on my ice water. Ud apparently didn’t want me to run to the nearest fish tank.
There’s an invited burn on my lips and a sudden boost of energy flowing through me that only a spicy Thai curry can supply. With a steady trot we wander into a shop full of iron pumping goodness. And we don’t mean a trip to the gym. It’s a trip to Vintage Iron Co.!
Vintage Iron Co. is one of the many shops in downtown Cedar Falls and proved to be quite a successful stop for Monie. She combed the entire shop and found some bling that was perfect for an Iowa excursion.
Now it was time to for our history lesson and what will be a great way for RAGBRAI’ers to cool down and support a local historical society at the same time. Just a short walk from downtown is the only museum of it’s kind in the whole country. We make our way to the Ice House.
RAGBRAI will be coming to Cedar Falls in late July, so its a good bet that the heat index will be up. A great way to literally cool down would be a simple $5 stroll through the Ice House Museum. The volunteers that take care of the museum and its guests often wear coats while inside the ice house. Even in the summer. And it’d better be cool if you’re going to store ice in there, right?
The Rewerts knew more about the Ice House than we could have ever gathered on our own. After our tour, Kay directed us to the Victorian house that was the home for another extension of the Cedar Falls Historical Society. Working the entrance and supplying information on the house was Jean Sackett. And you guessed it. Volunteering her time out of pure enjoyment and for her love of Cedar Falls.
The day had just begun for us and we have managed to pack in so much of downtown Cedar Falls already. We took one more stroll before heading back to Main Street. The sun was shining and the temperature was perfect for exploring.
Our stroll brought us back to Main Street and the slight breeze was just right for a flight of local whiskey. And the sun was shining just right for it too. The clouds were perfectly positioned for such a break as well. The sidewalk was cleared just enough to allow a swift path to…….It’s time for some whiskey, folks. We make our way to Whiskey Road!
We sipped, we gabbed, we knocked them back. We had the Whiskey Road experience. It was now 2pm and our room at the Black Hawk was ready. Time to check in to one of the most historic hotels in the state of Iowa.
When you walk into the Black Hawk, you can sense the history right away. The Black Hawk set us up in room #219 and we couldn’t have been more pleased with it. Let these pictures do the talking as you plan your reservations to this hotel.
Right beneath our feet was our next stop. A place where the martinis are mixed by a staff eager to get happy hour humming. The Stuffed Olive and SOHO Sushi Bar & Deli had their cocktail shakers primed and ready for us.
After a couple bottles of water and more window shopping we targeted the brewery across from our hotel. A brewery that is more than welcoming to everyone and most of all, the legion of customers that pedal their way here. It’s now time for beer at Singlespeed Brewing!
Downtown Cedar Falls is showing us a great time and we can’t help but run into more of it’s talented brigade of business owners and workers. The day is zipping by and we have already met a network of some of the greatest personalities we’ve encountered on The Iowa Gallivant. Let’s coffee up, shall we. Cup of Joe at Cup of Joe!
As we sip our coffee we take in even more public art along Main Street. Did we mention that there’s no shortage of talent in Cedar Falls?
There comes a time when you walk into a place and you instantly feel a genuine sense of positive energy. Our next stop was at an establishment that fills a niche. It actually fills a lot of niches. It’s the niche capital of Cedar Falls, I tell ya. You love wine? Then come here. You love vodka that’s infused with fresh fruit prepared by the very hands that will serve it to you? Then come here. Do you like choosing a craft beer from a ginormous list? Then come here. Do you love to see colorful art displayed by local artists? Then come here. Perhaps eating fine cheeses, charcuterie, and olives is what you’re looking for. Then come here. Let’s not forget a group of some of the most fun loving, knowledgeable, and cheerful locals on earth. You like those, too? Then come here. Where’s “here”? Luna Art & Wine is where you find all of this!
The moon was coming out and we had a couple more places to drop by. We want to meet locals and as many locals as possible when we’re gallivanting. One of the most noticeable signs you’ll see in downtown Cedar Falls is the classic Orange Crush sign outside of the Blue Room Lounge. But, why does a bar have a huge Orange Crush sign? We found out. And we found out from a lady who teaches art up the hill at the University of Northern Iowa. Guess where this might be going….
One does not simply spend a night in downtown Cedar Falls and NOT order a pizza. And just as we thought we couldn’t fit in one more expedition before nights end….Well, we managed to find the time. And Tony’s La Pizzeria had the hook, line and sinker set out for two gallivanters such as ourselves. We didn’t take a nibble of the bait. We just jumped right in!
This is the part where you imagine us in sleep mode. Now please stop because I realized that it’s creeping me out. Please see the picture below to get your mind on something shiny perhaps. Like more public art.
Uppie, uppie, uppie!!! The Black Hawk Hotel proved to be a great place for slumber, but it was time to make our way back to Hills. Downtown Cedar Falls could not have been more hospitable. We drove away from it’s streets and landed at a restaurant I know very well. I couldn’t leave town without stopping by for breakfast. We’re off to J’s Homestyle Cooking!
RAGBRAI overnight #5 is officially scouted and the whole town is teething for the late July harvest of bike riders. We were in awe as we met so many people that exuded Cedar Falls patriotism for their hometown. At every turn, we met folks that were volunteering their time and putting extra hours out of their week, just so they can be ambassadors for this area. We know that we were going to have fun scouting RAGBRAI, but we have discovered more than we ever expected from each stop. 5 more towns are left on our list and we look forward to seeing all of them. Thank you, Cedar Falls! You’ve set the bar even higher for our RAGBRAI series.
Don’t forget to read Parts 1 and 2 of our RAGBRAI series!