Most Iowans would agree: This winter was harder than most. Or at least longer. When we were having ice storms in April, it was hard to think of anything else.
But now that the sun is out and the daffodils in my yard are finally blooming, I’m eager to get out and start enjoying summer in Iowa.
Yes, summer, because we basically skipped right over spring. I mark summer by the start of my favorite seasonal outdoor activities like farmers markets and outdoor yoga classes, and though we have barely a single week of warm weather under our belts, both of those start this week with the advent of May.
That’s fine with me. I’m ready to revel in all the summer I can get and bury winter’s woes under an sun-soaked avalanche of gardening, drinks on outdoor patios, picnics on the lawn at Brucemore, hikes at Palisades Kepler State Park, kayaking at Lake Macbride and whatever else I can find.
Important features of vibrant communities, in my mind, are the ways civic and private organizations alike find to engage residents and visitors. Cedar Rapids and Iowa City have plenty of those, and a lot of them are free, which is important. You don’t have to have disposable income to become fully engaged in the social life of the community, to enjoy recreation and the arts.
But sometimes it takes a little prodding, or at least a reminder of the opportunities available, to get out and start exploring. So, for the homebodies among you looking for ways to get out and enjoying the weather, here are a few suggestions, all of them free and open to the public. This list is not meant to be exhaustive — there are more festivals, outdoor movie screenings, community concerts, outdoor yoga and dance classes, farmers markets and other fun and dynamic things happening throughout the summer than I could ever list (though you can find many of them at hooplanow.com). This is simply a roundup of a few of my personal favorites:
Meet Me at the Market: Starts Thursday, held 5 to 8 p.m. each Thursday through the first week of September, on the lawn at NewBo City Market, 1100 Third St. SE, Cedar Rapids, meetmecr.org. Free yoga and dance fitness classes, plus walking, running and biking groups.
Practice in the Prairie: Starts Tuesday, held 6 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays through September, Indian Creek Nature Center, 5300 Otis Road SE, Cedar Rapids, indiancreeknaturecenter.org/practice-prairie-free-summer-yoga-series-2. Ducks from the nearby pond have been known to hang out with the participants at this free yoga classes on the patio outside the Nature Center.
NewBo First Thursday Art Walks: Held 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. the first Thursday of every month, this walking art tour highlights new gallery exhibits in the NewBo neighborhood, including at the Iowa Ceramics Center and Glass Studio, Black Earth Art Gallery and CSPS.
Friday Night Concert Series: Starting May 18, free concerts are held each Friday at 6:30 p.m., in a new location this year on the north end of the Pentacrest on N. Clinton Street. Find the lineup at summerofthearts.org/festival/2018-friday-night-concert-series.
Cedar Rapids Downtown Farmers Market: Held 7:30 a.m. to noon May 26, June 2 and 16, July 7 and 21, Aug. 4 and 18 and Sept. 1, plus Market After Dark 6:30 to 11 p.m. Aug. 25.
Iowa City Downtown Farmers Market: Starts Wednesday, runs 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesdays and 7:30 a.m. to noon Saturdays through October at the Chauncey Swan Ramp, 400 block of Washington Street, Iowa City.
Old MacDonald’s Farm: Bever Park, 2700 Bever Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids, open now through Oct. 12: When kids visit, this is a must-stop to interact with the goats, chickens, pigs, ducks and other farm animals. Free but minimum donation of $1 suggested.
Iowa Raptor Center Family Day: Macbride Nature Recreation Center, 2095 Mehaffey Bridge Rd. NE, Solon, held the first Saturday of each month. Another great activity for visiting kids and families, who can meet the Center’s resident raptors. The Iowa Raptor Center is also free and open to the public daily.
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Looking for more summer activity ideas? Pick up a copy of The Gazette’s Explore magazine, available on racks at places like Hy-Vee and Caseys around the Corridor.
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