Only an hour's drive from Des Moines, Iowa’s second largest metropolitan area provides a variety of activities for visitors. This regional center for arts and culture is home to the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, the Paramount Theatre, and the Theatre Cedar Rapids. One of the oldest and most prestigious symphony orchestras west of the Mississippi is to be found here with Orchestra Iowa. See Cultural Corridor for the activities of over one hundred members, representing a spectrum of arts and cultural organizations in the region.
This nearby college town (University of Iowa), originally built to be the state capital (the government moved to Des Moines in 1876), has been acclaimed from several perspectives: City of Literature (UNESCO); 3rd Best Small Metropolitan Area in the USA (Forbes Magazine); and it ranked high in a list of "Gayest Cities in America" compiled by the Advocate, in 2010. Iowa City Pride takes place each year in mid-June each.
Iowa City also has many cultural offerings, and a strong literary history. The city is home to the Iowa Writers' Workshop, with many prominent graduates; a Non-Fiction Writing Program; Playwrights' Workshop; Summer Writing Festival; and a Nobel Peace Prize-nominated International Writing Program. The 49 authors and playwrights honored by bronze relief panels in the Iowa Avenue Literary Walk, all have ties to Iowa.
Iowa City Summer of the Arts events include a jazz festival, a festival of the arts, open-air movies, and free Friday concerts in the Pedestrian Mall. The Landlocked Film Festival takes place each August, at the Englert Theatre, the grandest performing arts venue in downtown Iowa City.
The Bijou Theatre is a student-run art house cinema that screens foreign and classic films, many with gay themes. This cinema is at the Iowa Memorial Union, open to the public, with restaurants, shops and even a hotel.
Gay Cedar Rapids & Iowa City
The gay community in the two cities is not large, even combined, but it is enthusiastic and well organized. The Cedar Rapids Gay Pride Fest is held the first week of each June. See the website of the Cedar Rapids G & L Resource Center for city information. Iowa City Pride takes place in mid-June. See Connections for year-round gay community activities in Iowa City, as well as for pride events in Des Moines, and Cedar Rapids.
About 5 miles outside Cedar Rapids, the compact Eastern Iowa Airport has a surprising number of flights, most of them from other cities in the Midwest. CR Transit bus number 11 operates to downtown every 30-60 minutes between 5:44am and 6:44pm, Monday - Friday; just 9 times on Saturday until 4:39. There is no bus on Sundays. Shuttle services operate from the airport to destinations in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and Eastern Iowa points. Finding fellow travelers to form a group for your final destination will spread the cost.
Alternately, you can fly into the much larger Des Moines International Airport and rent a car.
You’ll want a car to get around, especially if you’re visiting other parts of the state, but the website of CR Transit has schedule and route info for the local Cedar Rapids bus company. For Iowa City public tranportation see the Iowa City Transit pages of the City of Iowa City website.
Accessline is Iowa’s gay newspaper. It’s filled with current events, opinion pieces, arts coverage and community listings for Iowa cities and nearby Omaha. The paper can be viewed on their website. Queer Connections is another Iowa gay website.
See Downtown IC for Iowa City listings and events online.
Cedar Rapids Nightlife
Club Basix (3916 1st Ave NE, 319-363-3194), variety of entertainment, drag shows. Open 5pm to 2am daily, dancing, drink specials, hors d'oeuvres (Mondays and Fridays), drawings and free giveaways Fridays and Saturdays.
Piano Lounge Cedar Rapids (208 2nd Ave SE) mixed crowd piano bar and cocktail lounge, pool, darts, arcade games, Wii, live preformances Thursday to Saturday and Monday Comedy nights.
Iowa City Nightlife
Studio 13 (13 South Linn St), drag shows Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, karaoke Tuesdays, big Saturday night dance party; open Tuesday - Sunday 7pm-2am, for ages 19 and above.
The Java House (211 E Washington St) popular Iowa City gay-friendly cafe and hang-out, with live music several nights of the week.
Iowa City Accommodations
Golden Haug (517 East Washington St; 319-354-4284), the Brown Street Inn (430 Brown St; 319-338-0435), and Bella Vista B&B (2 Bella Vista Pl; 319 338-4129) are three gay-owned or gay-friendly guesthouses in Iowa City.
Adult Shop (630 66th Ave SW) the main Cedar Rapids retail store for adult magazines, videos and accessories.
Artifacts (331 E Market St; Iowa City) an antique store gem, small but packed with unusual vintage items.
Prairie Lights Books (15 South Dubuque St; Iowa City) three-floor bookstore and coffeehouse; home to the readings series of up-and-coming and well-established authors & poets from around the world, heard on Iowa Public Radio. Archive recordings can be heard at the University of Iowa Library website.
Romantix Adult Boutique (315 Kirkwood Ave; Iowa City) adult toys, oils, lingerie, lotions, and adult XXX DVDs.
Hole in the Wall Men's Club (Galesburg, Illinois) is the closest gay men's sauna to Iowa City, just to the east of the Mississippi River.
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