Nicknamed “The City of 5 Smells” due to the aroma from the local Quaker Oats and dog food factories, Cedar Rapids is the closest major city to Vinton—a 45 minute drive. We do most of our grocery shopping here at good old Walmart. There are also some chain restaurants in the area like Olive Garden – if never-ending salad and breadsticks is your thing. Maple 4 worked in Cedar Rapids for a few days earlier this year, renovating flood-damaged homes with an organization called Block By Block. Though the city was hit hard by flooding of 2008, it's gradually re-building itself. Here we are with our site supervisor, Bob, from that project:
A cluster of communities settled by German Pietists in 1855, this area is now a tourism hot-spot. You can try schnitzel at the Ronneberg Restaurant, sip on a bottle of the local Millstream Brewing Company's root bear, or pop into the shops around town to buy knickknacks and fudge. For you 21+ readers, there are also some wineries where you can take tours and get free samples. Don't forget to stop by “Iowa's Biggest Rocking Chair” on your way out of town!
This annual Vinton festival just celebrated its 20th anniversary last weekend. The 3-day event was marked by games, parades, food, music, a 5K race, and fireworks. Some highlights for me were a capella group Tonic Sol Fa, funnel cake, and a pulled beef BBQ sandwich I got from an elusive traveling smokehouse trailer, Smokin' On The Cedar, which makes its way around Vinton during the summer.
How can you go wrong with a rousing game of mini golf at the Skate and Activity Center? Each hole tells you about a different tourist destination in Iowa, like the capitol building in Des Moines, the location where “Field of Dreams” was filmed, and the peculiar prehistoric Iowa effigy mounds.
On a hot summer day in Vinton, Iowa, everybody heads over to the community pool. It gets pretty crowded as you can see in the photo to the left. Part of our project this round was to repaint the pool, so it's neat to see so many people enjoying it.
It is here that I recently located the ice cream of my childhood. Yes, the fabled FLAVOR BURST of my yesteryear. A Flavor Burst is basically a vanilla soft serve ice cream cone encircled by your flavor of choice. Genius. They used to have this at the local ice cream store in New Egypt, NJ when I was growing up, and I was pretty excited to see it in Vinton.
4 Berry's Lanes
Get your bowl on. This place is pretty much just an old-school 10-pin bowling alley. You can get a soda and burger while you throw a few rounds. Be sure to check out the wall of fame, which features some pretty hilarious shots of top-notch local bowlers from the last century.
3 American Legion Fish Fries
Let me paint a picture for you. Piled high on your plate are 3 or 4 delicious pieces of fried white fish. Then you've got your baked potato AND potato salad (double the starchy-goodness, folks), a slice of Betty Crocker cake (choose from 5 or 6 flavors), and baked beans. All that for only 6 bucks, 5 with the AmeriCorps hook-up. These happen the second Friday of every month, and I've been to 3 already because they're just that amazing.
Not just a middle school hangout anymore, roller skating at the Vinton Skate and Activity Center is a must. Rockin' tunes and a disco ball really put this place over the top on the awesomeness scale. Plus it's under $5 to get in, and you can work off those fish fry pounds. I've also heard that roller skating was invented in Iowa, though I have not been able to verify this via Google.
1 Palace Theater
Definitely numero uno in my book of Things to Do in Vinton, the Palace Theater is where it's at. Though they only show 1 film per week, it's always a recent hit, and it only costs $2. For a dollar more you can see the recent 3D flicks. That's only 1 dollar per D! The theater is beautiful and staffed mostly by volunteers. I would definitely recommend checking this place out if you make it to Vinton.