Charles City Cannot Be Overlooked

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Charles City was the overnight town at the end of the fifth day of RAGBRAI 2022. “Chuck City’s” downtown served as a good setting for the evening activities after the day’s riders came to town. But it is the art and other public amenities along the Cedar River that sets it apart from other communities.

I almost didn’t post about Charles City due to problems with lining up interviews with select individuals in the community, but what’s going on there is hard to pass up. The town simply cannot be overlooked! While flooding has made many other Midwestern communities shy away from the rivers that traverse their communities, Charles City has embraced it.

The community has been working on a river walk along the Cedar River that draws people down to the water. It is an ongoing project to improve connectivity and enhance the overall experience near downtown Charles City.

Charles City Pedestrian Bridge

Charles City pedestrian bridge, one of two in the community

One of the unique aspects of this river walk is the installation of public art along the path. It is highlighted on the Charles City Chamber of Commerce website and the Travel Iowa webpage. Provided below are pictures from just a few of the art installations along the way.

Public art in Charles City

Public art in Charles City

Public Art along the Cedar River

Public Art along the Cedar River


More than Just Art

To Charles City, their interaction with the Cedar River is more than just an art walk. In 2011 they created the state’s first whitewater course. Yes, it is nothing akin to the whitewater that you find in Colorado. But Charles City Whitewater (@ccwhitewater) is a unique amenity for the community and for visitors alike. Tubes and canoes can be rented to go down the 3/4 mile course. Or you can bring your own.

Charles City Whitewater at Night

A section of Charles City’s whitewater at night

The adjacent Riverfront Park also provides a stone amphitheater, a nature-themed play area, a disc golf course, picnic shelters, and more.

Charles City Public Art

Slide along the public art walk.

Artistic shelter along public art walk

Artistic shelter along the public art walk

Charles City Disc Golf

Disc Golf

The River as a Place for Business

Businesses are looking to the Cedar River as well. The Pub on the Cedar has a large patio that overlooks the Cedar River and abuts Riverside Park and the riverwalk trail system. It is a great environment to have a bit to eat and imbibe from the Pub’s long list of beers.

Outdoor restaurant seating along Cedar River

Pub on the Cedar’s outdoor seating along Cedar River

There’s also Hot Shots Billiards just down the river from Pub on the Cedar. They too have taken advantage of the scenic view provided by the Cedar River with a patio on the south side of the building.

Art is Not Just for the RIver

Charles City’s push for public art isn’t just along the river’s edge. Occupying a former Carnegie Library which fronts Central Park is the Charles City Arts Center. The arts center provides classes for the young and old, as well as displays of local and regional artwork throughout the building. They also hold an annual Art-A-Fest in August, with artists exhibiting their artwork for sale, along with a number of activities for kids, along with a variety of food and entertainment options.

Charles City Art Center

Charles City Art Center

They’ve also initiated the “Town of Colors” project. It’s a public mural project initiated by the Charles City Arts Center that has raised thousands of dollars through fundraising and grants to fund colorful murals at select locations throughout town.

“Chuck City” Strives to be Different

The efforts of Charles City to work in public art into the community and to enhance the public’s interaction with the local river are quite different approaches to providing amenities to their community than was is seen in other rural midwestern towns. But they understand that being different is a good thing and they’ve thrived with it.