Charles City, Downtown Beauty and Fun
Charles City is a beautiful place and when I got a chance to come to town with fellow Midwest Bloggers: Sara Broers (Travels with Sara), Chrysa Duran (Thrifty Jinx, Thrifty Minnesota), and Theresa Carter Goodrich (The Local Tourist) I jumped to see this city with so much agricultural history.
Because I write about old iron, I knew of the Hart Parr, Oliver and White company connections and while I was thrilled about what I found, I learned there was so much more to the city. Ginger Williams, Charles City, Tourism Coordinator provided us with the resources we needed to tour the area. Ginger told us about kayaking and paddle boarding the White Water rapids and other sports that are bringing visitors to the Cedar River that weaves through downtown Charles City.
The Cedar River is such a part of the area that even the name of the Cedar River is incorporated into some of the names of great eating establishments like Cedar River Pizza and Pub on the Cedar.
Our group dined at the wonderful Pub on Cedar (http://www.thepubonthecedar.com/) which features picturesque views of the Cedar River. I also enjoyed the inside décor and was enamored with a freestanding fireplace that I think would be a great place to gather round during the winter months.
We Midwest Bloggers are true food connoisseurs and we poured over the menu for quite some time and had a very hard time coming up with exactly what to choose. We shared a wonderful plate of delicious nachos and I had a French Dip with onion rings. Lorraine Winterink of the Red Cedar Lodge was kind enough to cart us around and she had to have the pork tenderloin which she said was amazing. All of us loved the food and the atmosphere at this pub where everyone gathers, dines and meets friends and families.
What impressed me were the raving reviews this pub has received. A recent August reviewer stated, “This place is magnificent. My friends and I came here looking for a relaxing environment. … Very polite attentive staff. Flawless atmosphere. This spot comes highly recommended.”
The Cedar River Pizza (http://www.cedarriverpizzaco.com/) is a new kid to the block. They will be open a year on February 1, 2017. For now they offer carry out, but they are working on a dining space where customers can sit and have a River view.
Joel and Gillian Biggerstaff opened Cedar River Pizza in a former coffee shop just off Main Street. They were assisted by Main Street Iowa. Today, Cedar River Pizza is up and running and providing a variety of flavorful pizzas for the community.
“We knew they were moving,” Joel said about the former residents.
The fact that there was already a kitchen was a real incentive. The Biggerstaffs make fresh pizza dough everyday and grind their cheese. “We get onions, tomatoes and peppers from the local Farmer’s Market when it is open,” Joel said referring to their goal of using fresh, local ingredients.
The one ingredient they can’t get locally is olives. “We import them from Italy,” Gillian added.
This husband and wife team actually met at a pizza place when they were younger. They both worked at several pizza places over the years and took the best of what they learned to Cedar Rivers Pizza. We had a chance to sample the pizza during an amazing painting class offered at Rustic Corner by Robin Macomber. Rustic Corner (http://www.therusticcorner.com/ ) was named “Best Business in Iowa in 2015”.
While we didn’t get to see too much of the offerings of Rustic Corner before our class, this 10,000 square foot building offers home decor and accessories, gifts for all ages, and ladies fashions and accessories.
Downtown we walked all around and stopped in some of the great shops. At Saxony (http://www.charlescitychamber.com/business/saxony-2) Sara and I had to take a look inside to see just what a reversible Tribal sweater was.
We did some shopping and I think all of us took something away from Darbe & Co. Boutique (http://darbecoboutique.com/home.html) who offered us a great coupon. Here I used my generous Charles City bucks and had a hard time deciding between the clothing, accessories, jewelry, purses, carry-on luggage and much more. I settled on a fun sweater and a pin!
Darbe’s owners, Deb and Jim McNeilus had us pose with their cute fascinators and they took our picture which was great fun.
Speaking of photos, Steve Schiller, of Schiller Fine Art Gallery and Framing (http://www.schillersgallery.com/) shop also took our picture on the lovely Cable Stayed Walking Bridge. This beautiful bridge where we had a photo shoot was built in 2011 and replaced the previous swinging bridge which was destroyed in the flood of 2008. Some locals said they missed the swaying bridge, but most were pleased with the beauty of the new bridge which spans the River and offers breathtaking views.
Every corner of downtown seems to have a piece of art and one of the loveliest buildings we spied was the Charles City Art Center. Although we only saw this building from the outside we were impressed by this former Carnegie Library Building that was constructed in 1904.
This building was near the park where we eventually attended the last Farmer’s Market of the year. At the market I bought a wonderful walnut pie, which turned out to be like a pecan pie and some gourds to place near my yard art turkey I named “Gooble” when I got home.
Next to the Rustic Corner where Robin had the patience of job while I, a true non-artist, painted my pumpkin picture along with the rest of the group, is the downtown art deco theatre that was built in the 1930’s. Still operating, this theatre was lovely both during the day and evening hours.
On this same street, I saw Dean’s Jewelry (http://deanjewelers.com/ ) which had the most amazing Diamond sign! Their website states a fact that makes my jewelry loving heart go pitter patter, “All our designs are created and manufactured right here in Middle America! We design everything with a pencil and paper and then create it with our own hands.”
Talking jewelry a big thanks goes out to Otto’s Oasis because, all four of us that came to this beautiful town walked away with a very neat necklace with a map of Charles City from Otto’s Oasis (http://www.ottosoasis.com/). This greenhouse and lawn and garden store offered a fun pumpkin decorating class and we got a tour of the beautiful plants and gift décor that they have to offer.
Between the wonderful painting class at Rustic Corner and the pumpkin decorating class at Otto’s Oasis, we all came home with a bit of fall décor to welcome in the autumn season!
During our afternoon walk, we saw an exciting new retail and apartment building going up, we saw stores, eateries and we stopped to sip a cup of whatever was our choice at Aroma’s Coffee Shop (http://aromascoffee.com/). Aromas Coffee is a family owned and operated coffee roasting business in Charles City, Iowa. Bryan and Cara Elsbury choose exceptional beans offering a diverse selection and roast their gourmet coffee beans right in Charles City. While I am a tea girl, they fixed me a great iced tea and I ate a great chocolate chip scone while we all took a moment and visited around a great big table.
People of all ages seemed to gravitate to Aromas Coffee and I found that to be true during my visit to this historical town along the Cedar River. Young and mature alike seem to be settling here; from the young reporter that interviewed us, to the owners of Cedar River Pizza, to Lorraine and Tom Winternick who moved here to open the Red Cedar Lodge. Yet there are those like Bill Fluhrer, that have lived here all their lives, who are steeped in the community yet open to new things.
Much has happened in the Charles City’s past, the name tractor was first applied in Charles City, Hart Parr and other agricultural names are steeped in the history of this town that is growing and changing. Downtown the city is growing lovelier day by day as they are adding beauty to their town sculpture by sculpture, building by building and person by person.
I have missed many things this town has to offer, but hope I have encouraged any of you reading this to come and see for yourself. Read the blogs mentioned above because we all saw the sights with different eyes and come from different areas in the Midwest. The Midwest Travel Bloggers are reporting our experiences in different ways!