Plan a getaway to Cedar Falls, Iowa with this vegan food & fun guide. Sweet treats, historical sites, and unique shopping areas highlight this small Midwestern town.
College towns are always fun to visit.
They seem to draw unique restaurants, shops, and museums.
Cedar Falls is no exception!
This quaint Iowa town is home to the University of Northern Iowa.
It also has a smattering of vegan options. (Donuts! Cinnamon rolls!)
Plus, there are plenty of other things to see and do while you’re there.
Yeast-raised, fried vegan donuts are alive & well at Icon Donuts in Cedar Falls. (They have a Waterloo location as well.)
To my knowledge, Icon is the only donut shop in the state of Iowa where you can find fried vegan donuts.
They offer two flavors of vegan donuts every Friday through Sunday.
They usually post the flavors on their Facebook page. If they’re not listed online, just give them a call.
Once you’re there, the vegan donuts are clearly marked in the donut case.
Look for options like rhubarb glazed with apple pie filling, berry, glazed, twists, long johns, or even Boston cream filled.
They’re super bouncy, fresh, and totally delicious. The drive to Cedar Falls is worth it for the vegan donuts alone.
(I should know! I’ve done it myself more than once.)
If you’re coming from a long ways away, give them a call, and you can place an order for vegan donuts. That way you won’t be disappointed if they’re sold out, which happens sometimes.
If you’d like some coffee to go with your donuts, they have almond milk behind the counter. Just ask!
Cup of Joe
Cup of Joe is a super cute coffee and tea place with a 1950’s aesthetic on Main Street in downtown.
While you’re there grab a latte, as well as a vegan cinnamon roll (available Wednesdays and Saturdays).
They’re wonderfully gooey inside, and taste homemade in the best possible way.
For baked goods, they have at least 2 vegan options every day.
Their in-house bakers vary their vegan pastries, which include coffee cakes, croissants, muffins, cookies, and donuts.
They also accept special orders.
For vegan coffee drinks, they have pea milk as their one non-dairy option.
Craving something lighter? They also offer fruit smoothies.
Scratch Cupcakery is a cupcake chain, which offers one flavor of vegan cupcake daily.
The flavor changes by the day. So take a peek at their daily menu to know what they’re selling on the day you plan to visit.
Flavor possibilities include strawberry shortcake, s’mores, wedding day, and chocolate chip.
In addition to their Cedar Falls location, Scratch Cupcakery has bakeries in Waterloo, Coralville, and Des Moines.
David’s Taphouse & Dumplings
David’s Taphouse & Dumplings is an easy walk from Main Street.
It’s an open, airy taphouse with beer, alcoholic cider, kombocha, and cocktails.
They have two vegan dumpling options.
The first is teriyaki mushroom & tofu.
These dumplings are stuffed with shiitake and Portobello mushrooms, tofu, and green onions in a teriyaki sauce. They’re served with soy vinegar sauce for dipping.
You can have them pan-fried, deep-fried, or steamed.
The pan-fried dumplings are crispy & charred on one side, while the other side stays soft. So good!
The second option is samosas.
They are deep fried, and filled with potatoes, corn, peas, carrots, and jalapeños. (Although, they’re not spicy at all.)
They’re heavily seasoned with turmeric, garam masala, and ginger. They’re served with a mildly flavored cilantro chutney.
The breading on the samosas is reminiscent of a wonton – kind of thick and bland. And the flavor of the filling doesn’t have a lot of nuance.
They are okay. But I’d probably skip them next time.
Cedar Falls farmers market
On Saturday mornings from May to October, visit the Cedar Falls farmers market. It’s just a quick jaunt from downtown.
The market is smaller in size & easy to get around.
There’s plenty of produce on offer, as well as food trucks. (Be sure to check out Bowls of Love for acaí or dragonfruit bowls!)
Have a problem that a warm cookie would solve?
Visit Insomnia Cookies.
It’s a bakery chain with over 200 locations, including one on College Street.
They have several different vegan cookie options – including vegan birthday cake, vegan chocolate chunk, and vegan double chocolate chunk.
As you might have guessed by the name, they’re open very late for night owls & partygoers. That’s good news if you get a midnight cookie craving.
Whiskey Road Tavern & Grill
Whiskey Road in downtown Cedar Falls is a country western-themed restaurant & bar.
They have vegetarian options marked on the menu. From there you’ll have to ask your server questions about what can be prepared vegan.
The mixed berry salad is vegan if you omit the chocolate croutons. It’s a spinach salad with strawberries, blueberries, toasted almonds, avocado, and a raspberry vinaigrette.
They also offer fajita salad and pita wraps with soy chicken. Omit the cheese, ranch, and sour cream.
Things to do in Cedar Falls
Between meals and snacks, you’ll need some other things to do to pass the time.
Luckily, Cedar Falls has plenty of stores and museums to explore.
Shopping in the Downtown District
There are lots of fun stores up and down the Downtown District.
I’m a big fan of Miss Wonderful.
This adorable shop has a mixture of vintage and vintage-inspired mid-century modern goods, including kitchenware & Rifle Paper products.
If you like stationery, you’ll also enjoy perusing the unique wares at Pretty Good Co.
Ice House Museum
The Ice House Museum is right along the Cedar River, where people used to take tools out to the frozen river to chip away at the ice.
Huge blocks would go into the ice house, where it would be stored all year ‘round. (Even in the summer!) It stored 6,000 to 8,000 tons of ice.
Before people had modern refrigeration, they’d pick up a block of ice as their last stop on the way home. Then they would put it into their ice chests to keep their food cold throughout the week.
Inside the museum, there’s a movie on loop sharing the history of the ice house, several types of ice chests, and an interactive pulley, where you can try your hand at lifting a block of “ice.”
It’s wild to think about people standing on a river and breaking into the ice to salvage it for their refrigeration needs.
Refrigeration and the ability to make your own ice any time you want isn’t a modern amenity that gets a lot of hype.
But wow, there’s a lot to learn at this museum, and reasons to feel grateful for the time we live in.
(Fun fact: In 1921 the ice house burned down. It had been made of wood. When they rebuilt it, they made the walls first, but this time with clay tile, reinforced with steel ties.
Instead of building scaffolding, where carpenters could build a roof, they waited for winter. Then they filled the ceiling-less building with ice blocks. Once they had finished the ice harvest season, they stood on top of the ice to build the roof!)
Victorian Home & Carriage Museum
The Victorian Home & Carriage Museum is adjacent to the area where the farmers market takes place.
That makes it very handy to pop in & take a quick tour. The museum is free, but donations are welcome.
The Victorian house is all set up in a way that tells a story – reminding you of the daily lives of the people who lived there.
There are black and white photos on the walls, a stove set up with cast iron pans, bedrooms with dresses laid out to wear, and children’s toys scattered in their rooms.
It makes you feel like you’re walking around the halls of Disney World’s Haunted Mansion sans Doom Buggy.
It’s nice that the tour is self led, which means you can really go at your own pace.
Downstairs there’s also the William J. Lenoir model railroad.
More vegan Iowa options
For more vegan highlights around Iowa, check out these handy guides.