"Iowa City's everything a college town should be. The people are nice and the food is much better than anticipated - I feel like I'm in a big metro area in terms of choices and ethnic cuisines represented, but the prices remind me I'm in a small town. And most importantly, it's a city that really gets behind it's Hawkeyes!"
— Faizal McBride, MBA '11, Minneapolis
"Iowa City has just as much to offer in entertainment as a big city. There is something for everyone — from great restaurants to cultural events. The downtown area is always bustling, but it is still easy to get around."— Tara From, MBA '11, Houston
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Iowa City will surprise you. A vibrant college town situated on rolling hills along the Iowa River, it offers the advantages of a larger city within the safe and friendly atmosphere of a smaller town.
That's just one of the reasons why Iowa City is on so many "Best Cities" rankings. Newcomers are surprised at the city's commitment to causes—recycling and the environment, equal rights for all citizens, and local sourcing. Iowa City's downtown, where everything's a short walk away, is intertwined with campus, seamlessly joining the city and University communities.
With about 65,000 residents, Iowa City is similar in size to college towns like Palo Alto, California, or Princeton, New Jersey. Large cities like Chicago, Minneapolis, Kansas City, and St. Louis are all just a few hours' drive or a short flight away.
Home to the world-famous Iowa Writers' Workshop, Iowa City welcomes a steady stream of visiting fiction writers, nonfiction writers, and poets throughout the year. These authors often read from their work on campus or at the renowned Prairie Lights Bookstore. The Iowa Avenue Literary Walk features the works of 49 writers with ties to Iowa. The Iowa City Public Library was expanded and renovated in 2004 and offers extensive resources for the public. Iowa City was also designated one of three global Cities of Literature in 2008 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Movie buffs will love the Bijou Theater, which specializes in independent, classic, and cult/camp films. If you prefer the latest blockbuster, you can find it at one of several local movie theaters. The renovated Englert Theater offers both live theater and classic movie screenings.
Iowa City offers many opportunities for viewing live theater events. Riverside Theatre presents shows throughout the year, hosts a summer Shakespeare Festival at an outdoor Shakespearean stage, and offers acting lessons. Iowa City Community Theater offers the public the opportunity to try out their acting skills. Dreamwell Theatre is a nonprofit volunteer theater company dedicated to exploration in the theater arts.
Iowa City has a lively music scene that features both local performers and national acts. During the summer, the city sponsors the outdoor Friday Night Concert Series, the Iowa City Jazz Festival, and the Iowa Arts Festival—all free and open to the public. Plus, the Saturday Night Free Movie Series is held on the Pentacrest every Saturday night June through August. In addition, the University attracts first-rate performances including Broadway plays and internationally renowned music and dance productions at Hancher Auditorium.
Restaurants in Iowa City range from classic bar-and-grill fare to upscale and inventive organic cuisine. Large grocery stores and natural-food co-ops offer everything you would expect to find in a major city, from fresh produce to prepared gourmet foods. The renowned Lincoln Café, a favorite of traveling "foodies," is located nearby in charming Mount Vernon. And, yes, you can get great sushi (and coffee) in Iowa City! For food on the go, you may want to try a pedestrian mall food vendor for a variety ranging from grilled cheese and gyros to hot dogs.
Dining opportunities include many authentic international venues. As a start, you may like to try:
With its rolling hills and its location along the Iowa River, Iowa City offers the outdoor enthusiast everything from water skiing to rock climbing. In warmer weather, you can canoe or row on the river, boat on Lake Macbride or the Coralville Reservoir, hike in Palisades Kepler State Park, go mountain biking at Sugar Bottom or road biking through farm country, golf at a nearby course, swim at the outdoor City Park pool, go rock climbing and bouldering nearby, and take a trail run or a leisurely stroll at Hickory Hill Park. For winter sports fans, the locals recommend cross-country skiing, ice skating, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. These activities can be found at numerous locations in the area. For those more inclined to stay indoors, the University, local recreation centers, and several first-rate gyms offer workout equipment, aerobics classes, spinning, yoga, pools, and more. For information on intramural sports, please visit the Intramurals page.