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A Local’s Guide to Moving to Iowa City

Are you considering a move to Iowa City or did you recently arrive? If you’re trying to get a feel for your new home, you’re going to love this insider’s guide to Iowa City. Learn more about the community and discover some of the best hidden gems in and around town. Here’s a look at everything you need to know.

Living in a College Town

Iowa City takes great pride in being home to the University of Iowa. For nine months out of the year, your new city plays host to over 30,000 college students who bring a young, trendy vibe. Football is a big thing in a college town and with the Iowa Hawkeyes in town, you can expect to add a lot of black and gold — the team colors — to your wardrobe.

While you don’t need to be a big Hawkeye’s fan, you do need to know that their biggest rival is Minnesota Golden Gophers. In fact, since 1935, each year, these two teams have battled for the Floyd of Rosedale trophy, a pig trophy that features the scores of past games. So if you’re a Minnesota fan, you might want to keep it a little low key.

Like any college town, residents of Iowa City enjoy a cold beer from time-to-time. However, most people prefer to stick to local brews. Three local breweries — Backpocket BrewingMillstream Brewing Company and Kalona Brewing Company — are local favorites and on tap at many restaurants and bars.

Book Worms Feel Right at Home


If you love reading and carry a book with you wherever you roam, you’ll feel right at home in Iowa City. With so many college students in town, it isn’t unusual to see people reading on park benches or soaking up the sun while flipping the pages of a novel. Make sure to get your tickets to the Iowa City Book Festival since it’s the hottest festival in town.

If you’re wondering how committed the residents of Iowa City are to reading, then take a walk along the Iowa Avenue Literary Walk. This walk features bronze relief panels with quotes and words of 49 writers. Each of the featured writers has some sort of tie to the city or state. A local bookstore, Prairie Lights, has a rich literary history and draws some big names for readings so make sure to check the schedule.

Art and Music Abound

People in Iowa City love to walk when the weather is nice, and as you travel around town, you’ll notice art almost everywhere. It’s on the walls, benches, sidewalks, and other places. The Iowa City Pedestrian Mall, or “Ped Mall,” is one of the best places to explore on foot. As you explore this area, you’ll find street artists and street musicians. This is also a hot spot for many of the concerts and festivals throughout the year.

As you navigate your new city, you might be surprised to find a piano sitting out in the open. Don’t worry. The free-to-use public pianos are a program to encourage the love of music. West Music and a few other local businesses sponsor these pianos, and anyone, including you, can tickle the ivories. In the summer months, the Iowa City Jazz Festival is your chance to get out and hear some great music.

Even though this city offers a laid back, wave-at-your-neighbors vibe, you can dress up for an evening at the Englert Theatre. This vaudeville-era theatre has a rich history and continues offering live shows today.

Hot Spots and Hidden Gems

Iowa City Power Restaurant

Located in nearby Coralville, the Iowa City Power Restaurant offers the best and most popular brunch available on Sundays. The brunch buffet features a carving station and hot waffle station along with all your favorites. The large windows offer gorgeous views of the river to enjoy while you eat, whether it’s Sunday brunch or dinner to celebrate a special occasion.

John’s Grocery

Also known as Dirty John’s, this little grocery store is well-known in the area for its extensive list of local and regional beers. You can get some basic groceries such as eggs, milk, bread, and other foodstuffs, but the main attraction is the beer list. This grocer also offers wine and liquor, so it’s a one-stop party shop.

The Hamburg Inn 2

When locals talk about this restaurant, they refer to it as “The Burg.” This fifties-style diner offers all of your favorite comfort foods, and the time of day doesn’t matter since you can have breakfast, lunch, and dinner any time. The must-try is the pie shake. It’s made with milk, ice cream, and you guessed it, a slice of your favorite pie!

The Haunted Bookshop

Doing business inside the historic Wentz house, the Haunted Bookshop is the town’s oldest used bookstore. If you need help finding a title, the staff is knowledgeable and friendly, or you can simply browse the shelves yourself. In addition to books, there are puzzles, puppets, and games. It’s a great place to spend a snowy afternoon. Don’t forget to look for the two cats who call the bookshop home.

Salt Fork Kitchen

Located in nearby Solon, the Salt Fork Kitchen looks like a country restaurant, but it has big city dreams. The meals here are farm-to-table with almost all of the ingredients locally sourced. You can sink your teeth into a deluxe grilled cheese with three kinds of cheese, greens, and tomatoes or satisfy your sweet tooth with an order of French toast.

Bonus Tip:

No matter what anyone tells you, don’t ever kiss the Black Angel statue in Oakland Cemetary on Halloween. Superstition says you’ll be struck dead!

This quick guide can help get you started exploring your new home city. Before you know it, you’ll have your own favorite hidden gems for going out to eat or grabbing a cup of coffee with new friends. No matter where you decided to visit, we know that you’re going to love living in Iowa City with its small-town charm.

Co Authors :

Alan Swanson, co-broker/owner of Blank & McCune, enjoys assisting clients who are selling or buying a home in the greater Iowa City area.

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