21 Fun Things to Do in Iowa City (Iowa)

There are several Iowa City attractions. Although Iowa City is well-known for its football team, the University of Iowa, and its first capital, it also has an intense art scene.

Some of the area’s most prominent performing arts venues include the Hancher Auditorium and FilmScene.

Iowa city is also known as the UNESCO City of Literature. This distinction is due to the work of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

The state of Iowa is located in the Midwestern United States, bordered by Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, and South Dakota. The only state with its western and eastern borders entirely covered by rivers.

The article covers some of the best and fun things to do in Iowa city, Iowa.

Where Is Iowa City?

Iowa City is located in Johnson County, Iowa. It is also the county seat and home of the University of Iowa.

At the time of the census conducted in 2020, the population of Iowa City was 74,828. It is regarded as the fifth-largest city in the state.

The city was Iowa Territory’s second capital and the state’s first capital. It is also known for its historical attractions, such as the Old Capitol. 

The University of Iowa’s Art Museum and Plum Grove, which is the home of the state’s first governor.

According to the US Census Bureau, Iowa City has an area of approximately 25.28 square miles. It has a land area of 25.01 square miles and 0.27 square miles of water.

See Also: Fun Things to Do in Burlington (Iowa)

Fun Things to Do in Iowa City, Iowa

Iowa City is known for its prominent writers. Many of the area’s prominent individuals have their homes in this city.

Some of the other notable attractions that tourists can visit include the University of Iowa’s Museum of Natural History and the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library. The following are 21 Iowa City attractions;

1. World’s Largest Wooden Nickel

In 2006, Jim Glasgow built what is regarded as the world’s largest wooden nickel as a political protest.

It can be found between two telephone poles in a farm field. Glasgow still maintains the massive wooden nickel that he built in 2006.

It measured 16 feet tall and weighed about 4,000 pounds. It was constructed to protest the Johnson County Board of Supervisors’ decision to raise the speed limit on three roads.

Address: The World’s Largest Wooden Nickel is located at 3246-3248 Iowa River Corridor Trail, Iowa City, IA 52240, USA.

2. Hancher Auditorium

The Hancher Auditorium was first opened in 1972. It has been regarded as one of the world’s most prominent performing arts facilities due to its wide range of featured artists. It also hosts various community events and other educational activities.

The Hancher Auditorium is an important cultural and artistic venue in Iowa City. In 2008, it was temporarily closed due to severe flooding.

This facility has been promoting various works in various artistic disciplines. It is one of Iowa City’s attractions.

Address: The Hancher Auditorium  is located at 141 East Park Rd, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA.

3. FilmScene

This is another famous Iowa City attraction. FilmScene is a compact movie theater that features a variety of films, including first runs, workshops, and classic movies.

It can be found at the downtown pedestrian mall. This unique theatre also has a cafe and a rooftop patio.

FilmScene is a non-profit organization that shows over 200 films a year. 

Aside from showing movies, this theatre also hosts various events designed to provide theatre lovers with a great experience. Some of these include panel discussions and dialogues with filmmakers.

Address: The FilmScene is located at 118 E College Street, Iowa City, IA 52240, USA.

>> If you’re visiting Iowa, don’t forget to also check out Fun Things to Do in Fort Madison (Iowa) and Fun Things to Do in Davenport (Iowa).

4. Riverside Theatre

The Riverside Theatre is another fun-filled theatre that brings life to the stage through entertaining and engaging performances. 

It features intimate and original productions that range from new works to classics.

The Riverside Theatre was founded in 1981 by theatre professionals Bruce and Jody Wheaton and Ron Clark.

It has been producing full seasons each year since it was first established. In addition, this facility serves as an artistic home for theatre professionals.

Address: The Riverside Theatre is located at 213 N Gilbert St, Iowa City, IA 52245, USA.

5. Iowa Avenue Literary Walk

For literature lovers, the Iowa Avenue Literary Walk is a must-visit. It features the works of 49 local writers. It also features the works of journalists and novelists connected to Iowa City.

The walk features various panels made of bronze and has multiple authors’ names and quotes. Excerpts from books and writings also accompany them.

The author section of the walk also has information about the biographies of the local writers. 

It also has a map showing the various areas in Iowa City where the authors have lived.

Address: The Iowa Avenue Literary Walk is located at 123 S. Linn Street, Iowa City, IA 52240, USA.

6. Nile Kinnick Stadium

One of the most famous Iowa City attractions is the Nile Kinnick Stadium. This facility was opened in 1929 and is regarded as one of the largest sports arenas in the Big Ten.

It can accommodate up to 69,250 people at a time. The stadium is one of the 20 most extensive facilities in the country owned by a university.

Originally known as Iowa Stadium, the facility was renamed in 1972 after sportswriter Gus Schrader of the Cedar Rapids Gazette convinced the university’s athletic board to change its name to honor the late Nile Kinnick. Kinnick was a football player who won the 1939 Heisman Trophy.

Address: The Nile Kinnick Stadium is located at 825 Stadium Dr, Iowa City, IA 52240, USA.

7. St. Mary of the Visitation

One of the most prominent Catholic churches in Iowa City is St. Mary of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

In 1980, the building and rectory of this church were listed on the National Register for Historic Places.

In 2004, the structure and rectory were also recognized as contributing properties in the Jefferson Street District.

This church was constructed using red brick and had various stone trim features. It features a magnificent structure heavily influenced by the Romanesque Revival style. 

Some notable features include the bell tower and the windows with round arches.

Address: The St. Mary of the Visitation is located at 228 E Jefferson St, Iowa City, IA 52245, USA.

8. Amana Colonies

The Amana Colonies is a popular tourist destination and one of the most famous Iowa City attractions.

The religious German settlers who fled the Nazis discovered and developed the area. It features seven villages established by German religious refugees.

These individuals lived in relatively self-sufficient and independent ways after they started farming and crafting.

The villages have since developed into popular tourist areas. There, they have numerous craft shops and restaurants.

Address: The Amana Colonies is located at 622 46th Avenue, Amana, IA 52203, USA.

9. Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Center

Just across the street from the Iowa Hall of Fame is the recreation center known as the Iowa Tennis and Recreation Center.

This facility features eight indoor and 12 outdoor tennis courts. It has two indoor turf fields and 6,000 square feet of fitness space.

The outdoor courts are named after Don Klotz, a former tennis coach at the university. 

The facility also hosts various athletic events, such as men’s and women’s tennis and field hockey.

Address: The Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Center is located at 2820 Prairie Meadow Dr, Iowa City, IA 52246, USA.

10. Silos and Smokestacks

One of the most popular attractions in Iowa City is the Smokestacks and the Silos National Heritage Area.

This area is dedicated to preserving rural communities’ past and present lifestyles. This area also highlights the ideal farming lifestyle.

The area covers about a third of Iowa. It features various interpretive sites and museums in different parts of the state.

These include the Living History Farms, Brucemore, the Silos, and the Smokestacks National Heritage Area.

Address: The Silos and Smokestacks is located at 604 Lafayette Street #202, Waterloo, IA 50703 11, USA.

11. Coralville Lake

Another popular attraction in Iowa City is Coralville Lake. This area is designed to help control the city’s water flow. It also offers various recreational activities for its visitors.

The area around Coralville Lake has three campsites. This region is known for its various recreational activities, such as fishing. There is also a pier that can be used by boats.

Address: The Coralville Lake is located at 2850 Prairie Du Chien Rd NE, Iowa City, IA 52240, USA.

12. Plum Grove Historic House

One of the most significant historical sites in Iowa City is Plum Grove. This house was the home of Robert Lucas, the first governor of Iowa. It was also the birthplace of Eleanor Hoyt Brainerd.

It’s believed that the name of the house came from the large number of plum trees growing near the property during the time the Lucas family lived there.

The structure currently occupies about four acres of the original property and was constructed in the 1840s to 1850s.

Address: The Plum Grove Historic House is located at 1030 Carroll Street, Iowa City, IA 52240, USA.

13. Carver-Hawkeye Arena

The Carver-Hawkeye Arena was opened in 1983. It features an indoor facility that can accommodate various sports activities.

Some of the teams that use it include the Iowa gymnastics team, the volleyball team, and the wrestling team.

The facility was named after Roy Carver, an industrialist from Muscatine who donated almost $9.2 million to the university. The arena is a must-visit destination for anyone who’s in Iowa.

Address: The Carver-Hawkeye Arena is located at 1 Elliott Dr, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA.

14. Hickory Hill Park

Hickory Hill Park, located northeast of Iowa City, has 190 acres of land filled with various natural features such as wetlands, forests, and abandoned fields. 

This park features multiple facilities, such as water fountains, grills, and picnic shelters.

This area is for people who love to get active and explore the outdoors. It features various recreational activities such as hiking and running.

Address: The Hickory Hill Park is located at 800 Conklin Street, Iowa City, IA 52240, USA.

15. Terry Trueblood Recreation Area

The park has a total area of 152 acres and is filled with various activities and facilities for its visitors. It also has several trails that are ideal for different types of activities. 

Some of the activities that can be enjoyed at the park include bird watching and fishing.

One of the park’s most popular features is its lodge, which has a huge room accommodating up to 150 people. It features a kitchen and a patio that overlooks the lake. 

The park also has various picnic shelters and other facilities that accommodate different activities.

Address: The Terry Trueblood Recreation Area is located at 579 McCollister Blvd, Iowa City, IA 52240, USA.

16. University of Iowa Museum of Natural History

The University of Iowa’s Museum of Natural History was established in 1858. It features a vast collection of mammals, birds, and Native American artifacts.

The museum also has exhibits that deal with various disciplines, such as geology, ecology, and culture.

The museum’s mammal hall displays the diversity and evolution of mammals from Iowa’s history. 

On the other hand, the Hall of Birds features over a thousand bird exhibits. This exhibit aims to provide a deeper understanding of the birds of Iowa.

Address: The University of Iowa Museum of Natural History is located at 17 N Clinton Street, Iowa City, IA 52240, USA.

17. Iowa Old Capitol Building

The Iowa Old Capitol Building, the state’s former main government building, is a must-visit destination for anyone in the area.

It’s located right on the campus of the University of Iowa. The building has been restored and is now used as an educational facility.

The Iowa Old Capitol Building is open to the public and private groups for free tours, which are accompanied by guides.

The building features various areas worth exploring, such as the Senate Chamber, the Hansen Humanities Gallery, and the Supreme Court.

It also has temporary exhibits that can be enjoyed during special events. It is one of the most prominent Iowa City attractions.

Address: The Iowa Old Capitol Building is located at 21 N Clinton Street, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA.

18. The Englert Theater

The Englert Theater, which was first opened in 1912, is a popular venue for various events. 

It can be used for different types of shows. These include live music, plays, and comedy.

Address: The Englert Theater is located at 221 E Washington St, Iowa City, IA 52240, USA.

19. Johnson County Historic Poor Farm

The Johnson County Historical Poor Farm was established in 1885 to provide housing and treatment for those suffering from mental disorders.

According to records, the facility’s founders believed that hard work and fresh air would help improve the quality of life for mentally ill residents.

Address: The  Johnson County Historic Poor Farm is located at 4811 Melrose Ave, Iowa City, IA 52246, USA.

20. University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art

The Iowa State Historical Society’s museum has over 15,500 artifacts and arts with various origins. 

It features multiple art and artifacts, such as paintings, sculptures, and ceramics.

Address: The University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art is located at 125 N Madison St, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA.

21. Jimmy Jack’s Rib Shack

For a great meal, visit Jimmy Jack’s Rib Shack, which has North Liberty and Iowa City locations. Jack Piper and Jimmy Adrian, who grew up in Kansas City, established and operated this establishment.

The two childhood friends aim to bring the best of Kansas City’s barbecue style to their restaurant.

Address: The Jimmy Jack’s Rib Shack is located at 1940 Lower Muscatine Rd, Iowa City, IA 52240, USA.

Best Time to Visit Iowa City

The best time to visit Iowa City is during the fall, from September to October. 

Various factors contribute to this period’s popularity, such as the pleasant weather and the low prices of accommodations.

Cost of Visiting Iowa City

The average cost of traveling to Iowa City is $1,010 for a single person, ranging from $1,416 for a couple to $2,303 for a family of four.

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