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21 Amazing Things To Do In Iowa City

Even if you aren’t visiting to cheer on the Hawkeyes, Iowa City is definitely worth the trip. This college town is full of great things to do and endless places to eat and drink. 

The next time you’re planning a visit, you won’t want to miss these fun things to do in Iowa City, Iowa.

Wander the Ped Mall

Also known as the Pedestrian Mall, Iowa City’s downtown district is incredibly walkable thanks to its proximity to the University of Iowa campus. Spend some time exploring the Ped Mall and visiting the many shops and restaurants located in this area.

A crowd strolls the Pedestrian Mall in Iowa City
Photo courtesy Think Iowa City

Get your fill of cheeky Midwest apparel at RAYGUN, find locally-made gifts at White Rabbit, or browse new and used vinyl at Record Collector. The downtown area is also home to some great public art so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for murals and sculptures.

1. Iowa City Pedestrian Mall, 210 S. Dubuque St.

2. RAYGUN, 132 E. Washington St.

3. White Rabbit, 112 S. Linn St.

4. Record Collector, 116 S. Linn St. 

Tour the Old Capitol

Iowa history buffs know that Iowa City was once the state’s capital. While the capital was moved to Des Moines in 1857, the Old Capitol Museum chronicles the roughly 20-year period where Iowa City held the title.

The exterior of the Old Capitol at the University of Iowa
Photo courtesy Think Iowa City

5. Old Capitol Museum, 21 Old Capitol, The University of Iowa

See the World’s Largest Wooden Nickel

If wacky wonders are your thing, you won’t want to miss the World’s Largest Wooden Nickel. Located on the north side of Iowa City, this giant wooden coin was erected in 2006 as a protest against the decision to raise speed limits in the area.

A woman poses with the world's largest wooden nickel, found in Iowa
“Don’t Take Any” by Dan Brekke is marked with CC BY-NC 2.0.

At 18 feet wide and weighing nearly 4,000 pounds, this giant wooden nickel is truly a sight to see.

6. World’s Largest Wooden Nickel, 3246-3248 Iowa River Corridor Trail

Day trip from Iowa City: Explore Amana Colonies

Experience Live Music In Iowa City

As a college town, Iowa City is the site for many touring musicians. Grab tickets to a concert and head to the Englert Theatre for an evening of live music in a beautifully renovated historic space.

The exterior of the Englert Theatre
Photo courtesy Think Iowa City

Be sure to also mark your calendars for Iowa City’s Mission Creek Festival, an annual festival held each April that brings three days of artists, musicians, and authors to Iowa City.

7. Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St.

8. Mission Creek Festival, held annually in April

Enjoy a Groovy Stay

Whether you’re looking for a relaxing retreat or a groovy staycation, The Highlander Hotel is the perfect place to book a stay. This fully renovated hotel has a retro ‘70s vibe complete with a full bar, room service and amazing indoor pool. 

The indoor pool at The Highlander Hotel
Photo courtesy Think Iowa City

9. The Highlander Hotel, 2525 Highlander Pl.

Drink Local

If you’re wanting to grab a pint in Iowa City, you have local options! Try out the fan favorite Big Grove Brewery, which also offers a delicious menu of appetizers and entrees. Or stop by Backpocket Brewing to enjoy some craft beers in their Coralville taproom.

Evening outside the Big Grove Brewery
Photo courtesy Think Iowa City

For lovers of hard ciders, Wilson’s Orchard is a must-visit stop. Plus, you won’t want to miss a meal at the adjoining Ciderhouse

10. Big Grove Brewery, 1225 S Gilbert St.

11. Backpocket Brewing, 903 Quarry Road, Coralville

12. Wilson’s Orchard, 4823 Dingleberry Road NE #1

Dive Into Literature

Did you know that Iowa City is designated a UNESCO City of Literature? Dive into the area’s local literature connections with the Lit Walk around downtown. Or find your next read at The Haunted Bookshop or Prairie Lights Books & Cafe

The door to Prairie Lights bookstore
Photo courtesy Think Iowa City

13. Lit Walk, Downtown Iowa City

14. Haunted Bookshop, 219 N. Gilbert St.

15. Prairie Lights Books & Cafe, 15 S. Dubuque St.

Learn Something New

If you want to learn something new, Iowa City has no shortage of options. Step back in time with a visit to the Devonian Fossil Gorge. This is a great place to hike and experience the remains of an ocean floor from 375 million years ago.

People explore the Devonian Fossil Gorge
Photo courtesy Think Iowa City

Or let your family’s imagination run wild at the Iowa Children’s Museum. Presidential history buffs won’t mind the short drive to West Branch, Iowa to experience the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum.

And if you’re visiting with a Hawkeye fan, you won’t want to miss the University of Iowa Athletics Hall of Fame.

16. Devonian Fossil Gorge, 2850 Prairie Du Chien Road NE

17. Iowa Children’s Museum, 1451 Coral Ridge Ave., Coralville

18.Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, 210 Parkside Drive, West Branch

19. University of Iowa Athletics Hall of Fame, 2425 Prairie Meadow Drive

Grab A Meal At A Classic Diner

Iowa City has lots of delicious eateries. But I recommend starting with the classics. Grab breakfast at the iconic Bluebird Diner.

Then save room for dessert when you head to Hamburg Inn No. 2 for lunch. While this classic restaurant also has lots of breakfast options, they’re known for their tenderloin, pie, and milkshakes. 

A breakfast plat at Hamburg Inn No. 2 in Iowa City
Photo courtesy Think Iowa City

20. Bluebird Diner, 330 E. Market St.

21. Hamburg Inn No. 2, 214 N. Linn St.

About the Guest Blogger

Megan Bannister is a freelance writer and blogger at Olio in Iowa based in Des Moines, Iowa. When she’s not sampling and writing about food, Megan enjoys visiting unique destinations, roadside attractions, and “world’s largest” things across the Midwest and beyond. Her book, Iowa Supper Clubs, highlights classic eateries past and present from around the state.

21 fun things to in Iowa City, from breweries to book stores! Find interesting places in Iowa City to shop, dine, spend time with kids, or hang out with friends.

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