6 AWESOME things to do in Iowa City, IA

Last Updated on December 21, 2019 by travelingwithsunscreen

You might think Iowa is a fly-over state. Just corn and …pigs? Who knows really, surely no one has ever been there. Well, you’d be WRONG! As it turns out, Iowa is great. And in particular there are tons of things to do in Iowa City, from beautiful nature to great restaurants to, yes, checking out some farms. If you’re in Iowa, don’t miss it! Here are six great things to do that you probably wouldn’t have expected!

Rent a boat at Lake MacBride!

Just 20 minutes north of Iowa City is the beautiful Lake MacBride. And the thing to do there is rent a boat at the small boat rental stand near the official beach. You can rent paddle boats, small motor boats, or even a pontoon (as far as I’m concerned, the pontoon is obviously the right choice). Head out on the lake with wine and cheese and you’ve got a perfect afternoon on your hands! There are endless twists and turns on the lake to explore, or you can just drop the anchor and watch the clouds go by. Either way you’ll have a great time!

beautiful lakes to explore in iowa
If you get up early, you might just see something like this

Go hiking (really)!

You probably think Iowa is endlessly flat, and for the most part it is. But that doesn’t mean that there are some nice hiking trails to explore! After you get off your boat on Lake MacBride, head over to one of the park’s numerous trails. While these hikes may not exactly be strenuous, you can spend hours walking along the lake and the surrounding forest! And if nothing else, you’re sure to see tons of deer!

On your way back, you can stop at the Coralville lake. And if you’re into natural history, don’t miss the Devonian fossil gorge near the lake! The fossils were exposed after the lake overflowed its spillway during a flood in 1993, and now the fossil gorge is open to the public.

Walk through beautiful City Park in Iowa City

Situated by the Iowa River and right next to the University of Iowa campus, City Park is a great place to explore on foot. You can walk for a couple of miles by the water, and check out the University art museum along the way. There’s even a swimming pool open during the summer!

City Park ends near downtown Iowa City, where you can head onto the main campus and check out the Old Capitol building, the Old Capitol museum, and the restaurants and bars on Iowa Avenue. On summer evenings and on the weekend downtown is pretty lively with lots of free activities — and sometimes there are live music shows near campus!

The beautiful University of Iowa campus — right next to City Park!

Take a day trip to Effigy Mounds National Monument

About 120 miles north of Iowa City is the unique and pretty Effigy Mounds National Monument. The site has Native American burial mounds, some shaped like animals, all overlooking the Mississippi River! There are trails that wind through the forest and bring you to the different mounds. The drive is nice too – believe it or not, northeastern Iowa is in fact hilly and quite pretty!

Go learn about one of Iowa’s most famous people at the Herbert Hoover presidential library

Who knew that Iowa produced a president? It did! Although not a popular one, but still. The Herbert Hoover presidential library is just 15 minutes east of Iowa City in the small town of West Branch, IA. If you’re at all interested in history, it’s definitely worth a visit!

After all that, check out some awesome breweries!

Iowa City is home to the University of Iowa. And you know what that means: tons of bars! Which is good for you, the traveler, as you’ve surely just finished a lengthy day of boating, hiking, and walking. And now you’re ready for some beer! The final and perhaps most important thing to do in Iowa City is to check out any or all of the new breweries that are constantly opening up. Some favorites are: Big Grove Brewery and Tap Room, ReUnion Brewery, and a University classic, Sanctuary Pub.

Iowa, as it turns out, is not just a giant farm. There are lots of great things to do in Iowa City! Of course, once you get tired of the city life, remember, you’re never far from a farm. Go say hi to the cows!

you're never far from a corn field in iowa
You’re never far from a corn field in Iowa!

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