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Explore 14 Must-Visit Attractions: Top Things to Do in Iowa City, IA

Iowa City, IA is a city that’s full of surprises. From its picturesque downtown to its sprawling parks, Iowa City is a destination that’s worth exploring. In this article, we’ll highlight 14 must-visit attractions that will help you discover the best of Iowa City.

Whether you’re interested in history, nature, or the arts, Iowa City has something for everyone. So, get ready to discover the top things to do in Iowa City. By the end of this article, you’ll have a bucket list of the best attractions in Iowa City, IA, and be excited to start planning your next adventure.

1. Discover the Heart of Literature at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop

Iowa City is not only a bustling college town but also a UNESCO City of Literature, and the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop is at its heart. Located in the historic Dey House, this highly esteemed writing program has produced numerous award-winning authors, contributing to Iowa’s rich literary history.

During your visit to the workshop, you can enjoy a leisurely walk down Dubuque Street, one of Iowa City’s main thoroughfares. As you immerse yourself in the literary world of Iowa City, you’ll understand why it’s considered a haven for writers and literature enthusiasts alike.

2. Watch the Iowa Hawkeye Live

Watching the Iowa Hawkeyes live is a must-do activity for any sports fan visiting the Iowa City area. The Hawkeyes are one of the most successful college sports teams in the country, and their games are always exciting and entertaining. Whether you’re a diehard Hawkeye fan or just looking for a fun way to spend an afternoon, you won’t be disappointed by a trip to Carver-Hawkeye Arena or Kinnick Stadium.

3. Step Back in Time at the Old Capitol Museum

Visit the Old Capitol Museum to learn about Iowa’s political and cultural history. This historic building, once the old capitol building of Iowa, served as the state’s first state capitol and now showcases the state’s rich heritage through rotating exhibitions. Explore the antiquated Supreme Court chamber and the second-floor rotunda, and immerse yourself in the stories of Iowa’s past.

The Old Capitol Museum is open on all days of the week, except for Mondays and national holidays. While you’re there, don’t forget to check out other nearby attractions like the Johnson County Freedom Rock, a monument dedicated to United States military veterans, created by Ray “Bubba” Sorensen II. These historical landmarks offer a glimpse into the unique history that shaped Iowa City.

4. Dive into Discovery at the University of Iowa Museum of Natural History

Have you ever been to a natural history museum? Well, the University of Iowa Museum of Natural History is a must-visit destination that will leave you in awe! The Iowa campus museum offers a diverse range of preserved specimens, including birds, mammals, fish, and insects.

It provides a fascinating insight into the natural history of Iowa and beyond, including the Iowa River, while also touching upon Iowa history. The museum is open from Wednesday to Saturday. Everyone can visit for free. When you visit, consider taking a tour and attending various events.

5. Discover Iowa City’s Stanley Museum of Art

If you are an art lover, you will be delighted by the impressive collection at the Stanley Museum of Art. Home to about 17,000 pieces of art, the museum boasts a diverse array of artwork, including paintings, photographs, and sculptures, from various global cultures.

One must-see exhibit at the Stanley Museum of Art is Jackson Pollock’s Mural, a powerful testament to the creativity and talent that has graced Iowa City.

6. Embrace the Outdoors at Terry Trueblood Recreation Area

In the words of famous American Poet, Gary Snyder “Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.” — and this is exactly what the scenic Terry Trueblood Recreation Area represents. From hiking and paddleboarding to picnicking, this picturesque location offers a plethora of activities to enjoy.

At Terry Trueblood Recreation Area, you can also rent equipment such as canoes, stand-up paddleboards, and kayaks to maximize your fun experience. Open daily from 6:00 AM to 10:30 PM, this outdoor haven provides the perfect backdrop for a day of adventure and relaxation.

7. Embark on a Literary Journey Along the Iowa Avenue Literary Walk

Established in 1999 by the Iowa City Public Art Advisory Committee, the Literary Walk, honors the literary contributions of 49 writers with connections to Iowa. As you stroll along the Iowa Avenue Literary Walk, you’ll find yourself surrounded by the words of these renowned authors displayed on bronze plaques, set into the sidewalk to celebrate the city’s literary heritage.

8. Treat Yourself To a Sumptuous Meal in Downtown Iowa City

Iowa City’s vibrant downtown area boasts a diverse array of dining options and a lively nightlife scene. From trendy cafes and bars to fine dining establishments, there’s something to suit every palate. While there are lots of options, here are some popular restaurants in downtown Iowa City:

  • Short’s Burger and Shine
  • The Hamburg Inn No. 2
  • Backpocket Brewing
  • Atlas World Grill

Beyond its culinary offerings, downtown Iowa is also known for hosting live music and events throughout the year. So whether you’re in search of a quiet dinner or an exciting night out, this is the place to be.

9. Uncover Ancient Wonders at the Devonian Fossil Gorge

How would you like to travel back in time to 375 million years ago? Visit the Devonian Fossil Gorge in Iowa City to see for yourself. Created by floodwaters in 1993, the Devonian Fossil Gorge offers a rare glimpse into Iowa’s ancient past and geological history. As you walk through this remarkable site, you’ll be captivated by the wonders that await you at every turn.

10. Visit the Black Angel of Oakland Cemetery

Oakland Cemetery in Iowa City is home to many notable figures, including former Iowa governors, university presidents, and literary figures. But the Black Angel statue is one of the cemetery’s most popular attractions. The 8.5-foot tall statue was erected in 1913 as a memorial to Nicholas Feldevert.

The statue was originally made of bronze, but over time it has now darkened to a black color. This has led to many legends and superstitions about the statue, including the belief that it is cursed. Whether you believe the legends or not, the Black Angel is a fascinating and beautiful piece of art.

11. Enjoy Live Performances at the Englert Theatre

The Englert Theatre is a historic performing arts venue in Iowa City and a cornerstone of Iowa City’s arts and culture scene. It was built in 1912 and is one of the oldest and most beautiful theaters in the state. The Englert Theatre is home to a variety of live performances, including Broadway shows, concerts, movies, and more.

With a dedication to showcasing the best in live entertainment, the Englert Theatre is the perfect place to experience the creative spirit of Iowa City.

12. Join and Celebrate Annual Events

Immerse yourself in the vibrant tapestry of Iowa City’s annual events, where each season unfolds with a unique array of festivities and celebrations. From the dazzling lights and heartwarming traditions of the Winter Festival to the soulful melodies of the Iowa City Jazz Festival and the kaleidoscopic colors of the Pride Festival, there are several Iowa City things inviting you to experience the city’s rich culture and diverse communities throughout the year.

13. Relish Retail Therapy at Coral Ridge Mall

If you are in need of some retail therapy, Coral Ridge Mall is the perfect destination. Featuring a wide range of stores, dining options, and entertainment facilities, including the Iowa Children’s Museum, the mall offers something for everyone.

Whether you’re searching for the latest fashion trends or a new book to read, Coral Ridge Mall has it all.

14. Plan a Day Trip to Nearby Attractions

Venture out of Iowa City and explore the nearby attractions that eastern and central Iowa have to offer. Take a day trip to the Amana Colonies, a community consisting of seven villages, each with its own unique German atmosphere. Or, visit the Maquoketa Caves State Park, which offers opportunities for hiking and caving amid beautiful natural surroundings.

With so many attractions within a few hours’ drive, there’s no shortage of adventures waiting for you beyond the city limits.

Make Your Move with Horizon Movers

If you’re planning a move to or from Iowa City, consider Horizon Movers for a stress-free experience. With over 20 years of experience and a proven track record, our professional moving services, secure storage, and eco-friendly disposal of unwanted items will make your move seamless and stress-free.

At Horizon Movers, we offer a family-like approach to moving, fully wrapped and protected furniture, and professional padding and shrink-wrapping. With a quick and easy process for obtaining a free quote, you can trust Horizon Movers to handle your move with care and expertise.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Iowa City Iowa known for?

Iowa City is renowned for its literary heritage, having been named UNESCO’s third City of Literature. This unique recognition places the community within the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

What activities is Iowa known for?

Iowa is known for its unique attractions such as 24 Uniquely Iowa Attractions and Top Attractions in Iowa. It’s an exciting place to explore!

Is Iowa City nice to live in?

Iowa City is a great place to live, with excellent quality of life and affordability. It’s consistently earned national accolades, offers plenty of exciting weekend activities, and provides residents with an urban-suburban mix feel.

What is the most visited City in Iowa?

Des Moines is Iowa’s most visited city, due to its size and abundance of attractions.


Iowa City offers a diverse array of attractions and experiences that cater to visitors of all ages and interests. From its rich literary heritage to its bustling sports scene, there’s never a dull moment in this vibrant college town.

So, whether you’re a history buff, an outdoor enthusiast, or a lover of the arts, there’s something in Iowa City for you. Pack your bags and get ready to uncover the hidden gems of this charming Midwestern city.