Iowa City Travel Guide

Old Capitol © Vkulikov

Deep in the American heartland lies Iowa City, a college town on the Iowa River, with sidewalk cafés and leafy neighbourhoods of old homes. Beneath its quaint veneer, however, pulses a vibrant cultural scene. The city is a giant in the literary world, thanks to the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa, which counts notables like Flannery O'Connor, John Irving and Pulitzer-Prize winner Michael Cunningham among its alumni.

Downtown, the Old Capitol District is the place to be. The Pedestrian Plaza is a staging ground for numerous events, especially during Summer of the Arts, which includes the Iowa Arts Festival, Iowa City Jazz Festival, Friday Night Concert Series and Saturday Night Free Movie Series. Visitors can also catch great performances at the Hancher Auditorium, Englert Civic Theater and intimate Riverside Theater, which also hosts an outdoor Shakespeare festival. At Prairie Lights, one of the best independent bookstores in the country, world-renowned authors frequently give readings. If this sounds too stuffy, keep an eye out for the rock bands that often play at the many local bars (after all, students make up almost half the city's population).

The best way to enjoy Iowa City is on foot, starting with the Iowa Avenue Literary Walk, the Midwest's version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Panels along the sidewalk celebrate the many writers with Iowa connections. At the University of Iowa Pentecrest, site of the original capitol building before the state capital was switched to Des Moines, visitors can admire the Old Capitol Museum before crossing over the river on a footpath to enjoy the walking trails of City Park.

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