Ames, IA shot of Iowa State University

2021 Top 100 Best Places to Live In America Sponsored by: See homes for sale on Movoto by OJO

liv score
How We Calculate Our Data
Civics 65
Demographics 28
Economy 51
Education 73
Health 69
Housing 63
Infrastructure 50

#64. Ames, IA

A strong economy, four-seasons recreation, genuinely friendly neighbors and vibrant energy from students and researchers at Iowa State University coalesce to make Ames, IA one of the best places to live and work. This affordable city, home to 67,000 residents, also boasts a growing tech sector, miles of trails, creative outdoor art and dozens of parks. So whether you’re a hopeful entrepreneur starting a new business, a family with young kids, a graduate student or someone in between, Ames offers a great quality of life that you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.

Top Colleges/Universities: Iowa State University

Top Industries & Employers: Higher education, health care, manufacturing and agriculture.

Weekend Plans: Cheering on the Cyclones or riding bikes on the 55-mile Ames Trail System.

Favorite Place to Feast: Hickory Park, a family-owned barbecue joint that opened in Ames in 1970. Hickory-smoked meats plus ice-cream sundaes and milkshakes equal perfection.

Beloved Beverage: The craft beers at Alluvial Brewing Company, a favorite local hangout, have a pint or a flight of brews like No Mooed Oat Milk Stout or Gilbert Gold Pilsner.

Outdoorsy Activity: Go fishing at the expansive Ada Hayden Heritage Park – summer or winter – named for the first woman to earn a Ph.D. from then-Iowa State College.

Rooftop Bar: Wallaby’s Bar & Grille, a fun sports bar and an Ames staple since 1988.

Why Your Pet Will Love It, Too: Pets (and their humans!) love shopping at Treats on a Leash, a popular local pet supply shop right on Main Street.

Remote Work Perk: Ames is still a very affordable place to live (the median home value is a little over $200,000!), which means you can spend more of your paycheck on things like concerts at Stephens Auditorium and bottles of wine from Prairie Moon Winery

One More Thing … The university is home to Reiman Gardens, a colorful oasis amidst the Great Plains of Iowa. The gardens span 17 acres and include 26 distinct areas, plus a butterfly wing.

– Sarah Kuta

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