Best Places to Live

Iowa City, IA

Population: 71,832
LIV
SCORE
673
Photo courtesy Hawkeye Sports Properties

Award-winning public schools? Check. World-class hospitals? Yep. A walkable, thriving, vibrant downtown? For sure.

Throw any hyperbole-laden statement at your description of Iowa City, and it will probably stick. It’s no surprise that this extraordinary Big Ten University town continues its reign as a top-five place to live in our Top 100. With a comfortable population just under 80,000, Iowa City is an easy place to live with fantastic amenities, rivaling those of its larger, metropolitan Midwestern cousins, Chicago, Minneapolis and Kansas City.

Iowa City was the first (and one of only two) U.S. cities designated as a UNESCO City of Literature, and is home to the world-renowned Iowa Writers’ Workshop, so it’s no surprise that Iowa has the highest literacy rate in the country. Is Iowa City a great place to be a writer? Absolutely. But it’s not all about reading and writing here — not even close.

Visit Iowa City in the spring or summer for one of the innumerable festivals and parties: Mission Creek, Liberty Blues & BBQ, or our personal favorite, the Downtown Block Party, where you can play volleyball, dance at a silent-disco or watch a fashion show right in the streets of downtown. Oh, and be sure to grab some local beer and farm-to-table (er, street?) food.

Local Obsession: Iowa Hawkeye Athletics

Climate Described in 6 Words Or Less: Not the reason to move here.

Top Industries and Employers: The top industries here are healthcare, education and tech. Top employers include the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, Mercy Hospital, Iowa City Community School District, ACT, Integrated DNA Technologies and Oral B Laboratories.

Local Dream Job: Iowa City Nighttime Mayor, which serves as a liaison between restaurants, music venues and community events to support and promote fun nighttime events downtown.

Quintessential Meal: Pie Shake at Hamburg Inn No. 2

Favorite Weekend Activity: Iowa Football games, of course. Also any of the frequent festivals happening in town, including the Iowa Arts Festival, and North Liberty Blues & BBQ.

After-Work Meetup Spot: Gene’s, a ‘70s-themed lounge named after UI grad Gene Wilder

Best Local Beers: Boomtown Premium Beer (you work hard, demand the premium) and Double Blackberry Berliner Weisse at Big Grove Brewery & Taproom.

Beloved Bookstore: Prairie Lights! Walking through the stacks (and stacks and stacks) of shelves at Prairie Lights is a bibliophile’s dream. You can feel the rich history of Iowa City’s literary tradition as easily as you can smell the freshly brewed coffee at the cafe on the second floor, which was once a speakeasy run by Grant Wood. Yeah, THAT Grant Wood.

(While Prairie Lights is the most famous bookstore in town, don’t sleep on The Haunted Bookshop.)

Free Way to Have Fun: Downtown Block Party, Coralville Lake and Devonian Fossil Gorge, and North Liberty’s Beat the Bitter

Truly Hidden Gem: La Regia, a small restaurant and bodega with a dozen a la carte taco options and the best chips and salsa of all time.

- Tim Carty

Read More:

Iowa City’s Heartwarming Football Tradition Will Make You Tear Up

Why Iowa City Is One of the Best Places in America to Get a Fresh Start

Want to Be a Writer? Here Are 5 Reasons to Move to Iowa City

Why Everyone Is Moving (Back) to Iowa Right Now

"Whether you're married with kids, single, a young professional, or retired, Iowa City is the perfect place for you. You won't regret moving here."

Elizabeth Hubing
Director of Communications, Iowa City Area Development Group

Iowa City, IA Ranking Data

Civic
71
Demographics
53
Economy
68
Education
54
Health
74
Housing
68
Infrastructure
81