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The Cost of Living Diaries: Ames, IA

Get the inside scoop on what it's like to be a local in Iowa's heartland.

By Lindsey Hyde on May 9, 2023

Ames, Iowa, has pristine parks and plenty of great activities.
Jeff Adkins

Welcome to The Cost of Living Diaries. How much does it cost to live in Ames, IA? What’s it like to live and work here? Keep reading because we asked an Ames resident to tell us all about the cost of living in Ames, Iowa.

Located in the heart of Iowa is Ames, a quaint, yet thriving community filled with friendly people, an amazing restaurant scene, beautiful artwork, unique shops and, of course, the prominent Iowa State University (ISU). It’s a place where people feel at home, no matter if they are lifelong locals or recent transplants.

Ana McCracken, who grew up in Illinois, moved to Ames to attend ISU from 1979-1985. She spent time in Chicago and California postgraduation and moved back to Ames in 2017.

Today, she lives near the Iowa State football stadium with her husband and is the founder and president of a nonprofit called Ames Writers Collective.

Ana McCracken for the Cost of Living Diaries in Ames, Iowa.

Ana McCracken

What brought you and your husband back to the region?
Our love for Iowa State. We found ourselves engaged with the ISU Foundation, and I got on the alumni board, and so we found ourselves back here eight times a year. And for myself, I was looking for a community. It was just too hectic (in San Francisco). Basically, that was my thing – looking for a community where I could grow older and know the people around me.

What do you love about living here?
I love our Main Street. You run into people you know. We have restaurants on that street, a cooking store, a bookstore and coffee shops. Life had been so frenetic, and when I came here, I could breathe.

What do you like to do for entertainment in the region?
I like to hang out at Dog-Eared Books on Main Street. Because we’re in a university town, starting in the fall into the spring, if you’re an ISU fan, your whole life can become going to football, basketball and wrestling. At the university, they also have the Lecture Series, which is open to the community, and they have all sorts of bestselling, well-known authors that come through.

What’s your favorite restaurant, and how much would dinner cost for two people?
My old favorite – because it was here when I was (in school) – is Aunt Maude’s. It’s been here forever. In college, one of my favorite drinks was a grasshopper, which is an ice cream drink, and they still serve it. Their food is really good. You can get steaks there, and they have weekly Wednesday specials. (Dinner for two would be) about $70.

What’s your favorite coffee shop, and how much is your go-to drink?
There’s Morning Bell Coffee Roasters, and they’re just down the street on Main Street. It has a really great vibe there. (My go-to coffee drink is) a latte with an extra shot. It’s probably about $4 (for a medium-sized drink).

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Array ( )
Array ( )
Array ( [0] => 158473 [1] => 158444 [2] => 158429 [3] => 158423 [4] => 151576 [5] => 151084 [6] => 152206 [7] => 152199 [8] => 150561 [9] => 111365 [10] => 106673 [11] => 106663 [12] => 106641 [13] => 102374 [14] => 19581 )

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