Ames and Story County have welcomed newcomers with open arms as far back as 1858 with the establishment of Iowa State University.
That deep desire to advance education and make it accessible, practical and open to people from all walks of life continues and is a spirit that transcends the bounds of ISU’s 1,900-acre campus.
Today, about 36,000 students are enrolled at ISU, where faculty and students are recognized leaders in science, technology, agriculture and veterinary medicine — all fields that also have a strong representation in the local economy.
Besides plentiful jobs and a college town vibe, the surrounding Ames area has other desirable amenities, including a variety of recreational opportunities. Ames alone has 37 parks and 55 miles of bike trails, as well as golf courses, a skateboard park and tons of athletic facilities and groups affiliated with sports such as tennis, swimming, running, golf and disc golf.
Year-Round Outdoor Fun
One especially scenic natural area is Ada Hayden Heritage Park with its 137-acre lake. Story County has the Heart of Iowa Nature Trail, a bicycle and pedestrian path that winds through many of the county’s southernmost communities and has trailheads at Slater, Huxley and Collins.
Residents here enjoy four distinct seasons in which to partake all these outdoor activities. You can transition from strolling the grounds and ogling butterflies and spring flowers at ISU’s Reiman Gardens, to splashing away summer days in the Olympic-size pool and lazy river at Furman Aquatic Center in Ames. On warm days, there are also the water slides at Fawcett Family Aquatic Center in Nevada. Brilliant foliage in autumn makes for spectacular hikes and also frames family- friendly tailgating for Iowa State University football games. In wintertime, there’s skiing, snowboarding and other fun when it snows.
You’re covered when it comes to the arts, culture and great food, too. Stephens Auditorium at the university hosts many nationally touring music groups and other performing artists, and the Central Iowa Symphony performs at the Ames City Auditorium.
There’s also Octagon Center for the Arts, a downtown community art center that hosts classes, hands-on workshops, exhibits and events for all ages. The Ames Public Art Commission extends art throughout the community with its Neighborhood Sculpture Program, in which residents can request installations of Ames Annual Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition pieces in their neighborhoods. Ames Community Arts Council and the Reliable Street Project also promote the arts.
For local retail therapy and dining options, start with Ames Main Street, which is part of a historic district that achieved the National Register of Historic Places in 2018. Ames Main Street includes 81 properties that run
the gamut from shopping, dining, professional services and cultural opportunities.