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Moving to Ames, IA? Check Out These 15 Communities

Region mixes college town vibe with high quality of life to create an ideal landing spot for people of all ages.

By Livability on May 27, 2021

Ames, Story County, IA
Jeff Adkins

What used to be mostly made up of prairie and a few streams, Ames and Story County today is home to a population fast approaching 100,000 residents. Though it is experiencing growth and new development, the region retains a welcoming, peaceful vibe. A high quality of life is met with great opportunity in both education and career growth, making it a top draw for people of all ages. Here’s a look at the 15 communities that make up this Iowa treasure:

Slater, IA

Population: 1,558>

Slater is a community where you can stop and enjoy the view – figuratively and literally? Not only does its laidback vibe allow you to relax and enjoy your surroundings, but it is home to the High Trestle Trail Bridge, which is 13 stories high.>

The Heart of Iowa Trailhead/Arboretum, which offers things like parking and facilities to load/unload horses, is here, and is a launching spot for the Heart of Iowa Trail.

Ames, Story County, IA
Jeff Adkins

Ames, IA

Population: 66,498

The nearly 32,000 Iowa State University students who hail from around the world chose Ames for the opportunities at the university, but also for the community.

With a little something for everyone, Ames boasts a strong culture full of art enthusiasts, sports fans, entrepreneurs and so much more.

Whether you want to stop by and enjoy a drink or two at one of the area’s local breweries or wineries, explore the art on display around town, attend an Iowa State Athletics event, or shop locally Downtown, at North Grand Mall or in Campustown, Ames can’t wait to see you!

Nevada, IA

Population: 6,777

Busy bees, you’ll fit right in in Nevada (pronounced ne-VAY-da), where must-try activities abound. Home to a number of parks and the Indian Creek Greenbelt Trail, it will be easy to squeeze in a walk.

Residents can soak up some sun at the Fawcett Family Aquatic Center, an outdoor facility with waterslides and sand volleyball, among other things. Nevada is experiencing tremendous economic growth and continues to offer new opportunities and amenities for residents.

Ames, Story County, IA
Barb McBreen/Story County Conservation

Huxley, IA

Population: 3,882

Outdoor lovers, we have just the community for you within the Story County limits – Huxley. Incorporated in 1902, this city, nicknamed Heart of the Prairie, boasts a 45-acre wildlife refuge, where you can be one with nature.

Build a fire and camp, explore the land’s shrubbery and trees, go birdwatching and, in mid-June, pick wild raspberries and mulberries.

Huxley stages the annual Huxley Prairie Fest, which began in 1994 and includes food, inflatables, live music, sand volleyball, a parade, a petting zoo and a beer tent.

Gilbert, IA

Population: 1,140

Home to the high-ranking Gilbert Community School District, this town is a great place for families to call home. Just four miles north of Ames, Gilbert continues to grow by expanding residential areas, investing in school properties and maintaining neighborhood favorites like The Open Flame Steakhouse.

Ames, Story County, IA
Barb McBreen/Story County Conservation

Colo, IA

Population: 844

It is difficult to pass up living in a city whose motto is “A Place to Call Home.” A life in Colo means you can spend your summers fishing, camping and swimming at Hickory Grove Park. And at any time throughout the year, take a relaxing drive along the Jefferson Highway Heritage Byway, which stretches from New Orleans to Winnipeg and was one of the National Auto Trail projects from the 1910s.

Story City, IA

Population: 3,396

A life in Story City means one that is surrounded by arts, culture and history. Not only is this area an Iowa Main Street Community, but it is home to the historic 1913 Story Theatre-Grand Opera House. At first, it featured vaudeville and silent shows until the 1920s and ’30s, which were eventually phased out by movies. Residents can still enjoy movies at the theatre today. In fact, it carries the title of the oldest continually running theatre in the state. The community is located in the geographical center of the U.S. along Interstate 35.

Ames, Story County, IA
Darla Knutson/Story County Conservation

Zearing, IA

Population: 530

Residents can enjoy their free time outside in this community, exploring the area on foot or two wheels. The city is home to the spacious Dakins Lake Park, which, in addition to trails, offers residents access to a lake where they can go boating. Zearing hosts an annual summer festival, Zearing Days, which offers great food and family fun.

Roland, IA

Population: 1,286

Ready to get rollin’ in Roland? This city, which is situated near Interstate 35, is a great place for active folks to live. It features the popular Praeri Rail Trail, which spans 10.5 miles. The trail is easy to access, especially from Roland City Park at the northeast edge of town. Additionally, the Roland Swimming Pool is a favorite place among the locals to cool off on warm summer days.

Maxwell, IA

Population: 923

History fans, we have just the community for you to call home – Maxwell. Smack dab in the center of Iowa, this charming city boasts a massive rock covered with murals that depict scenes of military achievements – Story County Freedom Rock and Army Tank Memorial.

Another local favorite is the Heart of Iowa Nature Trail that runs through Maxwell’s community. And if it is an event you are looking for, check out the annual Old Settlers celebration held in August, which offers residents everything from carnival rides, a sanctioned rodeo, tug-of-war and live music.

Collins, IA

Population: 480

A great life awaits in Collins, a city at the intersection of affordability and fun. Not only is the cost of living 19.4% below the national average, but it is home to the Heart of Iowa Nature Trail, a 32-mile outdoor trail accessible by bike, foot, horse or snowmobile. If you need a break, there are plenty of local eateries and drinkeries along the trail.

Cambridge, IA

Population: 815

Cambridge offers residents the best of both worlds – think quiet, small-town living with a splash of events and activities. This small town springs to life each July during the Firemen Days festival and throughout the fall, as visitors come far and wide to the Center Grove Orchard that offers apple, sunflower and pumpkin picking, as well as dozens of activities for families throughout the year.

McCallsburg, IA

Population: 324

Remember that peaceful vibe we mentioned? Well, this community, in particular, will help you achieve relaxation on a regular basis, especially if you are looking to buy some farmland and build a home. While quiet, this city has a spark, as it hosts some entertaining events for area residents. For example, you can attend or sign up to participate in a citywide garage sale, or come August, chow down on some bologna and sweet corn at the annual Lions Club Sweet Corn & Bologna Feed.

Kelley, IA

Population: 301

Turn back the clock to the 1850s, when a man named George Kelley first breathed life into this area by helping add some establishments, including the first church and school. While the population has seen some increase since then, Kelley has managed to keep its quaint rural setting, which allows people to live a peaceful life, yet travel out of the community for work.

Sheldahl, IA

Population: 323

Incorporated in 1882, Sheldahl’s quaint, welcoming vibe mixed with its leisurely pace of life combine to make it the perfect place to call home. Residents have more freedom with their dollars here, too, as the area is quite affordable. For example, the median home price is less than $123,000, and the community’s cost of living is nearly 18% lower than the national average.

Want to learn more about living in Ames and Story County? Check out the latest edition of Livability Ames/Story County, Iowa.

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