Best Places to Live

Ames, IA

Population: 62,815
Photo Courtesy of Christopher Gannon/Iowa State University

Why It’s a Great Place to Go to College: This land-grant institution is warm and welcoming to students from all walks of life. With 100 majors and 800-plus student organizations to choose from, you’re bound to find something that interests you at Iowa State University. Plus, Cyclone athletics are a big deal here and students are fully invested in their school’s sports teams. The campus is also regularly mentioned as one of the most beautiful in the nation.

“For me, Ames is a home away from home," says Maddie Huinker, an ISU junior majoring in communication studies and environmental studies. "The city centers around Iowa State, which you feel through the welcoming community and strong alumni presence. I feel wanted and supported here by faculty and Ames residents, and truly enjoy the scenery, the school and the people."

Why You Should Put Down Roots Here (Even After Graduation): If you value your health (and who doesn’t?), you’ll love that Ames is regularly regarded as one of the healthiest places in the country. There are also plenty of jobs to be found here, including in Ames’ growing tech sector. Plus, have you ever been to Iowa before? The people here are just plain nice. Is it any wonder Ames, IA, made it onto Livability's list of 2019 Top 100 Best Places to Live?

Oh, and Ames was also recognized as one of America's Best Cities With Little to No Traffic. Dreams do come true. 

Coolest Campus Tradition: Yell Like Hell, a quirky homecoming tradition dating back to 1963 in which teams of students compete by creating original skits that involve lots of yelling, body paint and arm-waving.

Best Place to Get Out and About: Ada Hayden Heritage Park

Best Fourth Meal: Smotherella sticks from Jeff's Pizza Shop.

Place to Be on a Saturday Night: London Underground, a dive bar with free popcorn, a jukebox and an awesome beer list.

Beloved Brewery: Alluvial Brewing

Best Bookstore (for non-textbooks): Books-A-Million

Favorite Coffee Shop Study Spot: Arcadia Cafe

Local Dream Job: Any job at Reiman Gardens, a peaceful 17-acre spot with gorgeous indoor and outdoor gardens, a butterfly wing and a conservancy. (It’s also the home of Elwood, the world’s largest concrete gnome!)

What Keeps Alumni Coming Back: A strong sense of community, deep friendships and a lifelong love of the cardinal and gold.

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