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Guidebook for Iowa City

Julia

Guidebook for Iowa City

Food Scene
From family friendly to date night, there are plenty of delicious food options within walking distance or a short drive from our home.
Looking for a place to swim, play hoops, use gym equipment, enjoy game room, or even take a class? The city Rec Center is a good choice. Prices are reasonable and hours are generally convenient to most people. It's a straight shot down Gilbert St from our home—an 18-minute walk according to Google Maps.
Robert A. Lee Community Recreation Center
220 S Gilbert St
Looking for a place to swim, play hoops, use gym equipment, enjoy game room, or even take a class? The city Rec Center is a good choice. Prices are reasonable and hours are generally convenient to most people. It's a straight shot down Gilbert St from our home—an 18-minute walk according to Google Maps.
This is a hole-in-the-wall local eatery with delicious Mediterranean food. Very casual atmosphere. Great for takeout though there's a small number of tables. Their delicious hummus is sold in stores throughout the area.
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Oasis Falafel
206 N Linn St
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This is a hole-in-the-wall local eatery with delicious Mediterranean food. Very casual atmosphere. Great for takeout though there's a small number of tables. Their delicious hummus is sold in stores throughout the area.
Pagliai's (POLLY-eyes) Pizza is a local landmark in the Northside Neighborhood. No gluten-free options that we know of, but delicious if you can eat wheat crust. Their pizza is thin crust and beloved by the locals. Usually crowded on weekend nights, but the wait isn't usually terribly long. Homey atmosphere.
A & A Pagliai's Pizza
302 East Bloomington Street
Pagliai's (POLLY-eyes) Pizza is a local landmark in the Northside Neighborhood. No gluten-free options that we know of, but delicious if you can eat wheat crust. Their pizza is thin crust and beloved by the locals. Usually crowded on weekend nights, but the wait isn't usually terribly long. Homey atmosphere.
"The 'Burg" is a local landmark. Plenty of politicians have eaten here on the campaign trail. There are photos of Reagan, Obama, Clinton and more who have stumped here. Ask your server who sat where. Or just look at the many memorabilia from celebrities and politicos. Vote in the Coffee Bean Caucus when you eat there during the run-up to an election. This restaurant even has a book written about it, as it's been the hangout for many a writer from the famed Iowa Writers Workshop. Breakfast served all day, along with the famous pie shake talked about by Scott Simon on NPR.
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Hamburg Inn No. 2
214 North Linn Street
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"The 'Burg" is a local landmark. Plenty of politicians have eaten here on the campaign trail. There are photos of Reagan, Obama, Clinton and more who have stumped here. Ask your server who sat where. Or just look at the many memorabilia from celebrities and politicos. Vote in the Coffee Bean Caucus when you eat there during the run-up to an election. This restaurant even has a book written about it, as it's been the hangout for many a writer from the famed Iowa Writers Workshop. Breakfast served all day, along with the famous pie shake talked about by Scott Simon on NPR.
Walkable from our place, this is a favorite of ours for the menu and the atmosphere. It's long and narrow with a bar and a bit of outdoor seating. Their burgers (including a veggie burger) are awesome, but their hand-cut fries are what brings us back again and again. You can also drive to their sister restaurant on Westbury Drive on the east side of IC. It's not exactly a "secret spot," but it's a bit hard to find unless you know where to look even though it's on a main drag.
Short's Burger & Shine
18 S Clinton St
Walkable from our place, this is a favorite of ours for the menu and the atmosphere. It's long and narrow with a bar and a bit of outdoor seating. Their burgers (including a veggie burger) are awesome, but their hand-cut fries are what brings us back again and again. You can also drive to their sister restaurant on Westbury Drive on the east side of IC. It's not exactly a "secret spot," but it's a bit hard to find unless you know where to look even though it's on a main drag.
Totally delicious cupcakes in interesting and delicious flavors! Molly's also offers gluten-free cupcakes (chocolate, vanilla, and carrot cake for sure, maybe others?), killer Rice Krispie bars, coffee, and other treats. Well worth stopping in to sit on their swings at the counter and savor a treat.
Molly's Cupcakes
14 S Clinton St
Totally delicious cupcakes in interesting and delicious flavors! Molly's also offers gluten-free cupcakes (chocolate, vanilla, and carrot cake for sure, maybe others?), killer Rice Krispie bars, coffee, and other treats. Well worth stopping in to sit on their swings at the counter and savor a treat.
This is the sister restaurant to Short's Burger and Shine in downtown Iowa City. The vibe is different than downtown, but the food is the same. Lots of TVs (though the sound is usually off, thankfully), bright and airy newer construction. The food is pretty much the same. Gotta love the variety of burgers and those hand-cut fries!
Short's Burgers Eastside
521 Westbury Dr
This is the sister restaurant to Short's Burger and Shine in downtown Iowa City. The vibe is different than downtown, but the food is the same. Lots of TVs (though the sound is usually off, thankfully), bright and airy newer construction. The food is pretty much the same. Gotta love the variety of burgers and those hand-cut fries!
Joseph's is high-end dining, Iowa City style, though we have friends who swear they have the best burger in town.
Joseph's Steakhouse
212 S Clinton St
Joseph's is high-end dining, Iowa City style, though we have friends who swear they have the best burger in town.
Great breakfasts and lunches. The owner is a seasoned restaurateur who knows how to make customers come back for more. Delicious food. Generous helpings. Attentive staff. Open later Thurs through Sat for cocktails. On the Ped Mall.
The Dandy Lion
111 S Dubuque St
Great breakfasts and lunches. The owner is a seasoned restaurateur who knows how to make customers come back for more. Delicious food. Generous helpings. Attentive staff. Open later Thurs through Sat for cocktails. On the Ped Mall.
Attention Vegans: This is your place for the food you love. Try their specials if you're a bit adventurous. The vibe is friendly. A gorgeous, historic bar lines one side of the building. Yummy food, but don't expect traditional recipes. From their website: "The Trumpet Blossom is a purveyor of local, organic and deliciously flavored vegan cuisine."
Trumpet Blossom Cafe
310 E Prentiss St
Attention Vegans: This is your place for the food you love. Try their specials if you're a bit adventurous. The vibe is friendly. A gorgeous, historic bar lines one side of the building. Yummy food, but don't expect traditional recipes. From their website: "The Trumpet Blossom is a purveyor of local, organic and deliciously flavored vegan cuisine."
BlackStone has two different atmospheres, depending on which part you're in. The bar (which serves the full restaurant menu) has a busy vibe with TVs and plenty of locals watching the game (whatever it happens to be that day). There's a fireplace in one room, booths or tables to choose from, and a relaxing vibe. Delicious food. A great place for Sunday brunch or weekday lunch, too. Make reservations on line or by calling. This place gets busy, so reservations are recommended. When you're in the bar, look for the logo on the wall; our son is the artist who made it out of bottle caps. Really.
BlackStone
503 Westbury Drive
BlackStone has two different atmospheres, depending on which part you're in. The bar (which serves the full restaurant menu) has a busy vibe with TVs and plenty of locals watching the game (whatever it happens to be that day). There's a fireplace in one room, booths or tables to choose from, and a relaxing vibe. Delicious food. A great place for Sunday brunch or weekday lunch, too. Make reservations on line or by calling. This place gets busy, so reservations are recommended. When you're in the bar, look for the logo on the wall; our son is the artist who made it out of bottle caps. Really.
This should also be labeled as "Drinks & Nightlife" because there's a busy nighttime vibe. We like it for dinner with friends. They like the Happy Hour specials. It's a great place for a couple or a small group. Kind of loud, but worth the visit. the restaurant is in a historic building in downtown Iowa City. Be prepared to hike up a tall staircase to get there.
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Clinton Street Social Club
18 1/2 South Clinton Street
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This should also be labeled as "Drinks & Nightlife" because there's a busy nighttime vibe. We like it for dinner with friends. They like the Happy Hour specials. It's a great place for a couple or a small group. Kind of loud, but worth the visit. the restaurant is in a historic building in downtown Iowa City. Be prepared to hike up a tall staircase to get there.
Sightseeing
If you enjoy history, beautiful old buildings, or just like Iowa, this is a great spot to visit. You'll see the restored chambers where the Iowa legislature once convened. It's quite lovely. Hours are limited.
Old Capitol Museum
21 North Clinton Street
If you enjoy history, beautiful old buildings, or just like Iowa, this is a great spot to visit. You'll see the restored chambers where the Iowa legislature once convened. It's quite lovely. Hours are limited.
On the "Ped Mall," you'll find shopping, bars, restaurants, a grocery store, an independent movie house (Film Scene), chocolates and yogurt, and often live music on the Pedestrian Mall (known as the Ped Mall). It's iconic Iowa City. The vibe changes from family-friendly during the day and early evening to students everywhere at night, particularly on weekends. But evenings downtown are fine for adults of any age. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, the city provides free music downtown on Friday nights. Be sure to check it out. There's also a fountain that kids and kids-at-heart can walk through and play in.
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Pedestrain Mall
201 Dubuque St
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On the "Ped Mall," you'll find shopping, bars, restaurants, a grocery store, an independent movie house (Film Scene), chocolates and yogurt, and often live music on the Pedestrian Mall (known as the Ped Mall). It's iconic Iowa City. The vibe changes from family-friendly during the day and early evening to students everywhere at night, particularly on weekends. But evenings downtown are fine for adults of any age. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, the city provides free music downtown on Friday nights. Be sure to check it out. There's also a fountain that kids and kids-at-heart can walk through and play in.
Recreation and Exercise
If you're looking for some exercise while you're in Iowa City, here are a few great options to choose from.
There are wide sidewalks for walking, skating, biking, running. The Iowa River runs through the park and provides a peaceful place to contemplate nature. You'll also find the open-air Shakespeare Theatre (seasonal), baseball diamonds, picnic tables, shelters, a pond, and restrooms. For a longer hike, ask us to help you find your way from the park through the neighborhood and back to our home. It's about a 10 minute walk from our house.
City Park
200 East Park Road
There are wide sidewalks for walking, skating, biking, running. The Iowa River runs through the park and provides a peaceful place to contemplate nature. You'll also find the open-air Shakespeare Theatre (seasonal), baseball diamonds, picnic tables, shelters, a pond, and restrooms. For a longer hike, ask us to help you find your way from the park through the neighborhood and back to our home. It's about a 10 minute walk from our house.
Hike, bike, or skate for miles on this trail that heads out of Iowa City to the north. It's a wide sidewalk intended for you to explore on foot or wheel (but not motorized vehicle). You'll find lovely views and pass rural residences. Great for exercising if you've got stamina. Get on the trail a few blocks from our home.
Iowa River Corridor Trail
Hike, bike, or skate for miles on this trail that heads out of Iowa City to the north. It's a wide sidewalk intended for you to explore on foot or wheel (but not motorized vehicle). You'll find lovely views and pass rural residences. Great for exercising if you've got stamina. Get on the trail a few blocks from our home.
This state-of-the-art rec center provides lots of exercise equipment, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, saunas, yoga classes, an indoor track, and more. You don't have to be affiliated with the University to use it; day passes are available for a small fee. Roughly a 20 minute walk from our house, or take an Uber, Lyft, or Cambus.
Campus Recreation and Wellness Center
This state-of-the-art rec center provides lots of exercise equipment, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, saunas, yoga classes, an indoor track, and more. You don't have to be affiliated with the University to use it; day passes are available for a small fee. Roughly a 20 minute walk from our house, or take an Uber, Lyft, or Cambus.
You'll find swimming, hiking, picnic spots, shelters, and plenty of trees here. Lovely views. Family friendly. Not far from Iowa City, but you'll need to drive (about 22 minutes). https://www.mycountyparks.com/County/Johnson/Park/F-W-Kent-Park.aspx
Kent Park
You'll find swimming, hiking, picnic spots, shelters, and plenty of trees here. Lovely views. Family friendly. Not far from Iowa City, but you'll need to drive (about 22 minutes). https://www.mycountyparks.com/County/Johnson/Park/F-W-Kent-Park.aspx
Neighborhoods
Town and gown describes Iowa City pretty well. The University plays a central part in the life of the community. In fact, the university is not only adjacent to Downtown, it’s part of the Downtown. For locals, IC feels like a small town. Everyone knows someone somebody else knows, and that’s a good thing. The city is as vibrant and as diverse as you’ll find in Iowa, with people from all over the world. Culture is a large part of what makes Iowa City a great place to live and visit. We have abundant live music from rock to rap to classical to folk two blues to jazz and beyond. Iowa City loves our festivals, too —-Arts Fest, Jazz Fest, Latino Fest, and more.
Iowa City
Town and gown describes Iowa City pretty well. The University plays a central part in the life of the community. In fact, the university is not only adjacent to Downtown, it’s part of the Downtown. For locals, IC feels like a small town. Everyone knows someone somebody else knows, and that’s a good thing. The city is as vibrant and as diverse as you’ll find in Iowa, with people from all over the world. Culture is a large part of what makes Iowa City a great place to live and visit. We have abundant live music from rock to rap to classical to folk two blues to jazz and beyond. Iowa City loves our festivals, too —-Arts Fest, Jazz Fest, Latino Fest, and more.