Exploring The Charm Of Iowa: 7 Best Things To Do In Iowa City

things to do in iowa city
| 3 min read

Iowa City was one of my favorite cities when I took a road trip to visit my best friend in the nearby state of Nebraska. I stayed overnight and was able to explore downtown. I sure wish I had this guide at the time, my stay would have been more enjoyable. There are museums and art galleries to see, as well as touring the University of Iowa. Amazing accommodations, such as hotels with a pool, are available for the convenience of visiting tourists as well. Before turning in for the night, however, be sure to check out the best activities here. Read on for the full list of must-visit attractions.

Exploring the art scene:

1. Douglas and Linda Paul Gallery

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

The Douglas and Linda Paul Gallery is on the second floor of the Englert Theater. This inviting space features art exhibits from local artists and can accommodate groups of up to 50 people. The gallery is open Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 12:30pm to 5pm.

Douglas and Linda Paul Gallery

Address: East Washington St 221, Iowa City, IA

Website: Douglas and Linda Paul Gallery

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2. Public Space One

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

Public Space One is an artist-run, nonprofit arts organization that aims to provide an independent, innovative, diverse, and inclusive space for making and presenting art, giving cultural educational opportunities, and advocating art in everyday life for everyone. It’s available to the community for public events such as screenings, readings, community meals, workshops and performances. Opening hours vary each week, except for Sunday afternoons which is 1pm to 3pm.

Public Space One

Address: 120 Dubuque St, Iowa City, IA

Website: Public Space One

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3. Englert Theatre

Englert Theatre
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Zachary Roper used under CC BY-SA 3.0

The Englert Theatre is a community arts center and performance space, preserving Iowa City’s last historic theater that opened in 1912. William Englert and his wife Etta built the theater to rival the finest stage and movie houses throughout the Midwest. The theater replaced a livery stable. Vaudeville Acts were the first acts there, and after a fire the site was rebuilt in the 1920s. Bought by citizens in 1999 and turned into the community center in 2004, they now host music events, university-related events, conferences and popular musicians such as Mary Chapin Carpenter and Leann Rimes. Most events are free or only 10 to 30 USD and the popular acts are 50 USD and higher. Box office hours are 12.30pm to 5.30pm on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, and it closed Monday and Thursday.

Englert Theatre

Address: 211 East Washington St, Iowa City, IA

Website: Englert Theatre

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History and museums:

4. Museum of Natural History

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

The Museum of Natural History is the second oldest museum in the United States, created in 1858 when the Iowa General Assembly directed the University Old Capitol in the 1860s to house specimens from the State Natural History and Geological Surveys in a cabinet of natural history in the Old Capitol building. The exhibits on display are the Iowa Hall, which shares the geological, cultural and ecological history, William and Eleanor Hageboeck Hall of birds, and the Mammal Hall, to name a few. Tours are available Tuesday to Sunday with a reservation, and the museum is free and open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 10 am to 5 pm, and Thursdays 10 am to 8 pm. Sunday hours are 1 pm to 5 pm. They are closed Mondays and holidays.

Museum of Natural History

Address: 11 MacBride Hall University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA

Website: Museum Natural History

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5. Old Capitol Museum

Old Capitol Iowa City
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Billwhittaker used under CC BY-SA 3.0

The Old Capitol Museum opened in 1976 and is the only National Landmark in Iowa City. It served as a seat of the territorial and state governments, a university building, and administrative offices before becoming a museum. The interiors are restored and there are exhibits offered through the year. They also offer free movie showings, piano performances, children’s book readings and a summer camp for kids. Tours are available hourly, from 9:30 am to 3 pm and the museum is in downtown Iowa City, on the campus of the University of Iowa.

Old Capitol Museum

Address: 21 Old Capitol, University of Iowa, Iowa City , IA

Website: Old Capitol Museum

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6. Antique Car Museum

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

The Antique Car Museum of Iowa educates visitors on the history of transportation dating back to 1899. There are over ninety cars on display, many in original condition. The museum has a gift shop and is near the hospital area. This is a nonprofit organization and donations are accepted, in addition to admission rates, which are 5 USD or 4 USD if in a group of over 15 people.

Antique Car Museum of Iowa

Address: Xtreme Arena, 200 E 9th St, Coralville, IA 52241, United States

Website: Antique Car Museum of Iowa

Opening hours: Tue - Sat: 10am - 5pm; Sun: 12pm - 5pm (closed on Mon)

Price: 5 USD

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7. Tour University of Iowa Campus

University of Iowa Campus Courtyard, Iowa City
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Tony Webster used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Why not tour the campus of the University of Iowa in the downtown heart of Iowa City, the first university in Iowa created in 1847, less than two months after Iowa became a state. This was the first state university to admit both men and women as students. The school has eleven colleges, which offer undergraduate and graduate education, professional education, and education and training in the health sciences. It has over 200 areas of academic study to choose from. The tour starts with the East Campus Housing, then passes admissions and the business building, before heading towards the Phillips building (diversity office), Seashore Hall (sociology), Seaman’s Center of Engineering, and the Linquest Center (education). After a break in Hubbard Park, you can see the Campus Wellness Center, the Main Library, Adler Journalism Building, College of Nursing, and end your tour with Hancher Auditorium and Voxman Music Building.

University of Iowa

Address: Iowa City, IA

Website: University of Iowa

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Iowa City educates and entertains visitors

Iowa City, IA aerial view
Source: Photo by Flickr user Alan Light used under CC BY 2.0

When you visit Iowa City you get entertained, educated and enlightened by the rich history of this area. Find the right activity for you during your stay, from art galleries to museums to theaters, enjoy what is offered.

Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.


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I'm a self-employed pet sitter and have been in business for almost 13 years. I'm a solo traveler since 2011 and have visited Charleston, Newport RI, Chicago, Denver, Boston, Mackinaw Island and...Read more

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