Iowa, often celebrated for its sprawling cornfields and picturesque landscapes, holds a treasure trove of towns that offer an exceptional quality of life. In this exploration of the best towns to live in Iowa, we dive into the unique charm and living conditions of these locales. From thriving community spirits to affordable living, each town on this list has its distinct flavor, making them some of the best towns to live in Iowa.
Ames: A Blend of Academic Excellence and Small-Town Charm
Ames boasts a population of approximately 66,000 residents. This figure strikes a perfect balance – large enough to offer a diverse and vibrant community, yet small enough to maintain a strong sense of camaraderie and neighborliness. It’s this distinctive blend that contributes to Ames’ appeal, offering a close-knit environment that embraces both newcomers and long-time residents.
Cost of Living
One of the most attractive aspects of Ames is its reasonable cost of living. The town is known for its affordability, making it an appealing destination for students, families, and professionals alike. For instance, the average cost of a 2-bedroom apartment hovers around $900 per month. This figure is notably lower than the national average, allowing residents to enjoy a comfortable and financially sustainable lifestyle. Let’s delve deeper into the cost of living by breaking down some key expenses:
- Housing: As mentioned, rental prices for apartments in Ames are budget-friendly, making it easier for residents to find suitable accommodation without breaking the bank;
- Groceries: The cost of groceries in Ames is generally in line with the national average, ensuring that residents can maintain a well-balanced diet without excessive expenditure;
- Transportation: The town offers a convenient and well-connected public transportation system, further reducing the overall cost of living. Additionally, gas prices in Ames tend to be lower than in many larger cities;
- Utilities: Utility costs are also relatively reasonable in Ames. Expect to pay competitive rates for services such as electricity, water, and internet;
- Entertainment: When it comes to leisure activities, Ames offers numerous affordable options, from dining out at local eateries to enjoying recreational opportunities like hiking, biking, and attending college sports events.
Highlight: Home to Iowa State University
A significant highlight of Ames is its close association with Iowa State University (ISU). ISU, a prestigious educational institution, contributes to the town’s unique character and vitality. Let’s take a closer look at what this affiliation means for Ames:
- Academic Excellence: Iowa State University consistently ranks among the top public universities in the United States. It is renowned for its exceptional programs in agriculture, engineering, and veterinary medicine, among others. Residents of Ames have unparalleled access to world-class educational opportunities right in their backyard;
- Cultural Enrichment: The presence of a thriving university enriches the cultural tapestry of Ames. Residents can enjoy a variety of cultural events, including art exhibitions, concerts, lectures, and theater productions, often held on campus;
- Economic Stability: ISU contributes significantly to the local economy, providing a stable job market and opportunities for both students and residents. The university’s research initiatives often lead to collaborations with local businesses, fostering innovation and entrepreneurship in the community;
- Community Engagement: ISU encourages community engagement, bridging the gap between the academic world and the town’s residents. It’s common to see students involved in volunteering, internships, and community outreach programs, creating a sense of unity and shared purpose.
Decorah: A Cultural Haven in the Heartland
Decorah is a small and welcoming town with a population of approximately 8,000 residents. This modest population size fosters a close-knit community where neighbors know each other by name. It’s this sense of familiarity that contributes to Decorah’s appeal, offering a tranquil and peaceful environment that many find refreshing.
Cost of Living
One of the most appealing aspects of Decorah is its reasonable cost of living. The town’s median home price is around $185,000, making it an attractive destination for those seeking a more affordable lifestyle. Let’s delve deeper into the cost of living in Decorah by examining key expenses:
- Housing: The median home price of $185,000 is significantly lower than the national average, allowing residents to own homes without the burden of exorbitant mortgages;
- Groceries: The cost of groceries in Decorah is generally in line with national averages, ensuring that residents can maintain a balanced diet without overspending;
- Transportation: Decorah provides a well-maintained road network, and gas prices are typically lower than in larger cities, making commuting and travel more affordable;
- Utilities: Utility costs in Decorah are reasonable, with competitive rates for electricity, water, and internet services;
- Entertainment: The town offers a wealth of affordable entertainment options, from exploring the great outdoors to enjoying local cultural events and festivals.
Highlight: Rich Norwegian Heritage and Outdoor Activities
Decorah’s cultural richness and outdoor recreation opportunities set it apart as a remarkable place to live. Here’s a closer look at what makes Decorah special:
- Norwegian Heritage: Decorah takes pride in its strong Norwegian heritage, which is evident in its architecture, traditions, and annual Nordic Fest. This celebration of Scandinavian culture features parades, traditional music, folk dancing, and authentic Norwegian cuisine. The town’s commitment to preserving this heritage is a testament to its unique character;
- Outdoor Activities: Nature enthusiasts will find Decorah to be a true paradise. The town is surrounded by scenic beauty, including the breathtaking bluffs of the Driftless Area, crystal-clear trout streams, and lush forests. These natural wonders offer opportunities for hiking, fishing, bird-watching, and more. Additionally, the town is home to the Decorah Bike Trail, a 12.4-mile path that winds through picturesque landscapes;
- Educational Opportunities: Decorah is home to Luther College, a liberal arts institution known for its academic excellence. This presence enhances the town’s educational focus and offers residents access to cultural events, lectures, and performances;
- Cultural Events: Beyond Nordic Fest, Decorah hosts various cultural events and festivals throughout the year, including art exhibitions, music concerts, and theater productions. These events enrich the community and provide opportunities for residents to engage with the local arts scene.
Pella: A Touch of the Netherlands in Iowa
Pella maintains a population of approximately 10,000 residents. This moderate population size fosters a close-knit and friendly community where individuals and families can develop strong bonds with their neighbors. It’s this sense of belonging and camaraderie that makes Pella an inviting place to live.
Cost of Living
While Pella offers a unique cultural experience, it also maintains a reasonable cost of living, adding to its overall appeal. The average home cost in Pella is approximately $220,000, which is competitive when compared to national averages. Let’s delve into the cost of living in Pella by breaking down key expenses:
- Housing: With an average home cost of $220,000, Pella provides affordable housing options, making homeownership within reach for many residents;
- Groceries: The cost of groceries in Pella aligns with national averages, ensuring that residents can meet their dietary needs without straining their budgets;
- Transportation: Pella’s well-maintained road network and lower gas prices compared to larger cities contribute to affordable commuting and travel;
- Utilities: Utility costs in Pella are reasonable, with competitive rates for electricity, water, and internet services;
- Entertainment: The town offers numerous opportunities for affordable entertainment, from exploring its cultural heritage to enjoying the picturesque landscapes and local festivals.
Highlight: The Annual Tulip Time Festival
Pella’s most renowned highlight is undoubtedly the annual Tulip Time festival, a celebration of Dutch heritage that captivates visitors and residents alike. Here’s a closer look at what makes the Tulip Time festival so special:
- Tulip Gardens: Pella’s landscape transforms into a mesmerizing sea of vibrant tulips during the festival. The meticulous gardens showcase a stunning array of tulip varieties, creating a visual spectacle that draws admirers from far and wide;
- Parades and Traditions: The festival features charming parades, traditional Dutch attire, wooden shoe carving demonstrations, and even a street scrubbing ceremony. These traditions transport attendees to a bygone era and immerse them in the town’s Dutch heritage;
- Cultural Exhibits: Pella’s Historical Village comes alive during Tulip Time, offering visitors a glimpse into Dutch history and culture through interactive exhibits, museums, and artisan demonstrations;
- Food and Entertainment: Festival-goers can savor delicious Dutch treats, from poffertjes (small, fluffy pancakes) to Dutch letters (pastry filled with almond paste). Live music, folk dancing, and other entertainment options round out the experience;
- Community Involvement: Tulip Time is a testament to the strong sense of community in Pella, with residents actively participating in the festivities and opening their homes for tours, allowing visitors to experience genuine Dutch hospitality.
Clive: Suburban Bliss with Urban Access
Clive maintains a population of around 17,000 residents. This sizeable yet manageable population creates a welcoming and close-knit community, where neighbors know one another and actively engage in local events and initiatives. Clive’s population contributes to its peaceful suburban atmosphere, making it an attractive destination for families and professionals alike.
Cost of Living
Clive offers residents a balanced cost of living, combining suburban comfort with accessibility to urban amenities. The average rent for a 3-bedroom home in Clive is approximately $1,500 per month, providing an affordable housing option compared to larger cities. Let’s explore the cost of living in Clive further:
- Housing: With average rent prices of $1,500 per month for a 3-bedroom home, Clive provides a variety of housing options that cater to different budgets and lifestyles;
- Groceries: The cost of groceries in Clive is generally in line with national averages, ensuring that residents can maintain a comfortable lifestyle without excessive expenditure on daily necessities;
- Transportation: Clive’s proximity to Des Moines allows for a short commute, reducing transportation costs. Additionally, gas prices in the area are typically competitive;
- Utilities: Utility costs in Clive are reasonable, with competitive rates for electricity, water, and internet services;
- Entertainment: The town boasts an array of recreational activities and cultural offerings that provide affordable entertainment options for residents of all ages.
Highlight: Greenbelt Park and Trail System
Clive’s most prominent highlight is its remarkable Greenbelt Park and trail system. Here’s an in-depth look at what makes this park a central attraction:
- Scenic Beauty: Greenbelt Park spans over 200 acres of lush greenery, featuring picturesque landscapes, tranquil ponds, and winding trails. The park’s natural beauty provides a serene escape for outdoor enthusiasts, hikers, and cyclists;
- Recreational Opportunities: The trail system within Greenbelt Park offers residents and visitors an opportunity to explore the town while engaging in physical activities. Whether it’s jogging, biking, or bird-watching, there’s something for everyone to enjoy;
- Family-Friendly Amenities: Greenbelt Park includes playgrounds, picnic areas, and shelters, making it an ideal destination for family outings and gatherings;
- Community Events: Clive often hosts community events and programs within the Greenbelt Park, encouraging residents to come together and partake in various recreational and educational activities;
- Environmental Conservation: The park is not only a recreational gem but also a testament to Clive’s commitment to environmental sustainability. Efforts are made to preserve and protect the natural ecosystem within the park.
Ankeny: Rapid Growth Meets Community Spirit
Ankeny boasts a vibrant population of approximately 67,000 residents. This significant population size creates a diverse and bustling community while retaining the essence of a close-knit, neighborly atmosphere. It’s the combination of growth and community spirit that makes Ankeny an appealing place to call home.
Cost of Living
Ankeny offers residents an attractive cost of living given its numerous amenities and opportunities. The median house price in Ankeny is approximately $250,000, making homeownership accessible for many. Let’s take a closer look at the cost of living in Ankeny:
- Housing: With a median house price of $250,000, Ankeny provides housing options that cater to various budgets, ensuring a wide range of choices for potential homeowners;
- Groceries: The cost of groceries in Ankeny is generally in line with national averages, allowing residents to maintain a comfortable standard of living;
- Transportation: Ankeny’s well-planned infrastructure and proximity to Des Moines result in manageable commute times and transportation costs. Gas prices in the area are also competitive;
- Utilities: Utility costs in Ankeny are reasonable, with competitive rates for electricity, water, and internet services;
- Entertainment: The town offers a plethora of recreational and cultural activities that cater to diverse interests, providing affordable entertainment options for residents.
Highlight: A Fast-Growing yet Close-Knit Community
Ankeny’s standout feature is the unique combination of rapid growth and a close-knit community. Here’s a detailed exploration of this remarkable aspect:
- Rapid Growth: Ankeny’s strategic location, thriving economy, and robust job market have led to significant population growth. New businesses, housing developments, and infrastructure projects continually shape the town’s landscape;
- Diverse Economic Base: Ankeny boasts a diverse economic base, with a strong presence of manufacturing, technology, and healthcare industries. This diversity contributes to economic stability and job opportunities for residents;
- Education: The town is renowned for its exceptional schools, making it an ideal place for families. The Ankeny Community School District consistently ranks highly in terms of academic performance and extracurricular activities;
- Community Engagement: Despite its rapid growth, Ankeny places a strong emphasis on community engagement. Residents actively participate in local events, volunteer initiatives, and civic organizations, fostering a sense of belonging and togetherness;
- Recreation and Parks: Ankeny’s extensive park system and recreational facilities offer residents numerous opportunities for outdoor activities, including sports, hiking, and picnics. The community’s commitment to green spaces enhances the overall quality of life.
Fairfield: A Cultural and Spiritual Mosaic
Fairfield maintains a diverse population of approximately 10,000 residents. This relatively small yet cosmopolitan community is a testament to the town’s welcoming and inclusive atmosphere. Fairfield’s population size fosters a sense of intimacy and interconnectedness among its residents, making it an ideal place for those seeking a close-knit community.
Cost of Living
One of the most attractive aspects of Fairfield is its affordable cost of living. The average monthly rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in Fairfield is around $700, making it a budget-friendly option for students, professionals, and families alike. Let’s delve further into the cost of living in Fairfield:
- Housing: Fairfield provides a range of affordable housing options, from apartments to single-family homes, catering to various budgets and preferences;
- Groceries: The cost of groceries in Fairfield is generally in line with national averages, ensuring that residents can comfortably manage their daily expenses;
- Transportation: Fairfield’s compact size and pedestrian-friendly layout reduce transportation costs. Additionally, the town’s bike-friendly infrastructure promotes eco-friendly commuting;
- Utilities: Utility costs in Fairfield are reasonable, with competitive rates for electricity, water, and internet services;
- Entertainment: The town offers a wealth of cultural and recreational activities that cater to diverse interests, providing affordable entertainment options for residents.
Highlight: Maharishi University of Management
The Maharishi University of Management (MUM) stands as the prominent highlight of Fairfield. Here’s a detailed look at what makes MUM and its influence on the town so special:
- Academic Excellence: MUM is renowned for its innovative approach to education, which emphasizes Consciousness-Based Education. This unique pedagogy fosters holistic development, stress reduction, and creativity among its students;
- Cultural Diversity: The university attracts students from all over the world, resulting in a rich tapestry of cultures and backgrounds within Fairfield. This diversity contributes to a vibrant and inclusive community;
- Spiritual Center: Fairfield has earned a reputation as a hub for transcendental meditation and holistic wellness, thanks in part to MUM’s focus on consciousness and meditation. Many residents and visitors explore these practices for personal growth and well-being;
- Entrepreneurship: MUM’s emphasis on creativity and innovation has given rise to a thriving entrepreneurial community in Fairfield. Start-ups, sustainable businesses, and technology ventures find a supportive environment here;
- Community Engagement: MUM actively engages with the local community through events, lectures, and outreach programs. This interaction enhances the cultural and intellectual vibrancy of Fairfield.
Cedar Falls: Where Tradition Meets Innovation
Cedar Falls is home to a diverse and vibrant population of nearly 40,000 residents. This sizeable community provides a dynamic and engaging atmosphere while maintaining a strong sense of local identity and community cohesion. Cedar Falls’ population size allows for a wide range of social and cultural activities, making it an ideal place for individuals and families alike.
Cost of Living
Cedar Falls offers residents a reasonable cost of living, with a median home value of approximately $180,000. Let’s dive into the cost of living in Cedar Falls, breaking down key expenses:
- Housing: Cedar Falls provides a range of housing options, from affordable apartments to family homes, making homeownership attainable for many;
- Groceries: The cost of groceries in Cedar Falls is generally in line with national averages, ensuring residents can maintain a comfortable lifestyle without excessive spending;
- Transportation: The town’s well-planned road network and reasonable gas prices contribute to affordable commuting and travel;
- Utilities: Utility costs in Cedar Falls are competitive, with reasonable rates for electricity, water, and internet services;
- Entertainment: Cedar Falls offers an abundance of cultural, recreational, and educational activities that cater to diverse interests, providing affordable entertainment options for residents.
Highlights: University of Northern Iowa and Historic Downtown
Cedar Falls boasts two significant highlights that contribute to its unique character:
- University of Northern Iowa (UNI): The University of Northern Iowa (UNI) is renowned for its exceptional academic programs, with a strong focus on education, business, and the arts, consistently earning its place among the top public universities in the Midwest. Beyond academics, UNI stands as a cultural hub, offering a diverse array of events such as music performances, theater productions, art exhibitions, and thought-provoking lectures, enriching the town’s cultural tapestry. Moreover, UNI actively fosters a sense of community by engaging in various local initiatives, forging valuable partnerships and promoting collaboration with the surrounding area;
- Historic Downtown Cedar Falls: The historic downtown area boasts charming architecture, seamlessly combining well-preserved buildings with boutique shops, inviting cafes, and enticing restaurants, creating an idyllic setting for leisurely strolls and shopping excursions. This downtown district serves as a vibrant focal point for the community, playing host to a multitude of events like farmers’ markets, festivals, and art shows, fostering a strong sense of togetherness and community spirit. Additionally, the historic downtown area thrives as an entrepreneurial hub, with numerous small businesses and startups making significant contributions to the local economy, further enhancing its dynamic and engaging atmosphere.
These best towns to live in Iowa offer a blend of affordability, community, and unique local flavors. Whether you’re seeking a bustling college town, a serene suburb, or a culturally rich community, Iowa’s diverse towns provide something for everyone. Each town, with its distinct charm and character, stands out as a beacon of the Midwestern spirit, making Iowa a state full of delightful surprises and wonderful living experiences.
These towns are selected based on their quality of life, affordability, community spirit, educational opportunities, and unique cultural attributes.
Yes, most of these towns offer excellent schools, family-friendly activities, and safe environments, making them ideal for families.
The job market varies by town. Some, like Ames and Cedar Falls, have strong academic sectors, while others like Waukee are experiencing growth in various industries.