1. Enjoy a Meal in Downtown Iowa City
Something everyone can agree on: Great food makes for great conversations. In downtown Iowa City, your guests will have no shortage of options to indulge in a delicious meal. Treat them to a locally sourced meal and craft cocktail at Pullman Bar & Diner—did you know Pullman was designed to mimic the layout of a train car?
For the carnivores in your party, Iowa Chop House is a great place to go for dinner. Your guests will love the rustic, farm-to-table style and mouth-watering signature cuts. There are also vegetarian options for the no-meat crowd.
If you want to venture beyond traditional American fare, check out Cactus Mexican Grill & Cantina, Coa Cantina (tequila bar, anyone?), Crepes de Luxe Cafe, Formosa, Oasis Falafel, or Masala Indian Cuisine. Going out for breakfast? Stop by Bluebird Diner or the Dandy Lion.
Note: We couldn’t cover all the amazing Iowa City dining options if we tried! Visit our restaurants page for a complete list of restaurants in the Iowa City area. Also, check out Coralville and North Liberty, which have both welcomed exciting new restaurants in recent months.
2. Express Your Creativity
Looking for a laid-back way to spend your afternoon or evening? Join a painting event at Brush and Barrel, a social painting and do-it-together studio in Coralville. If you don’t mind getting messy, give the splatter paint room a try. You and up to seven of your friends or family members can throw paint and take home a canvas from your experience.
Choose a ceramic creation to paint at Renee’s Ceramic Cafe, a paint-your-own pottery studio. Walk-ins are welcome, but if you prefer to schedule ahead, Renee’s offers one-hour private classes in clay sculpting, pottery wheel, ceramic painting, canvas painting, wood burning, and fired glass. Even if your guests don’t have a creative bone in their body, they’ll still enjoy putting their own spin on a piece of art.
3. Go Shopping
Whether you choose to explore the shops in downtown Iowa City or venture over to Iowa River Landing (IRL), there are treasures just waiting to be found! Iowa City’s Downtown District has more than 70 locally owned businesses to explore. Here are just a few:
- For the book lover: Prairie Lights (or the Haunted Bookshop for a scary-good time)
- For the art enthusiast: AKAR
- For the vintage and antique lover: Artifacts
- For the jewelry connoisseur: Beadology Iowa
- For the plant parent: Beno’s Flowers
- For the style-seeker: Catherine’s Boutique
A short drive from downtown Iowa City, Iowa River Landing offers unique local shops and some regional and national retailers.
- For the outdoor adventurer: Active Endeavors
- For the sweet tooth: Cookies & Dreams or Scratch Cupcakery
- For the gym-goer: Lululemon
- For the boutique shopper: The Funky Zebras Boutique
And don’t forget about the Coral Ridge Mall in Coralville, home to many national retailers and dining options.
If your guests love to shop, they can easily spend the day browsing and treating themselves to unique and memorable finds!
4. Expand Your Mind
We all have the history buff in our family or friend group. When in Iowa City, the University of Iowa Museum of Natural History is a great way to explore Iowa history. Admission is always free to the public.
There’s also the Old Capitol Museum, where you can explore Iowa’s former capitol building, and the Stanley Museum of Art, which offers all types of art to explore. Both are also free to the public. For the diehard Hawkeye fan in your group, the University of Iowa Athletics Hall of Fame is a place where they can relive Hawkeye history.
Looking for a way to challenge your mind? See if your group can make it out of an escape room! Cryptiq Escapes, located on Lower Muscatine Road in Iowa City, offers multiple mind-bending games for groups big and small.
5. Catch a Film or Performance
When you’d rather kick back and relax, preferably with a bucket of popcorn, check out FilmScene on the Ped Mall or at the Chauncey. You can catch one of the blockbuster movies playing at the large theater chains or an independent film.
If they time their visit right, your guests can also enjoy a show at the Englert Theatre—everything from comedy shows to nationally known musical acts.
Bonus Idea: Take a Drive
Up for a day trip? Though these destinations are outside of Iowa City, they are definitely worth the drive!
Visit the Amana Colonies
From seasonal festivals to unique shops and dining experiences, the Amana Colonies has a wide variety of activities for your friends and family to enjoy. A visit to the Colonies will give your guests plenty of memorable gifts and goodies to take home with them.
Stock Up on Cheese Curds at Kalona Creamery
In addition to their famous squeaky cheese curds, Kalona Creamery offers a variety of specialty cheeses, house-made ice cream, hand-rolled butter, fresh fudge, and local products and gifts. Like a visit to the Amana Colonies, when your guests leave Kalona Creamery, they won’t come away empty handed.
Tour the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch
At the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum—one of 15 presidential libraries operated by the National Archives and Records Administration—you and your guests can explore the storied life of President Hoover. If you visit the Museum and Hoover National Historic site, which features Hoover’s birthplace cottage, allow for two to three hours.