Iowa City has received some pretty big mentions in the past—but the latest might surprise you. Recently Iowa City was recognized as one of the best cities to retire in the United States. HGTV listed Iowa City in the number two spot on their list of the 20 Best Small Towns to Retire, citing low-crime rates and easy access to healthcare facilities as major perks for retirees.
We couldn’t agree more with HGTV’s assessment! There are many reasons Iowa City is appealing for retirees. Below we’ve outlined why Iowa City is the ideal destination to enjoy your retirement—or a place where you can set roots early and stay for your retirement!
Lower Cost of living
A major perk of moving to Iowa City is the relaxed and affordable lifestyle it offers. Iowa is the eighth cheapest place to live in the U.S. according to the Council for Community and Economic Research. This is a huge draw for retirees on a fixed income—especially when you add on housing prices, which are 20% lower in Iowa City.
But housing isn’t the only thing you will save money on. Many common products and services are more affordable in Iowa City. Below we outline a few examples:
The amount you can save on everyday items starts to add up and can have a significant impact on your wallet and your lifestyle. Living in Iowa City without depleting your funds just to live and enjoy average necessities is a huge perk. Plus, who wouldn’t want to live in a city where you can save on pizza?!
As you age, it’s important to consider your access and proximity to healthcare—and the quality of healthcare you’ll find in Iowa City is hard to beat. Iowa City was ranked #1 in the “10 Best Cities for Affordable Healthcare” by Livability. Residents of Iowa City spend 17 percent less on health care than the rest of the nation. The city is able to keep health care costs low because of competition between the area hospitals, which also helps streamline access to top-notch doctors and dentists.
There are multiple top-ranking hospitals in the area with medical specialties that could be beneficial for older residents. The most prominent hospital in the area is The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. UIHC is one of the top hospitals in the country and the only comprehensive academic medical center and regional referral center in the state. It is nationally ranked in ophthalmology and ear, nose, and throat specialities. It is also one of the country’s most wired hospitals for its use of technology.
At the time of writing this article, Mercy Iowa City is another top-ranked hospital in the area. In October 2023, Mercy was acquired by Preston Hollow Community Capital after filing for bankruptcy in August. Though the future of the hospital is uncertain, it will continue operating as a community hospital as new owners work to strengthen operations once again.
There is also the Iowa City VA Health Care System, which provides quality care options for veterans. Whether something minor or major comes up medically, retirees can feel confident they are in good hands in Iowa City.
One of the more compelling reasons Iowa City is a great place to retire is all the entertainment options in the area. The community is the perfect mix of sporting enthusiasts and creatives. Since it’s home to the University of Iowa, you can easily find a Hawkeye event to attend in Iowa City throughout the year. The Hawkeyes have varsity teams in 20 sports, and they participate in Division I of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and are members of the Big Ten Conference. On game days, you can cheer on the football team at Kinnick Stadium or head to Carver-Hawkeye Arena for basketball, gymnastics, volleyball, and wrestling events. Just make sure you come decked out in your black and gold attire.
The city also has a longstanding tradition of supporting writers and has been a UNESCO City of Literature since 2008. This is a rare achievement and only one other city in the nation can claim the same title. Downtown Iowa City houses multiple bookshops, the most famous being the historical Prairie Lights, which has been known for its author talks and readings since the late 1970s.
The Englert is also a note-worthy local hotspot. It is a renovated vaudeville-era playhouse that has become a leader in the Midwestern arts scene. The theater hosts a variety of events including live music, comedy shows, plays, lectures and much more.
In addition to the arts scene, downtown Iowa City also has numerous locally owned businesses, including one-of-a-kind restaurants, popular retail shops, and event spaces. The city is also known to regularly host community events such as the annual Downtown Block Party, Farm to Street Dinner, Northside Oktoberfest & Iowa City Brew Fest, and Winter Light Nights, which is a month-long public art and light show.
While there are many events throughout the year in the community, the city also offers activities you can enjoy. There is no denying the natural beauty of the area and all the outdoor recreational opportunities available. The city is known for being bike-friendly and has miles of trails, including the North Ridge Trail, or if you prefer walking, check out Waterworks Prairie Park.
You can also find plenty to do throughout the year in the Pedestrian Mall (also known as the Ped Mall), which is a popular spot for locals to enjoy the Friday Night Concert Series, art festivals, shops, and more. No matter your interests, there is an establishment and community here in Iowa City for you to enjoy.
Another great perk of living in Iowa City is the lively and welcoming communities in the area. For retirees who are interested in living in a 55+ retirement community, there are some great independent living options in Iowa City. Holiday Walden Place, Oaknoll, Legacy Retirement Community and Regency Heights Apartments all are top-rated among current senior residents for the accommodations and social activities.
For those who prefer to continue owning a home, there are many great sub-neighborhoods in the Iowa City area.
- Lucas Farms is a lively community with a lot of historical Moffitt-style houses. Residents take pride in bringing everyone together for fun activities.
- Northside is known for its walkability to downtown and its open porches that are perfect for kicking back and relaxing.
- The Grant Wood/Wetherby subarea is a diverse neighborhood with a focus on community connections and providing a welcoming environment.
- Longfellow has a small-town feel with modest homes and a personality that celebrates quiet lifestyles focused on nature, especially utilizing the Longfellow Nature Trail.
- College Hill has a variety of age brackets and is home to many University sorority homes. It is conveniently located close to downtown and is the oldest neighborhood within the city.
- Goosetown feels a little like traveling to the past with its quaint, older homes with large lots. There are many alleys within this neighborhood, so the tree-lined streets are peaceful and a little less car-centric.
There are also some wonderful cities right outside of Iowa City that offer many of the same benefits. North Liberty, Coralville, and Tiffin are wonderful places to retire to. These areas are a little less populated than Iowa City, but they’ve grown fast over the years, and they’re still close enough to take advantage of the many benefits of living in Iowa City.
With so many great neighborhoods to choose from, you may be unsure which area is best for you. If you need help deciding what area would best fit your retirement plans, there are many talented REALTORS® in the area who are well-versed in every town and subarea. Many of them are from the area or longtime residents who are excited to help aspiring residents find the perfect place that feels like home.
Ready to pack your bags and make your retirement dreams come true in Iowa City? Make sure to take advantage of our relocation information and subscribe to our events calendars so you can stay up to date on all the latest happenings you won’t want to miss as a new resident!