Small Towns Near Iowa City

Discover Charming Small Towns Near Iowa City

Small Towns Near Iowa City

We all crave a little peace now and then, don’t we? Tucked away near Iowa City, the Corridor is home to nearly half a million souls, each town more charming than the last. Our guide is your ticket to discovering these cozy corners, from University Heights to Coralville and beyond.

Are you ready for an adventure that feels like a warm hug?

Key Takeaways

  • Small towns near Iowa City, like University Heights and Coralville, have been ranked for their charm and appeal. University Heights is #2 for raising a family, while Coralville is #13 for young professionals.
  • Mount Vernon took the top spot as the best place to live in Iowa. It’s known for Cornell College and its welcoming community. The town has 4,451 people.
  • Interesting nearby towns include Tiffin, Oxford, Williamsburg, Hills, Riverside, and Kalona. Each offers unique attractions such as Trekfest in Riverside and Amish culture in Kalona.
  • Pella is famous for its Dutch heritage and annual Tulip Time festival. Decorah stands out for its Scandinavian heritage and outdoor activities.
  • When visiting these small towns near Iowa City, you can enjoy a variety of experiences from exploring nature to experiencing local culture and history at places like Winterset’s covered bridges or Fairfield’s eclectic scene.

The Charm of Small Towns near Iowa City

A charming small town square surrounded by historic buildings with a bustling atmosphere.

Explore the allure of small towns near Iowa City, including University Heights and Coralville, acclaimed for their quaint charm. Discover Mount Vernon along with other nearby towns that exude a welcoming Midwest vibe.

Recently ranked charming towns

Small towns near Iowa City have caught the attention of many, thanks to their unique charm and appeal. We’ve seen some of these towns get top rankings recently, making them must-visit places for those of us looking to explore quieter and smaller towns. Here’s a brief look at these recently ranked charming towns so you can start planning your next adventure.

TownRankingNotable For
University Heights#2Best place in Iowa to raise a family
Coralville#13Best place for young professionals
Mount Vernon#1Best place to raise a family

University Heights and Mount Vernon stand out as fantastic places for families. Their low crime rates, excellent schools, and community feel make them ideal. For those of us leaning towards career development or looking for vibrant night-life, Coralville, with its youthful energy and opportunities, beckons.

We find these towns not just appealing for their rankings, but for what they offer. They’re near Iowa City, yet they hold their own with unique identities and communities. They invite us to explore, unwind, and connect in ways only small towns can. We’re drawn to their streets, local shops, and eateries that promise personal touches and warm greetings.

Planning a visit to these towns opens doors to discovering the Midwest’s heartland, its hidden gems, and the stories they house. It’s about finding places that resonate with us, whether we’re looking for family-friendly activities, cultural experiences, or just a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life.

We see these towns as more than just their rankings. They are living, breathing communities where memories are waiting to be made. So, we pack our bags, set our itineraries, and ready ourselves for what these charming towns near Iowa City have in store. With every visit, we uncover something new, something delightful, making each trip an adventure worth sharing.

University Heights and Coralville

We love to explore University Heights and Coralville because they are close to Iowa City. They stand out for their own reasons. University Heights may be small, with just 1,159 people living there, but it’s famous for being the #2 best place to live in Iowa.

This town promises a cozy atmosphere with all the perks of a tight-knit community.

Coralville, on the other hand, is bigger with 21,103 residents. People looking for an affordable city to retire often pick Coralville. It’s not too far from Interstate-80 and near important places like the Coral Ridge Mall.

Living here means you can enjoy shopping and dining without going too far from home. Both towns offer a slice of Midwest charm that we find irresistible, especially if you appreciate quiet streets and friendly faces.

Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon stands out with its population of 4,451, making it a cozy spot in Iowa’s expansive landscape. It grabbed the top spot as the best place to live in our state. The town prides itself on being home to historic Cornell College, nestled among rolling hills that add to its charm.

Its small size and welcoming community make it ideal for those of us looking for a peaceful retreat without wandering too far from modern conveniences.

Cornell College acts as a beacon of history and education in Mount Vernon, drawing visitors who love learning about past times or enjoying today’s academic atmosphere. This college town blends educational pursuits with leisure perfectly, offering bistros and shops that embody Midwestern warmth.

For anyone eager to explore the outdoors while soaking up some local culture, this picturesque setting with hilly terrains is perfect for an afternoon stroll or an in-depth exploration of academia’s rich heritage.

Other nearby towns

Let’s explore the nearby towns in detail:

  • Tiffin, with a population of 3,351, is known for its serene environment and family-friendly atmosphere.
  • Oxford, with a population of 800, offers a quaint charm and a close-knit community.
  • Williamsburg boasts the top-ranking school district in Iowa County, making it an excellent town for families seeking quality education.
  • Hills, with an almost 800-strong population, provides a peaceful retreat from city life and a strong sense of community.
  • Riverside is famous for Trekfest and is considered the future birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk, attracting fans of science fiction and adventure.
  • Kalona is home to the largest Amish community west of the Mississippi and offers a unique cultural experience steeped in history and tradition.

Exploring Small Towns in the Corridor

A charming small town street filled with colorful buildings, blooming flowers, and a bustling atmosphere.

Discover the hidden gems along the Corridor – from charming towns to scenic landscapes, there’s something for everyone. Read on for an adventure into the heart of Iowa’s lesser-known spots.

To the west

To the west of Iowa City, you’ll find charming small towns just waiting to be explored. Let’s delve into our top picks:

  • Williamsburg: This town offers a 30-minute commute to Iowa City and is known for its top restaurants and venues.
  • Amana Colonies: Step into history and tradition in this quaint community known for its German heritage and artisanal craftsmanship.
  • Pella: Famous for its annual Tulip Time festival, this town boasts beautiful tulip gardens, Dutch architecture, and the historic Vermeer Windmill.
  • West Liberty: Home to the Distillery of J.P. Richardson, this town offers a taste of local whiskey and bourbon in a picturesque setting.
  • Clear Creek-Amana Community School District: Explore the scenic beauty of this area with access to outdoor activities such as hiking and cycling along the Trout Run Trail.
  • Swisher and Shueyville: These two combined towns have a population of just under 1,700 and are surrounded by natural beauty, providing an ideal escape from city life.
  • Coralville Lake: For nature enthusiasts, heading west leads to Coralville Lake with its recreational opportunities like fishing, boating, and picnicking amidst serene surroundings.

Let’s head west to explore these hidden gems!

To the south

When exploring to the south of Iowa City, we can find these charming small towns:

  • Washington – With a population of 7,313, it’s accessible via Highway 1 and Highway 218. Known for its historical downtown and cultural events.
  • Wellman – This small town has a population of 1,321 and is famous for the Mid-Prairie Community School District, offering a quaint and peaceful atmosphere.

These small towns offer unique experiences and history to explore.

To the east

To the east of Iowa City, there are several charming small towns worth exploring:

  • East Amana: Delight in the rich history and traditional German charm of this picturesque village.
  • West Branch: Home to the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site, offering a glimpse into the life of the 31st President of the United States.
  • Tipton: Embrace the serene ambiance and explore its historic courthouse and quaint downtown.
  • Wilton: Discover its antique shops and unique boutiques, nestled in a welcoming small-town atmosphere.
  • DeWitt: Engage in outdoor activities at Westbrook Park or discover local history at the city’s museum.
  • Maquoketa: Uncover natural wonders at Maquoketa Caves State Park or stroll through its vibrant downtown district.
  • Bellevue: Experience breathtaking views of the Mississippi River from Bellevue State Park or enjoy a leisurely riverboat cruise.

In the middle

In the middle, between the bustling Iowa City and the more serene rural areas, lie several charming small towns waiting to be explored. Here are some must-visit towns that offer unique experiences, historical gems, and picturesque landscapes:

  • Williamsburg: Immerse yourself in this town’s rich history at the Tanger Family Bicentennial Park and take a stroll through its quaint downtown area.
  • Amana Colonies: Discover the fascinating German heritage and craftsmanship within this community of seven villages, known for its authentic cuisine and artisan shops.
  • Washington: Explore this town’s vibrant arts scene at Main Street galleries and theaters, or indulge in outdoor activities at Sunset Park or Lake Darling State Park.
  • Marengo: Visit the world’s only museum dedicated to ice harvesting at the Marengo Historical Museum and enjoy recreational opportunities in nearby parks.
  • Kalona: Experience the Amish way of life by touring farms, sampling fresh produce, and admiring handcrafted furniture in this picturesque town.

Must-Visit Small Towns Near Iowa City

Discover charming towns like Pella, Decorah, McGregor, and Winterset. Experience the unique charm of these small Midwestern gems.


Pella, Iowa, nestled in the heart of America’s Midwest, invites us to uncover its rich Dutch heritage. Known for its remarkable tulip festival and charming architecture, Pella offers a glimpse into the timeless traditions of its early settlers.

The town’s iconic windmill and Jaarsma Bakery are must-visit spots that tantalize our taste buds with authentic pastries—all adding to the allure of this quaint destination. With an average rent of $800 for a one-bedroom apartment and an average home value of $315,200, Pella proves to be an affordable yet captivating retreat.

The enigmatic town also boasts fascinating historical sites such as the Scholte House Museum and Gardens along with scenic outdoor spaces like Lake Red Rock – perfect for leisurely strolls or picnics by the water.

Immerse yourself in Pella’s spirit by savoring artisanal treats at local markets or simply reveling in the peaceful ambiance that pervades this delightful gem in Iowa.


We have to explore Decorah, known for its natural beauty and Scandinavian heritage. This town boasts picturesque landscapes with the Upper Iowa River meandering through limestone bluffs.

Voted one of the “coolest small towns in America” by Budget Travel, it’s acclaimed for outdoor activities like hiking at Dunning’s Spring Park or biking along the Trout Run Trail. The famous Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum offers a glimpse into the area’s rich culture, while local breweries like Toppling Goliath are perfect for enjoying handcrafted beers.

When planning a visit here, don’t miss out on exploring this charming town nestled in northeastern Iowa.


McGregor, a historic town nestled in northeastern Iowa near the Mississippi River, invites you to step back in time with its charming streets and unique shops. Wander through the Main Street lined with brick buildings dating back to the 1800s, housing quaint boutiques and local eateries.

The picturesque view of the river from Pike’s Peak State Park is an absolute must-see, offering stunning vistas that showcase nature’s beauty. Embrace the small-town hospitality as you explore this gem filled with history and natural splendor.

Immerse yourself in McGregor’s rich heritage as you visit notable landmarks like St. Mary’s Catholic Church and Reel House, which stand as testaments to the town’s enduring legacy.

Be sure to meander down toward Effigy Mounds National Monument for a deeper connection to ancient Native American culture and spiritual reverence on soaring cliffs overlooking miles of lush valleys.

This idyllic spot beckons travelers seeking serenity amidst breathtaking landscapes dominated by wooded bluffs alongside waterways.

Spirit Lake

Spirit Lake, nestled in northwest Iowa, stands as a serene oasis for those seeking respite from urban hubs. The town’s allure extends beyond its shimmering lake views to an array of recreational pursuits and historical marvels.

Our journey leads us towards the captivating Okoboji region, where Spirit Lake reigns supreme as the crown jewel. Here we can relish in boundless adventures on the water and embrace the tranquility offered by lakeside rambles.

The pioneer village at Arnolds Park Amusement Park invites exploration into the rich heritage of this idyllic locale.

Our sojourn through Spirit Lake promises encounters with distinct treasures that celebrate both culture and natural splendor. Engaging with majestic landscapes, punctuated by charming bistros dotting our path, unfolds an experience deeply rooted in authentic Midwestern charm.


Winterset, a picturesque town in Iowa’s Madison County, offers a delightful escape with its charming ambiance and rich history. Home to the iconic covered bridges made famous by “The Bridges of Madison County,” this town is a treasure trove for history enthusiasts and fans of classic literature.

As you stroll through the downtown area, you’ll find quaint shops, inviting cafes, and captivating art galleries that add to the town’s allure. Don’t miss exploring the John Wayne Birthplace Museum, which pays homage to the legendary actor.

Indulge in the stunning natural beauty by visiting Pammel State Park or taking a leisurely drive along the scenic countryside roads dotted with breathtaking landscapes. For an enriching experience, immerse yourself in Winterset’s vibrant cultural scene by attending local events and festivals celebrating arts, music, and heritage.

Whether it’s embracing outdoor adventures or savoring small-town charm, Winterset promises an unforgettable journey off-the-beaten-path filled with warmth and hospitality.


Fairfield, nestled in the heart of Iowa, offers an eclectic mix of experiences. Home to the historic Maharishi Vedic City and its noteworthy Peace Palace, this town exudes a serene vibe.

Explore the iconic Maasdam Barns and soak in local history at the Carnegie Historical Museum. The square boasts artisan shops and delectable eats – a perfect blend for an authentic small-town excursion.

The annual events calendar is bustling with music festivals and art fairs; you’ll never be short on entertainment. Within close proximity are idyllic parks like Waterworks Park — great for outdoor leisure activities— adding another layer to Fairfield’s allure.

Discover the Best Small Towns in the Midwest, Including Iowa

Discover charming small towns nestled in the heart of the Midwest, including delightful Iowa. Uncover the allure of Pella’s Dutch heritage, explore Decorah’s vibrant arts scene, and embrace McGregor’s picturesque Mississippi River views.

Delve into Spirit Lake for outdoor adventures or step back in time at Winterset, home to the iconic covered bridges featured in “The Bridges of Madison County.” Immerse yourself in Fairfield’s eclectic community and savor its distinctive culinary offerings.

Unearth unique experiences awaiting you across these distinct small towns. Amble through historic downtown streets, indulge in local cuisine at quaint eateries, and immerse yourself in authentic Midwestern hospitality as you roam through these idyllic havens away from bustling city life.

Plan Your Trip to Discover Charming Small Towns Near Iowa City

Ready to explore charming small towns near Iowa City? Discover how to prepare, find places to stay, and uncover hidden gems. Uncover insider scoops on events, shopping, dining spots, and exciting activities.

How to prepare for a trip

To get ready for our trip to explore charming small towns near Iowa City, consider these tips:

  • Pack light and versatile clothing suitable for outdoor activities, such as hiking and walking tours.
  • Bring comfortable shoes for exploring various terrains, as well as a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated.
  • Plan ahead by researching local attractions, events, and dining options to make the most of your visit.
  • Keep essential travel documents organized, including identification, maps, and any reservations.
  • Consider renting a car or using rideshare services for convenient transportation between towns.
  • Prepare a basic first-aid kit with essentials like sunscreen, insect repellent, and any necessary medications.
  • Download offline maps or GPS apps to navigate areas with intermittent signal coverage.
  • Stay updated on local weather forecasts to ensure appropriate attire and travel arrangements.

By following these simple steps, we can make the most of our upcoming journey through captivating small towns near Iowa City!

Where to stay

When planning your stay in these charming small towns near Iowa City, consider the following options:

  • Pella: Immerse yourself in Dutch culture by staying at a cozy bed and breakfast or a quaint inn nestled within the town’s picturesque surroundings.
  • Decorah: Enjoy a serene stay at a historic hotel in the heart of downtown, or opt for a charming guesthouse offering modern comforts and proximity to local attractions.
  • McGregor: Unwind in a riverside lodge or retreat to a rustic cabin for an authentic experience amidst nature’s tranquility.
  • Spirit Lake: Choose from lakeside resorts, family-friendly cottages, or inviting cabins surrounded by breathtaking scenery for an unforgettable getaway.
  • Winterset: Indulge in relaxation at a luxurious spa resort, or embrace the rustic charm of farm stays and cozy country inns set amid rolling countryside.
  • Fairfield: Experience eclectic accommodations such as themed suites, wellness-focused retreats, or boutique hotels reflective of the town’s vibrant energy.

Prepare to make lasting memories with our carefully curated selection of delightful stays tailored to enhance your exploration of these enchanting small towns.

Things to do and events in the area

Let’s explore the best things to do and events in the area:

  1. Attend the Pride festival in Iowa City.
  2. Enjoy jazz and art festivals held in Iowa City.
  3. Engage in author readings and workshops featured on Iowa City’s events calendar.
  4. Experience athletic competitions that bring energy to Iowa City.
  • Join city-wide celebrations such as university festivities at University of Iowa and engaging community events in Coralville.
  • Participate in local history tours at Pikes Peak State Park and the John Wayne Birthplace Museum.
  • Explore nature through outdoor activities like hiking, camping, and picnicking at various parks throughout the region.

Places to shop and eat

When exploring the quieter and smaller towns near Iowa City, there are numerous delightful places to shop and eat. Here’s a curated list just for you:

  • Pella – Explore charming Dutch bakeries and locally-owned boutiques offering unique souvenirs, complemented by authentic Dutch cuisine at local restaurants.
  • Decorah – Discover artisan markets offering handmade crafts, along with cozy cafes serving organic coffee and delectable pastries.
  • McGregor – Wander through antique shops and art galleries before savoring farm-to-table dining at exquisite riverside restaurants.
  • Spirit Lake – Peruse quaint gift shops for lake-themed treasures while sampling fresh catches at seafood eateries nestled along the shoreline.
  • Winterset – Stroll through vintage bookstores and specialty shops, then indulge in homemade ice cream from a classic soda fountain downtown.
  • Fairfield – Immerse yourself in eclectic stores featuring organic products and holistic remedies, followed by a culinary journey through ethnic restaurants offering diverse flavors.

Soak in the unique charm of each small town as you explore their one-of-a-kind shopping experiences and savor the local culinary delights.

Insanely curious finds

Get ready to be mesmerized by the fascinating finds waiting for you in these charming small towns near Iowa City. Uncover the historical wonders of Buffalo Bill Museum or explore the birthplace and museum of John Wayne.

Take a journey through time when visiting Field of Dreams and delve into the captivating Amish culture in Kalona, offering unique experiences that will leave you wanting more. Navigating beyond conventional tourist spots can lead to discovering hidden gems that offer a different perspective on history and culture, making your trip an unforgettable adventure.

Uncover enthralling insights as we embark on this journey together – from savoring delightful drinks at local establishments to uncovering intriguing museums and historical landmarks scattered throughout the area.

Let’s dive into these insanely curious finds, tailored to enrich your travel experience through deeper exploration while creating lasting memories.

Fashion and outdoor activities

Discover stylish and practical clothing options for outdoor adventures in the small towns near Iowa City. Local stores offer a wide range of comfortable and durable attire suitable for hiking, biking, and strolling through charming neighborhoods.

Embrace the laid-back Midwestern style with versatile outfits that transition seamlessly from exploring natural landscapes to enjoying local attractions. Plus, don’t forget to explore trendy accessories perfect for adding flair to your outdoor ensemble, such as hats, sunglasses, and backpacks.

Uncover an array of engaging outdoor activities while immersing yourself in the serene surroundings of small-town Iowa. From leisurely walks along picturesque trails to exciting water sports on nearby lakes, there are endless opportunities to embrace nature’s beauty.

Get ready to indulge in invigorating experiences such as bird watching, fishing, or simply relaxing in scenic parks dotted throughout these peaceful communities where you can unwind and reconnect with the great outdoors at your own pace.

Delectable eats

When it comes to delectable eats near Iowa City, the charming towns offer a diverse culinary scene. From traditional staples to unexpected combinations using fresh local ingredients, there’s something for every palate.

Coralville stands out as one of the top ten most affordable cities for retirement, making it an attractive destination for those looking to enjoy delicious food in their golden years.

Mount Vernon is also a must-visit with its historic Cornell College and reputation as the #1 best place in Iowa to raise a family. So, whether it’s Amish and Mennonite cuisine in Kalona or hidden gems in Tiffin, these small towns have delightful dining options worth exploring.

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Small Towns Near Iowa City Conclusion

As we wrap up, let’s head to the charming small towns near Iowa City. From the thriving community of Coralville with its entertainment options and diverse shopping experiences to the historic landscape of Mount Vernon, these quaint towns offer something special.

Whether it’s exploring the Amish culture in Kalona or discovering local job opportunities in Williamsburg, each town has its own unique charm waiting to be explored. So pack your bags and get ready for an adventure filled with rich history, scenic landscapes, and warm hospitality as you uncover the hidden gems of these delightful small towns near Iowa City!

Small Towns Near Iowa City FAQs

1. What makes North Liberty a must-visit near Iowa City?

We find North Liberty to be a gem due to its friendly vibe and affordable cost of living. It’s nestled comfortably between Interstate 380 and I-80, making it super easy to reach from anywhere in the state of Iowa.

2. Can you tell us about any historical spots near Iowa City?

Oh, absolutely! The John Wayne Birthplace and Museum is not far off. It sits in Winterset but is an easy drive for anyone wanting to explore more about this iconic film star’s roots right here in the Midwestern state.

3. Are there any towns nearby that celebrate unique events?

Yes, indeed! Pella, IA, celebrates its Dutch heritage with vibrant tulip festivals every spring. It’s like stepping into another world without leaving the Hawkeye State.

4. Where can we learn more about “The Day the Music Died”?

For anyone interested in music history, taking a trip to Clear Lake is worthwhile. This town marks where music legends tragically passed away in a plane crash back in 1959 – it’s both somber and enlightening.

5. What are some leisure activities we can enjoy in these small towns?

From sipping martinis or vodka at local bars to exploring historic colleges like Wartburg College over at Waverly or enjoying scenic views along I-380… There’s something for everyone looking for relaxation or adventure.

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