Ames is located in Central Iowa roughly 30 miles north of Des Moines, in the Western edge of Story County, astride the Skunk River. The city was named after Massachusetts congressman, shovel tycoon, and transcontinental railroad supporter Oakes Ames. The railroad is still a daily part of life in Ames, with nearly 90 Union Pacific long-haul freight trains passing through town each day over several at-grade road crossings. Unfortunately, no passenger rail service is available to town. Life in Ames follows the ebb and flow of the academic year at Iowa State University, the city's largest employer. Other large employers include the Iowa Department of Transportation, Sauer-Danfoss, Ball Corporation, and Barilla.
Traveling from the north (e.g., Minneapolis, approximate drive time 2.5 hours) or from the south (eg, from Des Moines, approximately 30 minutes), take Interstate 35 to exit 113 and drive west along 13th Street to Clark Avenue. Head south on Clark Avenue to City Hall and the Main Street district. Or take US 30 exit 111 west to South Duff and go north through many businesses to Main Street. Travelling from the east (Chicago, 5.5 hours) or from the west (Omaha, 2 hours), take I-80 to I-35, and then I-35 north and as above. US 30 also reaches Ames direct from Omaha and Chicago.
Shuttle service is available from Out of Town transport to/from the Des Moines International Airport. If flying via charter or general aviation, one can use Ames' airport on the southern edge of town, south of Airport Road, but again, privately-arranged car transport is the best bet from there into town.
The city-university partnership Cyride provides bus service to most of the city. Fare is $1, with monthly passes available for $35.
Ames has a moderately extensive paved trail system for walking and biking.
Lincoln Way is the main east-west thoroughfare of the city, running from just south of downtown west to Campustown and along the southern edge of the central campus of Iowa State University (ISU). Similarly, 13th street runs across the northern edges of the downtown area and the university campus. Main north-south roads include Duff Avenue and Grand Avenue (which together carry U.S. Highway 69 through Ames) and North and South Dakota Avenues.
Apart from Iowa State University itself, there are generally three main pedestrian-friendly concentrations of shops and restaurants: Downtown on Main Street between Clark and Duff Avenues, Campustown south of Lincoln Way along either side of Welch Avenue, and the much newer Somerset neighborhood (to the east of Stange Avenue north of 24th Street). Plus two miles of big box stores and small shops on South Duff spreading beyond US 30 on the south and Lincoln Way on the north. Not quite so pedestrian friendly but with new sidewalks along Duff, not so hazardous to pedestrians as it has been.
ISU Cyclones' licensed paraphernalia (sweaters and such) are available from several retailers around town, but perhaps most notably at the bookstores on or near campus along Lincoln Way. Other specialty shopping can be had in Campustown, Somerset, or downtown.
For big-box chain stores, the major shopping areas are along south Duff Avenue from Lincoln Way south past U.S. Highway 30, and along east of north Grand Avenue near the North Grand Mall, between 24th Street and Bloomington Avenue.