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The Campanile, Iowa State University

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 (non-passenger) trains passing through town each day. Life in Ames follows the ebb and flow of the academic year at Iowa State University.

Get in[edit]

By car[edit]

Traveling from the north (e.g., Minneapolis, 2.5-hr drive) or from the south (Des Moines, 30 minutes), take I-35 to exit 113 and drive west along 13th St to Clark Ave. Head south on Clark to City Hall and the Main St district. Or take US 30 exit 111 west to South Duff and go north through many businesses to Main St. Traveling 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.

By bus[edit]

Trailways, +1 800 776-7581, [12], serves a location at 2229 Lincoln Way, on the Iowa State University campus in front of the Memorial Union building.

By plane[edit]

There is no commercial aviation to Ames; the nearest major airport is located in Des Moines. Shuttle service is available to/from Ames; Executive Express [13] offers a relatively frequent scheduled service. If flying via charter or general aviation, one can use the Ames Municipal Airport [14] on the southern edge of town, south of Airport Rd; from there automobile is the best bet into town - a Hertz rental car location is available at the airport.

Get around[edit]

Map of Ames

The city-university partnership Cyride [15] provides bus service to most of the city. Fare is $1.25 ($0.60 for children/seniors), with monthly passes available for $40.

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 ISU. Similarly, 13th St runs across the northern edges of the downtown area and the university campus. Main north-south roads include Duff Ave and Grand Ave (which together carry U.S. Hwy 69 through Ames), University Boulevard and North and South Dakota Avenues.

Ames is very bicycle friendly, with a moderately extensive paved trail system [16] for walking and biking. Apart from ISU 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 Ave, and the much newer Somerset neighborhood (to the east of Stange Ave north of 24th St). Not quite so pedestrian friendly but with new sidewalks is the two miles of big box stores and strip malls along Duff Avenue between US 30 on the south and Lincoln Way on the north.

See[edit][add listing]

  • The Downtown district [17], between Grand and Duff Avenues north of the train tracks, is home to a number of charming old brick buildings holding small shops, restaurants, and a number of civic functions, and makes for a pleasant stroll.
  • Hoggatt School, 18th Street and Burnett Avenue, +1 515 232-2148, [18]. Summer, Sa-Su 2-4:30PM. A historical one-room schoolhouse tucked away in the charming residential neighborhoods north of Downtown.

  • Design on Main, 203 Main St (North side of street between Douglas and Kellogg), [1]. The College of Design occupies about 7,000 square feet of the former Antique Ames mall in the Main Street Cultural District in downtown Ames. The facility provides upstairs studio space for 20 graduate students in the integrated visual arts (IVA) program and a small gallery space to showcase artwork and other projects at street level. (42.025249,-93.612325) edit
  • Octagon Center for the Arts (Octagon), 427 Douglas Ave (Corner of Douglas and 5th St), 515-232-5331, [2]. Monday - Friday 10:00 am - 5:30 pm Thursday 10:00 am - 7:00 pm Saturday 10:00 am - 5:00 pm, Sunday 1:00 - 5:00 pm. The Octagon Center for the Arts is a non-profit community art organization located in downtown Ames Main Street Cultural District. The Octagon has been a cornerstone of the cultural scene in Ames since 1966. The Octagon serves more than 30,000 people annually through education classes and outreach programs, rotating exhibits, retail gallery shop, and special events such as the annual Octagon Art Festival. Come experience the arts at the Octagon! (42.025766,-93.612198) edit
  • Ames Historical Society (Historical Society), 416 Douglas Ave, Ames, IA 50010 (Corner of Douglas Ave and 5th St), 515-232-2148, [3]. M-F 1pm-5pm. Displays of historical artifacts of Ames (42.025792,-93.611984) edit

Iowa State University[edit]

Occupying nearly 500 acres in the middle of town is the scenic main campus of the Iowa State University, with its many lovely trees and a large collection of public art scattered throughout. Architecture varies, from gorgeous classically-designed buildings in the middle of the campus to more modern brutalist-style buildings around the edges. A large lawn occupies the very center of the campus, with a small lake at the southern end.

  • Brunnier Art Museum, 2nd floor of the Scheman Building, ISU campus, +1 515 294-4442, [19]. Tu-Sa 11AM-4PM, Su 1PM-4PM. Holding fine and decorative art items from around the world, including European decorative arts and American prints, paintings and sculpture, with an emphasis on Iowan artists. Free; donations accepted.
  • Campanile. Overlooking the central lawn is this classically-designed clock and bell tower, frequently used as an icon for the university.
  • Christian Peterson Art Museum, Morrill Hall, ISU campus, +1 515 294-9500, [20]. M-F 11AM-4PM. Located in one of the oldest buildings on campus, this museums holds a collection of historical sketches and models of campus buildings as well as a series of changing contemporary art exhibitions. Free; donations accepted.
  • Farm House Museum, in the center of the ISU campus, +1 515 294-3342, [21]. M-F Noon-4PM. The oldest building on campus, the Farm House was the center of life for the model farm that was the entirety of the university during its founding years. Today it is operated as a historical museum with period furnishings. Free, donations accepted.
  • The main library on campus, Parks Library, is notable for holding a set of murals painted by Grant Wood (creator of the famous American Gothic painting). Located down a quiet side hall and an adjacent study room, the murals depict agrarian life and the home and agricultural-based education ISU is noted for.
Butterfly inside Reiman Gardens butterfly exhibit
  • Reiman Gardens, 1407 University Blvd (shares a parking lot with Jack Trice Stadium), +1 515 294-2710, [4]. Daily 9AM-4:30PM; extended hours in summer. Originally created to provide staff and students of the university a place to relax and enjoy nature, this is a large botanical garden with indoor and outdoor displays. Among the highlights are a spectacular rose garden, a conservatory, and a popular butterfly garden. $8 adults, $7 seniors, $4 children.  edit

Do[edit][add listing]

  • ISU Cyclones, +1 888 478-2925, [22]. ISU's football and basketball teams are the biggest draws, but ISU is also a national power in wrestling and the university fields teams in several other sports in the Big 12 Conference, at the NCAA Division I level. The sports complex is just southeast of the main campus; the football team plays at Jack Trice Stadium on University Blvd just south of Lincoln Way, while the basketball, wrestling, volleyball, and gymnastic teams play at Hilton Coliseum, at Lincoln Way & University Blvd.
  • Next to the stadium complex are Iowa State's two performing art centers [23], the Stephens Auditorium and the Fisher Theater, both of which play host to a variety of concerts and plays.

Buy[edit][add listing]

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 north Grand Avenue near the North Grand Mall, between 24th Street and Bloomington Avenue.

  • Ames British Foods, 429 Douglas Avenue, 515-598-5127, [5]. This delightful store is run by a couple of British ex-pats and offers a wide variety of teas, bangers, scones and endless other British foods. Fellow ex-pats and local Anglo-philes come in to get their British food fix, but they have customers from all over the nation. Stop in and Marcus, the proprietor, will happily serve guests a cup of tea and chat for a while.  edit

Eat[edit][add listing]

  • Black Market Pizza, 2610 Northridge Pkwy (in Somerset, Stange Rd. to Northridge), +1 515 292-1111, [6]. 11-9. Chicago-style deep dish pizza, as well as other varieties with unique toppings. Eat-in or delivery.  edit
  • The Great Plains Sauce and Dough Company, 129 Main St, +1 515 232-4263, [7]. Pizza is hearty, but popular because of the crust. Has honey as a dipping sauce.  edit
  • Hickory Park, 1404 S Duff Ave, +1 515 232-8940, [8]. American and Iowan fare, featuring pulled pork/beef sandwiches and a dessert menu boasting 50 selections or more. Huge seating area and the wait passes quickly. Very popular with families. Diabetics beware. $10 with dessert.  edit
  • Jeff's Pizza, 2402 Lincoln Way, + 1 515 292-2321, [9]. Su-T 10:30A-1A, W-Th 10:30A-2:30A, F-Sa 10:30A-3:30A. Pizza place offering some unusual toppings, Iowa State student favorite. Eat in or delivery.  edit
  • The Spice. Featuring Thai cuisine and elegant ambiance.  edit
  • Stomping Grounds, Welch Ave. Popular cafe.  edit
  • Thai Kitchen, 2410 Chamberlain St. Just east of Welch Ave, delicious Thai food at reasonable prices.  edit
  • Le's Restaurant, 113 Colorado Ave, 515-292-0002. 10am-10 pm M-F. Authentic Chinese and Vietnamese food as well as Americanized Chinese food. Very popular and includes great service.  edit

Drink[edit][add listing]

Alcohol purchases end at 2AM.

  • Cy's Roost. For the big game.  edit
  • Mickey's. Frat-bar with dance floor in the basement but not considered a club.  edit
  • Paddy's. Relaxed dive bar with mostly standing room only (on the weekends) and overly loud music for dancing. Two-Fer-Tuesdays and dollar burgers on Wednesdays.  edit
  • Sips. Dance club.  edit
  • Welch Avenue Station (WAS). One of the longest-standing bars in town. The atmosphere is more traditional than the more "hip" and "modern" bars around town. Has regular bar food as well as pizza from the Pizza Pit upstairs.  edit
  • Whiskey River, Main St. Dive bar on Main Street, three miles from campus.  edit

Sleep[edit][add listing]

Most lodging in Ames is of the chain variety and is generally located southeast of town, near the I-35 and US Hwy 30 interchange (exit 111). Other motels can be found along 13th St near I-35 (exit 113) on the east side of town and along University Blvd south of US 30 on the south side.

  • Hotel at Gateway Center, off Elwood Dr, south of US Hwy 30.
  • Hotel Memorial Union, 2229 Lincoln Way (on the ISU campus), +1 515 296-6848 (), [10]. One of the very few options in the center of town is this place in the historic Memorial Union building on campus. Geared towards people doing business on campus; not many services or features, but the location can't be beat.  edit
  • Country Inn & Suites By Carlson, Ames, IA, 2605 SE 16th Street, +1 515 233-3935, [11].  edit

Get out[edit]

  • Story City. About a 15 minute drive north on I-35 or US Hwy 69 to see their antique carousel.
  • See the corn maze in the summer between Ames and Nevada on US Hwy 30.

Routes through Ames
Minneapolis/Saint PaulClear Lake
Jct W US-20.png E
 N noframe S  AnkenyDes Moines
Missouri ValleyBoone  W noframe E  MarshalltownCedar Rapids

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