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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.

Get in

By car

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.

By bus

  • Trailways. Has a location on the north side of Lincoln Way, east of Duff Avenue and west of Dayton Road, but this location is not yet integrated into the city bus or bike- and foot-path system, so have car transportation arranged if arriving by long-distance bus. There are a couple cab companies who serve the bus depot.

By plane

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.

Get around

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.


  • Brunnier Museum.
  • Farm House Museum.
  • Christian Peterson sculpture collection - Located around the ISU campus.
  • Hoggatt School. A historical one-room schoolhouse.
  • Iowa State University Campanile


  • Iowa State University sporting event Men's football and men's and women's basketball are probably the biggest draws, but Iowa State is also a national power in mens' wrestling and the university fields teams in several other sports in the Big 12 Conference, at the NCAA Division I level.
  • Cultural events at Iowa State Center - Concerts and plays at Scheman and Fisher theaters.


  • Iowa State University, [2].


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.


  • The Great Plains Sauce and Dough Company™, 129 Main St., +1 515-232-4263, [1]. Pizza is hearty, but popular because of the crust. Has honey as a dipping sauce. * <eat name="Hickory Park" address="1404 S Duff Ave." phone="+1 515-232-8940" hours="" price="$10 with dessert" url=""> 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.
  • The Spice. Featuring Thai cuisine and elegant ambiance.
  • Pita Pita. Massive pita stuffed with freshly-sauteed lamb, chicken, or falafel. Choice of toppings from an extensive salad bar. Homemade baklava. $5.
  • <eat name="Stomping Grounds" address="" phone="" hours="" price=""> Popular cafe.


The college club scene is served by an ever-shifting array of bars and clubs in Campustown.

  • Welch Avenue Station. This bar on Welch Ave is one of the longest-standing bars in town. The atmosphere is more traditional than the more "hip" and "modern" bars around town. Although WAS does provide regular bar food as well as pizza from the Pizza Pit upstairs.
  • Mickey's and Paddy's provide a more frat-bar scene with mostly standing room only (on the weekends) and loud music. Although Mickey's has a dance floor in the basment, these two bars are not considered clubs, as the focus is not much on dancing.
  • Sips and Element are the dance clubs, enjoying mostly business form patrons looking to dance or meet other singles.
  • Estas,People's, and Cy's Roost are other other popular bars located right on Campus.

Paddy's--Laid back dive bar. Best in Ames. Two-Fers on Tuesday nights and Dollar Burgers on Wednesdays.

Whiskey River- The Best Main Street Dive bar in town. it's away from campus and lots of fun.


  • Hotel at Gateway Center, off Elwood Drive, south of U.S. Hwy 30.
  • Memorial Union, Union Dr., ISU campus.

  • Other lodging is located near the northwest portion of the I-35 and U.S. Hwy 30 interchange (exit 111) and near exit 113 along 13th St. near I-35.

Get out

  • Story City. About a 15 minute drive north of Ames on I-35 or U.S. Highway 69 to see their antique carousel.
  • See the corn maze in the summer just east of Ames, between Ames and Nevada, Iowa on U.S. Highway 30.

Routes through Ames
Minneapolis-Saint PaulMason City (via US-18) ←  N noframe S  AnkenyDes Moines

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