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Published: Sep 16, 2019
Outdoor music venue in Ames, Iowa
Courtesy of Ames

Home to Iowa State University, Ames is the epitome of a college town. There is an equal amount of big- and small-city feel within this 64,000-strong city. During football season, the campus and downtown area are bursting with energy, but when students head home for the summer, its small-town charm continues to thrive.

There's a wide array of career opportunity with the college campus nearby and a thriving tech industry, better known as the Silicon Prairie. In fact, the unemployment rate in Ames is a strikingly low 1.6%. And getting around is easy: a whopping 15.2% of residents commute by walking or biking.

The downtown historic district boasts a wide variety of music and food events throughout the year. Local businesses host musicians in storefronts during the Music Walk in spring; Foodies & Brew in the summer offers samplings from local restaurants, wineries, and breweries, as well as live music; and the annual Art Walk showcases the town's creative arts community with various local artists. Stroll through the stunning Reiman Gardens on the Iowa State campus to see beautiful floral arrangements, art, and architecture. — Chloe Wilt