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Published: Sep 16, 2019
People eating at long table outdoors in Iowa City, Iowa
Courtesy of Iowa City

Iowa City is a well-rounded place, with something for both sports fans and literary types, all wrapped up in a college town. Thanks to the University of Iowa, the town is full of some 33,000 college students and their Big Ten football team, the Hawkeyes. You can spend fall weekends dressed in black and gold while tailgating with the locals at Kinnick Stadium.

If sports aren't for you, don’t fear. Iowa City is also known for being a writers' haven, and is designated a UNESCO City of Literature. The university is home to the prestigious Iowa Writers' Workshop, a graduate-level creative writing program with a long list of published alumni, including Flannery O'Connor and Ann Patchett. There are plenty of cafes and bookshops where literary-minded folks can work on their latest poems, stories, and novels. The Haunted Bookshop is the city’s oldest secondhand bookshop with over 50,000 rare and out-of-print books. Another famous spot, Prairie Lights, hosts readings and has attracted famous writers like Stephen King to the city.

Iowa City's surrounding county has a 1.9% unemployment rate — one of the lowest in the country — and credit should be given to the university and its affiliated hospitals and clinics which employs nearly 30,000 people. The city is extremely walkable; almost 20% of residents report walking or biking to work, according to Money’s data analysis.

If you're seeking a jolt of history, drop by the Old Capitol building, which serves as a marker of the past. Iowa City was the state's capital before it was moved to Des Moines in 1850 — and visitors can check out the National Historic Landmark building and its associated museum for free. — Olivia Raimonde