Iowa City began in 1839 for the purpose of creating a new capitol city of Iowa and remained the capitol of Iowa until 1857 when the capitol was moved to Des Moines. Today, the former state capitol buildings are owned by the University of Iowa and are used for classes as well as remaining popular tourist attractions. Today, with a population of about 68,000, Iowa City’s main livelihood revolves around the University of Iowa.
Iowa City consistently ranks in polls such as CNN Money, Forbes and US News and World Report as one of the best places to live in the United States, which is understandable given the numerous cultural attractions and outdoor activities that Iowa City has to offer, as well as its compact size. Downtown Iowa City and the Downtown Pedestrian Plaza, or “Ped Mall,” are lined with specialty shops, an eclectic collection of restaurants and a vibrant nightlife. The Iowa River runs through the heart of campus and separates the west side of campus from downtown Iowa City. Beautiful parks line the river, offering walking, jogging and biking paths as well as water sports.
Perhaps Iowa City’s most unique attribute is its rich literary history; being home to the world-acclaimed Iowa Writer’s Workshop, Iowa City has long attracted famous authors from all over the world. In 2008, UNESCO designated Iowa City as one of only four of the world’s “City of Literature,” along with Edinburgh, Melbourne and Dublin.
Founded in 1847, the University of Iowa began on a piece of land along the Iowa River consisting of the Old Capitol Building. With around 100 students, The University of Iowa was the first public University in the state, and in 1855, was the first to admit men and women on an equal basis. With enrollment of over 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students today, the University of Iowa has transformed Iowa City into the quintessential Midwest college town; a large higher-learning institution within a small town provides a sense of close-knit community among students and residents alike.
The Iowa Writer’s Workshop developed the world’s first Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing, while The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, consistently rank as one of the best hospitals in America. Other noteworthy programs include Law, Fine Arts, Speech-Language Pathology, Tippe School of Management and Pharmacy. On a less academic note, Iowa City takes claim to the largest concentration of bars of any Big Ten town, giving the University of Iowa titles such as “Princeton Review’s 2010-2011 #9 Party School.”