Everyone has their reasons for moving here -- whether it’s the amazing academic programs, the opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, or an aversion to living near a beach, we are glad you’re here!
For me and my family, we moved here for a sandwich. Well, that’s mostly true. About three years ago now, I traveled to Iowa City to attend an equating workshop at the University (an enthralling story for another time). My hotel was in downtown Iowa City and every night I would walk the pedestrian mall and find a new place to eat. On my final night, I sat on the patio at the downtown restaurant Nodo, eating a ham and mango sandwich with sweet potato fries and garlic aeoli, when the lights all around me turned on and the downtown lit up into a magical, historical, cultural, masterpiece. I immediately called my husband and told him, “I’m no longer worried about applying to residencies. If there are other places like Iowa City in this country, I’m going to be so happy to end up there... also, you have got to try this sandwich”.
Two years later, we were accepted to the Family Medicine Residency at the University of Iowa, bought a house, and made our way here! My husband had never been to Iowa City, let alone the Midwest, and we had purchased our house sight unseen, so I felt a lot of pressure as we arrived. We knew the program and people involved were amazing, but would the city (and the sandwich!) live up to my memory? I am happy to report that a day later we were back sitting on that same patio outside of Nodo, eating a ham and mango sandwich, and giving each other the classic single nod that says “We did it. This is the place.”
That perfect moment was interrupted by my toddler throwing his sandwich on the ground to try to feed a bird, but it felt perfect, nonetheless.
As an outsider to Iowa and the Midwest in general, I want to share a few things that I have discovered and loved in the almost year since I’ve been here:
- Iowa Medical Partners (IMP). Starting with a shoutout to IMP! We did not know a single person at the residency when we moved here. In fact, we did not know a single person in the state of Iowa. IMP has multiple activities every month ranging from playdates for kids to adult-only outings. Take advantage! We have met so many wonderful people and there was no better way to immediately feel like part of the community and learn about all the fun things to do in the area.
- “Iowa Nice” is real! Yes, you’re still going to get tailgated, but you’re also going to have people in front of you in the grocery line ask if you’d like to set your stuff in their cart so you don’t have to hold it all while you wait in line. With the exception of the internet providers (because…internet providers…), even every phone call with a utility company has been so overly nice that I am taken aback at how genuine the people here are when I hang up.
- The food is SO GOOD. Let me add the caveat that when you ask for “where” is good to eat, you also need to ask for “what” is good to eat. For example, you need the ham and mango sandwich at Nodo. You need the butternut squash ravioli at Basta. And although I have never recommended pancakes at a restaurant before, you need the pancakes at The Encounter Café.
- There is so much to do! My go-to for finding activities has been Facebook Events. I can honestly say that between just looking for local activities and the IMP activities, we’ve had something to do nearly every weekend since we moved here. Here are a few of my favorite places:
- Wilson’s Orchard – a beautiful farm with a small shop, restaurant, and activities year-round ranging from strawberry picking, to cider tasting, to ice skating.
- The Amana Colonies – unique German heritage colonies with incredible shopping and festivals and events year round. Even if you just go walk around, you won't be disappointed.
- Kalona – a city about 25 minutes from Iowa City with a large Amish population. Visit the Golden Delight Bakery, the Kalona Creamery, and then head to main street to hit up the chocolate shop, coffee shop, and amazing antique stores.
- Iowa Children’s Museum – if you have kids, you can pay for a single day entry, and if you like it, apply it to the cost of an annual pass at the end of your stay. Our annual pass has paid for itself a hundred times over and we love to drop in and play!
- Pedestrian Mall – there is always something to do at the pedestrian mall. Hit up the shops, get some ice cream or a boba, attend one of the many festivals, or just take in the history and art. When the weather is warm, it’s everyone’s favorite season – Patio Season! You’ll have plenty of options to eat outdoors and take in the city’s vibe.
- Outdoor Galore – it’s hard for me to pick one place to mention here. There are parks, nature trails, playgrounds, splash pads, and so much more! Do a quick google search for what’s near you and start exploring!
- The City of Literature – Iowa City was the third-ever UNESCO City of Literature and the first in the Americas. We (I now say “we” when talking about Iowa City – didn’t take long!) take our literature seriously and host the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop. You can follow the Literary Walk downtown and see pieces of history stamped into the sidewalk that recognize internationally recognized writers with ties to Iowa City. The public library system is also incredible and is another great place to look for events!