Ames, Iowa

We’re nicer than everybody else



Sunny Days: 202
46100 Affordability
90100 Schools
37100 Diversity
85100 Safety

I get nostalgic about having lived in Ames, Iowa, even though being a vegetarian in Iowa is not fun. -John Darnielle

The Best Thing About Ames?

Bang for your Buck

People like to pick on Iowa. It can be seen as flat, and light on big city energy, but Ames like a lot of great college towns, surprises people with all that goes on here, particularly for the price tag.
Iowa State University’s presence, coupled with the people and amenities that come along with it, inject an atmosphere that is as compelling as the other college towns you know better than Ames. The University employs more than 15,000 people, creating a community that is committed to Cyclone culture and gives Ames a social and cultural energy outsized for its population.

The city also has an amazing variety of great outdoor spaces, with 37 parks, the most iconic being the university-run 17 acre Reiman Gardens, a handful of golf venues, a skatepark, in-city lake, and more than 50 miles of bike/hiking/walk routes winding throughout town.
Probably most important to recent graduates are the social opportunities in the city. Live downtown and you can walk to countless bars, restaurants, cafes and the year-round events and cultural experiences the city and university provides.

A note from a local about living in Ames:
Downtown is definitely the place. I live in West Ames currently, and I enjoy it because it’s quieter, but when I was in my mid-20’s downtown was the place to be. You can walk to the bars, there’s tons of small events to enjoy and really get the feeling of city life while maintaining the laid back Midwest vibe.

For more reviews of what living in Ames is like from locals check out: The Buzz

The Worst Thing About Ames?

It’s Still Kinda Iowa

If you’re not a student or part of the university community, however, Ames can be kind of alienating, particularly if you’re older than the average student and single. There’s also not a lot to do if the college bar scene and the local parks don’t appeal to you. Ame's proximity to Des Moines can mitigate some of this, but if you’re the type of person attracted to big city life, Ames will be a tough spot. It’s also very much Iowa in terms of diversity, or more accurately, lack of diversity.

Note about living in Ames from a local:
Ames is a great place. Lived here 30 years and never left. The only down side is, it is difficult to meet opposite genders since the town is either college students, or people who are already married and working in the community.

Lifestyle of Ames

Small Town Vibe

Ames is a safe, family friendly town with a lot of welcoming small businesses located along the main commercial district. The neighborhood of Campustown, as you might guess, is right by ISU with a number of different housing options and shopping and dining choices as well. Most of the other hotspots in town are made up of relatively affordable single family homes that are always close to a park or golf course.

If you want to see what locals do for fun and culture in Ames check out the calendar of events:

Why You Should Move Here Now?

It's Iowa

“Can I ask you something… Is this heaven?. It’s Iowa.” This line from Field of Dreams captures what your experience in Ames might be like. It’s a beautiful place with great people and a wonderful college town atmosphere that changes most outsiders perspective on Iowa.

Neighborhoods in Ames

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College Students

Ames is organized by North, Northwest, Northeast, Southwest, South and Southeast. Downtown and the Iowa State campus are pretty much in the center with the campus west of Downtown. The greatest concentration of affordable housing for students is in the South and Southwest sections of the city. Great affordable apartment buildings + lots of eats and pubs for recreation with short walks to campus make these ideal places to live. Some of these housing options are in a small area called Campustown. Pretty much anywhere in these neighborhoods seems to work for undergrads with graduate students often choosing to live a bit farther from campus to get some peace and quiet.

Downtown/Old Town

Young Professionals / Retirees

Ames frequently ranks near the top of national rankings for young people to move. Extremely low unemployment numbers, great college town energy, a good restaurant, bar and culture scene, all combine to make it an ideal place to start a career, build for something and enjoy yourself while you’re doing so. There are a lot of neighborhoods to choose from but Old Town and Downtown (Main Street) are where you should start. They’re close to campus so you get the vibe but not so popular for students so you can avoid the madness. Plenty of eats and drinks along with culture and community events make them energized walk score havens. All of these characteristics also make the neighborhoods ideal for retirees who want the same heightened cultural and social energy in an easily walkable neighborhood.

  • Old Town
  • Downtown (Main Street)

Northwest / Somerset


Setting aside the student areas near campus, most of Ames is family friendly. Many families choose the Northwest section of the city due to its distance from campus and the beautiful homes, tree-lined streets and proximity to trails for walking, biking and general outdoor recreation. The public schools in Ames are excellent and this is particularly true for Northwest. If you're looking for big homes, great yards and outdoor spaces, and some of the best public schools in the midwest then this is and area you should put on your shortlist. This includes the Somerset neighborhood and farther North and West.

  • Somerset
  • Northwest