Iowa City has some things that might surprise you if you are new to the area. From cultural activities, great parks and trails, a variety of festivals, sports events and an independent film theater, there’s something for everyone in Iowa City. The University campus is located in a vibrant downtown with many independent shops, a wide variety of eateries and an active night life.

Iowa City repeatedly receives very high rankings in national polls. With a population around 75,500 it is a medium-sized town with all the benefits of larger cities. For those who like spending time in metropolitan areas, it is within five hours of driving distance to Chicago, Minneapolis, Omaha, Kansas City, and St. Louis. Iowa City has a safe atmosphere and is a community that is diverse and accepting. Iowa City’s attractions include numerous theater options, farmers’ markets, restaurants, and outdoor music performances. Several festivals during the spring and summer months include the Iowa Arts Festival, Iowa City Jazz Festival, outdoor Free Movie Series, and the Friday night outdoor concert series featuring local bands.

The campus is located next to the student-oriented downtown. Iowa City is pedestrian friendly and supports a variety of modes of public transportation that make it easy to get around, including a free campus bus system and two local city bus systems. City buses include racks for bicycles, Wi-Fi, and students are eligible for free or reduced fees. Iowa City has been designated a bike friendly community by the League of American Bicyclists and has many bike trails. Additionally, car ownership can be avoided with options such as Uber, Lyft, and several Zipcar locations in town.

Iowa City's cultural and sports attractions rival those of much larger cities. There are numerous art performances to attend, including very active theater, dance and music departments offerings.Hancher Auditorium has a world-class arts program that features an ever changing list of international performers. Like any other city with a Big 10 University, there are a variety of sports events and cheering on the Hawkeyes draws many alums to the city. In addition to attending sports events, there are numerous options for participating in sports including two bike clubs, intramural sports offered by the University, a nearby Frisbee golf course, area golf courses, indoor tennis courts, area parks and a 20,000 square foot Campus Recreation and Wellness Center. The Center features a climbing wall, fitness equipment, leisure pool, indoor track, and group exercise classes. Recreation membership is included in tuition and fees for currently enrolled UI students.

The Iowa Writers' Workshop, probably the best regarded writing program in the world, is located at the University. Many novelists and non-fiction writers make Iowa City their home, and the number of novels set in Iowa City is quite astounding. Iowa City has been designated the world's third City of Literature by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. The Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature organization celebrates this quality by hosting the Iowa City Book Festival each fall. Prairie Lights Bookstore, one of the local independent book stores, offers free public readings by nationally known authors and poets.