College Towns: Ames, Iowa

Learn more about Ames, Iowa -- Home of Iowa State University.

The Town: Ames, Iowa

Thirty miles north of Des Moines, Ames is a town of just under 59,000 people. Ames, ranked No. 9 on CNN’s “Best Places to Live,” has weather typical of a plains states: snowy, frigid winters and humid summers highlighted by frequent thunderstorms.

Home to the USDA Agricultural Research Service’s National Animal Disease Center, numerous veterinary and agriculture technology companies are headquartered in Ames.

Campustown may be the heart of nightlife in Ames.

The School: Iowa State University

When you mention Iowa State to alumni, the first image that usually pops into their heads is the fountain of the four seasons. Four women, each representing a different time of the year, line the fountain. Combined with the Campanile in the background and the foliage in the autumn months, it makes for a gorgeous campus.

A public research institution, Iowa State specializes in agriculture, engineering and veterinary medicine, much like the rest of the city. It is the only university in the United States that has a US Department of Energy research lab on campus. The lab worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II.

What to Do

Campustown, located just south of the Iowa State central campus, is a neighborhood where many students live and go out, but you can find just as many non-students frequenting the bars and shops as well.

While Campustown may be the heart of nightlife, don’t forget to check out Memorial Union. Modeled after classic Greek and Roman architecture to honor alumni who died in the World Wars, it has a bookstore, bowling alley and spaces for student organizations to hold meetings and get-togethers. If you’re interested in joining the Greek system, Iowa State is unique in that students are allowed to live in fraternity and sorority houses their freshman year.

VEISHEA (Veterinary Med, Engineering, Industrial Science, Home Economics Agriculture) is the largest student-run festival in the nation. Unlike many festivals, there is an academic focus, though that doesn’t hinder participants from having a good time and making new friends. There’s a parade, as well as demonstrations and exhibitions for new technologies. Past speakers and musical guests have included Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan, Lyndon Johnson, Diana Ross, Billy Joel and the Who.

Where to Eat

Aunt Maude’s on Main Street sounds like the kind of hole-in-the-wall place where you can get your fill of local comfort food. This is true, to an extent, but the restaurant adds a touch of fine dining while keeping prices affordable. Enjoy gourmet deli sandwiches, cuts of fresh meat and pastas all made from locally grown products.

Did You Know?

The Atanasoff-Berry Computer, the first electronic digital computing mechanism, was built in Ames. A replica of the machine can be seen at the Durham Center on Iowa State’s campus.

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