Deep in the American heartland lies Iowa City, a college town on the Iowa River with sidewalk cafes and leafy neighbourhoods of old homes. However, beneath its small-town surface pulses a vibrant cultural scene.
The city is a giant in the literary world, thanks to the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa. The Workshop counts notables like Flannery O'Connor, John Irving, and Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Cunningham among its alumni.
The best way to enjoy Iowa City is on foot, starting with the Iowa Avenue Literary Walk, which is the Midwest's version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Panels along the sidewalk celebrate the many writers with Iowa connections.
Downtown in the Old Capitol District is the place to be. The Pedestrian Plaza is a stage ground for numerous events, especially during Summer of the Arts, which includes the Iowa Arts Festival, Iowa City Jazz Festival, Friday Night Concert Series, and Saturday Night Free Movie Series. Visitors can also catch great performances at the Hancher Auditorium, Englert Civic Theater and intimate Riverside Theater, which hosts an outdoor Shakespeare festival.
At Prairie Lights, one of the best independent bookstores in the country, world-renowned authors frequently give readings. If this sounds too stuffy, keep an eye out for the live bands that often play at the many local bars.
At the University of Iowa Pentacrest, site of the original capitol building before the state capital was switched to Des Moines, visitors can admire the Old Capitol Museum before crossing over the river on a footpath to enjoy the walking trails of City Park.