15 Best Places to Live in Iowa

Written by Darren Griffiths
Updated on
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Deep in the midwest of the United States of America is Iowa. Home to 3.1 million people this state is famed for farming corn and its rolling plains. From the Effigy Mounds to the Maquoketa Caves, a lifetime of adventure would still only see you scratch the surface of this state.

As a place to live, Iowa has very little to find fault with. For those who simply must breathe in the sea air daily, stop reading now! Iowa is a landlocked state although not too far from Lake Michigan whose vast expanse could easily fool someone into thinking it was the sea, there is an aridness to Iowa that beach bums would not find appealing.

Whenever you seek a new place to live, several things must be considered beyond the charm of your new house alone. Research can be dull and arduous so to make your life a little easier we have created this list of 15 best places to live in Iowa so you can press on and find your perfect home as soon as possible. 

Let’s get started;

1. Ames

Ames, IowaSource: EQRoy / shutterstock

When you hear Ames, you most likely think of the famous college town. Named after Congressman Oakes Ames, this charming and historic town is home to Hawkeye State’s largest university. The city also developed the first atomic bomb and electric digital computer.

Ames is a diverse city where most everything centers around Iowa State University. With a population of more than sixty-five thousand population, Ames is filled with recreational opportunities, local businesses, entertainment, and much more! Ames is known for its thriving economy, medical care, excellent schools, and outdoor nature parks.

In 2022, Ames ranked in the “Top 100 Places to Live” List. Situated on Highway 30 and Interstate 35, Ames is the perfect location to start a home with its easy commute.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Ames are:

  • Iowa State University
  • Reiman Gardens
  • Jack Trice Stadium
  • Brunnier Art Museum
  • Ames History Museum
  • Stephens Auditorium
  • Christina Petersen Art Museum
  • Firman Aquatic Center
  • Ada Hayden Heritage Park
  • Octagon Center for the Arts
  • Brookside Park
  • The Great Plains Sauce & Dough Co
  • Alluvial Brewing Company
  • Ledges State Park
  • Perfect Games

2. West Des Moines

West Des Moines, IowaSource: Iowahwyman / Wikimedia
West Des Moines

With a population of over sixty-five thousand, West Des Moines is one of Iowa’s best places to live. West Des Moines is known to have excellent public schools, several restaurant options, and offers family-friend activities throughout the community.

In West Des Moines, you’ll find affordable housing options that include apartments, townhomes, and single-family homes. You’ll find cafes, pubs, and other food-related celebrations among its vibrant restaurant scene. Each year, West Des Moines has its annual Wurst Festival.

Residents in the community of West Des Moines are known for being friendly, helpful, and even helping with volunteer opportunities. If you’re looking for a friendly community, West Des Moines is a great place to call home.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in West Des Moines are:

  • Historic Valley Junction
  • Raccoon River Park
  • Jordan House
  • Jordan Creek Town Center
  • West Glen Town Center
  • Brown’s Woods
  • Des Moines
  • Des Moines Art Center
  • Salisbury House & Gardens
  • Valley Junction Farmers’ Market
  • Walnut Woods State Park
  • Living History Farms
  • Smash Park
  • West Grand Golf
  • Valley West Mall

3. Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon, IowaSource: ArtisticAbode / Wikimedia
Mount Vernon

Sitting near two of Iowa’s top cities, Mount Vernon is a small urban town that combines city culture and art festivals, restaurants, and boutiques. Travel Magazine named it “One of America’s Coolest Small Towns.”

Mount Vernon may be a city on paper but with only a little over four thousand residents there is almost a village-like feel to the place. There is a running theme: rent in Iowa is relatively cheap, and Mount Vernon is no exception. With median monthly rent lying affordable for those wishing to buy their time before investing in property.

Given the small population, there is very little crime, which can also be attributed to the neighborly nature of the residents too. There are only six schools in this district, but they all perform in line with or above government expectations.

There is always somewhere open serving food, come rain or shine you’ll always find a hearty good meal in Mount Vernon.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Mount Vernon are:

  • Palisades-Kepler State Park
  • Glyn Mawr Winery-The Local
  • American Gothic Barn
  • Bass Farms
  • Bijou Movie Theater
  • Lincoln Wine Bar
  • Kroul Farms

4. Clive

Clive, IowaSource: Iowahwyman (talk) (Uploads) / Wikimedia

With a population of over eighteen thousand and its convenience and amenities offerings, Clive is one of the best places to live in Iowa. Here you can have the conveniences of the big city while living in the country.

As you stroll around the community, visit local shops, and experience its walking trail, you’ll quickly discover that Clive is a great place to work and live. While in the community, you’ll come across Greenbelt Park, which offers a variety of walking trails and other recreational opportunities.

Compared to other home costs throughout the country, Clive is the best town in Des Moines.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Clive are:

  • Living History Farms
  • Clive Greenbelt Trail
  • Des Moines
  • Clive Historical Society
  • Clive Aquatic Center
  • Board & Brush Creative Studio
  • Greenbelt Goats
  • 515 Brewing
  • Des Moines Buccaneers
  • Campbell Recreation Area
  • Country Club Glen
  • Historic Valley Junction
  • Jordan Creek Town Center
  • Wildwood Park
  • Valley West Mall

5. Johnston

Johnston, IowaSource: Iowahwyman / Wikimedia

Situated north of Des Moines is the suburban town of Johnston. Johnston has abundant recreational facilities, over parks, forty miles of walking trails, a great school system, and excellent quality of life. The suburban town of Johnston prides itself on its low cost of living, home values, safe community, and award-winning school system.

Over the years, developers have become attracted to the town of Johnston. It may have something to didn’t the quality of life, city services, and the overall city image. Johnston is one of the best places to live in Iowa to raise a family.

If you ask anyone, the best part of Johnston has always been its residents. If you’re looking for a city with an excellent school system and high quality of life, Johnston is the perfect place to call home.

Entertainment & Activities.

Some of the best things to do in Johnston are:

  • Saylorville Lake
  • Iowa Gold Star Military Museum
  • Beaver Creek Kayaking
  • Johnston Farmers’ Market
  • Johnston Town Center
  • Terra Park
  • Trostel’s Greenbriar
  • Sycamore Trail
  • Kites on the Green
  • Neal Smith Trail
  • Johnston Station Historical Society Museum
  • Pole Position Raceway Des Moines
  • Merle Hay Mall
  • Dewey Park
  • Des Moines Driving Range

6. Coralville

Coralville, IowaSource: Alan Light / Flickr

Located within Johnson County and only twenty miles South of Iowa City, you’ll find Coralville. This town has a population of around nineteen thousand, giving its residents plenty of choices regarding outdoor festivals and other family-friendly events.

As one of the best places to live in Iowa, Coralville is known to have an excellent educated population, a diverse economy, and plenty of college-town amenities. In communities south of downtown, you’ll find businesses and tree-lined neighborhoods.

Be prepared to pack a lot of winter gear! In Coralville, winter temperatures can sometimes reach below zero, with the potential for blizzards. If you can handle cold and snowy winters, you’ll have no problem calling Coralville home.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Coralville are:

  • Antique Car Museum
  • Tailgators Sports Bar
  • The Iowa Children’s Museum
  • Iowa River Landing Sculpture Walk
  • Altmaier Family Park & Disc Golf Course
  • Johnson County Historical Society Museum
  • Coralville Center for the Performing Arts
  • 1876 Coralville Schoolhouse
  • Auburn Hills Park
  • The Rink at Coral Ridge
  • Marcus Coral Ridge Cinema

7. Bettendorf

Bettendorf, IowaSource: Felix Mizioznikov / shutterstock

If you’ve been looking for a new city great for families, especially those with children, Bettendorf is one of the best places to live in Iowa. Bettendorf has much to offer from family museums with interactive exhibits to biking trails.

Bettendorf also holds several community events such as their annual Bettendorf Old Fashioned 4th of July event. With one of the most livable communities, Bettendorf has an excellent school system and plenty of recreational opportunities.

You won’t need to travel to the big city to find what you want. Bettendorf is filled with many restaurants and shopping and is home to the Mississippi River Trail. Bettendorf is the perfect place to call home if you’ve been looking for a prosperous community great for working, playing, and investing.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Bettendorf are:

  • Family Museum
  • Channel Cat Water Taxi
  • Riverfront Trail
  • Duck Creek Parkway Trail
  • Isle Casino
  • Middle Park
  • Crawford Brew Works
  • Splash Landing Family Aquatic Center
  • Leach Park
  • Davenport
  • Moline
  • Rock Island Arsenal Museum
  • Veterans Memorial Park
  • Frozen Landing
  • Fourth of July Festival

8. University Heights

University Heights, IowaSource: American007 / Wikimedia
University Heights

If you’re looking for a slower-paced place, University Heights is one of Iowa’s best places to live. With its friendly neighbors, serene atmosphere, and plenty to explore, we guarantee you’ll get bored living here.

The streets and homes in University Heights are well-maintained, with many parks and restaurants nearby. Situated close to Iowa State University, University Heights has many college-town amenities for its young residents. Whether watching a game at Kinnick Stadium or visiting your local farmers market, you’ll receive the best balance of modern living and a suburban lifestyle.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in University Heights are:

  • Kinnick Stadium
  • Finkbine Golf Course
  • Carver-Hawkeye Arena
  • The Mill Restaurant
  • FilmScene on the Ped Mall
  • ReUnion Brewery
  • Big Grove Brewery and Taproom
  • The Iowa Children’s Museum

9. Waterbury


Situated on the West Side of Des Moines and it’s easy access to the interstate and downtown, you’ll find the area of Waterbury. Waterbury is a convenient location, making it the perfect place to live if you commute to work.

Known for its older homes that have charm and character, you’ll find exceptional schools, the Des Moines Art Center, and Greenwood Park. Families love living in Waterbury for its public schools and to be close to the bike trail.

The neighborhoods are family-friend, with sidewalks for walking and biking and annual neighborhood events. Each year, the community has its Fourth of July parade around Waterbury Circle. The neighborhood kids will decorate their bikes and stroll around the circle during this event.

Waterbury Iowa is one of the best places to live and raise a family.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Waterbury are:

  • La Mie
  • The Cheese Shop
  • Viva

10. Huxley


Known as a unique community with great job opportunities, excellent schools, and a place where community involvement is standard practice, Huxley is one of Iowa’s best places to live. Huxley has something for everyone, from its many sports teams and local events to its supportive farmer’s markets.

While strolling through town, you’ll find that the residents in Huxley are very welcoming and extremely friendly towards its new residents. With its small-town charm, it is one of the best places to live in Iowa.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Huxley are:

  • Nite Hawk Bar & Grill
  • Center Grove Orchard
  • Fenceline Beer Lab
  • R Place Pub and Pizza
  • Centennial Park

11. Waukee

Waukee, IowaSource: Iowahwyman / Wikimedia

Waukee is another suburb of Des Moines to feature on our list. Smaller than the others we have mentioned, Waukee is home to over sixteen thousand people. There is next to no crime in the area making it one of the safest suburbs in Iowa to live in and excellent for raising a family.

Waukee is known to be the most significant, fastest-growing city in Iowa. As one of the best places to live in Iowa, Waukee has a friendly community, quality schools, nature parks, trails, and plenty of entertainment opportunities.

The city of Waukee is very dedicated to its development, business opportunities, and the Hickman Road Corridor.

The median household income here is above average for Iowa as a whole. Home value is, too, a little higher than the state average. You get good value for money here in Waukee should you be prepared to invest more. For a little over the average price, you could be the proud owner of a 4-bedroom, 4-bathroom family home with a spacious garden and double garage to match.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Waukee are:

  • The Triangle
  • Centennial Park
  • Heart of the Warrior Trail
  • Warrior Lanes
  • Kinship Brewing Company
  • Des Moines
  • Living History Farms
  • Waukee Farmers’ Market
  • Raccoon River Valley Trail
  • The Palms Theaters & IMAX
  • Sugar Creek Municipal Golf Course
  • Jordan Creek Town Center
  • Smash Park
  • Westown Meadows Park
  • Independence Day Celebration

12. North Liberty

North Liberty, IowaSource: northlibertyiowa.org
North Liberty

North Liberty is another family-friendly small town located in the state of Iowa. While living in North Liberty, residents enjoy the beautiful sunsets in their backyards, nature parks, and the many places around the community for kids to enjoy.

With its excellent schools, recreation, and library programs, the community always finds a way to come together when in need of support. North Liberty is located in a very desirable location, which has driven its residential growth. The community also hosts year-round activities with miles of walking trails, stocked ponds, and much more!

Conveniently located only two miles from Interstate 80 and home of The CRANDIC Runway, it’s a great location to call home without worrying about transportation and commutes.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in North Liberty are

  • Coralville Lake
  • University of Iowa
  • Hawkeye Wildlife Preserve
  • Iowa Children’s Museum
  • Iowa City
  • Lake MacBride State Park
  • Sugar Bottom Recreation Area
  • Devonian Fossil Gorge
  • North Ridge Trail
  • Reds Alehouse
  • Colony Pumpkin Patch
  • Penn Meadows Park
  • Quail Creek Golf Course
  • Blues & BBQ
  • Beat the Bitter

13. Urbandale

Urbandale, IowaSource: rachaelvoorhees / Flickr

Lying to the southwest of Johnston is the suburb of Urbandale, home to over forty-two thousand people. Although on paper a suburb of Des Moines, Urbandale is a place in its own right, largely due to the increased population.

Compared with other suburbs of the state capital Urbandale’s house prices are more affordable. With only nineteen percent of people living in rented accommodation, you may have to look pretty hard to find your ideal rental property though.

Being a little further out from the CBD there are very few incidences of crime in the area, and the neighborly attitude of residents makes any newcomer feel right at home.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Urbandale are:

  • Living History Farms
  • Des Moines Buccaneers
  • Des Moines
  • Merle Hay Mall
  • Paragon Prairie Tower
  • Raccoon River Valley Trail
  • Walker Johnston Park
  • Breakout Games
  • Clive Aquatic Center
  • Saylorville Lake
  • Machine Shed Restaurant
  • Iowa Gold Star Military Museum
  • Lions Park
  • AMC Classic Cobblestone 9
  • Get Air Trampoline Park

14. Robins

Robins, IowaSource: www.youtube.com

With Route 380 easily connecting you to Cedar Rapids there is no short supply of job opportunities around Robins.

This is a small and cozy town home to over three thousand people. There is such a prevalent community feel there that one could compare it to a large village. With that in mind, we should discuss house prices; on average a property in Robins will call for an investment, but rent is still perfectly low.

Value for money is the aim of the game in Robins. Although house prices are higher, being away from the city, you get more bang for your buck. For a little over average, you can invest in a 5-bedroom, 3-bathroom spacious family home in the center of Iowa City would cost above average in price.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Robins are:

  • East Knoll Park
  • Paramount Theatre
  • Bever Park
  • Seminole Valley Park
  • Prairie Park Fishery
  • Clock House Brewing
  • Spare Time Cedar Rapids

15. Grimes

Grimes, IowaSource: www.grimesiowa.gov

Grimes by name but certainly not by nature, this small town northwest of Johnston is as clean as can be. Locals are quick to mention it when giving their verdict on niche.com too!

Like Johnston, Grimes has experienced a rapid influx of new residents over the past ten to fifteen years, but locals comment that the infrastructure has struggled to keep up.

There are 24 schools for parents to choose from in this schooling district, many of which are performing incredibly well, standing students in good stead for their future endeavors.

House prices in Grimes are similar to Johnston, lying at a median value.

Entertainment & Activities

Some of the best things to do in Grime are:

  • Climb Iowa
  • Pole Position Raceway
  • Sky Zone Trampoline Park
  • Pappajohn Sculpture Park
  • Blank Park Zoo
  • Science Center of Iowa
  • Adventureland Park
  • Des Moines Art Center


15 Best Places to Live in Iowa:

  • Ames
  • West Des Moines
  • Mount Vernon
  • Clive
  • Johnston
  • Coralville
  • Bettendorf
  • University Heights
  • Waterbury
  • Huxley
  • Waukee
  • North Liberty
  • Urbandale
  • Robins
  • Grimes