The University of Iowa

Things to Do in Iowa City

Entertainment and recreational activities on the campus and in Iowa City are far too numerous to detail here. They include movies, concerts, recitals, art exhibits, performances, sports, and museums.  Many are free of charge, including the UI Museum of Art, UI Museum of Natural History, music and dance recitals, and monthly orchestra performances. In addition, there are numerable student organizations that hold periodic social events.

You can also follow these groups on Facebook or Twitter to get information of the events happening in the area.

Many departments that offer performances (music, dance, theater) publish monthly or semester calendars or brochures with information about scheduled performances. Those brochures are available at the respective departmental offices, at the IMU Welcome Center, and at the Iowa City Public Library (ICPL). The ICPL's Information Desk maintains the Association List, a compendium of information about clubs and organizations in Iowa City.

During the pandemic, many departments and organizations on and off campus offer virtual events and programs, or offer limited in-person opportunities. Most of the events and programs information is posted on their website. You can also follow their social media for their offering. 

The Arts

The University of Iowa is known as The Writing University. The Iowa Writer’s Workshop was founded in 1936.  The International Writing Program has also brought over fourteen hundred writers from more than 140 countries since 1967.

Arts Iowa provides an online guide to performances, readings, exhibits, films, and other University of Iowa arts events.

The Iowa City – Coralville area offers numerous other arts venues, including the new Coralville Center for the Performing Arts, Riverside Theatre, several art galleries, and the Englert Theatre and Film Scene downtown. You can see Arts and Culture in downtown Iowa City for more information. 

The Iowa Cultural Corridor Alliance provides a comprehensive calendar of the area’s cultural events.

The Stanley Museum of Art counts more than 12,000 works in its collection, including paintings by Picasso, Pollack, and Matisse. Since the museum’s building was flooded in 2008, some selections from the collection can be seen on campus at the Iowa Memorial Union and the Levitt Center for University Advancement. Others are on display at the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa, an hour east of Iowa City on Interstate 80.

The Museum of Natural History, located in MacBride Hall, includes more than one million specimens from microscopic fossils to mastodon skulls. Exhibits in Iowa Hall illustrate the geological, biological, and cultural history of Iowa.

Old Capitol has served Iowa as a seat of government and education. Built in 1840, it was the home of Iowa state government. After the state government moved to Des Moines in 1857, Old Capitol became the first building owned by the University of Iowa. Today, as the Old Capitol Museum, it continues to serve both functionally and symbolically. Admission is free.

Athletics & Recreation


The Iowa Hawkeyes offer Big Ten excitement with 22 varsity athletic teams, including baseball, basketball, cross-country, field hockey, football, golf, gymnastics, rowing, soccer, softball, volleyball, and wrestling. Find team schedules.


University of Iowa Recreational Services serves the university community and the surrounding area. Facilities open to the public include fitness centers; swimming pools; indoor basketball, volleyball, racquetball, badminton, and squash courts; climbing walls; the outdoor Hawkeye Recreation Fields; the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Complex; Beckwith Boathouse; and the MacBride Nature Recreation Area.

Campus Recreation & Wellness Center (CRWC) provides climbing wall, competitive and leisure swimming pool, diving pool, jogging track, basketball/volleyball courts, gym, café, locker rooms, upgrade club locker rooms, wellness suit and recreational services administrative suite.

The Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Complex (HTRC) houses eight indoor and twelve outdoor tennis courts, 6,000 square feet of fitness space, an Indoor Turf Field and the Outdoor Rental Center. The outdoor courts are referred to as the Klotz Tennis courts, named after former Men’s Tennis Coach, Don Klotz. Also, the HTRC is the home of the University of Iowa Women’s and Men’s Tennis Teams. The facility is located at 2820 Prairie Meadow Dr. in Iowa City, just west of the Hawkeye Hall of Fame. Metered parking is available at the facility.

Finkbine Golf Couse, on the Hawkeye Campus in west Iowa City, is open to the public and offers adult and junior instruction programs.

The 480-acre Macbride Nature Recreation Area (just north of North Liberty on County Road F28) is the site of environmental education and outdoor recreation program as well as picnic areas, campgrounds, and marked trails for hiking and cross-country skiing.

Recreation in the Community

Robert A. Lee Community Recreation Center (Iowa City Recreation Center), 220 S. Gilbert Street, 319-356-5100. Swimming pool, gymnasium (sometimes used for roller skating), wading pool for children, game room, racquetball court, weight room/exercise room.

Coralville Recreation Center, 1512 7th Street, 319-284-1700. Exercise room, game room, gym/community room, meeting room, parking (fee), and pool.

Ice Skating at Coral Ridge Mall, west of Coralville.

Festivals & Fairs

Like any other locality, the State of Iowa offer a number of annual events that attract both tourists and area residents. A few are listed here:

Downtown Iowa City Events

The Iowa City Arts Fest takes place each June, and the Iowa City Jazz Fest around the Fourth of July. These events both include free musical performances. The Arts Fest also offers arts and crafts and activities for children. See the Iowa City Downtown District calendar.

Davenport Holiday Parade

Held during Christmas season, and featuring a large display of helium balloons. See Downtown Davenport Partnership website for more information.  

Iowa State Fair

The Iowa State Fair, first held in 1854, is now one of the most famous agricultural and industrial expositions in the country, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors. Includes one of the world's largest livestock shows, food, arts and crafts exhibitions, concessions, and live entertainment. Held over an eleven-day period each August at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines.

Johnson County Fair

Activities and events at the Johnson County Fair are similar to those of the Iowa State Fair, but on a much smaller scale. Held annually during July.

Kalona Fall Festival

Held in late September or early October each year, the Kalona Fall Festival emphasizes homemade foods, quilt displays and demonstrations, handmade crafts, and tours of restored buildings. 

Pella Tulip Festival

The Pella Tulip Festival features Dutch dancing, singing, Volks Parade, and street scrubbing. Wagon tours of community and viewing of magnificent tulip gardens, large arts and crafts show. Festival is held each spring in early May, when the tulips are in full bloom.

Things to Do Outside of Iowa City

Two popular recreational sites near Iowa City are the Coralville Dam (three miles [15 km] northwest of Iowa City via Highway 218) and Lake MacBride State Park (four miles [7 km] west of the town of Solon, which is 12 miles [19 km] north of Iowa City on Highway 1). Both offer facilities for picnics, camping, hiking, swimming, fishing, and boating. The Dam became especially popular among sightseers after the 1993 flooding washed away soil and revealed many fossils in the bedrock. The site has been named the Devonian Fossil Gorge.

Kent Park, located about eight miles (13 km) west of Iowa City on Highway 6, has facilities for swimming and picnicking.

There are three principal tourist attractions in this area. One is the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, east of Iowa City in the town of West Branch. The museum and memorial library are interesting to visit. They mark the birthplace and burial ground of the 34th president of the United States.

Another attraction is the Amana Colonies, which have maintained the atmosphere established by the Germans who founded them in the last century. The Amanas are known for certain products, notably meats, wine, woolen goods, and wood furniture. Tours of wineries and furniture and woolen mills are available. Oktoberfest, an old-world style celebration held the first weekend in October, is the Colonies' major annual event. There are several restaurants in the Colonies. To get to the Colonies, go 20 miles (32 km) west of Coralville on Highway 6.

Kalona is an Amish community located 22 miles south of Iowa City on Highway 1. Attractions in Kalona include the Historical Village and the Wahl Museum of antique collections.

Information adapted from the Iowa City Coralville North Liberty Visitor & Community Reference Guide.