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Old 07-22-2010, 03:23 AM
 
33 posts, read 122,504 times
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I am considering a job at Iowa State, and am just curious to know what people think of Ames as a place to live. I spent many years living in Urbana, IL, so I am familiar with the general feel of a smallish college town stranded among the cornfields, but would welcome comments from residents -- epsecially if you're in your thirties and have kids.

One specific question I had was about the surrounding area -- is it just flat and featureless? Are there any nice state parks or bodies of water? What are some fun things to do within a couple of hours drive?

Also, what does Des Moines have to offer? I also lived several years in Chicago, and feel like I might need to have access to a bigger urban centre -- I know Des Moines is a lot smaller than Chicago, but what's it like as a city?
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Old 07-22-2010, 01:29 PM
 
Location: Coralville/Ames, IA
267 posts, read 1,136,759 times
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I am currently a student at Iowa State, so I might have a slightly different perspective than you. However, I am familiar with the area, and even the campus, so if you have any more specific questions, I'd be happy to answer.

Central Iowa is pretty flat, but there is a nice state park around the Des Moines River valley about 15 minutes west of Ames. It's called Ledges State Park, and it is a beautiful area. Ames also has plenty of city parks with nice trails and plenty of open areas. Ada Hayden, Brookside, and Inis Grove are probably the nicest in my opinion. There's also Reiman Gardens, which is a large, interesting garden south of ISU's campus. You also have Saylorville Lake a little bit to the south of Ames, which I actually haven't been to - but I know there are recreation opportunities there.

Des Moines is nice, although, as you said, a lot smaller than Chicago. With the new mall in West Des Moines (Jordan Creek), the area is getting new stores and particularly stores that are new to Iowa. You don't have the same class of stores in DM as you do in Chicago, of course, but it does offer more shopping than Ames. Des Moines also has some nice cultural offerings, concerts, etc. if you keep an eye out for them. The Des Moines Art Center is very nice if you like museums. If you need a "real" big city, Minneapolis is about 3 hours north, Omaha is maybe 2 1/2 hours west, and Kansas City is about 3 hours south.

As for Ames itself, it is probably quite similar to Urbana. It's a nice, safe town. There's really no traffic to speak of. The schools are great, from what I hear. There are large stores for your everyday shopping, a cute little Main Street area, and a (outdated and somewhat vacant on one side but okay) mall. It isn't the most exciting place, but the University brings in some entertainment. If you like rankings, it was ranked the #9 small city in America by CNN, so that might mean something. It's overall a nice place.
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Old 07-22-2010, 02:34 PM
 
99 posts, read 299,770 times
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I am also considering Ames for graduate or doctoral study, and the thought of living there from 2 to potentially 7 years kind of frightens me. I have family down in Des Moines, but I don't find the city of Des Moines anything spectacular. It always seemed like a larger version of the Quad Cities, nothing more, nothing less. Not that that is the worst thing in the world, but I am looking to expand my horizons.

I too am in my early 30s, without children, and I was wondering where I can find apartments that are removed, to a large extent, from the larger student population. I know, its Ames, and Iowa State's the main industry, but outside of research and school work, I have no desire to hear college students fighting and cursing all weekend in a drunken haze.
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Old 07-22-2010, 02:59 PM
 
Location: Coralville/Ames, IA
267 posts, read 1,136,759 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JTJ1977 View Post
I too am in my early 30s, without children, and I was wondering where I can find apartments that are removed, to a large extent, from the larger student population. I know, its Ames, and Iowa State's the main industry, but outside of research and school work, I have no desire to hear college students fighting and cursing all weekend in a drunken haze.
There are some apartment buildings/complexes that don't allow undergrads. I'm specifically thinking of the "Fountain View" development, which is in southwest Ames (Mayfield Dr., Maricopa Dr., etc. - these are nice and new, and some buildings are no-undergrad), but there are others. You may occasionally hear undergrad neighbors in adjacent buildings, but it's pretty nice overall. A lot of grad students live in this area. (Hunziker Property Management for details)

You could also look into renting a house, or an apartment in a house? There are a few rentals in some homes in more residential parts of Ames. In general, the farther you get from campus, the less students will be around. The areas I'm thinking of specifically are: out by the airport, east of S. Duff; the central Ames area, north of Main between Grand and Duff; and Somerset (which also has some no-undergrad apts.) along Stange between 24th and Bloomington.
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Old 07-22-2010, 03:13 PM
 
99 posts, read 299,770 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iowegian View Post
There are some apartment buildings/complexes that don't allow undergrads. I'm specifically thinking of the "Fountain View" development, which is in southwest Ames (Mayfield Dr., Maricopa Dr., etc. - these are nice and new, and some buildings are no-undergrad), but there are others. You may occasionally hear undergrad neighbors in adjacent buildings, but it's pretty nice overall. A lot of grad students live in this area. (Hunziker Property Management for details)

You could also look into renting a house, or an apartment in a house? There are a few rentals in some homes in more residential parts of Ames. In general, the farther you get from campus, the less students will be around. The areas I'm thinking of specifically are: out by the airport, east of S. Duff; the central Ames area, north of Main between Grand and Duff; and Somerset (which also has some no-undergrad apts.) along Stange between 24th and Bloomington.

Well, my sister-in-law's brother owns a property, but he stated that as of this moment, he has it rented out. Funny, but he was trying to get me out there in January for classes, but I refused because the idea of living in Ames wasn't palatable to me. Given this economy, and the fact that I cannot find a job with my major (political science), has made me very open to the idea of living in Ames and going back to school to earn an advanced degree.

Thank you for the link. I will check that out ASAP. I don't want to stereotype all students, but I remember going back to school in my late 20s a few years ago, and the noise coming out of the dorm rooms (and the fighting) irritated the living hell out of me. Well, I guess that I had grown up...lol. In hindsight, I should've gotten a full-time job and rented an apartment well away from campus, but hindsight's always 20/20, I suppose.

How far is Ames from Des Moines, since I will probably be going down there a bit to shop and partake of cultural activities? It seemed like it was about half-an-hour away when I visited the campus a few years ago. Is Ames considered part of the Des Moines MSA? Also, is AMTRAK service available, and if so, are there routes going to the Twin Cities and Kansas City? I could definitelty imagine going to those places during weekends.
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Old 07-22-2010, 03:33 PM
 
Location: Coralville/Ames, IA
267 posts, read 1,136,759 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JTJ1977 View Post
How far is Ames from Des Moines, since I will probably be going down there a bit to shop and partake of cultural activities? It seemed like it was about half-an-hour away when I visited the campus a few years ago. Is Ames considered part of the Des Moines MSA? Also, is AMTRAK service available, and if so, are there routes going to the Twin Cities and Kansas City? I could definitelty imagine going to those places during weekends.
I'm an undergrad and it drives me insane now...hah. I wish I could live in the no-undergrad buildings. I'll just tell you to be sure to avoid any apartments very near campus or in the Campustown area (south of campus along Welch, Stanton, Beach), you won't like it.

Des Moines is 30-45 minutes on I-35, depending on traffic (which is never really that bad, but Ankeny can be a little congested during rush hour), how fast you drive, and how far into DM you're going.

Amtrak has no routes in or near Ames, and no north-south routes in Iowa period, so no. You can get on it in Osceola and go to Chicago, Omaha or Denver, but not Minneapolis or KC (unless you go to Chicago first). You can take Greyhound buses to the Twin Cities or Kansas City, but that's it as far as long-distance transit.
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Old 07-23-2010, 11:37 AM
 
25 posts, read 46,402 times
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Unfortunately, I made the mistake of moving to Ames to go to ISU and lived there for 4 years.

Minuses:

1. If you are not a student, good luck finding something to do. I'm pretty good at finding something, anything, to keep me busy, but I was shocked at the lack of nightlife (unless you are an alcoholic) and family oriented things to do in this town when I was not working.

2. If you have kids, you may want to look elsewhere. My son was born in Ames and that environment just did not fit what we were looking for when raising him. A lot of the places we wanted to take him were either littered with drunk or rude college kids, or high school kids who weren't much better. Day care is almost impossible to find, and with the high demand, the centers that you find can charge you whatever they want. Since we moved from Ames to our current location, we are saving $120 per week just on child care alone (and yes I am comparing rates for the same age group).

3. The commute around campus is a nightmare, even worse if you take the Cyride (bus) and do not live within 3 blocks of campus. I lived on the south side of Ames, and had to leave 2 hours before my first class started or I did not get to class. Part of that lovely 2 hour jaunt was a 1 hour wait at city hall for a transfer (and you can't wait inside so if it rains, bring an umbrella and a change of clothes).

4. As far as housing, if you are going to be living in an apartment, you will not be able to run away from the drunk college kids. Even on the far south side of town, every other apartment in our building had college kids. Pounding on our door at 3AM, breaking bottles on the sidewalk (which helps immensely when you want to play with your kids outside), parties until dawn. I cannot imagine what the living conditions are like in Campustown.

Pluses:

1. I met some great people in Ames, but once they graduated, they fled the city to get a job.

2. The ISU sports teams are so bad that you can always get a ticket to one of their games.

3. A few of the newer parks are nice.

Sadly, my experience in Ames was not good, and I'm sure there will be people who disagree with my opinions. But, this was my experience in Ames, and I can't sugar coat it. I researched where I was going to live, how I would commute to campus, and where I would work but it did not benefit me at all.

Des Moines is nice, but nothing like Chicago. They have a lot of nice areas to explore and you can find something to do there most of the time. Traffic can suck sometimes, but you will have that in bigger cities. Ankeny is a great town and about half the size of Ames, so you may want to consider moving there and commuting to Ames, as it is only 20 minutes away. That area is great for raising a family but it is a rapidly growing community.



Regardless, if you move to Ames I hope it is a good experience for you!
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Old 07-23-2010, 01:15 PM
 
47 posts, read 137,853 times
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Ames is a nice, quiet place to live. Stress on the quiet - other than college activities, there's not a lot to do. Some, but nowhere near what a larger city (Minneapolis, Chicago, Des Moines even) would offer.

Pluses:
  • the library has a little kids area with some space for the smaller kids to play, puzzles to check out
  • there are lots of little parks to choose from for the younger set
  • there are moms groups, LLL, kindermusik and that sort of thing that isn't available in a smaller town
  • the hospital and medical center at Mary Greeley were very kind when we made use of them
  • Some nice concerts come through at Hilton
  • the bus system, though slow at times, goes pretty much everywhere in town and is cheap for non-ISU residents too
  • Hickory Park: GREAT food, known outside of the state, and very reasonable. Yummy BBQ.
  • The Farmer's Market at the train station isn't huge, but very lovely and so nice for the kids
  • We were part of an Organic CSA (crop share), but I don't remember which offhand.
  • Asian food stores, if you like that sort of thing - I think we were aware of three, when we lived there
  • Wheatsfield coop downtown - having one available was nice. They were going to expand and change location, I'm not sure that's happened yet. Their plans were lovely, the former (current?) location is fairly small but adequate.
  • amesrent.com - I wish every city had such an easy place to find house and duplex rentals!

Minuses:
  • the coal plant downtown kind of ruins the ambiance
  • the mall in town doesn't have a lot to offer - worth checking out to see what's there, but it's not a 'mall experience'
  • it can be kind of awkward to get everywhere you need to go depending on where you live - look into where the grocery stores are
  • I don't like Hunziker and they are everywhere!
  • not many left turn lanes/arrows
  • there are a LOT of trains that come through/know how to avoid getting caught. Some are *very* long.
  • getting a moving truck on end-of-the-lease weekend - everywhere in town seems to rent for the same term.

Within a couple of hours; let's see -- anything in Des Moines (20-40 min, depending), though I'm not really versed on what is actually around there. Jordan Creek Mall/area is pretty accessible from Ames and will have the PF Chang/Cheesecake Factory suburban type things. Like Costco. Adventureland and skiing are available near Des Moines.

Iowa's state parks don't charge admission. Ledges is near Boone: IA DNR: State Parks,Ledges State Park
For a longer weekend, I recommend Lake Red Rock. It's about an hour-fifteen from Ames, but the lake is gorgeous and great for boating and fishing. You can access it through the equestrian Elk Rock: IA DNR: State Parks,Elk Rock State Park or through Whitebreast campground: Facility Details - Recreation.gov, Whitebreast Camp (IA) - Recreation.gov

Unless you are going to Knoxville specifically for a sprint car race, you may want to avoid going down on race days - traffic can get pretty congested on Hwy 14!

Pella is worth seeing at least once during their Tulip Festival - it's a real treat. Pella Tulip Time - Pella Historical Society

For big city things, I would just head straight north to Minneapolis. It's a 3 hour drive, boring and easy. But then you can access things like Valley Fair, MoA, and IKEA. And no, no Amtrak.

Last edited by leilay; 07-23-2010 at 01:19 PM.. Reason: Paragraph Breaks, whoops!
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Old 07-23-2010, 01:34 PM
 
47 posts, read 137,853 times
Reputation: 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by iowegian View Post
There are some apartment buildings/complexes that don't allow undergrads. I'm specifically thinking of the "Fountain View" development, which is in southwest Ames (Mayfield Dr., Maricopa Dr., etc. - these are nice and new, and some buildings are no-undergrad), but there are others. You may occasionally hear undergrad neighbors in adjacent buildings, but it's pretty nice overall. A lot of grad students live in this area. (Hunziker Property Management for details)

You could also look into renting a house, or an apartment in a house? There are a few rentals in some homes in more residential parts of Ames. In general, the farther you get from campus, the less students will be around. The areas I'm thinking of specifically are: out by the airport, east of S. Duff; the central Ames area, north of Main between Grand and Duff; and Somerset (which also has some no-undergrad apts.) along Stange between 24th and Bloomington.
FountainView is quite nice. I wanted to add that there are some duplexes on 24th near the mall too; that whole area is pretty quiet. (you may have to drive around to find the ones for rent; signs in the yard are popular!)

I lived in this apartment building out west side:
Ames, IA Apartments and Houses for Rent, Local Apartment and Home Rentals, House, Townhome, and Condo Rentals, Vacation Rentals, Roommate and Sublet Classifieds :: Property Details for "*** MOVE IN SPECIAL *** 3Bdr Apt in NW Ames"
And quiet it was. There are also some duplexes next to it that are worth checking out. This apartment has NO yard. Sawyer Elementary is within walking distance, and they have a nice playyard, but you'd have to schedule around school & events.

Other than the yard issue, no complaints. The apartment itself was nice - a little small in some places, but in good shape with a great manager. At the time, there was a caretaker who lived in the building. VERY useful!
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Old 07-23-2010, 03:25 PM
 
507 posts, read 800,202 times
Reputation: 267
Main plus,safe and quiet.
Main minus, hick town
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