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Old 02-25-2011, 02:40 PM
 
47 posts, read 96,470 times
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I recently got accepted to a graduate program at Iowa State University. I grew up in a small town on the east coast, but have lived in relatively large cities ever since. I know absolutely nothing about Ames, Iowa. Does anyone have any thoughts?

I live in Portland now and tend to enjoy places that are relatively progressive, friendly, and artsy.

Does Ames have a large downtown? Are there coffee shops, bars, interesting restaurants, etc. or is it mostly homes and chain stores?

Are there outdoor activities (hiking, mountain biking, etc.)?

Is it the sort of place where you see families walking around?

Are there any young, single people?

Thanks for any information!
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Old 02-25-2011, 03:06 PM
 
Location: Coralville/Ames, IA
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Coming from Portland, Ames might be a bit of a shock. It's going to be quite a bit less artsy and progressive than Portland, and obviously a lot smaller. Ames is actually relatively progressive for Iowa, but it will be much more conservative than the west coast.

As far as downtown goes, Ames has two: Main Street and Campustown. Main Street has little stores and a few good restaurants, and is mostly frequented by Ames locals (not students). Campustown is where the students go, and as such, it is almost entirely bars and restaurants. Duff Ave. has all the chain stores: Target, Super Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Borders, etc. There is a mall with a couple department stores and a few clothes stores, but it is old, small, and increasingly vacant.

There are a few coffee shops spread out over Ames, my favorite is probably Stomping Grounds on Welch (the only real coffee shop in Campustown) but there are others. There are some good restaurants (The Cafe up on Northridge Pkwy. is probably the best one, in my opinion.), and even more if you're willing to drive south 45 minutes or so to Des Moines, which has a wide selection of interesting local restaurants.

As far as recreation opportunities, Ames is in a very flat part of the state, so hiking and mountain biking might not be the greatest. I like going out to Ledges State Park 15 miles west, which has hiking trails, and Ames does have quite a few city parks.

You'll meet young, single people as a grad student - there are plenty of other grad students (and undergrads) around, but away from campus, it's a pretty family-oriented place. In general, most students live in west Ames, and other people live in the east and north.

Overall, Ames is okay. I don't love it, and I'll definitely leave after college, but there are certainly worse places to spend your grad student years. Come with an open mind and you might find that you like it.
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Old 02-25-2011, 03:20 PM
 
Location: Des Moines
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Well, don't expect beautiful scenery like you have out there in Oregon. Ames sits at the start of flat-as-a-pancake farm country that you hear about in every Iowa stereotype, despite Iowa as a whole really not being as flat as you most outsiders may think.

You can find plenty of outdoorsy activities nonetheless, with Ames having a great parks and trail system. Defintely check out Ledges State Park, which is in the next county to the west of Ames for a very un-Central Iowa like experience. You can rent canoes or kayaks and travel down the Des Moines River as well. Ames' downtown is nothing to write home about, but it's in good shape and is filled with plenty of shops, bars and restaurants. It serves as a nice, more mature get-away from the wilder atmosphere of Campustown.

With Ames having a large university, there are definitely aspects of the place that are "progressive and artsy", but it's a far more conservative place than Iowa's other university city, Iowa City.

There's 15,000 frisky nymphs out of a student body population of 30,000 students for you to chase around at Iowa State alone, so I'm quite sure there are single people in a decent-sized college town like Ames.
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Old 02-26-2011, 02:21 PM
 
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I live in Ames, and it's a great town.
Just like any city, it has a variety of people, and we do have our share of what you want...

As far as what you mentioned, we have at least 3 local business areas that are of interest, particularly Downtown (http://www.travelggg.com/wp-content/...ain_Street.jpg) and Campustown (run down, but will be renovated soon, though that is generating a lot of controversy currently).
There are plenty of great parks. Iowa State has one of the nicer campuses for a public university. There is also a good number of parks within walking distance from most places.
Is there anything else you'd like to know about?
I'm involved with some interesting things happening, like complementary currencies, a hackerspace, housing cooperatives, etc.
Other resources:
Ames Progressive.org
... and much more of course

Let me know if you need anything:
Nitin Gadia | Facebook
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Old 02-26-2011, 02:23 PM
 
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... why did none of my urls become links??
This is my first post in citydata
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Old 03-06-2011, 02:48 PM
 
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Thanks for the information. Can anyone provide information on a good neighborhood/street to look for apartments on. I'm an older student who would prefer not to live near undergrads. I am looking for a family-friendly area with a little character. Thanks!
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Old 03-06-2011, 03:21 PM
 
Location: Des Moines
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You might try the neighborhood just to the north and north east of downtown. It's a well-preserved older neighborhood that seems largely void of the student madness. You'll probably be looking at renting more single family houses rather than apartments though. Just about any apartment complex in town is going to have some students living there. Typically, the farther away you get from campus, the less students there are (particularly with the far-flung apartments in north Ames and SW Ames). There are a lot of nice, new apartments off of the South Dakota Avenue/Highway 30 interchange, but they seem almost entirely lived in by students.
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Old 05-12-2011, 11:15 AM
 
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Any progress?
When are you moving to ames?
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Old 05-12-2011, 11:43 AM
 
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I loved living in Ames. I lived there after living in NYC, LA, Seattle and other college towns & found nothing lacking in the community.

Downtown is lovely - some interesting antique stores, a nice "fair trade" store, some good restaurants.

Ames has TONS of parks - great for dog walking! Even though people think of Ames as flat, most of the parks are hilly - there's one that is in the bed of a ravine. Lots of trees in the parks, too. Make sure you get a map of Ames from the Chamber when you move there so you can scope out all the obscure parks. I'm remembering one that was very woodsy and quiet, but can't remember the name. Hmmm - was there a YMCA camp or something nearby?

And the best thing about Ames as a College town is that mostly the students live near the University on the near West and South sides of town and families and other adults live on the north, east, or far west sides of town - so there's not the drama of noise v. normal life that there is in many Collge towns. Rental prices are high, but they won't seem bad to you after Portland!

If a job opened up in Ames I'd go back there in a flash!
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Old 05-15-2011, 12:15 PM
 
Location: Chicago
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I'm not trying to be negative here, but by almost every measure, doesn't Iowa City stack up way above Ames as a college town?
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