Iowa City, Iowa

Best Places to Retire in Iowa


Iowa City (population 65,000) is located in the southeastern part of the state, about 60 miles from the border of Illinois. It is a college town, home to the University of Iowa with 20,000 undergrads and 10,000 graduate and professional students. It is also the county seat of Johnson County, which has a total population of about 116,000, and is among the fastest growing areas of the state. The adjoining community of Coralville has a population of about 16,000.

Iowa City became the first permanent capital in 1839, shortly after Iowa became a territory. However, in 1857 the state government was moved to Des Moines and the Old Capitol in Iowa City became the first building of the University of Iowa. It housed the entire university until 1863.

Today it offers the amenities of a much larger city, and yet has retained its small-town hospitality. It has a very inviting downtown with a pedestrian mall, many boutiques, and a plaza with wooden benches where you can relax. You’ll also find a number of outdoor cafes, and in the summer months there are events such as the jazz festival and the Iowa Arts Festival that features art, plus music and food.

There are a great many cultural opportunities, including community and professional theater, open air Shakespearean productions, jazz, symphonic music, choral groups, dance, Broadway productions, and world-class artists and entertainers. There is also a wide range of dining, including everything from sushi to European fine dining, to bistros, pubs, or pizza. There is also dining with live music — and there is nightlife.

The University of Iowa is the largest employer in the area and contributes greatly to the quality of life of the city. It has outstanding venues and presents a wide range of cultural events. It attracts world-class entertainment, hosts exciting collegiate sporting events, offers continuing education opportunities, and supports a great many other amenities in the community.

The city has excellent shopping, both within the city and at Coral Ridge and Eastside Malls. In addition there is an outlet center with 55 brand-name stores a short distance west of the city. It also enjoys excellent healthcare.

Iowa City has been ranked near the top as one of the most highly educated metropolitan areas in the nation. It has also been written about as a very desirable retirement location.

Arts & Culture

Cultural Corridor is a joint effort between the Cedar Rapids and Johnson County Cultural Alliances to provide a comprehensive list of upcoming events, activities and attractions in the area.

The University of Iowa Department of Dance presents a number of performances.

The Iowa Community Theatre is a non-profit community organization that promotes the dramatic arts. Begun in the mid-1950s, it presents an annual series of show productions, including a great number of the timeless classics.

Englert Civic Theatre is a community arts center with diverse programming. Its focus is to highlight local performers, artists and ensembles.

Riverside Theatre is the city’s professional theatre, producing plays from the classics. Each summer it produces a Shakespeare Festival in Lower City Park.

Hancher Auditorium, which is a part of the University of Iowa’s Center for the Arts, is a 2,500-seat facility. It is a principle venue for music, dance, live theater performances, world-class entertainers, and community sponsored events.

The Iowa University Division of Performing Arts (which is a part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences) offers a great many public performances. Details can be found on the Web sites that follow:

Performing music ensembles –
Performing dance calendar –
Mainstage Season (Theater) –

University of Iowa Museum of Art is considered among of the finest university art museums. It has 30,000 square feet of gallery space.

University of Iowa Museum of Natural History features large dioramas and displays of over 1,000 birds and mammals from around the world.

Old Capitol Museum is a structure that served as the first permanent capitol of the state from 1839 until 1857. It housed the entire University of Iowa until 1863.

Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum is located in West Branch, 12 miles east of Iowa City.

The Iowa City Jazz Festival provides performance opportunities for professionals, local talent, and student musicians. Performed in the heart of downtown, the festival attracts audiences numbering over 20,000 persons.

Iowa City Fall Fun Festival is a three-day event held over the Labor Day weekend. It includes food, fun, and a variety of entertainment for adults and children. For information contact the city at (319) 358-2455.

Iowa City Public Library circulates over 1.5 million items annually. The facility is expanding and will add 81,000 square feet.

Johnson County Historical Society was originally organized in 1967 as the Mormon Trek Memorial Foundation. Its mission was to memorialize the Mormon Handcart Expeditions that departed for Salt Lake City in 1856 and 1857. A park and monument were created at the site. The foundation also created a local history museum (the Coralville Public Schoolhouse, built in 1876) and changed its name to reflect this expanded purpose. The facility was opened to the public in 1983.

Iowa Children’s Museum, located at the south entrance of Coral Ridge Mall, has five very entertaining galleries. (Great for the grandchildren!)


The Iowa City Parks & Recreation Department manages 40 parks that include about 1,200 acres. There are both indoor and outdoor pools, tennis courts, athletic fields, trails, picnic areas, a skate park and an outdoor theatre.

The University of Iowa (the “Iowa Hawkeyes”) hosts a great number of interesting athletic events that are open to the public. It is a Division 1A school and member of the Big Ten Conference. The university competes in 12 men’s sports and 10 women’s sports at the intercollegiate level.

The Cedar Rapids Kernels are a Minor League professional baseball team, affiliated with the Anaheim Angels. Their April-thru-August schedule of home games is played at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids (about 25 miles). The Kernels play in the Midwest League.

Coralville Lake Park offers 5,000 acres of water for pleasure boating, fishing, swimming and waterskiing. It also has camping, picnic shelters, hiking and biking trails, cross country skiing, and more. The Devonian Fossil Gorge features fossils dated to almost 200 million years before the dinosaurs. The fossils were unearthed by the overwash from a flood in 1993.

Lake MacBride State Park (a few miles northwest of the city) consists of 2,180 acres and offers camping, miles of hiking and biking trails, swimming, boating, fishing, and picnic areas. It is also an excellent location for bird watchers to see nearly every songbird from the region.

The Cedar Rapids Freedom Festival is a one-week family-oriented patriotic festival which features huge fireworks displays.


The University of Iowa, founded in 1847, is the state’s first public institution of higher learning. It now enrolls about 30,000 students, with over 20,000 undergraduates, about 5, 500 graduate students and over 4,000 professional students. It offers 91 major courses for undergraduates, 169 for graduates, and six for profession training.

Senior Programs

The Iowa City/Johnson County Senior Center serves adults, age 50 and above. Located in the downtown area, the center offers a full array of classes, activities, and volunteer opportunities.


Mercy Hospital is a 240-bed acute care Catholic hospital operated in the tradition of the Sisters of Mercy.

University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics partner with the University’s Carver College of Medicine as a teaching hospital and healthcare center for the state of Iowa. The University of Iowa Healthcare System has 640-beds.

Veterans Affairs Medical Center is a 93-bed general medical and surgical facility.


The Eastern Iowa Airport at Cedar Rapids (about 25 miles) is a full service commercial airport capable of handling up to and including the Boeing 747. It has a modern terminal with over 100,000 square feet of space and 13 aircraft gate positions. Over 150 corporate and private aircraft are also based there.


The average temperatures for January are a high of 30 degrees and low of 13 degrees. The average temperatures for July are 88 degrees and 66 degrees. Typical January snowfall is 8.5 inches and the average annual snowfall is 30 inches.


Iowa City Press-Citizen –

Property Taxes

State Taxes

Chamber of Commerce

State Aging Agency


Coralville – 2.3 miles
Cedar Rapids – 25 miles
Davenport – 56 miles
Bettendorf – 58 miles
Dubuque – 83 miles
Moline, IL – 64 miles
Cedar Falls – 78 miles
Des Moines – 113 miles
Madison, WI – 176 miles
Chicago, IL – 220 miles

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