Beardshear Hall, Iowa State University campus

Ames is a pleasant college town in Central Iowa, sitting astride the Skunk River roughly 30 miles north of Des Moines. Life in Ames follows the ebb and flow of the academic year at Iowa State University, which is the city's primary draw. Named after Massachusetts congressman and transcontinental railroad supporter Oakes Ames, the city was founded as a stop along one of the primary rail links to the first transcontinental railroad. The railroad is still a daily part of life in Ames, with nearly 70 Union Pacific long-haul freight trains passing through town each day.

Get in

By car

Traveling from the north (e.g., Minneapolis, 2.5-hr drive) or from the south (Des Moines, 30 minutes), take I-35 to exit 113 and drive west along 13th Street into town. Or take US 30 (exit 111) west to South Duff or University Boulevard and go north into town. Traveling from the east (Chicago, 5.5 hours) or from the west (Omaha, 2 hours), take I-80 to I-35, and then I-35 north and as above. US 30 also reaches Ames direct from Omaha and Chicago.

By bus

Trailways serves the   Ames Intermodal Facility, +1 515 232-2404, at 129 Hayward Avenue, a block south of the Iowa State University campus.

By plane

There is no commercial aviation to Ames; the nearest major airport is located in Des Moines. Shuttle service is available to/from Ames; Executive Express offers a relatively frequent scheduled service. If flying via charter or general aviation, one can use the   Ames Municipal Airport on the southern edge of town, south of Airport Rd; from there automobile is the best bet into town - a Hertz rental car location is available at the airport.

Get around

Lincoln Way is the main east-west thoroughfare of the city, passing just south of Downtown (the historic center of town, north of the train tracks between Grand and Duff Avenues) and continuing west to Campustown (the neighborhood immediately south of the ISU campus) along the southern edge of the central campus of ISU. Similarly, 13th Street runs from I-35 across the northern edges of the downtown area and the university campus. Main north-south roads include Duff Avenue (south of Lincoln Way) and Grand Avenue (north of Lincoln Way) which together carry U.S. Hwy 69 through Ames, University Boulevard and North/South Dakota Avenues.

The city-university partnership Cyride provides bus service in Ames. Service hours can be very limited, but the system does a decent job covering the city. Fare is $1.25 ($0.60 for children/seniors), with monthly passes available for $35.

Ames is very bicycle friendly, with a moderately extensive paved trail system for walking and biking. Apart from ISU itself, there are generally three main pedestrian-friendly concentrations of shops and restaurants: Downtown along Main St between Clark and Duff Avenues, Campustown along Welch Ave south of Lincoln Way, and the much newer Somerset neighborhood directly north of the ISU campus along Stange Ave north of 24th St. Not quite so pedestrian friendly is the two miles of big box stores and strip malls along Duff Avenue between US 30 on the south and Lincoln Way on the north.


Iowa State University

The Campanile, Iowa State University

Occupying nearly 500 acres in the middle of town is the scenic main campus of the Iowa State University, with its many lovely green spaces and a large collection of public art scattered throughout. Architecture varies, from gorgeous classically-designed buildings in the middle of the campus to more modern brutalist-style buildings around the edges. A large lawn occupies the very center of the campus, with a small lake at the southern end.


Cyclones football game, Jack Trice Stadium


ISU Cyclones' licensed paraphernalia (sweaters and such) are available from several retailers around town, but perhaps most notably at the   Iowa State University Book Store in the Memorial Union on campus facing Lincoln Way. Other specialty shopping can be found along Main Street in Downtown, which is lined with a number of small boutiques and stores.

Most of the big-box chain stores in town are along Duff Avenue on the south side of town, between Lincoln Way and U.S. Highway 30. There's also a Wal-Mart and some strip malls along North Grand Avenue on the north side of town, as well as Ames' only indoor mall, the small   North Grand Mall between 24th and 30th Streets.


Dining-wise, Ames is mostly a pizza-and-beer kind of town, perhaps reflecting the tastes of the local student population. However, there are some standouts:


Alcohol purchases end at 2AM.


Most lodging in Ames is of the chain variety and are generally located either along I-35 or US Hwy 30, with a collection of motels near the I-35/US Hwy 30 interchange (exit 111) on the southeast corner of town. Other motels can be found near the 13th St/I-35 interchange (exit 113) on the east side of town and south of the University Blvd/US 30 interchange on the south side of town.


Free wi-fi is available for guests on the ISU campus, although it requires you to register with the server when you open your internet browser.

Go next

Routes through Ames

Minneapolis/Saint Paul Clear Lake ← Jct W E  N  S  Ankeny Des Moines
Missouri Valley Boone  W  E  Marshalltown Cedar Rapids

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, February 04, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.