It is impossible to understand Iowa City without appreciating the role that the University of Iowa plays in the community.  While school is in session, there is a buzz around the town.  Restaurants and bars are packed, Hawkeye basketball or football games are the most important social events of the week, and the sidewalks downtown are choked with backpack-toting students in Iowa sweatshirts.  When the summer comes, the city goes into a lazy hibernation.  You can actually find parking downtown! 

However, summer can be the best time of year in IC - as a resident for the last 15 years (variously as a student/professional/parent, etc.) I love summer in Iowa City!  Some favorite events are the Friday night concert series downtown (free live outdoor music every Friday evening all summer long), the Arts Festival, the Jazz Festival, see link at and the Shakespeare plays presented in an outdoor theatre (replica of the Globe Theatre) in City Park, see link at

Iowa City is a small town, but it feels larger when all 30,000+ students are in session.  I don't know the figure, but of the 50,000 or so permanent residents of Iowa City, I would imagine maybe as many as half are somehow affiliated with the university (including the graduate schools, hospital, research facilities, etc.).  Naturally, the university is the focus of much of the culture and entertainment, from theatre to live music to sports.  Because of the university influence, there is considerably more to do in Iowa City than you might expect in a similar small town.

As a college town, the atmosphere is definitely casual.  Jeans are acceptable even in the upscale restaurants, though you won't be made to feel out of place if you are dressed  more formally.  The atmosphere among the residents is a curious mix of tolerance and intensity.  Opinions, such as political viewpoints, may be expressed very freely in line. 

Iowa City is a literary paradise.  The Iowa Writer's Workshop is well-known.  Prairie Lights Bookstore is a book lover's haven and best selling (and also some obscure) authors routinely give book readings which are often broadcast nationally on National Public Radio's "Live from Prairie Lights" show.