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8 Things to Do in Iowa City

University of Iowa and the Hawkeyes may be Iowa City’s claim to fame, but just as much magic lies ‘cross the river from campus. Rest up in Graduate Iowa City’s literary locale before taking on every adventure in the Ped Mall and beyond. Sip beers at local breweries, settle in at a Burch the Bear-inspired tavern, and soak up all the attractions that make Iowa City unique. 

Start with our eight favorite things to do, see, and eat, all just a stone’s throw from campus.


Big Grove Brewery

Big Grove Brewery is as much a taproom as it is a gathering place, inviting beer lovers from all over Iowa City to make connections over world class beer. Their tap list is varied yet delicious, offering up classics like IPAs and pale ales as well as more imaginative brews like the Summer Jam Sour Ale. 

But there’s more to love than just beer. Fill up on biscuits and gravy, cinnamon rolls, burgers, and more, all perfect pairs for their extensive selection of beers on tap. 

Insider Tip

Check out taproom events like trivia, vinyl markets, and the summer jam concert series.

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St. Burch Tavern

If Burch the Bear created a supper club, he would’ve given way to St. Burch Tavern. Inspired by the intimate atmosphere of taverns and supper clubs, St. Burch Tavern invites diners to revel in good food, good drink, and what they call “old-fashioned ideals.” To them, that means bright lighting and baskets of food by day, and cozy leather booths, rough stone walls, and low lighting by night. 

Get your daily oyster fix, dig into a seafood platter, or sink your teeth into a sandwich or New York strip steak, all of which feature fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. 

Insider Tip

We dedicate this establishment to the indomitable spirit of Burch the Bear, Iowa’s original mascot, who left his Idaho home to attract the favors of the God of Chance to his beloved State University of Iowa. May he rest in peace and forever watch over us all.

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Dandy Lion

Dig into delicious twists on American and Southern classics at Dandy Lion. This downtown Iowa City luncheonette and lounge serves up imaginative breakfasts and lunch as well as locally-roasted coffee and hand-crafted cocktails. 

Settle into a booth or table or belly up to the bar as you fill up on everything from Dandy omelettes to salmon toast, reubens to chickpea wraps on naan bread.

Insider Tip

Breakfast & Lunch served everyday till 2.

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This non-profit, two-screen cinema isn’t bound by genres, queuing up everything from riveting documentaries to foreign films to American independent releases. Expect to be enlightened here, whether you’re following the trials and tribulations of an extreme athlete or delving into the cinematic universe. 

FIlmScene shows more than 300 films every year, but their real passion is creating conversation and community, which they do through panel discussion, filmmaker dialogues, and more. Check their schedule to see what’s happening while you’re in town. 

Insider Tip

Conjure the communal experience of film going through the FilmCastPodScene, FilmScene’s twice-monthly podcasts packed with conversations, critiques, and clips of titles featured at FilmScene.

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Hancher Auditorium

Hancher Auditorium is a performing arts space on a mission to connect artists with audiences. Everything from concerts to educational experiences take the stage at Hancher Auditorium, making it the “cultural hub” of the University of Iowa. 

Thousands of Iowans on and off campus flock to the Hancher Auditorium for song, dance, and theater. If you’re not a performing arts person, still stop by to admire the building itself, which features breathtaking class windows and smooth curves reminiscent of the Iowa River.

Insider Tip

Hancher hosts extended residencies with artists. These artists work with students and faculty from a variety of disciplines during their time on campus, using the arts as a way to bring scholarship to life. Don’t miss the public lectures, workshops, or panels with these featured artists.

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Pedestrian Mall

Iowa City’s Pedestrian Mall (or Ped Mall, as it’s affectionately called by students and locals) sits just off the University of Iowa campus yet is a melting pot of music, culture, and special events. Most of Iowa City’s hustle and bustle happens around the Ped Mall, whether that’s a drag show, a soul concert, or a singer/songwriter busking on the mall. 

Walk down the brick mall, take a break on the bench, or peruse the many storefronts that face the mall, many of which showcase locally-made art and gifts. 

Insider Tip

The Iowa City Downtown District is always planning events including summer concerts and festivals promoting the arts.

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Shop unique tees, clothing, home goods, and more at this community-minded boutique. Raygun donates a portion of their net profits to nonprofits in need, so you can shop ‘til you drop knowing that it goes to a good cause. 

Founder and Owner Mike Draper started selling his quirky tees on the University of Pennsylvania campus in 2004 after he was rejected from the fellowship he needed to pay for his education. Since then, he’s spread his sense of humor and one-of-a-kind wares all over the midwest, including right here in Iowa City.

Insider Tip

Supporting Raygun is supporting Iowa City residents in need. Raygun dedicates volunteer time and 15-30% of net profits (or 1-3% of gross sales) to outside organizations working in public education, equality, personal freedom, and a clean environment.

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Bread Garden Market

Why settle for one flavor, or even two, when you can have them all at Bread Garden Market. Bread, beer, wine, meat, and more line the stalls at Bread Garden Market. Walk alongside Iowa City locals on their weekly shop as you sample fresh food and drink from local makers. 

Savor some of the freshest foods in Iowa City before heading out to the patio to enjoy a latte and a pastry. Head out morning, noon, or night to snag the perfect snack for a day on-the-go or a chill evening back at Graduate Iowa City.

Insider Tip

Insider Tip: Need to get your cheese fix? Check out their Instagram for the “Cheesemonger Pick of the Week” and see what they recommend (plus what adult beverage pairs best with it!) 

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