To begin: I know. I can feel the eye rolls considering the rather, shall we say, rebellious reputation that Iowa City has with drinking (because who can ever forget Vodka Sam?). However, I assure you that Iowa City has a whole host of fun activities that don’t involve you getting blacked out on a Wednesday evening.
Read on for 21 fun things to do in Iowa City, fake ID not required.
Feeling sporty, not sloppy? Try going on the Iowa River with your friends. “Kayaking at the Terry True Blood Center is really fun,” said University of Iowa senior Callie Rogers. You can rent equipment from Fin and Feather H2O for $12 an hour, as well as canoes and paddleboards. And the best part about it: They even recommend that you don’t drink while using this equipment. Now you have no excuse but to stay sober for this excursion.
2. See a Movie
What better way to fight off the urge to binge drink like seeing something on the big screen? Luckily for you, as well, the movies out for summer are kind of fantastic: everything from Deadpool 2 for your Marvel needs to Adrift to your nights filled with angst will deck the movie theaters this summer. Tuesdays at Marcus Sycamore even have $5 admission for a movie—rain check on that $5 pitcher from Field House. If you want to support local business, you can go to FilmScene in Iowa City’s pedestrian mall to see a movie on the most badass lady justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The documentary stems two and a half hours entailing everything leading up to her climb in political popularity, and you won’t regret spending money to see it.
3. Downtown Block Party
Take a break from your unabashed underage drinking to play sand volleyball in the streets. On June 23rd from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., the entire area of downtown Iowa City shuts down to accommodate the events taking place. Think silent disco, Giant Jenga, Circus Fashion Show and even more. Several artists like Flint Eastwood and Sister Wife plan to perform for this free event. In the meantime you can travel to the various businesses contained within the streets being shut down. To get a scale of how big the event is, the block party will encompass Clinton Street, Linn Street, Iowa Ave, Washington Street, Dubuque Street and the pedestrian mall. So much room for activities.
4. The Coralville Reservoir
Just outside of Iowa City campus lies a genuine forest just waiting for you to explore it. With several wooded areas for recreational use as well as Lake Macbride State Park, you can spend an entire day breathing in the fresh air and trying not to trip over any tree roots. Also noteworthy: alcohol is prohibited in most areas of the preserve, so that’s not even an option for you. Layer on the bug spray, take your hammock out and try not to sweat out your entire body weight as you maneuver your way onto the various nature trails in the area.
5. Open Mic at the Yacht Club
Every Tuesday night from 8 p.m. to midnight, the Yacht Club hosts an open mic, perfect for any of your possible unfulfilled rock star dreams. Bring your instrument, vocal talent and/or dazzling personality to this open event for musical performance if you haven’t booked that gig you’ve been pining after. The only kicker is that the bar is nineteen and up, so youths beware.
6. Take a Walk, Ya Filthy Animal
Everyone needs a rest from this unrealistic idea of constant summer partying, just like everyone needs a rest from thinking about whether or not their favorite show will renew for a new season (Brooklyn 99, looking at you). “You can walk around the pond in that area by the airport,” said University of Iowa senior Olivia Grubbs. This also works fantastic if your fiercely frugal self doesn’t want to spend money, much like myself.
7. Local Concerts/Shows
Because Iowa City contains an active music scene, a show of some sort inevitably plays over the course of the weekend. You can choose from a variety of venues, as well, everywhere from Gabe’s to Trumpet Blossom to the Mill. Choose from any type of music, as well, from rap to rock and everything in between. Iowa City’s got the works.
Nothing feels quite as liberating as making a fool of yourself to the sweet tunes of your favorite Lady Gaga song. Even better, these karaoke events take place every Monday at Gabe’s and every Thursday at Studio 13, both bars of nineteen and up. Fake ID, shmake ID. Get drunk to the music, not the absurdly expensive drinks they serve.
9. Take a Swim
Nothing screams summer like going to your local pool, particularly one that doesn’t require an expensive country club membership (which turns into thousands for yearly fees, what the fresh hell?). You can check out the City Park, open from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., complete with a night swim from 5 to 8 p.m. Better yet, an entire monthly pass only costs $20 for an Iowa City resident and $30 for a non-resident. Perfect for hiding any accumulated sweat from the hellish weather of a Midwestern summer, and even better hidden in the absence of a post-dartying face flush.
10. The Farmer’s Market
Open on Wednesday’s from 5 to 7 p.m. and Sunday’s 7:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., this area of fresh produce and local food pop-up stands looks like the perfect place to post your next social media update (we both know you were thinking it). In the chance you venture out to Coralville, as well, the farmer’s market occurs every Monday from 5 to 7 p.m. Just be careful to put on sunscreen before you match those ripened tomatoes for sale.
11. Friday Night Concert Series
You won’t find anything better than free music, in my humble opinion, especially as the hot summer day draws to a peaceful close. This weekly event takes place every Friday night, 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., from May 18th to August 31st. Located on Iowa Avenue on the north end of the Pentacrest, you have the opportunity to watch the sun set to the sound of live entertainment. Channel your inner beer dad—without the beer—and grab your nearest lawn chair to enjoy the live music of all genres.
12. International Day of Yoga at Big Grove
Picture this: your most expensive pair of leggings, a yoga mat provided to you and going into a complete zen state of mind at sunset. Not to mention in Big Grove Brewery, complete with twinkling lights and tactically scattered art pieces. Is it the most extra image you can think of? Perhaps, but it sounds awesome and sure beats getting sloshed at 6 p.m. on a Thursday. Come celebrate the International Day of Yoga and get your mindfulness on at Big Grove Brewery June 21st, 6 to 8:30 p.m.
13. Iowa City Pride
From your most to your least sober moment and everywhere in between, every one of them results in a moment well spent when you celebrate loving who you love. Come June 16th, Iowa City hosts its annual Pride Parade featuring several events such as Drag King shows, belly dancers, speakers such as Elizabeth Moen and much more. Slap on your best rainbow attire and show it with confidence, with pride and with love.
14. Free Movie Saturdays
As the age-old saying goes, the best things in life are free and that includes movies. Set up on the lawn outside of Macbride Hall, these free showtimes span from June 9th to August 25th, and feature everything from Black Panther to Pretty in Pink. Starting at 8 or 9 p.m., the films go on into the night, so bring your bug spray.
15. Thursday Nights at Hancher
Put on your fanciest outfit and get ready to feel like a real adult when you waltz into this event, every Thursday from 5 to 7:30 p.m. in the month of June. Regardless of whether a performance takes place that night, the auditorium opens its doors for a dining and chilling experience as the sun sets. With the Stanley Café & Bar serving you in your Thursday finest, you’ll feel like the belle of the ball without any use of that liquid confidence.
16. Iowa City Jazz Festival
Taking place over the course of June 29th to July 1st, four separate stages in downtown Iowa City will hold host to a variety of popular jazz musicians. In addition to the more popular jazz artists, new artists and international artists both make their appearance on the stage, ending the night with a firework display on the Pentacrest. Enjoy the free music, the pop-up food shops, the ambient atmosphere and the distinct lack of disorientation that you would have hypothetically received from too much day-drinking.
17. Trivia Nights at Big Grove
Roast all of your friends’ incompetence in the world of the TV show Friends, all under the guise of a trivia game. “There are trivia nights at Big Grove. There was a Harry Potter one, a Grey’s Anatomy and much more,” said University of Iowa junior Clara Wertzberger. In spite of Big Grove having the name brewery, the activities taking place are alcohol-optional. You need to bring your sober A-game anyways if you want to have proper bragging rights once you win the final trivia question.
18. Iowa Soul Festival
From August 4th to August 5th, Iowa City gives the opportunity to learn more about the African and African American communities through the presentation of dance, music, art, food and more from various African American artists and performers. Taking place at areas all over Iowa City, its schedule involves live music and performances from locally to nationally recognized artists, a children’s Fun Zone for arts and crafts and so much more. This free event provides an outlet to show the positive influence that the culture has had on Iowa City, and even provides panels of black authors, entrepreneurs and an “artist marketplace” of sorts.
19. Salsa Nights at The Vue
Embarrass yourself without the aid of vodka for your Friday nights, starting June 22nd. The Vue Rooftop offers three dates to be taught professional salsa lessons, spanning June 22nd, July 27th and August 17th. Trek your way to the top floor of the Hilton hotel, receive the lesson from 9 to 10 and dance the night away above Iowa City as the dance floor opens up. The dress code is “dress to impress,” and admission is nine dollars for the entire night. Skipping two fancy-pants drinks and learning how to impress at the best fiesta? Priceless.
20. Take a Spa Day
Odds are, you have tired your body out a little too much through engaging the trifecta of summer’s vices: bugs, sun and cheap liquor. With that in mind, take a day to replenish your body of these ailments. Get your nails done at Elite Nails or Candy Nails & Spa, do some retail therapy and make a day of it. If you don’t feel like a triple-digit facial at the salon, get one of those eerily satisfying facial peels that turn your pores cloudy or something. Do they actually do anything for your skin? Who knows, but they’re fun as hell, and in the words of Donna and Tom from Parks and Recreation: treat yoself.
21. 4th Fest
Instead of getting trashed on Smirnoff Red, White & Berry come Fourth of July, make your way into Coralville for a free event to celebrate the nation’s independence. Complete with a nostalgia-inducing parade in the morning and a lovely firework display by the time the sun goes down, you’re sure to forget that you were even socially expected to get drunk on this day.