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The Brown Street Inn
Enjoy natural beauty, modern sensibilities and a rich literary history when visiting this Midwestern gem.

Iowa City has it all: a sophisticated downtown, thriving literature and music scenes, great food and state-of-the-art health care coupled with inviting Midwestern charm and accessibility. The Iowa River runs through this not-so-sleepy college town where a simple walk by the water can have you running into Pulitzer Prize–winning novelists and world-renowned surgeons.

SLEEP  Enjoy contemporary design and brilliant city views at the elegant Hotel Vetro, located in the heart of downtown and boasting a 4,800-square-foot roof-garden ­terrace, workout facilities and a focus on using environmentally friendly­ materials and products, from the Gilchrist and Soames Sprout Out bath collection to room keys made from corn byproducts. For a more intimate stay, book a room at the Brown Street Inn, a cozy bed-and-breakfast complete with rockers on the porch and warm cookies served in the afternoon.

EAT  It may be more than 900 miles from the White House, but at the Hamburg Inn No. 2, you can have a hamburger fit for a president. Iowa is pivotal in national politics, and the Hamburg is a favorite stop on the campaign trail for many candidates and politicians, including former Presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan. If you’re looking for local, visit the Motley Cow Cafe, which prides itself on sourcing much of its menu from farmers in Johnson County, including humanely raised pork, lamb and beef and, in the summer, 85 percent of the vegetables they serve. For a delicious vegetarian or vegan meal, visit Fair Grounds Coffeehouse, where you can order one of their tasty waffles for breakfast — flavors include cheesy apple walnut and lemon Beauregard — or a vegan grilled mushroom-jalapeño “bacon burger” for lunch.

READ  In many ways, Iowa City is defined by its literary heritage. The University of Iowa is host to the famed Iowa Writers’ Workshop, the faculty and alumni of which include Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Marilynne Robinson and Jane Smiley. So strong is the city’s commitment to reading and writing that UNESCO, a division of the United Nations, has named it a City of Literature — the only U.S. city to bear the distinction. Get lost in Iowa City’s independent book retailers, including Prairie Lights Books, a must-stop for authors on national book tours. The city is so committed to its bookish legacy it even created the Iowa Avenue Literary Walk, with 49 bronze relief panels set in the sidewalk that lines Iowa Avenue.

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A Hawkeye football game at the University of Iowa

DO  Bring your black-and-gold gear and catch some Big Ten Hawkeye action up close at any of the University­ of Iowa’s athletic events. If you want to work up a sweat yourself, you can’t beat the scenery and fresh Iowa air on the six-mile Iowa River Corridor Trail, which winds through the best of the city, campus and river­front. Or, travel just 15 minutes out of town to the Devonian Fossil Gorge and get a peek at what Iowa looked like 375 million years ago when it was completely under water (think Caribbean, not corn fields). Take a walk on the former seafloor and examine fossils of marine life that used to live here.

If You Go

Hotel Vetro
201 S. Linn St.
(800) 592-0355

Brown Street Inn
430 Brown St.
(319) 338-0435

Hamburg Inn No. 2
214 N. Linn St.
(319) 337-5512

Motley Cow Cafe
160 N. Linn St.
(319) 688-9177

Fair Grounds Coffeehouse
345 S. Dubuque St.
(319) 338-2024

Prairie Lights Books
15 S. Dubuque St.
(319) 337-2681

Iowa Avenue Literary Walk
Iowa Avenue between Clinton and Gilbert streets

University of Iowa Sports
(800) 424-2957
Iowa River Corridor Trail

Devonian Fossil Gorge
(319) 338-3543/Ext. 6300