Life in Ames FAQ

Life in Ames

Ames is probably not the first destination that comes to mind when you think about where to spend the next few years of your life. Since chances are you have never been to Iowa (or perhaps not even to the midwest) we have compiled a few of the most frequently asked questions. If there’s anything missing from the list that you would like to know, please get in touch so that we can add it.

    How big is Ames?
    • About 65,000 people live in Ames. Of those, about 36,000 are ISU students.
  • Is there life beyond studying in Ames?
    • Yes. Aside from the usual college town activities (concerts, sports) there is a very active graduate student association, the Iowa STAT-ers, which organizes all kinds of social, public service and academic events. (But keep in mind that New York, this is not.)
  • How cold does it get in Ames in winter?
    • Not as cold as it gets in Minnesota! In the winter, average temperatures range is 10-30 F. 
  • I am Jewish (or Catholic or Protestant or Muslim or…). Is there a place of worship to suit my needs?
    • Sure. Ames is a small but very diverse community.
  • I enjoy the great outdoors. What can Iowa offer in this regard?
    • Iowa has one of the most extensive system of bike trails in the nation, has both natural and man-made lakes and if you like winter sports, Iowa also has plenty of snow and cross-country trails. If downhill skiing is your thing, then a short trip north to Minnesota puts you in reasonable skiing resorts (although not in the same league as Colorado’s). 
  • Is there any large city close by?
    • Define “large”! Des Moines, a metropolitan area with about 600,000 people is 40 miles away. Minneapolis and Kansas City are about 3.5 hours away and Chicago is about 5.5 hours away. It takes no more than 45 minutes to fly to Chicago. 
  • I love ethnic food. Do I need to travel to Chicago to find a good Indian (Chinese, Thai, Mexican, Japanese, Senegalese, French, Italian…) restaurant?
    • Probably! If you want really good food, Ames is a bit wanting. The Cafe (contemporary American cuisine) and The Spice (Thai) are some of our favorites for reasonably priced high-quality food. On the other hand, there is plenty of kinds of good food and a huge variety of international offerings.
  • Is Ames an expensive place in which to live?
    • No, on the contrary. A nice two-bedroom apartment off-campus costs about $900 per month in rent. On-campus living costs a bit less and the rental fee includes Internet access and some utilities. Students get a free pass on one of the best bus systems in the country (it has received all kinds of awards). Other necessities such as food, car insurance and entertainment are also very reasonably priced.
  • I consider myself to be a socially conservative (socially liberal) person. Will I be looked at funny in Ames?
    • Lots of people are “different” in Ames so you would really need to stand out to be looked at funny. Ames is a college community and it is probably fair to say that it tends to the liberal. The State of Iowa, while a bit more conservative than the university enclaves as a whole, is more balanced. While generalizations are always terrible, Iowans tend to be fiscally conservative and socially liberal. For example, there is no death penalty in Iowa but the State went “red” in the past presidential election. The two senators from the State, Grassley and Ernst are Republican and the governor is a Republican (but the last one was a Democrat). We have 1 Democratic and 4 Republican Congressmen. Both the Republican and the Democratic Student Associations are alive, active and well at ISU.
  • I have a dog (a cat). Will I be allowed to have a pet in an apartment in Ames?
    • Many rental places off-campus allow pets, and the University has recently designated several on-campus apartments to be pet-friendly.