Of course, there are always great reasons to move somewhere, but there are also things to be aware of concerning possible reasons not to move. Iowa City has its fair share of pros and cons, and as someone who lived at and around there for four years, I’ve had some experience with those good and bad things firsthand. So, here are some of the top reasons why you should not move to Iowa City, Iowa.
1. The Scenery
While this might not seem like that much of a big deal, you’d be surprised by how much people talk about it. Iowa does have its fair share of gorgeous sunrises and sunsets, and rivers found between sprawling green hills, but there isn’t much else to comment on when it comes to the scenery.
If you love the mountains, the ocean, or a variety of geographical elements, moving to Iowa is probably not for you. Between the cornfields and small mountains (more like glorified hills, I call them), there is little change throughout the state, especially by Iowa City.
Besides the Amana (founded by German immigrants) and Kalona (Amish) colonies, each about 30 minutes away from Iowa City, there also aren’t many popular sites to visit in the area.
This might seem like something you occasionally see in every state, but trust me in Iowa, it’s a heck of a lot worse. There’s an abundance of squirrels, rabbits, and deer in the Iowa City area that can wander out on those twisty roads when you least expect it. Even if you are never the one to hit an animal, you will still see plenty of roadkill in the middle of the road or off to the side.
Something interesting about the state of Iowa is that you can pick up roadkill – except for deer – but only in two instances. The first is if you have a salvage tag, which you can get from the Iowa DNR, and which you would only need if the second choice isn’t an option. The second is if you have a hunting license for that specific animal or bird, and it is in season.
The bugs can be such a pain in the Midwest, and Iowa City isn’t any different. Especially during the summer, where mosquitos and cicadas make an abundant appearance. It’s common for insects to get inside your house too, both during the warmer months and as it starts to get cooler. They’re good at finding the tiniest of cracks and squeezing their way inside. The most common ones my family had to deal with were spiders, pillbugs, and centipedes.
If you like to climb trees, you will definitely want to rethink that activity during the summer because of a common insect found in the Midwest – cicadas. These nasty insects live underground most of their lives, from 2 to 17 years, and then emerge as nymphs to mold and mate. They seem to come out of nowhere, and often shed their skins and leave them sticking to branches. I remember touching one once when I was climbing a tree with some friends and it was incredibly gross.
They aren’t super great at flying, thank goodness, but the screeching sound they make is incredibly annoying and loud. I’m literally getting uncomfortable just writing about them.
Japanese beetles are another terrible insect in the area that is abundant and infuriating at times. If you are trying to grow a garden, these little jerks will get everywhere and, if you’re not careful, eat your plants, and take no time in destroying all of your hard work (ask me how I know that one).
Sure, the fireflies are super fun to look at in the area, but they’re about as good as it gets when it comes to the insects.
4. Tap Water
Take it from me (or don’t that’s your choice), the tap water can taste terrible. It’s a common thing in the area to just buy water in jugs from your local grocery store. There are many different options to choose from if you decide to do that. There are also water refill stations in grocery stores for you to take your jugs after you use them.
According to the Iowa DNR, it’s suggested that you use tap water for cooking, and save bottled water for more dire situations.
Humidity in the Midwest can be brutal. Sometimes it can feel hard to breathe outside during the summers because of how thick the air gets. It definitely makes for some interesting frizzy hairstyles though.
The humidity can also make your skin dry if your body is not used to it. When my family moved to Iowa from Utah, our bodies weren’t used to the sudden change in elevation or humidity, and we went through a lot of lotion in those first few months as our bodies adjusted.
It also makes it easy for bacteria to grow in moist, warm environments. Whatever the weather is in Iowa, because of the level of humidity, it often feels a lot more extreme.
Winters are absolutely crazy in Iowa. There is typically a lot of ice in the colder months and the outdoors can get deadly rather quickly because of how fast the temperatures drop. Ice storms and cold fronts can come out of the blue and last for days.
Schools will most likely close when they deem it either too cold outside or driving conditions too hazardous. I remember one winter when the schools in my area were closed down every day for almost 3 weeks because it was one of the harshest winters we’d had in a while.
In the year 2008, there was a terrible flood that wreaked devastation on a large part of the eastern state of Iowa, with most of the damage occurring in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids nearby. Now it is sometimes called “Iowa’s Katrina.” Serious flooding occurred on the University of Iowa campus, which sits along the Iowa River in Iowa City.
The number of sandbags filled in Johnson County during this event totaled over 6 million, according to a report from the National Weather Service in Des Moines. This number put it above the amount filled for Hurricane Katrina and is still a national record. Luckily there were a lot of people to help, but flooding is still a constant danger in the area, especially during the wet season.
Flood alerts are now something people in the area can receive on their phones. In 2009, the Iowa Flood Center was established and now exists as part of the university campus. It helps put information and technology out there to help with flood warnings, preparation, etc. in Iowa.
8. Tornado Season
Nope, it’s not just Kansas that gets ’em. Tornadoes aren’t an uncommon occurrence in the Midwest, and eastern Iowa gets its fair share of them during the warmer months.
While the skies look absolutely beautiful during intense thunderstorms and tornado watches, the storms often come out of nowhere and it can be hard to suddenly be stuck wherever you are until it passes.
I remember the first Wednesday of every month at 10 a.m. hearing the wail of the tornado sirens startup. This is something done for schools to practice tornado drills and to make sure the sirens still work effectively. If you have any pets, they will not like the sudden sound and it goes on for a good 5 minutes at least.
9. The University And Hospital
The University of Iowa and the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics are honestly a great part of Iowa City. But they have their cons as well. Because of the campus, it’s mostly young adults and small resident families that live in the area. The city very much holds a college atmosphere because of this.
While the University itself is known for some of its great programs, having the Hospital as part of the campus can make it overwhelming at times. In that part of the city, things can get pretty crazy. Besides just being a public teaching hospital for the resident students, it is also a trauma center and thus a busy place.
Iowa City is a bustling place both because of its campus and because of the many museums and stores in the area. Finding parking here can be incredibly difficult. There are parking garages, parking meters, and some lots, but they fill up quickly because of students and visitors.
11. Traffic And Roads
You have to be a careful driver to navigate Iowa City roads, and there are plenty of reasons why. There always seems to be construction happening somewhere in the area, and there are lots of curvy roads. There are also potholes everywhere and the roads can be uneven at times. Roundabouts are found in abundance as well, some of them incredibly small.
Downtown gets crazy during the weekends, especially during football season because of the stadium, so you also have to watch out for drunk drivers and plenty of pedestrians.
12. Hawkeye Fans
The Hawkeye team has many avid fans, and home games are chaotic, to say the least since their stadium is in Iowa City right across from the Hospital. Game spirit is a big thing in the area and countless people will drive in for the weekend to see the team play.
If you don’t like black and gold, you definitely won’t like it here, especially during football season, because you will see it everywhere. There are even a couple of stores that sell nothing but Hawkeye merchandise.
Don’t plan on going anywhere during game day unless it’s while people are at the game, otherwise, the entire city is just crazy busy and it’s hard to get anywhere. When I would babysit for couples going to the game, it could take them a couple of hours to get home after the game ended, even if they lived only a few miles away from the stadium.
13. Lots Of Bars And Pubs
These exist in various places throughout the city, and there’s even a small one in the Coralville Mall in the food court.
It’s common for people to go to football games on Saturdays and then go to a bar afterward. Fans often get intoxicated before the game even starts and that makes driving on the roads even more hazardous these days. Some will take the Hawkeye Express to make it a little safer.
14. Difficulty In Finding A House
Because of all the residents and students in the area it can be difficult to find a house or place to rent.
I didn’t have a lot of experience in this department because I was in high school when I lived in the area, but I did hear a lot of people talk about how high rent was in Iowa City, probably in part because of the University. There are a lot of apartment complexes always being built because the need for housing is so high.
The cost of buying a house in Iowa City is relatively expensive compared to surrounding cities in the area:
|City in Johnson County||Median Listing Home Price|
15. Property Tax
Johnson County has the highest property tax in Iowa, with an average of $2,526.00, or 1.43% of median home value, collected yearly in property taxes. Source
I now live in Idaho with my family, and we’ve discovered that tax here is about 1/5 for us as it was in Iowa.
Iowa City is by the freeway I-80, which leads to new problems. Being by a freeway means there is an increased amount of crime. While living there I heard some accounts of kidnappings right by the freeway; something easier to do because of how quickly people can grab someone and then be on their way to another state in just a few minutes.
Iowa City protesters will sometimes protest by walking along I-80 from one ramp to the next – it’s about a 2-mile walk and can take a while. This causes a lot of problems because it holds up traffic and many semi-trucks use that freeway for their travels.
17. The Political Nature
Of course, politics is a fragile topic, so just be aware of that in the Iowa City area. Johnson County is, for its majority, a liberal county, and in the last election, 65.2% of the county voted democratic. Source
From my experience, there are so many nice people in this area, but around the election, season tensions can get really high. Sometimes people in the city don’t take kindly to opposing political views. During the riots in the summer of 2020, someone even vandalized the Old Capitol building found in Iowa City.
Both because of the political nature of the area and the young student population in the city, a lot of tension can build up at times.
Yes, Iowa City has some incredible sites, a rich history, and an amazing University. Just be sure you find out what you can about the city before deciding to move there.
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