12 Best Things to do in Ames, Iowa

Located in Story County, Iowa, Ames is a rich city famous for being the home to Iowa State University.

Picnics, outdoor dining, and shopping are just an addition to the fun things to do in Ames. With many open spaces, restaurants, museums, parks, and art exhibits, the place sure is full-packed with adventure!

Are you planning to visit Ames, Iowa but have yet to craft your itinerary? Well, I’ve got you covered!

TLDR – Our favorite things to do in Ames Iowa:

Best & Fun Things to do in Ames, Iowa

1. Appreciate masterpieces at the Brunnie Art Museum

Brunner Art Museum

Scheman Bldg, 295, 1800 Center Dr, Ames, IA 50011

Brunnier Art Museum is one of the museums located inside Iowa State University. It’s famous among visitors and locals alike because it is the only accredited museum in the state. Brunnier Art Museum primarily displays collections of functional art pieces. If you are fond of decorative arts like ceramics, dolls, and enameled metals, you’ll love this place!

The best thing about Brunnier Art Museum is its proximity to other art museums. Drop by the Christian Petersen Art Museum, Farm House Museum, and Andersen Sculpture garden if you have more time to spend! These museums will likewise make your artistic heart jump with happiness.

2. Relax and Play at the Brookside Park

Brookside Park
Image by ninjaskills used under Creative Commons License

1325 6th St., Ames, IA 50010

What better way to relax than to stroll around a beautifully landscaped park?

Another popular spot in Ames is Brookside Park. People of all ages enjoy a relaxing day out in this wide-open space. If you’re coming from a busy city, Brookside Park is the best place to go and find some peace!

Brookside has all the amenities you’ll need for that perfect family day. Ballfields, basketball courts, playground, off-street parking, grills, picnic tables, wading pool, and more! You can also play basketball with your kids or challenge them to a tennis game. Or you can just leave them in the playground as you tour around and appreciate the scenic view of the park. 

3. Sample Beer at Alluvial Brewing

Alluvial Brewing

3715 W 190th St, Ames, IA 50014

Beer is not everyone’s cup of tea – for those people, I’d recommend tea. But if you’re someone who is energized by alcohol, then this place is for you! This Midwest is home to countless incredible breweries and this place is no different!

The Alluvial Brewing Company started as a small brewing house located in a farmhouse. The head brewers aimed to come up with unique mixes that would showcase the culture of Ames. Thus, what you’ll find on their menu are quality brews with strange flavors. They serve mixes in the flavors of rye, coffee, roasted peanuts, maple, and more. Not to mention that tours around the vicinity also include a stop at the tasting room.

See Related: 15 Best State Parks in Iowa to Visit

4. Learn more about Ames at The Boone County Historical Society

The Boone County Historical Society

602 Story St, Boone, IA 50036

To raise awareness of four county museums, the Boone County Historical Society was founded in 1924. It promotes:

  • The Boone History Center
  • The Mamie Doud Eisenhower Birthplace
  • Hickory Grove School
  • The Kate Shelley Park & Museum

An excellent starting point for learning about the history of Boone County is its Historical Center. Visitors may learn about the county’s natural history, the railroad, and the military’s impact on the region.

An intriguing past awaits visitors to Boone County, Iowa as coal miners, pioneers, farmers, businessmen, and military heroes have all called this city home.

5. Learn about fashion at the Textiles and Clothing Museum

Textiles and Clothing Museum

31 MacKay Hall, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa 50011-5021

In the Textiles and Clothing Museum, students engage in hands-on activities while learning via visual and kinesthetic cues. The teaching collection is amassed, documented, preserved, and then interpreted and shown by the place. Students, academics, and academic researchers can use the historical data, and it is also made available to the general public through exhibits and other forms of programs.

Its 9,000-item collection includes apparel, fabrics, accessories, and other dress-related objects dating from the 18th century.

6. Visit the historical Farm House Museum

Farm House Museum

601 Farm House Lane, Ames, Iowa 50011

A short walk from the heart of Iowa State University’s campus, The Farm House museum may be found on Farmhouse Lane to the west of campus.

The oldest structure on the Iowa State University campus in Ames, Iowa, is the Knapp–Wilson House. As part of the model farm that would become Iowa State University, this home was erected between 1861 and 1865. In 1964, it received the honor of being named a National Historic Landmark.

The Iowa State Agricultural College and Model Farm’s initial structure was constructed in the 1860s. Over 6,000 items of Victorian-era ornamental art and antiques.

See Related: 10 Best Iowa Family Vacations to Take This Year

7. Enjoy a show at the Stephens Auditorium

1900 Center Dr, Ames, IA 50011

Stephens Auditorium hosts a spectacular assortment of international music and drama performances, as well as world-class orchestras, Broadway musicals, and other special events. It has a capacity of 2,729 people per show, having each seat with an unobstructed view.

In honor of Clifford Y. Stephens, the auditorium’s name was changed to Stephens Auditorium. The project began in 1965 and was finished in 1969 for a total of $4.9 million in total expenditure.

8. Breathe in the fresh outdoors at the Ada Hayden Heritage Park

Ada Hayden Heritage Park

5205 Grand Ames 50010

Ada Hayden Heritage Park is one of the best things to do in Ames as it has enormous open space. The place can be enjoyed by both adult and child visitors because of its boat access, covered shelters, and picnic areas.

Kids can also run around and make full use of the drinking fountain, then follow the designated walking trails. Fishing is also allowed around the lake. It is a perfect picnic spot for families with pets as long as your furry buddies are leashed.

9. Sample local goods in Ames Main Street Cultural District

304 Main St Ames, IA 50010

Big box businesses and strip malls may be the most significant American contribution to commerce and architecture, but they aren’t everything.

Main Street Cultural District is home to locally-owned retailers, eateries, art festivals, and seasonal celebrations of many kinds. It’s a great area to go shopping or meet up with friends.

There are more than 50 locally-owned specialized stores, art studios, and restaurants on Ames Main Street, making it a prime example of a Main Street Iowa city. The products being sold in the area ranges from cheap things to expensive ones.

See Related: 10 Best Weekend Getaways in Iowa: Top Vacations

10. Make your heart flutter in the Christina Reiman Butterfly Wing

1407 University Blvd, Ames, IA 50011-3101

Located just south of Jack Trice Stadium on the Iowa State University campus in Ames, Iowa, Reiman Gardens is a 17-acre university-owned public garden. Events, talks, guided tours, and ISU student seminars are held at the Reiman Gardens.

At the Christina Reiman Butterfly Wing in Ames, Iowa, you can hang out with up to 1,000 butterflies of 36 different species in a 2,500-square-foot facility. The Butterfly Wing offers a rare opportunity to see these wonderful insects from six continents.

11. Fill your heart and stomach at The Great Plains Sauce & Dough, Co.

129 Main St #101, Ames, IA 50010

The Great Plains Sauce & Dough Company has been providing the best pizza in central Iowa for more than three decades. In Ames, try Great Plains Sauce and Dough if you like pizza. It is a wheat bread crust that is quite thick. After completing your pizza, you’ll be given honey bottles to finish off the crust! The cheese, which is an excellent mozzarella, is also a plus.

Its menu includes salads, sandwiches, pizza, and desserts.

12. Get your adrenaline rush at Perfect Games

1320 Dickinson Ave, 50014

Perfect Games is one of my favorite things. Bowling, games, laser tag, and food are available at this facility for birthday celebrations. For private gatherings, there are separate rooms available for purchase. A two-story indoor children’s playground has also been recently added.

Parties can make use of the bar and meals available for purchase, plus more package offers to fit any occasion.

See Related: 11 Fun & Best Things to Do in Muscatine, Iowa

Where to Stay in Ames, Iowa

If you intend to spend some quality time, there are lots of hotels to choose from.

Budget Accommodation

MICROTEL Inn and Suites

2216 South East 16th Street, 50010

MICROTEL is popular among families for its cozy yet affordable family rooms. This 2-star motel has air-conditioned rooms with free Wi-Fi and a private bathroom. The motel also offers a buffet and has a business center inside it. So, buying snacks, cheap things, and other travel needs won’t be a problem!

Mid-Range Accommodation

Country Inn & Suites by Radisson

2605 Southeast 16th Street, Ames, IA 50010

Country Inn & Suites is a mid-range hotel 4.1 miles away from Iowa State University. It offers clean and comfortable rooms at reasonable prices, with free breakfast daily. You can get access to the hotel’s indoor pool and fitness center if you stay with them.

Luxury Hotels

GrandStay Hotel & Suites

GrandStay Hotel Suites

1606 South Kellogg Avenue, 50010

True to its name, GrandStay Hotel & Suites provides its customer with the grandest accommodation. Every room in this hotel has a full kitchenette and a sitting area with a sofa bed. There’s an available convenience store within the establishment. Plus, it is also close to the North Grand Mall, Inis Grove Park, and Reiman Gardens.


It’s not easy to find properties for rent in Ames. But do not fret because I got you!

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Camping & RVs

Ames has a lot to offer to campers and recreational visitors. Refer to the quick list below for some of the best campgrounds here in the city where you can stay overnight or longer.

  • Don Williams Campground – oldest campground in Ames, IA. It’s the best place to play golf with friends. It’s popular among youth for its tons of pull-through sites.
  • Cherry Glen Campground – close to Saylorville Lake. It’s perfect for campers and RVers who love fishing.
  • Twin Anchors Campground – dubbed as one of the best family-oriented RV parks in Ames. It has a mini zoo that houses ponies, bunnies, and more. Kids love it!

Getting around Ames, Iowa

Ames is not only a wonderful place to visit for its impressive tourist spots and campgrounds. The city is well-loved by travelers because it’s easy to locate. And the transportation services in the place are great!

There are three modes by which you can get to Ames: by car, by bus, and by plane. If you’re a solo traveler, you can opt to travel by bus. This way you’ll get the total experience of visitors. But if you’re traveling with your family, it would be best to bring your own car to avoid getting lost. If that is not possible, you can book rental cars at Kayak.com.

If you’re traveling by plane, the nearest major airport to Ames is in Des Moines. For smooth travel, you can book a round-trip private transfer to and from your hotel. 


What is the best thing to do with kids in Ames, Iowa?

An open green space can be seen everywhere in Ames. The best thing to do here if you are traveling with kids is to visit parks or the fun place of Furman Aquatic Center, which has a water park. The most popular park within the area is Brookside Park.
They can do a lot of outside activities here, including swimming and picnic. There are also top attractions within the area where they can run around, such as the Reiman gardens, Inis Grove Park, Ames Dog Park, McFarland Park, and other picnic areas.

What are some fun things to do in Ames, Iowa?

Whether you’re traveling alone or with your family and friends, there are a lot of fun things that you can do in Ames. You can visit art museums at Iowa State University College or have a picnic in a nice park downtown.

Outdoor activities are also encouraged within open areas, such as spending a day on the walking path of Reiman Gardens, discovering kid-friendly hiking trails and working your way through the closest basketball and tennis courts.
If you’re a foodie, grab some hearty meal and delicious food at one of the local pizzerias in the state, Great Plains Sauce & Dough Co.

What are some things to do in Ames, Iowa, when it’s raining?

When it’s raining, the best thing to do in Ames is to visit Alluvial Brewing. The brewing company serves exquisite flavors of beer that will keep you warm on a rainy day and make you have a fun night.

You can still enjoy the day by visiting a public museum such as the Farm House Museum and movie theaters and refrain from any outdoor activities in wide-open spaces. But, if you are into sports, a solution to this is playing indoors by going to Ames’ sports arena.

Unfortunate events can happen when the weather is bad. Be sure to get travel insurance so you can travel worry-free!

What are the best tourist attractions in Ames, Iowa?

Besides kid-friendly picnic areas and historic sites, the best things to see in Ames are found inside the Iowa State University grounds.

The state university houses more than four museums, which are open to all free of charge, including the Brunnier Art Museum, and the Christian Petersen Art Museum.

You can bring your loved ones with you as you tour around the campus and learn about arts and know more about its historical sites all year round.

What are the best tourist attractions in Ames, Iowa?

Besides kid-friendly picnic areas and historic sites, the best things to see in Ames are found inside the Iowa State University grounds.
The state university houses more than four museums, which are open to all free of charge, including the Brunnier Art Museum, and the Christian Petersen Art Museum. You can bring your loved ones with you as you tour around the campus and learn about arts and know more about its historical sites all year round.

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