Aerial Image of Dusk Iowa Landscape

Best Places To Live In Iowa 2021: Cities And Towns

Carey Chesney11-Minute Read
June 02, 2021

So, you’re thinking of moving to the Hawkeye state? Perhaps you enjoy a good mix of expansive farmland and prestigious institutes of higher learning? Or maybe you’re an avid river recreation enthusiast and are eyeing the state that borders both the Missouri and the Mississippi rivers? Or maybe you just want to be one of the first people to cast your presidential ballot every 4 years?

Whatever the reason Iowa has piqued your interest, it’s a solid choice!  Let’s take a look at the best places to live in Iowa.

Best Large Cities To Live In Iowa

When it comes to deciding which city, town, village, etc. to live in, much of the personal preference can come down to size. Craving that big-city feel? This first section is where to focus your attention, as we dive into the best large cities to live in Iowa.

Des Moines

Des Moines

The largest city and capital of Iowa, De Moines serves as the state’s juggernaut of financial services and insurance businesses. If you're looking for big city Iowa living, this just might be the place for you. For more information, check out the U.S. census data stats below and search homes for sale in Des Moines.

  • Population: 214,237
  • Median home value: $133,200
  • Median monthly rent: $855
  • Number of households: 85,833
  • Number of people per household: 45
  • Percentage of people over 25 years old with a high school degree: 3
  • Percentage of people over 25 years old with a bachelor's degree or higher: 7
  • Average travel time to work (minutes): 9
  • Median household income: $53,525

Iowa City

Iowa City Capital Building

The original capital of the state and home to the University of Iowa, Iowa City offers rich history and exceptional higher education. For more information, check out the U.S. census data stats below and search homes for sale in Iowa City.

  • Population: 75,130
  • Median home value: $215,100
  • Median monthly rent: $967
  • Number of households: 30,568
  • Number of people per household: 24
  • Percentage of people over 25 years old with a high school degree: 3
  • Percentage of people over 25 years old with a bachelor's degree or higher: 1
  • Average travel time to work (minutes): 17
  • Median household income: $49,075

Ames

Fountain Of The Four Seasons In Ames Iowa

Home to both Iowa State University as well as the largest federal animal disease center in the United States, Ames is an agricultural research and education gem of a city. For more information, check out the U.S. census data stats below and search homes for sale in Ames.

  • Population: 66,258
  • Median home value: $205,900
  • Median monthly rent: $930
  • Number of households: 25,538
  • Number of people per household: 18
  • Percentage of people over 25 years old with a high school degree: 7
  • Percentage of people over 25 years old with a bachelor's degree or higher: 7
  • Average travel time to work (minutes): 4
  • Median household income: $48,105

Cedar Rapids

Cedar Rapids Iowa

Situated on both banks of the Cedar River, Cedar Rapids is the center for arts and culture in Eastern Iowa, featuring the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library, the Paramount Theatre, Orchestra Iowa, Theatre Cedar Rapids, the African American Museum of Iowa, and the Iowa Cultural Corridor Alliance. For more information, check out the U.S. census data stats below and search homes for sale in Cedar Rapids 

  • Population: 133,562
  • Median home value: $141,800
  • Median monthly rent: $767
  • Number of households: 55,292
  • Number of people per household: 33
  • Percentage of people over 25 years old with a high school degree: 3
  • Percentage of people over 25 years old with a bachelor's degree or higher: 1
  • Average travel time to work (minutes): 6
  • Median household income: $58,511

West Des Moines

West DesMoines Boathouse

West Des Moines may surprise you with the number of “best” lists it appears on.  It ranked 94th in Money magazine's list of the "100 Best Places to Live and Launch" in 2008, 77th and 57th on the 100 Best Places to Live in 2014 and 2015, respectively, and 18th on the Hipster Cities of 2015. For more information, check out the U.S. census data stats below and search homes for sale in West Des Moines.

  • Population: 67,899
  • Median home value: $218,500
  • Median monthly rent: $1,017
  • Number of households: 28,836
  • Number of people per household: 26
  • Percentage of people over 25 years old with a high school degree: 5
  • Percentage of people over 25 years old with a bachelor's degree or higher: 4
  • Average travel time to work (minutes): 17
  • Median household income: $76,368

Ankeny

Ankeny Iowa Bike Trail

The fastest growing city in Iowa, Ankeny was recognized in 2008 as one of the top 10 towns for families by Family Circle and in 2009, it was ranked No. 62 in Money Magazine's top 100 places to live list. For more information, check out the U.S. census data stats below and search homes for sale in Ankeny.

  • Population: 67,355
  • Median home value: $220,100
  • Median monthly rent: $1,073
  • Number of households: 23,200
  • Number of people per household: 64
  • Percentage of people over 25 years old with a high school degree: 3
  • Percentage of people over 25 years old with a bachelor's degree or higher: 8
  • Average travel time to work (minutes): 4
  • Median household income: $86,486

Dubuque

Scenic Dubuque Iowa

Dubuque settles in right at the intersection of Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin, and serves as the main commercial, industrial, educational and cultural center for the area. For more information, check out the U.S. census data stats below and search homes for sale in Dubuque.

  • Population: 57,882
  • Median home value: $143,500
  • Median monthly rent: $791
  • Number of households: 23,620
  • Number of people per household: 30
  • Percentage of people over 25 years old with a high school degree: 3
  • Percentage of people over 25 years old with a bachelor's degree or higher: 1
  • Average travel time to work (minutes): 9
  • Median household income: $54,234

Davenport

Aerial View Of Davenport Iowa

Located on the banks of the Mississippi River, Davenport features several annual music festivals, including the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival, the Mississippi Valley Fair, and the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival. For more information, check out the U.S. census data stats below and search homes for sale in Davenport.

  • Population: 101,590
  • Median home value: $131,700
  • Median monthly rent: $771
  • Number of households: 40,295
  • Number of people per household: 46
  • Percentage of people over 25 years old with a high school degree: 5
  • Percentage of people over 25 years old with a bachelor's degree or higher: 6
  • Average travel time to work (minutes): 9
  • Median household income: $51,029

Best Midsized Cities To Live In Iowa

Not quite into the bright lights of the big city?  Let’s take a look at some of Iowa’s best midsized cities to live in.

Urbandale

A suburb of Des Moines, Urbandale is primarily a residential city. That said, other development has increased in recent years, with more businesses moving in. For more information, check out the U.S. census data stats below and search homes for sale in Urbandale.

  • Population: 44,379
  • Median home value: $237,500
  • Median monthly rent: $935
  • Number of households: 16,733
  • Number of people per household:58
  • Percentage of people over 25 years old with a high school degree: 6
  • Percentage of people over 25 years old with a bachelor's degree or higher: 9
  • Average travel time to work (minutes): 8
  • Median household income: $90,858 

Bettendorf

Originally in the Wisconsin territory, Bettendorf is located along the banks of the Mississippi River and has the claim to fame of being the site of the first modern-day riverboat casinos in the United States. For more information, check out the U.S. census data stats below and search homes for sale in Bettendorf.

  • Population: 36,543
  • Median home value: $225,300
  • Median monthly rent: $914
  • Number of households: 13,985
  • Number of people per household: 56
  • Percentage of people over 25 years old with a high school degree: 6
  • Percentage of people over 25 years old with a bachelor's degree or higher: 6
  • Average travel time to work (minutes): 6
  • Median household income: $82,153

Clive

Serving as the axis of the western Des Moines suburbs, Clive is known for its Greenbelt Park and trail system running through the community. For more information, check out the U.S. census data stats below and search homes for sale in Clive.

  • Population: 17,242
  • Median home value: $264,300
  • Median monthly rent: $984
  • Number of households: 6,597
  • Number of people per household: 60
  • Percentage of people over 25 years old with a high school degree: 5
  • Percentage of people over 25 years old with a bachelor's degree or higher: 9
  • Average travel time to work (minutes): 2
  • Median household income: $104,839

Johnston

Dubuque Botanical Gardens

Best Small Cities And Towns To Live In Iowa

Looking for that laid-back, small-town vibe? Here are some of the best small cities and towns to live in Iowa.

Decorah

Located at the intersection of State Highway 9 and U.S. Route 52, Decorah has become a center for Norwegian-American culture due to the many Norwegian settlements that defined its early days. It hosts Nordic Fest, a celebration of Norwegian culture with ethnic dancing, food, and music and is also the home of the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum. For more information, check out the U.S. census data stats below and search homes for sale in Decorah.

  • Population: 7,576
  • Median home value: $189,700
  • Median monthly rent: $634
  • Number of households: 2,725
  • Number of people per household: 04
  • Percentage of people over 25 years old with a high school degree: 7
  • Percentage of people over 25 years old with a bachelor's degree or higher: 7
  • Average travel time to work (minutes): 3
  • Median household income: $62,336

Pella

Founded by immigrants from the Netherlands, Pella is the home of Central College, as well as several manufacturing companies, including the popular door and window company, the Pella Corporation. For more information, check out the U.S. census data stats below and search homes for sale in Pella.

  • Population: 10,237
  • Median home value: $187,400
  • Median monthly rent: $860
  • Number of households: 3,916
  • Number of people per household: 25
  • Percentage of people over 25 year old with a high school degree: 1
  • Percentage of people over 25 years old with a bachelor's degree or higher: 7
  • Average travel time to work (minutes): 6
  • Median household income: $68,963

Le Claire

Considered a suburb and part of the Quad Cities Metropolitan Area, Le Claire is most famous for being the site of the reality television series “American Pickers” as well as the birthplace of William Frederick Cody, aka Buffalo Bill Cody. For more information, check out the U.S. census data stats below and search homes for sale in Le Claire.

  • Population: 3,965
  • Number of households: 1,500
  • Number of people per household: 51
  • Median household income: $45,644

Mount Vernon

Originally known as Pinhook when it was a rest stop on Military Road, Mount Vernon is now known for Chalk the Walk, a sidewalk chalking festival that takes place each May. For more information, check out the U.S. census data stats below and search homes for sale in Mount Vernon.

  • Population: 4,466
  • Number of households: 1,353
  • Number of people per household: 54
  • Median household income: $51,228

University Heights

University Heights Iowa Campus

Originally consisting of just several small farms and properties, University Heights expanded with the growing University of Iowa and Iowa City communities. It’s still small by any measure, though, with only a little more than a thousand residents. For more information, check out the U.S. census data stats below and search homes for sale in University Heights.

  • Population: 1,026
  • Number of households: 474
  • Number of people per household: 22
  • Median household income: $48,929

Why You Should Consider Iowa For Your Next Move

Surprised at all the benefits cities and towns of all sizes in Iowa offer? You should be! The misconception of Iowa consisting of miles of farmland and not much else couldn't be further from the truth. Iowa is relatively affordable, offers both small town and big city feel and features a plethora of natural landmarks, rivers and outdoor activities to keep the fun coming. Combine that with world class educational institutions, and it’s no wonder Iowa is prominently featured on many national lists, such as:

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Carey Chesney

Carey Chesney brings a wealth of real estate sales and marketing experience to his buyers and sellers as they navigate highly competitive markets. Carey and his wife Ilze work together as Realtors® in Michigan.