Iowa is well known for its contributions to agriculture, its state fairs (the Iowa State Fair is one of the largest in the country), and notable landmarks like the Grotto of Redemption. Whether you prefer life in the rural parts of the state or a busy cosmopolitan city, Iowa has a home for everyone. If you’re ready to move to the Hawkeye State, NewHomeSource has compiled a list of the six best places to live in the state.
Housing cost-to-income ratio: 2.64%
Average childcare cost-to-income ratio: 1.37%
Violent crime index: 14.1
Nonviolent crime index: 42.4
Cost of living index: 86.2
Dubuque ranks as the best place to live in Iowa. Located along the Mississippi River, residents in this conservative city can enjoy parks, casinos, and plenty of fishing opportunities along the river’s shore. Have a relaxing weekend by visiting the local breweries and wineries, many of which allow your dogs to accompany you as you try the newest drink, or by visiting the beautiful Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. Dubuque experiences varied weather; residents can expect 194 sunny days, 36 inches of rain, and 37 inches of snow per year. For medical care and education, folks have their choice between eight hospitals and 18 schools. If you’d like to live in the suburbs, check out Dyersville and Asbury.
2. Waterloo-Cedar Falls
Housing cost-to-income ratio: 2.65%
Average childcare cost-to-income ratio: 1.15%
Violent crime index: 40.6
Nonviolent crime index: 47.5
Cost of living index: 74.5
The Waterloo-Cedar Falls metropolitan area is home to over 168,000 residents. The Cedar River runs through both cities, and the riverside parks and nature preserves provide opportunities for hiking, fishing, and camping. Residents in both cities enjoy museums and attractions like the Ice House Museum, Sunrise Children’s Zoo, and art museums. Over a dozen local restaurants consider themselves dog-friendly, which is great news for dog owners. The Waterloo-Cedar Falls metropolitan area experiences weather very similar to Dubuque, with 194 sunny days, 36 inches of rain, and 34 inches of snow expected annually. Never worry about medical care here; nine area hospitals are ready to serve you and your family. Waterloo-Cedar Falls lean politically liberal, and popular suburbs include Audubon, Park Haven, and Hurst.
3. Sioux City
Housing cost-to-income ratio: 2.74%
Average childcare cost-to-income ratio: 1.19%
Violent crime index: 18.6
Nonviolent crime index: 58.3
Cost of living index: 77.9
Sioux City is in northwestern Iowa along the Missouri River. From museums, casinos, country clubs, and nature preserves, there’s something for everyone in Sioux City. Make the most of 210 sunny days per year by going on a walking tour of the Fourth Street Historic District or by taking your dog for a run through one of the state parks. On cold, rainy days, opt for an indoor adventure like checking out the latest exhibit at the Sioux City Art Center or catching a live performance at one of the amphitheaters. Sioux City leans politically conservative and provides access to 16 hospitals and 20 schools. Prefer to live in the suburbs? Check out popular neighborhoods like Sioux City East and Morningside South.
4. Cedar Rapids
Housing cost-to-income ratio: 2.89%
Average childcare cost-to-income ratio: 1.09%
Violent crime index: 19.9
Nonviolent crime index: 53.6
Cost of living index: 81.6
Cedar Rapids is an eastern Iowa city known for its arts and cultural district. Popular museums include the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, African American Museum of Iowa, and National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library. In addition to museums, Cedar Rapids is home to multiple movies and live performance theaters where you can catch the latest flicks and plays. For outdoor fun, visit the lake parks which provide opportunities for fishing in the summer and ice skating in the winter. If you’re a dog owner, you’ll be happy to hear that over 20 restaurants allow you to bring your dog with you as you dine. Residents have their choice of 14 area hospitals for medical care. Popular suburban neighborhoods include University Heights, Mount Vernon, and Coralville.
5. Des Moines
Housing cost-to-income ratio: 5.44%
Average childcare cost-to-income ratio: 1.60%
Violent crime index: 37.1
Nonviolent crime index: 60.8
Cost of living index: 81.2
Iowa’s capital city ranks 5th in our list of best places in the state to call home. The Pappajohn Sculpture Park is one of De Moines’s most well-known landmarks; bring your pooch for a walk through the 4.4-acre park and admire the sculptures made by 22 talented artists. While you’re downtown, check out destinations like the Science Center of Iowa or pick up fresh food at Des Moines’ Downtown Farmers’ Market. Other notable attractions in this politically liberal city include state parks, a zoo, and a botanical garden. Des Moines’ weather is typical for Iowa, with the capital city experiencing 36 inches of rain, 33 inches of snow, and 204 sunny days per year. For medical care, residents have their choice of 16 area hospitals. If you’d like to check out the suburbs, popular choices include Johnston, Waukee, and Bondurant.
6. Iowa City
Housing cost-to-income ratio: 5.83%
Average childcare cost-to-income ratio: 1.38%
Violent crime index: 18.8
Nonviolent crime index: 35.8
Cost of living index: 94.6
Iowa City has something for everyone. Take advantage of 199 sunny days per year by taking your dog to the local dog park, picnicking at Terry Trueblood Recreation Area, or going for a hike through Ryerson’s Woods State Preserve. If you’re a fan of history, visit the Old Capitol Building (noted for its gold dome) or the University of Iowa Natural History Museum. Iowa City experiences 37 inches of rain and 27 inches of snow per year, so be sure to double-check the weather before going out in the winter. In addition to dedicated dog parks, 24 area restaurants welcome your dog to accompany you as you dine. Iowa City provides access to three hospitals and 28 schools, and the city leans politically conservative. If you’d prefer to live in the suburbs, be sure to check out neighborhoods like Old School and Peninsula Neighborhood.
This list was compiled using statistics for cost of living, average housing costs, average childcare costs, and crime indices.
Sarah graduated from Trinity University in 2012 with a degree in International Relations and Political Science. She writes blogs on new homes, decor, communities, and more for NewHomeSource. When she’s not writing, you can find her spending time with her three cats.