In 2010, Ames was ranked as one of the top ten Best Places to Live on the CNNMoney list. Talk about _Ames-ing_for the top. Sorry, couldn't resist.
Ames is, above all else, a spirited and lively university town. This Midwest gem has students from all over the world attending their highly rated research programs and bringing culture and ideas from all over the globe with them. While this is a family-friendly city, the university tends to dictate a great deal of life here. While the population hovers around 60,000, it's impossible to know for certain at any given point what the realistic population of the city actually is when school is in session. This city has all of the amenities you'd expect from an urban environment, but it still feels largely like a couple of small towns -- the city itself and the university.
Moving to Ames
This is the Midwest, but it's also a major university city so be prepared to work hard for your new apartment. Make the transition easier by gathering a few references from your employer and past landlord just to be safe. Expect an application, credit check and proof of employment for every place you're seriously considering. Be sure to have a recent medical slip for any pets, as this is a city ordinance and most landlords require it anyway. Don't worry if your credit is less than perfect; as long as you have proof of income, you should be fine.
Remember the weather when making plans to relocate to Ames. It gets very cold and snowy here, and ice storms are not unusual. It's a great place to live, even in winter, but you don't necessarily want to try carrying your 60-inch flat screen down an icy path!
What It Will Cost
It's actually not as bad as you might think, but it largely depends on where you decide to live. The overall cost of living is very good, but the rentals near the university tend to go for a premium. If you are not a college student, you might want to consider living away from the university. It will save you a lot of money, and it's much quieter. All in all, expect to pay somewhere between a tickle and a moan for a nice place here.
There are a lot of them in Ames. In fact there are more than 40 neighborhood associations. However, most of the neighborhoods, associations aside, generally merge into each other and form larger distinct groups. As a result, there are essentially three major neighborhoods and one semi-major neighborhood. You'll find a mix of apartments, single-family homes and rent to own houses here.
Lincoln Way:This is where the established professionals, mostly university professors, doctors and lawyers, are living. The homes are older and the residents are stable, having lived here for at least the last five years. You can expect to find very few rentals here as they go quickly to visiting professors, executives and so forth. $$$$$
Campustown:Welcome to the heart of the university! If you are a student, this is the place to be. It's hip and trendy, and you can walk to almost everywhere you need. The rents here are not bad, but it's a lively area, and unless you are affiliated with the university, you might want to look elsewhere for something quieter and more relaxing. $$$$
Grand:This is a great neighborhood for the upwardly mobile young professional. There are a lot of families in this area, as well as quite a few retirees. There generally is no problem finding a great place here for a decent price.$$$
Downtown:This is the cultural and historic part of Ames. Here you will find business owners, professionals just starting out and a few graduate students who need some quiet to get their dissertations written! There is a pretty fair mix of owners and renters here and a fair number of vacancies. $$
Living in Ames
So you want to move to Ames and join the fun. Welcome to the community! There's almost always something going on, whether it's hosted by the city or the university. If you are bored here, it's because you haven't bothered to open your eyes. Please keep in mind that it does get cold and snowy in winter, but that's okay because then you can participate in winter sports and activities! It's hot and humid here in the summer, making it a great place for swimming, hiking and biking. Biking is big here. It's an economical way for university students to get around and even the rest of the population is in on it at this point. Next to bikes, the two most important things on the minds of locals are food and beer (not necessarily in that order).
If you can't find it in Ames, it probably doesn't exist. None of that changes the need for Chinese-Pizza-Mexican. These three cuisines are generally necessary for you to feel at home in your new city, and in Ames, you have a number of great options. To save you time, go to Vesuvius Wood Fired Pizza on Kellogg Street. If you are more into a college type environment, try the Pizza Pit on Welch. Both are great pizza places.
For Chinese food, Go to House of Chen or Chinese Home Style Cooking, which are both on Lincoln Way. The food is outstanding, the portions are huge and the prices are reasonable. It really doesn't get much better than that.
Visit the Fighting Burrito on Welch for great Mexican food. Not only are they open late, but they also deliver and as most college students know, a Burrito Grande cures hangovers.
You need at least one nice restaurant. If you are single, you need a place to go on dates. If you are married, you need a place for your anniversary. If you aren't interested, then you need a place to take mom on Mother's Day. That place in Ames is the Fuji Japanese Steakhouse on Kellogg. While everything is outstanding here, the Scallop Teriyaki is absolutely perfect. The food is only part of it; the rest is the show while they prepare the food, which is always a treat.
This one can be tough for adults who are no longer in college and not looking to par-tay, but are looking for a relaxing place to hang out with friends and have a few beers instead. One of the few choices near Campustown is Welch Avenue Station on Welch. It's a relaxing place where you can actually have a conversation with your friends that doesn't require screaming.
For the sports lover who lacks a big screen, Es Tas on Stanton is a great option. You can grab a few beers, watch the game and maybe shoot some pool in a cozy and relaxed environment.
There are two distinct cultures at work in Ames. The first is the local permanent population of citizens. This is a typical mix of Midwestern culture and values. The other is the university, with it's hodge-podge of attitudes, ideas and theories. It makes for a great local mix and keeps things lively. Don't expect to find a single dominant culture here because there isn't one. What there is in Ames is great tolerance and acceptance for differing views. That's more important anyway.
Beyond the general culture, there is also the Ames Historical Society, which preserves the history of Ames for future generations. If history is your passion, there is also the Brunnier Art Museum, which is always worth a tour.
One cultural aspect of Ames that is extremely popular is the Octagon Center for the Arts, which includes galleries, studios, classes and a retail shop. The center also sponsors the Octagon Arts Festival each year.
Business in Ames
To give you some idea of the scope of the University, it's the largest employer in Ames. That, in and of itself, is not surprising, but the numbers might be if you look at them. The university employs over 14,000 people. The next largest employer, Mary Greeley Medical Center employs 1,347. In fact, if you add up the numbers of the other nine employers on the list, they make up less than half the workforce of the university when combined. The city itself employs less than 1,000 workers.
Ames is an economic dynamo because it is business-friendly for both large and small businesses, and it also uses the University to attract new industry. Ames has adopted industry and business-friendly policies that make relocating or starting a business here a painless process.