Distinctive museums, eclectic shops and local flavors are attractions in Ames, home of Iowa State University.
Reiman Gardens Iowa State University

Day 1

Iowa State University's campus is home to the Brunnier Art Museum, displaying decorative arts. It sparkles with antiques and modern glassware, plus jade and enameled metal objects.

Iowa State University carillon Ames
ISU carillon
| Credit: Laura Billingsley

A stroll through the leafy campus should include a stop at Memorial Union, where the Gold Star Hall honors fallen veterans with stained-glass windows and soaring columns. Across from the Union, the famous Stanton Memorial Carillon still plays melodies most days.

In nearby Campustown, Stomping Grounds Cafe serves coffee and French-theme foods, including crepes, quiche, croque monsieur sandwiches and roast beef au jus.

In the evening, take in a play or symphony at Stephens Auditorium or catch an ISU basketball game at Hilton Coliseum. In the Somerset neighborhood, The Cafe serves seasonal dishes made with local ingredients (prosciutto and fig pizza, savory summer fish) complemented by specialty cocktails.

Close to campus, Gateway Hotel and Conference Center offers modern rooms, a pool and an on-site restaurant and bar, The IowaStater.

Day 2

On Saturday mornings May through October, the Ames Main Street Farmers Market fills the downtown with produce, meats, cheeses, wine and family activities.

Ames, Iowa: Great Plains Sauce and Dough Company

For more shopping or snacking, head to Downtown Ames, a Main Street Cultural District. Get piping-hot pizza on hearty wheat crust in Great Plains Sauce and Dough Co.'s casual setting.

Reiman Gardens
Reiman Gardens
| Credit: Courtesy of Travel Iowa

In the afternoon, explore one of the largest public gardens in Iowa, Reiman Gardens, which boasts a 2,500-square-foot indoor butterfly wing, plus rose gardens, greenhouses and a conservatory. Or just north of town, taste wines and tour the vineyards at Prairie Moon Winery, which features entertainment most Sunday summer afternoons.

At dinnertime, circle back to Campustown and its international restaurants, including Little Taipei, Thai Kitchen and Cafe Beaudelaire, a Brazilian restaurant and bar where guests can feast on feijoada, a stew of beans, meat and veggies.