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Lonely Planet Guide: Iowa City, Iowa

Steal? Steal.

Since we didn't have time to put together a quality guide to Iowa City, we'll instead rely on the experts at Lonely Planet for their expertise. Enjoy.

At a Glance:

Though at first glance it may not appear to merit a traveler's attention, Iowa City boasts a cornucopia of delights for the traveler willing to make the trek into the middle of hell nowhere Iowa. Iowa City is a place trapped in a bygone era yet thoroughly modern at the same time. Where else can you see a meth addicted Amish carpenter putting 20 inch dubs on his buggy? Only in Iowa City.

From a fourth rate college band playing Abba to the sounds of Culture Club blaring from a local watering hole, it's just like taking a time machine back to the early Eighties. Visitors will be able to tour the plethora of John Deere and International Harvester tractors wrecked parked on the roadsides, many of which date back to the 1920's, and go trinket hunting in the mucky remnants of whatever flood that's sure to strike the area while you're there. Marvel at Iowa City's skyscraper. See the old people that have moved there to die (it is the 3rd best place to retire according to Money Magazine!). Tour the pig farms and see where most of your tax dollars go as you tour the ethanol plants and poorly run family farms. Only in Iowa City!

When to Go:

Iowa City is blessed with two spectacular seasons: Winter and Flood. Both provide ample opportunity to see some local flare.

Ranging from late October through late April, Winter in Iowa City is a site to behold. Buried in a storm of hot ash, sulfur, freezing rain, blizzards, and residual flood damage, the local color (a dull gray) really comes out. Depending on the mood of Melxtulycial, the resident demon spawn, county board chairman, medicine man, and mayor, you may actually see all of the above at once (Warning: this is usually fatal and if not requires the signing over of your soul in exchange for survival). The predominant precipitation in Winter is, of course, snow. Lots of it. The largest benefit for travelers is that the freezing temperatures and six feet of snow buries the smell of the rancid pig farms and ethanol plants. It also has the benefit of being quite pretty when the town is buried in snow, meaning you can't really see it. It is much like a very, very flat Planet Hoth, except replacing the Empire with roving groups of the local inhabitants looking for food and things to burn for warmth.

For the more adventuresome, the Flood season has all the charms and thrills of white water rafting without the raft. Excitement for all! Bring the kids. They'll get plenty of exercise running from ritualistic beatings and escaping the molten eruptions of slag from the fire pits just below the city streets. Everything is in perfect balance in Iowa City, as whenever the streets get too hot all that snow from the Winter melts and cools the place off in four feet of water. All that snow's gotta go somewhere. You never knew how much fun it was to swim with farm animals and their fecal matter! Intermittent with the melting of the snow, there are brief unpredictable period of dryness where visitors can see the barren fields of corn husks, the deforestation, and local meth labs in all their splendor.

If you're going to visit, keep a copy of the Iowa Hawkeyes' College Football Season Schedule nearby. The ideal time to visit is during the run-up to the Iowa Penn State home game in Iowa City. The locals are usually too transfixed by the prospect of beating a team ranked ahead of them to notice a tourist snapping photos and dodging the chupacabres behind them. That said, a visitor's presence at game time or immediately thereafter is strongly discouraged. Should Iowa win, it starts what is known as the "Rut", or breeding season, in Iowa City where everything not nailed down or locked away in a safe is fair game. A correspondent recently recanted a weekend of terror huddled under an overturned garbage truck as the backpack she dropped outside to escape the mob was repeatedly molested. She left what was left of the backpack in Iowa. On the flip side, an Iowa loss sends the populace into a menacing spiral of grain alcohol and prescription drug consumption worthy of a night with Keith Richards, circa 1968.

Background Info

Incorporated in 1973, Iowa City was previously a collective of mud farming, sheep rapists that banded together for low cost health insurance. With the expansion of Medicare and Medicaid, the locals figured it was better to incorporate in order to begin the bilking process, and thus a city was born.

Unsurprisingly, the name of the city took some time to finally reveal itself. Upon incorporation, it was actually named "Cooter's Place" after the local bar/jail/speed-dating-hall. Then after several changes referencing male genitalia, a riot or two, and state intervention the final name was announced in 1982, Iowa City. Sadly, during the naming period, the city ground to a financial halt as no one knew what to put on their letterhead and commerce in the city was non-existent. The cost in lost revenue and productivity in naming the town over that nine year span has been estimated in the hundreds.

Originally an agricultural hub, Iowa City remains a squabbling farm community tied together by federal funding. With a non-university population of 3,500 persons (farm animals are excluded from the population count per a 2009 Federal Court case which Iowa City lost), Iowa City is on the rise economically. Flush with cash from farm subsidies the annual income of a non-university individual is estimated a $736 a year. Triple since incorporation! The benefit of this rise to economic prosperity is that tourists are no longer captured and sold on the open market as "farm help", so now is the time to visit!

To See

For uninitiated, Iowa City would seem to be nothing more than a flat plane with the occasional corn stalk and burnt out building. But it's so much more. You can see lots and lots of grain silos and coal burning smokestacks to go along with all those corn stalks and burnt out buildings.

Not to miss is the game-dependent flogging of or by Herky the Hawk, the University of Iowa's bizarre mascot. Depending on the outcome of the previous football or basketball game, Herky will either be mercilessly chain flogged by the children of Iowa City following a loss or Herky will deliver the flogging to a citizen chosen at random by Iowa Athletic Director Bloodpunch Barta. The Iowa City citizens line the streets for the floggings, celebrating and drinking as if its a twisted version of Mardi Gras (meaning there's no female nudity, just male). They cheer loudly for the floggings and throw bricks and car batteries at the floggee just to add to the flavor of the event.


Corn. Nothing else.

This may be a little confusing to the Iowa City newcomer with all the pig farms around, but it's easily explained. Corn is for eating. Animals are for loving. It's not just a local saying, it's the law (Iowa City Munic. Co. 13-N-291). Also, it's on the Iowa City flag and crest.


Do you like truck stops? Who doesn't!? Sure you can stay at one of the three low end Motel 6 knock-offs available in town, but you don't want to miss out on the local color. Stay at the truck stop that inspired the Patrick Swayze classic "Black Dog", or for the more adventurous, you can stay Dixie Boy truck stop where driverless trucks and machines still patrol the area for any HU-MANZ who approach the area. Watch the excitement in the eyes of your kids as you and the family run from the safety zone to the the relative safety of drywall all while dodging tennis balls fired from the autonomous mobile M-60 platform. (The phrase "tennis balls" is a typo. It should read "live ammunition". Apologies for any confusion and/or death.)


Thanks to city wide tire fires the sun never truly sets in Iowa City. So you'll never have to wait until tomorrow to see the site. It'll be in plain view all day! Visitors should note that the constant light will throw off your biorhythms and make you more vulnerable to the chupacabres.


With so many varieties of meth to choose from in Iowa City, you just can't lose! You'll find just about everything you're looking for at the central flea market on the west side of town (known locally as the "cemetery"). And we do mean flea market, so make sure you've been vaccinated for lyme disease before heading over (Lonely Planet recommends Iowa City Visitors receive all the inoculations you would obtain before heading to Sub-Saharan Africa as a precaution). You'll find everything here from Billy Joel 8-tracks to human organs at jaw dropping prices. And speaking of which, another jaw dropper, Iowa City still accepts Confederate money! They also accept teeth as a form of payment, so stop off by your dentist to pick up the throw aways and you'll save yourself a bundle. Pick up that "FRANKIE SAYS RELAX" t-shirt you've always wanted and some strawberry meth for the ride home.

Iowa City's a trip you'll never forget!