Aerial view of downtown Council Bluffs, Iowa.

8 Best Places to Live in Iowa in 2024

Many states make desirable places to live in the Midwest, and Iowa is certainly one of the best ones to consider. As the only state bordering two rivers, the Missouri River and Mississippi River, it is a fertile region, ranking first in beef, pork, corn, and soybean production. The state has a low sales tax of 5% and has more golf courses per capita than any other state! However, there is more to Iowa than rivers and corn; it is also home to several towns and cities with rich history, food, and culture, affordable housing prices, and low crime. Here are eight of them that make excellent places to call home!


The Central Park in Pella, Iowa.
The Central Park in Pella, Iowa.

This town was founded by Dutch immigrants in 1847 and still maintains its heritage. For one, Pella hosts the largest windmill in the U.S., the Vermeer Windmill and has a number of other smaller windmills at places like Brinkhoff Park and Sunken Garden Park. Spend a day learning about Pella's history at the Pella Historical Village or the Tuttle Cabin, the oldest structure in Marion County. Try some cheese at the Frisian Farms Cheese House or have a pizza at Breadeaux Pizza. For a good time to visit, come in the first week of May for the Tulip Time festival, which celebrates Pella's Dutch heritage with 300,000 tulips, crafts, food, activities, and more. The average price of houses sold in Pella is $355,000, and the town also boasts an overall crime rate of 8 per 1,000 residents. This pretty Iowa town is truly a great place to live.

Council Bluffs

Aerial view of Council Bluffs, Iowa in autumn.
Aerial view of Council Bluffs, Iowa, in autumn. 

The city gets its name from a council meeting that took place between  Lewis and Clark and the Missouri and Otae tribes during their famous expedition in the early 19th century. With its proximity to Omaha, Nebraska, Council Bluffs has a number of excellent attractions to check out, and is ideal for folks who want to maintain proximity to a big city. For one, it is home to the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, with 160 acres of exhibits, animals, and more. Learn about the city's history at the Union Pacific Railroad Museum or go for a hike at the Hitchcock Nature Center. It is also home to Guy Fieri's Kitchen + Bar at Harrah's Casino. With a median housing list price of $245,000, this is also an affordable place to live. 


Pleasant View Post Office, Winterset, Iowa.
Pleasant View Post Office, Winterset, Iowa.

Winterset, Iowa, was the birthplace of one of America's most famous actors: John Wayne. Today, you can visit his roots at the John Wayne Birthplace & Museum. The Iowa Quilt Museum and the historic Iowa Theatre are must-visits for art enthusiasts. The town isn't just famous for John Wayne; it is also home to six beautiful covered bridges, a set piece for life in the Midwest. You can take a self-guided tour of the Covered Bridges Scenic Byway in the area. Finish out the day by trying vintage wine at the Covered Bridges Winery or Winterset or purchase milk goat dairy from Simple Life Farms. The violent crime rate in Winterset is 1.4 times lower than the national average, which makes it a safe place to settle down in this historic Iowa town.


Iowa River at dawn in Coralville. Image credit Dan Reck via Shutterstock.
Iowa River at dawn in Coralville. Image credit Dan Reck via Shutterstock.

Coralville was founded in 1873 and sits on the Iowa River. It hosts the Iowa River Landing, a 180-acre location with shopping, restaurants, and other attractions. Spend a day digging for fossils at the Devonian Fossil Gorge or visit one of the area's many museums, such as the Antique Car Museum of Iowa or the Iowa Children's Museum. The town also hosts a number of great events for every season, such as its annual 4thFest on the 4th of July, the Brrrfest for craft breweries in January, or the Winterfest. For restaurants, try out the Edgewater Grille or Perkins Restaurant & Bakery. The median house price is just above $390,000, and the crime rate is lower than the national average, making this town another affordable and safe town with a beautiful backdrop.

Orange City

Sioux County Courthouse, Orange City.
Sioux County Courthouse, Orange City.

Orange City is another Iowa settlement founded by the Dutch, named after their famous king William of Orange. It has its own tulip festival in May, which has been going strong since 1936. For golfers, the Landsmere (Lake of the Land) 18-hole course can't be beat. The area has many great parks to check out, such as the Puddle Jumper Trail, a two-mile trail with a bridle path for horses. Orange City also sells authentic Dutch cuisine at its Woudstra Meat Market. For a meal, try out The Hatchery Restaurant, which is open for breakfast and lunch making it a great local spot for locals! The average listing price for houses in Orange City is $259,000, one of the lowest on this list.

Spirit Lake

Spirit Lake is the biggest Town in the Okoboji Great Lakes of Iowa
Spirit Lake is the biggest Town in the Okoboji Great Lakes of Iowa. Image credit Jacob Boomsma via Shutterstock.

Spirit Lake is a beautiful town filled with natural beauty due to its position by a lesser-known set of lakes: the Iowa Great Lakes. Named one of the healthiest cities in Iowa, it's easy to see why with its vast array of outdoor activities, such as its many state parks like the Elinor Bedell State Park on the shores of East Lake Okoboji. Spend a day boating, fishing, or hiking at Pikes Point State Park, Marble Beach State Park, and more. Enjoy some candy at the Goodies Handmade Candies Shop or grab a bite to eat at Javi's Grill and Toast on Hill. If you're looking for a Great Lakes experience in a smaller package, then Spirit Lake and its surrounding communities will be just right for you. The lake community also has a lower crime rate nationally than the average. 


Decorah, Iowa: Ornate building housing the Porter House Museum on W Broadway. Editorial credit: Steve Heap /
The ornate building housing the Porter House Museum on W Broadway. Image credit: Steve Heap via Shutterstock.

The Dutch were not the only settlers to find their way to Iowa. Decorah was a major center for Norwegian settlers, who called it Vesterheim (western home) and established Luther College in the area in 1861. The Norwegian heritage of Decorah is on full display at the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, which holds exhibits such as settler log cabins, folk art, paintings, and more. The Scandinavians are known for being lovers of natural beauty, and Decorah is no slacker in this department, as there are multiple scenic parks and trails to visit, such as Dunning's Spring Park, Decorah Community Prairie, Barbara Barnhart Van Peenen Memorial Park and more. At the end of the day, eat local at the Family Table Decorah or Hay Market bar and restaurant. The housing market is quite affordable in Decorah, with a median listing price of $284,900. This is a great small Iowa town to call home, particularly for those who appreciate Scandinavian history.


Keystone Bridge in Elkader, Iowa.
Keystone Bridge in Elkader, Iowa. Image credit Kev319, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Elkader was founded in 1846 by Timothy Davis, John Thompson, and Chester Sage, who named it after a historical hero: Abd el-Kader, an Algerian freedom fighter who fought the French from 1830 to 1847. It has since been known as Little Switzerland due to its lush hills, which entice locals and tourists alike. Although the Midwest has a common reputation for being flat, visitors to Elkader will learn the truth when they visit the Brush Creek Canyon State Preserve, a 217-acre preserve with a steep gorge. It is also known as the birthplace of the Frolich Tractor, the first gasoline-powered traction engine, which you can learn more about by visiting the Froelich Village Museum. Make this town your home and go fishing at the Big Springs Trout Hatchery, or get a taste of the town's namesake at Schera's Algerian-American Restaurant!

Iowa is a state that is filled with natural beauty, rivers, good food, and Midwestern hospitality. With its strong Dutch population, you will never lack tulips, windmills, and other exciting cultural experiences. With a wide variety of towns with low crime rates and affordable housing, residents can rest safely in their homes, whichever town that may be.  Whether you are a golfer, fisher, hiker, or a lover of Midwestern cuisine, Iowa is the place to be. 

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