RBMS 2017 blog


Iowa City Outdoors

Iowa City has many exercise facilities and outdoor amenities to take care of your fitness needs. I am a walker and a swimmer (reflected in the notes below) though I try to do justice to other forms of exercise too.

Walking & Local Parks

Near Sheraton Inn and Hotel Vetro

Those staying in the Sheraton Inn or Hotel Vetro have a park-like atmosphere right outside their door. The downtown pedestrian mall offers walking space with access to dining and shopping. The pentacrest is an open space with broad lawns available to all. (Check out the museums if you have time) This is located at Clinton Street and Iowa Avenue, in the heart of downtown.

City Park (Image: Iowa City government, https://recserv.uiowa.edu/facilities/campus-recreation-wellness-center)

College Green Park is a one block park with benches, a gazebo, and a basketball court. For those of you who like to walk or run on paved trails, there is the 107 acre City Park, about 12 blocks from the conference hotels. There is also a swimming pool with lanes for serious swimmers at this park. To skip the 12-block walk, take the Blue Route or Red Route Cambus (free) and get off at the Hancher stop. City Park is across the street to the North.

If any of you are so inclined, across the river from City Park is Terrill Mill Park, which includes a skate park.

Skate Park near City Park & Terrill Mill Park (Image: Iowa City government, https://www.icgov.org/city-government/departments-and-divisions/parks-and-recreation/parks-and-forestry/parks/parks-15)

And finally for those of you who like walks on natural paths (maintained with wood chips) there is the 185-acre Hickory Hill on the east side of town. Since it’s about 25 blocks away, you can take the North Dodge bus (not free, $1.00, exact change required) to reach the south part of the park.  You can ask the bus driver where you should get off. The stop is roughly opposite the Hy Vee store.

Hickory Hill Park (Image: Iowa City government, https://www.icgov.org/city-government/departments-and-divisions/parks-and-recreation/parks-and-forestry/parks/parks-8)

Near Hampton Inn

Those of you staying at the Hampton Inn have access to a walking path behind the hotel, between the hotel and the river. You could, in fact, walk to and from the conference site on this path if you like. Just turn left (north) as you come out of the hotel onto the path, and walk until you come to Burlington Street, then take a right turn (east). In about 7 blocks you will see the conference hotel on your left. (It’s the back side of the hotel, so it will look a little different. There’s a parking ramp to the east.)  It’s about a 15-20 block walk. I have walked from the library to Brueggers/Jamba Juice, eaten lunch there, and walked back to the library within an hour lunch break.

You can follow this path from behind the hotel south to Terry Trueblood Park or north to City Park and points north and west. (These both are relatively long walks; i.e. an hour or more.) For relaxation or another place to run, there is Benton Hill Park, which has walking trails; and Brookland Park which has a shelter. Further west are Willow Creek Park and Kiwanis Park (the two parks are contiguous). These parks are about 20 blocks from the hotel, so if you want, catch the Plaen View bus downtown (not free, $1.00, exact change required) and get off at the Benton Street and Mormon Trek stop and walk east on Benton Street. The parks have a combination of paved and unpaved trails.

Entrance to Benton Hill Park (Image: Iowa City government, https://www.icgov.org/city-government/departments-and-divisions/parks-and-recreation/parks-and-forestry/parks/parks-1)

Near Iowa House Hotel

Those of you staying at the Iowa House have access to a walking path just to the west of the building. Go south on this path and you will come to the Hampton Inn eventually. If you cross the river at Benton Street (farther along the trail south of the Hampton Inn), you will connect with the Iowa River Corridor Trail, which goes south to Terry Trueblood Park, where you can walk around the lake. If you go north, you will come to City Park, which picks up the river trail. This trail will take you to Crandic Park. There is a path going north out of this park, but it is unfinished. If you want a longer walk, follow the sidewalk past Crandic Park, and go under the railroad tracks. You’ll find yourself on Second Street, locally known as the “Coralville Strip.” Here, you can turn right and go down the strip, or keep going straight ahead.

*Interesting aside: “Crandic Park” is a portmanteau word for “CR and IC”, the intraurban railroad that passes through this park. The tracks are still there and still in use, though the last intraurban passenger car ran on the tracks in 1956. The CR and IC stand for Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, of course.

Swimming & Recreation Centers

Information and rules for city recreation centers and pools here.

Outdoor city pools:

  • City Park Pool
  • Coralville Aquatic Center

Iowa City Outdoor Pools (Image: Parks & Recreation, City of Iowa City)

Indoor city pools:

  • Robert A. Lee Recreation Center (downtown, 220 South Gilbert Street, $4.00) – To use the Rec Center, you must obtain a Rec Center pass. These are good for life and are free. Swimming is $4. You can also get a 10-day swimming pass for $30, but they are sharable, so you and your friends could all go swimming on the same pass. They also have a racquetball court, for $4. Ping pong and pool tables are free, as is access to the basketball court.
  • Coralville Recreation Center (1506 8th Street, Coralville)
  • Mercer Park Recreation Center (2701 Bradford Drive) on the east side (take the Towncrest bus.)

University of Iowa:

  • UI Recreational Center (309 South Madison Street) – Day passes are $8 and last for 24 hours. This gets you into all their facilities: pool, tracks, climbing wall, weight machines, treadmills, etc.

University of Iowa Recreational Center (image: https://recserv.uiowa.edu/facilities/campus-recreation-wellness-center)


Iowa City has lots of bike paths (links below). You can rent a bike from the University’s Outdoor Rental Center, situated in the University’s Recreation Center.


Visit the Black Angel at Oakland Cemetery (1000 Brown Street). Bonus: Can you find the grave of Emma Peel?

Iowa City Resources for Outdoor Activities

Going Further

Options for those who have cars and want to venture a little further:

  • Devonian Fossil Gorge, which was created in 1993 when floodwaters came over the spillway and washed away the soil. Self-guided tours and a Visitor’s Center. Also nature walks in the area. (8 miles north)
  • The cemetery at Atalissa is renowned for its diversity of wild flowers. The middle of June should be a fine time to go there. (30 miles west southwest)
  • Gardens at Gazebo on the Green, 3002 Newport Road, NE. Private gardens. Call for an appointment. (Approximately 6 miles north)
  • In West Branch is the Herbert Hoover National Monument, which include a 2.5 mile trail through restored tall grass prairie. This site also includes Iowa’s only Presidential Library.


-Jacque Roethler
Special Collections Librarian,
Processing Coordinator
University of Iowa