Updated March 24, 2022
I know a place where you can enjoy a delicious burger with local beef and fries for dinner, stroll to Dairy Queen for an ice cream treat, and then finish the evening watching the sunset by a visionary stone in a prairie preserve. Where is this nirvana of food and forest, you ask? It’s the east side of Iowa City, and it’s a great place to live!
It’s the quiet side of town, far enough away from the university to avoid the game-day traffic and boisterous undergrads, but close enough to hop on one of the city bus lines to get downtown to work or play. The eastside’s proximity to I-80 via the Herbert Hoover Highway is also a plus if you are a commuter.
The eastside has a healthy mix of apartments, condominiums, and single-family homes. My family and I have lived on the east side of Iowa City for over a decade near the intersection of Scott Boulevard and Rochester Avenue. Our neighborhood borders the Harvest Preserve, a gorgeous 100-acre prairie, and woodland preservation area. It’s beautiful just as scenery for your walk on Scott Boulevard, but you can gain access to the private park, walking trails, and installation art if you buy an annual pass.
Photo credit: Harvest Preserve Foundation, Inc.
If you have school-aged littles and are considering a move to Iowa City’s east side, there are nine elementary schools that feed into Southeast Junior High and City High. The Eastside is also home to Regina Catholic Education Center, a pre-K through 12 school off of Rochester Avenue. The Eastside elementary schools include: Lemme, Lincoln, Longfellow, Lucas, Mann, Hoover, Twain, Grant Wood, and Shimek.
One of my favorite places to play on the Eastside is Mercer Park on the Southeast side (which also has an indoor pool). Mercer got an upgrade a few years ago with all new equipment—it’s huge! Swing sets not your jam? Check out the walking trails at Hickory Hill, the splash pad at Wetherby Park, or Rita’s Ranch off-leash Dog Park in Scott Park. In all, there are 24 parks on the Eastside! We love riding bikes on the three-mile loop around Scott Boulevard, Rochester, and First Avenue (also passing through the Harvest Preserve).
Eating on the Eastside
While I consider downtown Iowa City a foodie oasis, the Eastside is really where it’s at for family-friendly fare. Here are some of our faves:
- Oyama for sushi, it’s the best in town
- Jimmy Jacks Rib Shack for ribs and pulled pork (get the sandwich “Memphis-style” with coleslaw piled atop the meat).
- Midtown Family Restaurant has family favorites like hot roast beef sandwiches, pie, and prime rib nights.
- Shorts Eastside has burgers made with local beef and hand-cut fries.
- Call Wig and Pen East for Flying Tomato pizza takeout or delivery.
- Two Dogs Pub has the best wings with their signature “boom boom” sauce
- Head to Shakespeare’s Pub and Grill for a neighborhood tavern vibe and Taco Tuesday.
- Heyn’s is an eastside favorite with hand-dipped, made-in-house ice cream (vegan and gluten and dairy-free options available)
- Java House has an eastside location and has the best pour-over in town with locally roasted beans.
- My new eastside favorite coffee is is Dodge Street Coffee House (run by an eastside mom!), right off of I-80 with a convenient drive-up and great seating (and a kids play area!)
NEW: South District Market!
If you haven’t heard yet, there are exciting things happening on the southeast side–a brand new area of shopping, restaurants and more! The South of 6 Iowa City Business District is growing and new things are opening every day, so be sure to follow them on social media or head down there in person to support these new local businesses!
One of my Eastside friends loves the HyVee Drugstore on the corner of First and Rochester for its true “corner store” vibe. It has dry cleaning drop-off, fresh produce and flowers, and a pharmacy. If you prefer the full-size grocery, there are two HyVee locations on the Eastside: a Dodge Street location just off of I-80, as well as the First Avenue Hy-Vee. The Iowa City Marketplace is home to the new Joann’s Fabric, Panera, the movie theater, and the Hobby Corner for games, puzzles, and toys.
If you’re looking for a charming, convenient neighborhood with tons of amenities and walkability, Iowa City’s Eastside might just be the perfect fit for you and your family.
If you’ve made your home on the eastside of Iowa City, tell us your favorite spots!
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