Choosing an Iowa City Neighborhood: A Mom’s Guide to University Heights

My first time in Iowa was moving day. This scenario isn’t unusual when you’re moving for medical training, but it doesn’t make it any less anxiety-provoking. Without seeing for ourselves all the wonderful neighborhoods the area offers, we narrowed our focus to houses within walking distance of the hospital. We’d been burned before with resale value so figured we couldn’t go wrong with University Heights (UH).

Choosing an Iowa City Neighborhood: A Mom's Guide to University Heights

I assumed UH was a neighborhood, but learned when we moved here that it is actually a city, with its own politics, mayor, city council, police, and all.

The population is just over 1,000 people, and I really couldn’t love our location more. My husband walks to work, and you’ll often spot me pushing our red stroller around. We feel the University of Iowa spirit and are only minutes away from the ped mall and not much farther from anywhere else we want to go. 

Choosing an Iowa City Neighborhood: A Mom's Guide to University Heights


Schools were another big draw to UH for us. Our daughter will walk to Ernest Horn Elementary  just down our street in a year. Some other houses are assigned to Norman Borlaug Elementary.

We are in the Northwest Junior High and West High School districts. 


I absolutely adore being able to walk to restaurants with my family—it’s especially nice to stroll after eating burgers and pizza! 

Maggie’s Pizza – offers outdoor seating


Not a restaurant and not in UH, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Dane’s Dairy is very walkable and a favorite outing in the summer!  


Our very own Farmers’ Market runs every Tuesday through September 4th (except August 7th) from 5 to 7 p.m.

Free Little Library (corner of Koser and Melrose)

Sports Facilities

Kinnick Stadium is right outside UH’s city lines but is so close! You probably park in UH when going to football games…and as a UH resident, depending on exactly where you live, you can pull in some extra money by parking cars in your driveway on game days (or opt to be a great friend and let people you know park for free!).

My husband exercises at the nearby Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Center.  


Tower Court barely escapes the city lines but feels almost like a central part of the area to me. It’s a short walk from our house and features a small splash pad open Memorial Day through Labor Day.

We walk to the playground at Horn when school isn’t in session.

If you can’t tell yet that I like walking for exercise, we also trek it further to Willow Creek and Kiwanis parks—easy to get to from UH (minus pushing the stroller up some hills).

Health Care

University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC) is 0.7 miles from our house—even closer in some parts of UH.

If you are moving to the area for residency/fellowship/a job at the hospital, I strongly urge you to consider moving to UH. My husband walks to work even when it’s snowing and below freezing and says it’s a great way to clear his head. Actually, the parking lot he was assigned to is farther from the hospital than our house. You see a lot of people riding bikes and taking the bus too. Our savings on gas is noticeable!

Choosing an Iowa City Neighborhood: A Mom's Guide to University Heights
We try to meet my husband on his walk home from UIHC when the weather is nice.

Also, as someone who has had a ton of appointments at Pomerantz Clinic, been hospitalized and had a baby in the NICU, the proximity to the hospital has been a lifesaver.

I feel a sense of satisfaction when I walk my pregnant self to appointments and turn down the parking coupon.

We also have been known to pick up a snack from Java House and head to the hospital playground to hopefully get a glimpse of my husband on his break.


Our house went on the market within days of us making an offer, and our neighbors across the street bought their house through word of mouth before the house was even listed! Real estate is very hot in University Heights. Don’t drag your feet too much if you are interested.

Many houses are sale-by-owner. There are also a number of rentals available. The best way to get an accurate lay of the land is to drive up and down the streets and look at the signs for yourself.

What the Future Holds

Look for more businesses at One University Place on Melrose.

The University Club, a swimming/tennis/restaurant facility affiliated with the University of Iowa, has been a staple of University Heights, but that could soon change. The club announced its plans to close, but is open for now and even running membership specials. 

Plans for a new Marriott hotel in UH are underway. There is potential for a boutique hotel in University Club’s place one day, but this idea is in the infancy phase. 

UH just secured land that will be turned into a park (read more from the Press-Citizen). 

And, you may have heard this, but it’s true…don’t speed in UH. As a mom of young kids who often are outside, I really appreciate the police’s presence , but I always warn my out-of-town visitors that 25 mph means 25 mph here.

There are a ton of young families and interesting people in University Heights. I couldn’t be happier we chose it without even seeing it! 


Meg is a transplant to the Midwest. Originally a Louisiana native, she moved to Iowa with her family in the summer of 2016 for her husband’s residency program. She and Addison have four daughters: Kate, born November 2013; Adrienne, born December 2016; and, Elizabeth and Caroline, born November 2018. Meg is a University of Richmond grad with a PR, government affairs and community outreach background.


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