About 260 miles west of Chicago, Iowa City is a town of just over 60,000 people (nearly half of them students). It's been home to thousands of writers in the last few decades. Writers say it's a great place to work - small enough to provide an intimate sense of community and a relatively simple, inexpensive lifestyle, yet cosmopolitan enough to offer the culture and convenience of a bigger city.
Downtown, a sidewalk embedded with literary quotations (like the stars on Hollywood Boulevard) leads to Iowa Book and Supply and to Prairie Lights, one of the country's finest independent bookstores, with a reading series and café. The city renovated and expanded its public library in 2004. Many new restaurants have opened in the last few years, and there's an excellent food co-op and a farmer's market in the summer. The University's Bijou Theater offers a film series, rock bands play frequent shows at local bars, and world-class musical, dance and theater performances take place at Hancher Auditorium. There's more to the surrounding area than corn and soybean fields: Hickory Hill Park, the Coralville Reservoir, the reconstructed prairie at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library in nearby West Branch, and the Mark Twain National Wildlife Refuge are good local spots for walking, birding, or swimming.
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