You’re heading to Iowa City to visit your son or daughter. Sure, you can check out your student’s room, get a bite to eat, and go shopping, but did you know that the University of Iowa community is rich in fun things to do—with or without your child? Next time you make the trip to campus, be sure to put a few of these items on your “to do” list.
Head for the great outdoors
Myriad ways to soak up the state’s natural beauty exist just a short drive from campus. Sailing on Lake Macbride, for example, is a perfect pastime for a beautiful Iowa afternoon. The Iowa Sailing Club, one of the oldest student organizations, provides boats and sailing instruction from April to November at the Macbride Nature Recreation Area, 485 acres of woodlands 15 miles north of town that are leased to the University by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The recreation area features a raptor education center, an archery range, campsites, and trails. See www.recserv.uiowa.edu/programs/MNRA/MNRA (or www.iowasailing.org for sailing info).
If you need some special gear to ramp up the fun factor, visit the University’s Touch the Earth Outdoor Rental Center, which rents tents, sleeping bags, kayaks, and other items. It is part of the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Complex, located just north and west of the intersection of Melrose Avenue and Mormon Trek Boulevard. To plan your adventure, see www.recserv.uiowa.edu/programs/TTE/rentalcenter.
If fairways are more your style, the UI Department of Intercollegiate Athletics operates an 18-hole public golf course that also is the practice and competition site for the men’s and women’s golf teams. Finkbine Golf Course, located about a mile west of the main campus, usually opens in early April and closes in November. For more details, see www.finkbine.com.
Perhaps the best way to familiarize yourself with your student’s new home is to walk it. UI Wellness offers a number of campus and community walking and trail maps online for easy printing at www.uiowa.edu/hr/wellness/resources/maps/index.html.
Check out the Union
After buying the obligatory Iowa sweatshirt from University Book Store in the Iowa Memorial Union (IMU), don’t leave the building: there are many things to enjoy in this new and improved campus hub.
Take in a movie at the Bijou, a student-run movie house that screens independent, foreign, and classic films, or take a break in The Hawkeye room (known as The Wheelroom before a recent building renovation). The Hawkeye offers free popcorn and games (with a student ID) like Scrabble, darts, pool, and foosball. It also sports five flat-screen TVs on which you can catch a game. If the weather’s nice, head outside to the River Terrace, an outdoor amphitheater that features prime real estate for river viewing and duck watching.
For nourishment, the IMU offers multiple options: the River Room, a cafeteria featuring a relaxing view of the Iowa River, and Union Station, a food court offering burgers, deli food, sushi, taco and salad bars, and Pizza Hut pies.
Once a month, the chefs at IMU Food Services get creative and showcase their talent in an event called Lunch with the Chefs. Past themes have included Floribbean Holiday–Cuban Fusion, A Touch of India, and Back Forty Texas BBQ. Director Barry Greenberg recently won a national culinary competition with an Asian bento box that included the hardly typical cafeteria fare of tofu sushi, a mango and ginger tofu smoothie, and smoked shiitake spring rolls.
If you’re lucky, you can cap an evening with a rock concert sponsored by the Student Commission on Programming and Entertainment, or SCOPE. These events usually are held in the IMU’s Main Lounge or Second Floor Ballroom, though some concerts are held in downtown’s historic Englert Theatre.
Take in some art
In addition to the renowned museums on campus, there are several spots tailored to highlight students’ artistic endeavors. Although the Art Building’s undergraduate galleries will be out of commission over the next year as the building is renovated, the new Art Building West houses an art gallery for graduate students. Blank Honors Center also has exhibitions, primarily from honors students, and the Gallery in IMU Hubbard Commons showcases student creativity throughout the semester.
There are multiple venues for the performing arts on campus. Between the School of Music, the Departments of Dance and Theatre Arts, and Hancher Auditorium, there almost always is something happening on a stage. For schedules, see www.uiowa.edu/~dpa or visit www.hancher.uiowa.edu.
You can always go downtown
Another easy and entertaining way to share in your student’s University experience is to hang out downtown, where students flock daily for books, coffee, threads, snacks, and people watching, among other things. Three blocks of tree- and bench-lined pedestrian plaza anchor the downtown area and provide leisurely spots for conversation, eating, reading, and studying. In addition to broadcasting literary readings, University radio station WSUI tapes a weekly music show, Java Blend, on Fridays at noon from downtown’s Java House.
West of the downtown pedestrian plaza and south of the University’s Pentacrest is the Old Capitol Town Center, a mall that houses restaurants, a drugstore, and a variety of retailers on the main floor. Several UI offices, including Information Technology Services and International Programs, occupy most of the second floor and a portion of the first floor. The UI Department of Public Safety recently relocated to the building’s basement.
Steep yourself in literature
The University is home to the esteemed Iowa Writers’ Workshop, which has graduated dozens of Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winners and four U.S. Poet Laureates. The UI campus also houses the International Writing Program, the Nonfiction Writing Program, the Playwrights Workshop, the Translation Program, the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio, the Center for the Book, the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. To read more, log on to www.writinguniversity.org.
It’s nearly impossible to walk near campus without running into a writer—literally. The Iowa Avenue Literary Walk in downtown Iowa City celebrates works by 49 writers with ties to Iowa and The University of Iowa through a series of bronze relief panels embedded in the sidewalk. The works feature quotations about books and writing by authors ranging from Kurt Vonnegut to Flannery O’Connor, and Rita Dove to John Irving.
A great way to experience the literary buzz is to attend a reading. There are dozens of free readings each semester, on campus and also at Prairie Lights Books in downtown Iowa City; the latter readings are usually recorded and later broadcast by UI radio station WSUI AM910.
by Sara Epstein Moninger