Iowa Creative Places
Iowa’s creative places can help our state to achieve its long-term vision and goals by:
- Creating new quality of life attractions and enhancing tourism opportunities that draw upon local assets connected to the arts, heritage, and culture.
- Building culturally vibrant and prosperous places that assist with recruiting and retaining a highly skilled workforce;
- Encouraging new businesses and economic development, particularly in rural Iowa.
The State of Iowa offers numerous programs, resources and tools to support communities at all stages of envisioning, developing and preserving creative places. Key programs and resources include:
- Iowa Great Places Designation and Grant Program
- Iowa Cultural and Entertainment District Designation
- Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs Grants
- Learn more about creative placemaking
Featured Creative Places
Cedar Falls’ Downtown District holds strength in its unique variety of activities and entertainment venues. After transforming from an economically depressed area in the 1980s to a sought-after business location today, the district now hums with activity.
As one of the first cities involved with Main Street Iowa, Cedar Falls' Downtown District is a success story for the national Main Street revitalization program. The area is busy year-round with activities such as the "Baby, It's Cold Outside" event every winter.
Cedar Wapsi Recreational Byway
The Cedar-Wapsi Recreational Byway brings together a diverse group of private and public entities. All have different missions, but share the common goal of engaging citizens and visitors to better understand, enjoy, and experience the benefits that come from shared outdoor physical activities in Linn County.
The Indian Creek Nature Center on the eastern edge of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, attracts thousands of visitors each year with opportunities to explore the area’s natural beauty. The center’s construction, in 2016, grew out of a community-wide vision plan that prompted the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs to designate the Cedar Wapsi Recreational Byway as an Iowa Great Place in 2014.
Cody Road - LeClaire
Located in the heart of LeClaire on the Cody Road and Great River Road, this National Historic District winds along the Mississippi riverfront and features historic buildings, including river pilot houses among attractions such as the Buffalo Bill Museum and River Pilot's Pier.
The Cody Road Cultural & Entertainment District was established in 2007. It runs parallel to the Mississippi River and is located on the Great River Road. Cody Road includes many mid-to-late 1800s historic buildings that are part of the Cody Road Historic District, a National Historic District. Many structures now house unique retail shops, antique stores, galleries, restaurants, music venues and a winery.
Council Bluffs - South Main and Haymarket Square District
Council Bluffs celebrates historic preservation, arts and culture in the historic Haymarket area and South Main Cultural Districts. This designated Iowa Great Place is also home to The Hoff Family Arts and Culture Center operated by Pottawattamie Arts, Culture & Entertainment (PACE).
Pottawattamie Arts, Culture and Entertainment (PACE) spearheaded the transformation of a historic Council Bluffs warehouse known as the McCormick Harvesting International Building. The new center opened in spring 2020 and features a theater, culinary arts kitchen for food entrepreneurs, teaching kitchen, exhibit gallery, dance studios, artist studios, classrooms and more.
Dubuque is nestled among the bluffs of the Mississippi River and is well known for its natural beauty and the historic architecture that makes up much of the downtown and surrounding neighborhoods. The city features breath-taking views and entertainment options that lure millions of visitors each year.
The Downtown Dubuque Cultural Corridor has many historic institutional, commercial and industrial buildings with first-floor retail/offices and upper-story housing. It offers affordable housing along with commercial offices, churches, parks and schools. Plus, major revitalization at the Port of Dubuque, Millwork District and Flat Iron Park has reclaimed underutilized and brownfield properties for walkable, accessible, mixed-use redevelopment. A network of bike/hike paths connects to parks, the Mississippi River, downtown and historic sites.
Fairfield has blossomed over the years into a leading center for culture and the arts. It showcases a unique blend of rich heritage and small-town qualities with the diversity, cultural richness and economic opportunities of a thriving city.
The Fairfield Cultural & Entertainment District is located in the downtown area and features many historic buildings, mixed-commercial uses and local events. The town square is the center for locally owned shops, restaurants and entertainment venues. Since 2005, the Fairfield Cultural Alliance has supported arts, culture, history and creative expression in the district. From 2010 to 2017, it distributed Cultural Trust Fund Mini-Grants to worthy projects in the district and surrounding area.
Forest City has a passion for engaging experiences including concerts, performing arts, and presentations. The community celebrates its long and storied tradition of fine arts through projects like the Boman Fine Arts Center, the culmination of a community working together and sharing resources to improve the quality of life of its residents.
Forest City is an Iowa Great Place, designated by the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. The designation is both an honor that recognizes the city’s community spirit and a challenge to keep building a brighter future through partnerships like the one that led to the creation of the Boman Fine Arts Center.
Malvern has transformed itself from the typical to the extraordinary. A local group of volunteer leaders embraced the arts to transform their downtown streetscape through murals and tree sculptures that create unique gathering spaces along Main Street.
Manning has continued to build upon its cultural assets and history through destinations from the Hausbarn-Heritage Park to the iconic IOWA sculpture in Trestle Park. Manning prides itself on offering amenities unparalleled in communities its size (population 1,455), enriching visitor and resident experiences through a refreshing approach to culture, natural amenities and recreation.
Mason City has a strong musical tradition. Home to Meredith Willson, author and composer of “The Music Man,” Mason City is the original "River City." Its musical culture includes the annual North Iowa Band Festival, which began in 1936 and includes a parade, music competitions and entertainment.
Mason City has made the most of its history, historic architecture, public artwork and more to create an authentic sense of place that appeals to visitors and residents alike. The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs designated the city as an Iowa Great Place and its downtown as an Iowa Cultural & Entertainment District.
Mount Vernon’s Cultural and Entertainment District is anchored by the First Street Community Center and Cornell College and traces the route of the historic Lincoln Highway. This creative place features over 14 events each year highlighting artists, arts and culture.
Arts and culture play a starring role in more than a dozen annual festivals that liven up the Iowa Cultural and Entertainment District in Mount Vernon. Exhibit A: The Lincoln Highway Arts Festival in 2021.