What to Do in Iowa City While Here for the Social Brand Forum

August 25, 2016

Most people know Iowa City, Iowa as a frequent top five campus pick for the Princeton Review’s list of top party schools. But few realize that Iowa City also has a vibrant downtown with no shortage of art, culture, and history.

If you’re obsessed with UNESCO World Heritage sites, you’ll be excited to know that Iowa City is a UNESCO city of literature (the third, to be exact). Not exciting enough for you? How about the fact that the University of Iowa’s Museum of Art owns a priceless Jackson Pollock mural. Like sports history? The University of Iowa boasts having “all time winningest coach” Dan Gable on our team from 1976 – 1997. And that’s just for starters.

Make the most out of your trip to one of the Midwest’s favorite cities. Here’s what to do in Iowa City during Social Brand Forum 2016.

To Eat

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Are you the type of person who would agree that the way to your heart is through your stomach? Then you might just fall in love with Iowa City. A great diversity of quality food options means you’re going to have trouble deciding on just a few places to check out while you’re in Iowa City during Social Brand Forum.

Breakfast …

Bluebird Diner is a bit of a walk from the Englert Theatre, where Social Brand Forum takes place, but it’s so worth the extra couple blocks. Usually busy on the weekends, a Thursday/Friday breakfast visit may be the perfect opportunity to try Bluebird Diner.

Hamburg Inn (No. 2)  See above on Bluebird Diner. The main difference between these two beloved Iowa City breakfast spots is in the more political nature of Hamburg Inn. During the caucus, many presidential candidates have stopped in and enjoyed breakfast here. Make sure to save room for a pie shake!

The Java House  There will be coffee and other drinks at Social Brand Forum, but if you want to get fancy, the Java House is the place to go. Conveniently located next to the Englert Theatre, The Java House serves delicious fair-trade coffees and teas, and other treats.

Lunch/Dinner …

Atlas  Students consider this to be a “mom and dad” restaurant because it was a cut above most of the places they go out with friends (both in terms of quality and price). Whether or not you have a dinner benefactor, their inventive burritos and four cheese macaroni and cheese are worth the price. They may sound a little juvenile, but these classic comfort foods were designed for an adult taste.

Shorts Burgers & Shine is the best burger place you may ever set foot in. It’s small, so you have to be strategic with timing, but the options are almost limitless. Besides burgers, you can request a delicious creation with a black bean burger or chicken sandwich.

Z’Mariks  Best described as a local Noodles & Company competitor, Z’Mariks has the best noodle dishes in town, along with rice, salad, and soup options to accompany whatever you choose!

Bars …

Clinton Street Social Club  You’ll have a chance to check out this spot if you have a Full or VIP access pass to Social Brand Forum. And it’s worth the splurge — Clinton Street Social Club’s bar program exposes patrons to classic and inventive craft cocktails and delicious bites to accompany them.

There are plenty of other bars worth your patronage, but instead of listing them all out here, take a look at the Thursday and Friday Happy Hour specials curated by DrankBank.

After the Bars …

You remember how Iowa City plays host to frequent top 5 party school ranking University of Iowa, right? If that’s your scene, you’re going to need something to balance out heavy drinking between the first and second day of Social Brand Forum!

Mesa Pizza  The most unique pizza slices you’ll ever have the privilege of eating, including mac and cheese, buffalo chicken, chicken cordon bleu, and several vegetarian options. And they’re priced perfectly for the partying college student on a budget!

Panchero’s  True Iowans know that Panchero’s is good at any time of the day, but their fresh-pressed tortillas come just in the knick of time after a boozy bar crawl. You might consider them to be a Chipotle competitor, but Iowans put them in a category all their own. Try the queso!

To Do

As of this writing, the event calendars for September in Iowa City during Social Brand Forum are not 100% up-to-date. As such, you’ll have to do some exploring closer to the end of September to see what’s going on.

A few suggestions for finding fun things to do:

By now, you should have more than a few ideas of what to do in Iowa City during the Social Brand Forum. But if you need additional suggestions, feel free to leave your questions in the comments and the community will help you have an incredible time! And don’t forget to register for Social Brand Forum 2016!

What are your favorite things to do in Iowa City?

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is a strategist, speaker, educator, and author of Brand Now: How to Stand Out in a Crowded, Distracted World and Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small. He is the Chief Brand Strategist at Brand Driven Digital, an educator at the University of Iowa, and host of the On Brand podcast. More about Nick.