Ames has been voted one of the 20 best places in America to live and work by, one of the top 25 best places to retire (2013), the second most livable small city in the nation by the New Rating Guide to Life in America's Small Cities and the sixth best small city to do business by Many fine companies are found in the area, from high-tech to start ups to established manufacturing businesses. Home to Iowa State University, Ames' 60,634* residents enjoy a quality lifestyle with ample opportunities for cultural experiences, a strong economy, and friendly neighbors. *Based on 2012 Census Bureau data.

Ames is centrally located in Iowa at the intersection of I-35 and I-80. Within a day's travel from Ames on one of the many accessible Interstate highways, you can visit Minneapolis, Kansas City, Omaha, Chicago, St. Louis, or Milwaukee. Thirty minutes away you can find the state capital of Iowa, Des Moines.

Ames Municipal Airport offers flight training, aircraft rentals, and charter planes among other services. Des Moines International Airport is about 30 miles to the south of Ames. Local bus service is provided by CyRide.

Brief History
Established in 1864 to serve the westward-bound Cedar Rapids and Missouri River Railroad, the railroad president named the town after fellow rail promoter, Congressman Oakes Ames. Tucked away between the Skunk River and Squaw Creek, Ames has flourished into one of the finest communities in the United States.

About Education
More than 25,000 students attend Iowa State University, a comprehensive university known for excellence in science and technical fields as well as the arts and humanities. As Iowa's land-grant university, Iowa State has a three-part mission: education, research and outreach.

Other higher education opportunities in the area include William Penn University, one of Iowa's oldest and most respected institutions contributing a convenient, adult-centered way to quickly complete a degree, and Des Moines Area Community College, a great place to start before transferring to a four-year university.

Two private schools, St. Cecilia Catholic Elementary and Ames Christian School, are well established institutions. Public schools in Ames consists of eight elementary and one each of middle and high school. The average fourth grade test score for the eight elementary schools on the Iowa Test for Basic Skills (ITBS) was 90% for math and reading.

Country:    United States
State:     Iowa
County:     Story
Incorporated:    1864

 - Mayor     Ann Campbell

 - City     21.58 sq mi (55.9 km²)
 - Land     21.57 sq mi (55.9 km²)
 - Water     0.01 sq mi (0.0 km²)
Elevation     942 ft (287 m)

Population (2010)
 - City     58,965
 - Density     2,435.6/sq mi (940.4/km²)

Time zone     CST (UTC-6)
 - Summer (DST)     CDT (UTC-7)

ZIP codes     50010-50014
Area code(s)     515
FIPS code     19-01855
GNIS feature ID     0454167

Ames is a city located in the central part of the U.S. state of Iowa, and is approximately 30 miles north of Des Moines in Story County. It is the principal city of the 'Ames, Iowa Metropolitan Statistical Area' which encompasses all of Story County, Iowa and which, when combined with the 'Boone, Iowa Micropolitan Statistical Area', comprises the larger 'Ames-Boone, Iowa Combined Statistical Area'. As of the 2000 Census, the city population was 50,731. While Ames is the largest city in Story County, the county seat is in Nevada which is 8 miles east of Ames. Ames is the home of Iowa State University, with leading Design, Engineering, Science and Agriculture colleges. It is also the site of the Ames Straw Poll, an important straw poll in the Republican party presidential nomination process as well as the first in the nation Democratic and Republican caucuses (see Politics, below).

The city was founded in 1864 as a station stop on the Cedar Rapids and Missouri Railroad and was named after 19th century U.S. congressman Oakes Ames of Massachusetts, who was influential in the building of the transcontinental railroad. Ames was founded near a location that was deemed favorable for a railroad crossing of the Skunk River.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 21.6 square miles (55.9 km²), of which, 21.6 square miles (55.9 km²) of it is land and 0.04 square miles (0.1 km²) of it (0.09%) is water.

Ames is located on Interstate 35, U.S. Route 30 & 69, and the cross country line of the Union Pacific Railroad, located roughly 30 miles (48 km) north of the state capital Des Moines.

Two small rivers run through the town: the Skunk River and Squaw Creek.

As of the 2010 Census, there were 58,965 people, 22,759 households, and 9,959 families residing in the city. The population density  was 2,435.6 people per square mile (940.4/km²). There were 23,876 housing units at an average density of 986.2/sq mi (380.8/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 84.5% White, 8.8% Asian, 3.4% African American, 0.2% Native American, 1.1% from other races, and 2.0% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.4% of the population.

There were 22,759 households out of which 19.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 35.6% were married couples living together, 5.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 56.2% were non-families. 30.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.25 and the average family size was 2.82.

The median age in the city was 23.8 years. 13.4% under the age of 18, 40.5% from 18 to 24, 22.9% from 25 to 44, 15% from 45 to 64, and 8.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 53.0% male and 47.0% female.

A large number of Ames residents are university students.

The median income for a household in the city was $40,321.

Iowa is a "battleground state" that has trended slightly Democratic in recent years, but Ames, like Iowa City, trends Democratic, partly due to the presence of the university community. Because Iowa is the first caucus state and Ames is a college town, it is the site of many political appearances, debates and events, especially during election years.

During every August in which the Republican presidential nomination is undecided (meaning there is no incumbent Republican president -- as in, most recently, 2007, 1999, 1995 and 1987), the town plays host to the Ames Straw Poll, which gauges support for the various Republican candidates amongst attendees of a fundraising dinner benefiting the Iowa Republican Party. The straw poll dates back to 1979, and is frequently seen as a first test of organizational strength in Iowa by the national media and party insiders; as such, it can be very beneficial for a candidate to win the straw poll and thus enhance his aura of inevitability or show off a superior field operation.

The town is served by US Highways 30 and 69 and Interstate 35. Ames is the only town in Iowa with a population of greater than 50,000 that does not have a state highway serving it.

Ames was also serviced by the Fort Dodge, Des Moines & Southern Railroad via a branch from Kelly to Iowa State University and to downtown Ames. The tracks were removed in the 1960's. The Chicago and Northwestern used to operate a branch to Des Moines. This line was removed in the 1980's when the Spine Line though Nevada was purchased from the Rock Island Railroad after its bankruptcy. The Union Pacific, successor to the C&NW, still runs 60-70 trains a day through the ISU campus and downtown Ames on twin mainlines which leads to some traffic delays. There is also a branch to Eagle Grove that leaves Ames to the north. The Union Pacific maintains a small yard called Ames Yard east of Ames between Ames and Nevada.

The town also has a municipal airport on the south side of Ames, south of U.S. Highway 30. The City of Ames offers a transit system throughout town called "Cy-Ride" that is funded jointly by Iowa State University, the ISU Government of the Student Body, and the City of Ames.

Ames is home of Iowa State University of Science & Technology, a space grant college, at its founding, the state's (Morrill Act) land-grant university, formerly known as the Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts. Ames is the home of the closely allied U.S Department of Agriculture's National Animal Disease Center, the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory (a major materials research and development facility) and the main offices of the Iowa State Department of Transportation. State and Federal institutions are the largest employers in Ames.

Other area employers include a 3M manufacturing plant; Sauer-Danfoss, a hydraulics manufacturer; Barilla, a pasta manufacturer; and Ball, a manufacturer of canning jars and plastic bottles.

Campustown is the neighborhood directly south of Iowa State University Central Campus bordered by Lincoln Way on the north. Campustown is a high-density mixed-use neighborhood that is home to many student apartments, nightlife venues, restaurants, Varsity Theater, and numerous other establishments.


Somerset is a semi-new-urbanist development in Ames.
Brick residences in Somerset
Brick residences in Somerset

Ames is served by Mary Greeley Medical Center, a 220-bed regional referral hospital which is adjacent to McFarland Clinic PC: central Iowa's largest physician-owned multi-specialty clinic and also Iowa Heart Center.

Ames is also the home of the National Animal Disease Center where all American Mad Cow Disease samples are tested among other things.

Points of interest

  • Ames High School
  • Iowa State University
  • Reiman Gardens
  • Jack Trice Stadium
  • Ames Middle School
  • Brunnier Art Museum


  • George Washington Carver, Inventor, was an alumnus and a professor at ISU
  • Carrie Chapman Catt, women's rights activist, ISU graduate
  • Laurel Blair Salton Clark, astronaut, died on STS-107
  • John Darnielle, musician from indie rock band The Mountain Goats, a former Ames resident
  • David M. Dobson, creator of Snood (video game), grew up in Ames, Iowa
  • Leslie Hall, Internet Phenomenon, founder of the Mobile Museum of Gem Sweaters, was born and is currently living in Ames, IA
  • Fred Hoiberg, Retired NBA basketball player, raised in Ames and ISU graduate
  • Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate, was raised in Ames, Iowa and attended Iowa State University
  • Sara Paretsky, Author, was born in Ames, Iowa
  • Cael Sanderson, Olympic Gold Medalist, Iowa State University wrestling coach and collegiate wrestler
  • Peter Schickele, Musician, was born in Ames, Iowa
  • Neal Stephenson, Author, grew up in Ames, Iowa
  • Billy Sunday, evangelist and major league baseball player, born in Ames
  • Kate Austen, Fictional Character from the ABC's Lost (TV Series), lived in Ames, Iowa

Contact Information

Photo of Tom Randall Real Estate
Tom Randall
Tom Randall Real Estate Team Keller Williams Ames
517 Grand Avenue, Suite 103
Ames IA 50010