March 30, 2021
The Best Small(er) Towns in the Corridor to Call Home
When people think of moving to the Iowa City-Cedar Rapids Corridor, they often begin their search in Iowa City or Cedar Rapids because, well, it’s in the name! And while Iowa City and Cedar Rapids are some of the largest cities in the state, they make up less than half of the Corridor’s population – which is almost half a million strong.
So where do the other 293,000 people in the Corridor live? The Corridor is home to dozens of smaller communities, from rural Wellman (population 1,321) to fast-growing Tiffin. It’s part of what makes our area unique; there truly is something here for everyone.
Are you relocating to this area and wondering which Corridor community would suit you best? Or do you already live here and want to get to know our area a little better? Our agents have worked in these towns for years, and many grew up in them, too. Here’s a snapshot of the other, smaller Corridor communities in our area and what they have to offer!
Stacker.com recently compiled a report of the 100 best places to live in the Midwest, and three Corridor communities made the list.
Though technically an Iowa City suburb, Coralville is a thriving community of its own. Located just across the Iowa River from the University of Iowa and the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, many people who work in Iowa City choose to live in Coralville and vice versa. Coralville is fitting for people of all ages, with rankings as the #13 best place in Iowa for young professionals, the #16 best place in Iowa to raise a family, and one of the top ten most affordable cities for retirement, according to AARP. It’s also ranked as the #1 most diverse suburb in Iowa.
When it comes to entertainment and lifestyle, Coralville doesn’t fall short: the new Xtream Arena, the Coralville Center for Performing Arts, and more than 20 miles of biking trails, to name a few. Coralville also has some of the Corridor’s best shopping, whether it’s the Coralville Strip, the shops along 5th Street, the stores in Iowa River Landing, or the Coral Ridge Mall, Eastern Iowa’s go-to shopping center. Check out our current Coralville listings.
Though its official motto is “The Height of Good Living,” University Heights is also often dubbed a “city within a city.” That’s because University Heights consists of 0.27 square miles on the western side of Iowa City, surrounded on all sides by Iowa City itself. Small but mighty, University Heights is listed as both the #2 best place to live in Iowa and the #2 best place in Iowa to raise a family. It’s also a great place to live if you’re a Hawkeye fan, with Kinnick Stadium and Carver Hawkeye arena only blocks away. Plus, University Heights residents always have easy access to the University of Iowa campus and Iowa City’s historic downtown.
Known for its hilly landscape and historic Cornell College, Mount Vernon has big-city vibes in a small-town package. Both Highway 1 and Highway 30 pass through Mt. Vernon, making for an easy commute to Cedar Rapids (approximately 20 minutes) and Iowa City (approximately 30 minutes). The unique combination of small town and college town give Mount Vernon a one-of-a-kind atmosphere. Even better? It was named the #1 best place in Iowa to raise a family and the #1 best place to live in Iowa, period.
Mount Vernon is often grouped together with its adjacent eastern neighbor, Lisbon, a town of 2,493 people.
That’s Not All
Coralville, University Heights, and Mount Vernon are only the tip of the iceberg. The Corridor has plenty more to offer in all directions, all of them excellent places to call home. Let’s take a closer look!
To the West
To the west of Iowa City and Cedar Rapids lie several communities that are easily accessible via Interstate-80 or Highway 6: Tiffin, Williamsburg, Amana, and Oxford.
Just outside of Iowa City lies Tiffin, home to 3,351 people. Tiffin is one of the fastest growing communities not only in the Corridor, but also in the state. Their population has doubled in the last decade.
Two major factors fuel Tiffin’s growth: location and affordability. Tiffin’s proximity to I-80 means easy access to the entire Corridor, yet it’s still removed enough from the hustle and bustle to allow an independent, small-town feel to thrive.
Tiffin is also ranked as the #2 place with the lowest cost of living in Johnson County, making it a popular choice for people who work in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids. The housing options are vast, with plenty of stand-alone homes, zero-lots, and condos to choose from. The new construction housing market is also booming in Tiffin, with several new developments underway for those looking to buy a move-in-ready home or to build their dream home. For families looking to be close to schools, you’re in luck—Tiffin is home to the Clear Creek-Amana Community School District, yet another check in the “pros” column. Check out our Tiffin listings.
Heading further west along Highway 6, you’ll find Oxford. Made famous by The Oxford Project, a book written by two University of Iowa professors, this town of 800 people occupies less than 1 square mile. Nearby, you’ll find F.W. Kent Park, one of the go-to outdoor recreation areas of the Corridor.
Not far from Oxford lies a little piece of living history: the Amana Colonies, a group of seven villages with deep German roots. Together, the seven colonies total around 1,600 people, though many more visit each year from across the country. The German-style restaurants, historic traditions and festivals, and antique shops make it a great place to visit; the timeless small-town atmosphere makes it a great place to live.
When driving west along I-80, you can’t miss Williamsburg. Perhaps best known for Outlets Williamsburg, the community has much more to offer than a mall. Between Kinze Manufacturing, Monsanto, Williamsburg Manufacturing, and Kirkwood Community College’s Iowa County Center, local job opportunities are plentiful. For those who work in Iowa City, I-80 makes the 30-minute commute easy. Another bonus? Niche.com ranked Williamsburg as the #1 school district in Iowa County.
To the South
South of Iowa City lies Washington County, which is home to many Corridor communities rich with opportunity: Hills*, Riverside, Kalona, Wellman, and Washington. *Located in Johnson County.
Travel eight miles south out of Iowa City on Highway 218 and you’ll find Hills, “where town and country meet.” Home to almost 800 people, a handful of businesses, restaurants, and three public parks, Hills is a great option for those who work in Iowa City or Cedar Rapids, but want small-town living without the long commute.
Keep heading south on Highway 218 and you’ll end up in Riverside, home to Trekfest (yes, Star Trek fans, this one’s for you!). Named the future birthplace of Star Trek character Captain James T. Kirk by a Star Trek creator, Riverside takes their claim to fame seriously. Star Trek references can be found throughout town, from the downtown banners to their slogan, “Where the Trek Begins.” Fandom aside, Riverside is another community that’s perfect for people who appreciate small town life, but still want easy access to Iowa City.
A few miles west of Riverside you’ll find Kalona, where the largest Amish community west of the Mississippi exists side-by-side with modern-day living. Amish and Mennonite culture is woven strongly into the town fabric. Kalona is also home to many thriving businesses and restaurants, including Kalona Brewery and Kalona Creamery (who have the best cheese curds, though we may be biased!).
With direct access to Iowa City via Highway 1, Kalona is another popular choice for those who work in Iowa City, but don’t wish to call the city home. It’s also growing in popularity for new construction, with several new developments where you can purchase a lot to build your dream home. Check out our current Kalona listings.
Further west of Kalona lies Wellman, population 1,321. For those searching for proximity to schools, it doesn’t get much closer than this! Wellman headquarters the Mid-Prairie Community School District, as well as the Washington County YMCA. Though small, you’ll find plenty to do in Wellman, between the skating rink, two golf courses, and four parks.
At the Corridor’s southernmost tip is Washington, the Washington County seat. Though 40 minutes south of Iowa City, this town of 7,313 is accessible to the rest of the Corridor via Highway 1 and Highway 218. Washington has strong agricultural roots, but it’s also home to plenty of history. Many small communities claim a historic downtown, but Washington has the proof to back it up, with the Washington Downtown Historic District and several homes that are on the National Register of Historic Places.
To the East
East of Iowa City and Cedar Rapids, you’ll find three charming small towns, each with their own unique character: Lone Tree, West Branch, and West Liberty.
Situated in the southeastern “tail” of Johnson County, Lone Tree (population 1,312) is not as forlorn as its name indicates. With its own grocery store, K-12 school, wellness center, and downtown shops and businesses, the necessities are never far away. It’s also located just off Highway 22, equidistant from both Iowa City and Muscatine.
Head 12 miles east of Iowa City on I-80 and you’ll find West Branch, a town of 2,249 people. West Branch’s historical roots are deep—so deep, in fact, that they are home to one of Iowa’s two national parks, Herbert Hoover National Historic Site! West Branch is a unique blend of historic charm and future opportunities. Along Main Street you’ll find the thriving Historic Downtown Commercial District; head just north of I-80 and you’ll find a commercial business district that’s home to large employers like U.S. AutoForce, Altorfer, Inc., and Procter and Gamble. Once thought of as a “bedroom community” for Iowa City, West Branch is actually a flourishing community of its own, with quick access to the rest of the Corridor. New developments on the edge of town also provide an opportunity for new construction homes. Check out our West Branch listings.
Searching for something a little closer to the Quad Cities? Located 20 miles east of Iowa City on Highway 6, West Liberty is a great mid-point between Iowa City and Muscatine. West Liberty (population 3,757) is one of the most diverse communities in the Corridor, with the state’s only K-12 English/Spanish dual-language program in the state, providing bilingual learning opportunities to Hispanic residents. The town has plenty to offer in the entertainment department, from the historic New Strand Theatre to the Owl Glass Puppetry center, home to the Eulenspiegel Puppet Theatre. They’re also ranked as the #2 place to live in Muscatine County and the #2 most diverse suburbs in Iowa.
In the Middle
Want to be in the middle of all the action? In the heart of the Corridor sits several important Corridor communities, situated between Iowa City and Cedar Rapids: North Liberty, Solon, Swisher, and Shueyville.
North Liberty calls itself a “young, thriving community” for a reason. The average age of North Liberty residents is 30.2 years old, meaning a big portion of this community is made up of young professionals and young families. It’s also one of the fastest growing communities in the Corridor, rivaled only by Tiffin. North Liberty’s population is just shy of 19,000 and growing every year.
Why the major growth? Though it’s not an exact mid-point between Iowa City and Cedar Rapids, North Liberty is a popular choice for people who need easy access to both cities, given its convenient location along Interstate 380. For households where one person works in Cedar Rapids and one works in Iowa City, North Liberty is the perfect place to put down roots and split the distance.
As the population grows, so do the housing opportunities! North Liberty was ranked as Iowa’s healthiest housing market in a recent study by SmartAsset. Condos, single-family homes, new construction lots—North Liberty has plenty of housing options, no matter what you’re looking for. Check out our North Liberty listings.
Continuing north along I-380 will take you past Swisher and Shueyville, two communities that are often talked about as a pair. West of I-380 lies Swisher; east of I-380 lies Shueyville. Located in the very center of the Corridor, their population comes in at just under 1,700 when combined. Swisher and Shueyville are home to some of the Corridor’s best restaurants and venues, like the notable Kava House Café, a 1914 general-store-turned-coffeehouse, and DanceMor Ballroom, a dance hall that’s been around since the 1920s.
A few miles to the east lies Solon, also chock-full of charming shops and eateries. Though the current population is around 2,600, Solon is another Corridor community that’s growing fast. Solon is a popular choice for new construction homes, with many lots and brand new townhomes for sale. Plus, scenic Lake Macbride is just next door! Check out our Solon listings.
The Bigger Picture
With 20+ unique communities, there’s truly something for everyone in the Corridor. No matter what criteria is on your dream neighborhood wishlist, we can help you find the perfect place to call home.
Want to learn more about these communities? Deep dive into each town on our Communities page.
Still not sure if the Corridor is the right place for you? Check out our recent blog to learn more about what makes the Corridor a great place to live.