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With Reiman Gardens, Cyclone City Tour and more, Ames makes a great day trip
This home to Iowa State University offers plenty for visitors to see and do
Home to the World’s Largest Garden Gnome, the Iowa State Cyclones and a number of hole-in-the-wall restaurants and shops, Ames makes for an enjoyable local getaway about two hours west of the Corridor.
Reiman Gardens in the summertime gives visitors the perfect opportunity to immerse themselves in nature while admiring artwork of both permanent and temporary exhibits. “Patterns Unfolding” serves as the summer 2021 theme, with temporary exhibits such as “OrigamiintheGarden²,” by artist Kevin Box, featuring others who contributed sculptures, as well.
“Like origami, nature folds and unfolds in breathtaking ways,” said Maria Teply, communications coordinator at Reiman Gardens. “From planting schedules and natural cycles to balance in form and structure, you’ll see universal patterns reflected in our garden displays and mesmerizing holiday lights. The living earth repeats its many shapes in all colors and shades.”
Determining a theme is a process that can take one to two years of planning, to ensure a unified look throughout the facility.
“We use a process called dimensional design starting a year or two ahead,” Teply said. “This helps us narrow down a theme, as well as select popular exhibits. It aids us in aligning our horticulture displays, external art exhibits, education programs, events, even merchandise in the gift shop, along one centralized theme to make everything cohesive.”
With a theme of origami unfolding around the perimeters of the gardens, be sure to see other crowd favorites, such as The World’s Largest Gnome and the Christina Reiman Butterfly Exhibit, with more than 800 butterfly species to sport.
Along with yoga, tai chi and Pilates, events at Reiman Gardens include Plant Pals, a 12-week, interactive course that provides children from kindergarten to third grade with a basis for planting and garden education. Educational events for adults include “Armchair Travels of North American Gardens with Director Ed Lyon,” where via Zoom, Lyon will educate viewers on gardens in the Southwest, West and British Columbia regions of North America, regarding topics like water conservation and sustainability.
Reiman Gardens is hosting two major events this summer — Pollinator Fest, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 26 to celebrate National Pollinator Week; and the Garden Art Fair, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on July 11, where local artists will be selling and displaying garden and nature inspired art.
Picnic in the Gardens, Rose Fest and Gardening for Stress Relief are just a few events held there within the first weeks of June, meaning Reiman Gardens has one thing in common with the flowers that flourish there: It’ll never grow dull.
Visitors can attend the events at Reiman Gardens for the cost of admission. General admission is $11, and admission is $10 for ages 65 and older, $6 for ages 2 to 12 and free for children younger than 2.
Where: 1407 University Blvd., Ames; Intersection of University Boulevard and South 16 Street, Ames, near Jack Trice Stadium
Hours: Through Sept. 30, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., includes outdoor gardens, indoor plant Conservatory and Gift Shop; 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for the Butterfly Wing; also 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Oct. 1 to April 30
Admission: $11 adults; $10 ages 65 and up; $6 ages 2 to 12; free under age 2; various discounts available
Hungry for more?
Before taking a right off the interstate to Reiman Gardens, take a left off Exit 148, Duff Avenue, for some fuel — for both you and your vehicle.
Burgies Coffee is located at 110 Airport Rd., in between entrances and exits to the interstate, making it ideal for a quick pick-me-up. Looks can be deceiving, as Burgies Coffee shares a parking lot with a gas station. Don’t let that fool you. The coffee shop offers a finely-curated menu, from toasted brown sugar lattes to pulled pork sandwiches, curing any cravings that may have risen during the road trip. The orange-colored chairs and fireplace are inviting, since Burgies has been the backdrop to engagement proposals, game nights, live music and study sessions.
If coffee shops merged with gas stations aren’t your cup of tea — or coffee, for that matter — try Café Milo. Milo parallels the Central Perk-style coffee shop seen on “Friends.” With a homey atmosphere, large bowllike mugs and an extensive menu, it’s clear to see why Milo is the main choice for students and those within the Ames community. Smoothies, soups, breakfast sandwiches, salads, wraps, tea and, of course, coffee, contribute to the aroma within the coffee shop, tempting those with growling stomachs and five more pages of an essay to write. Café Milo is located in West Ames, at 4800 Mortensen Rd.
To cure dinnertime cravings, however, you’ll want to venture into Downtown Ames, where Great Plains Pizza resides. Here, not only will you find vintage signs relating to Ames history, like VEISHEA advertisements, but you also will find a 2-in-1 pizza and sweet snack combination. With every pizza purchase comes a container of honey. When you’re down to the crust, use it as a dipping sauce. It complements the crust nicely, making do for a mini “dessert.”
While downtown and in the nature of supporting local business, newly-opened bookstore/coffee shop/dog-lovers-dream/wedding venue, Dogeared Books, has mastered the art of a niche business. Co-owners Amanda Lepper and Ellyn Grimm opened Dogeared to cater to the Ames community and provide something never before seen within the downtown space. Whether you’re there to browse the bookshelves or lounge in the loft, the interior is as aesthetically pleasing as one would expect. Book clubs, weekly readings to younger audiences and wedding ceremonies and receptions are among the events that take place within the shop located at 203 Main St.
If you’re a die-hard Hawkeye fan, visiting Iowa State University’s campus might be a risky decision, however, if sports teams’ superstitions and rituals hardly cross your mind, a stroll through Central Campus in the springtime is a sight to see. Lilac trees complement the architecture of the Campanile; a rainbow of hammocks are sprinkled across trees; and shouts from games of Frisbee or Spikeball can be heard among the chimes. The campus is a staple when visiting Ames, since students make up roughly half the city's population.
Exploring beyond that can be checked off (literally and figuratively) via the Cyclone City Tour. Thirty “CY” statues — of the mascot donning either an Elvis costume, football uniform, murals by local artists or a variety of other occupations and designs — are scattered throughout the city of Ames and central Iowa, making for a citywide scavenger hunt.
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Correction: Visitors can attend events at Reiman Gardens for the cost of admission. A previous version of this story had incorrect details.