One Tank Trips: Ames, Iowa

Macubana serves mac and cheese bowls, long island iced teas and craft sandwiches that satisfy late-night cravings. (Grace Needham | Collegian Media)

AMES, Iowa — Approximately 348 miles away from Manhattan lies Ames, Iowa, home to Iowa State University’s massive campus. Ames’ quirky shops and breakfast joints are just five hours away by car, and what’s better is the trip can be made on one tank of gas.

The District 

A great stop outside of Ames is The District in Ankeny, Iowa, which has a little bit of everything. This shopping center, recommended by a local resident, has a nice offering of shops and eateries for any mood.

Magee’s Irish Pub at The District is a great lunch spot. The pub’s stained glass windows, tapestries and dark wood interior give the space an authentic feel. They have extensive brunch and lunch menus a star being the “Crispy Apple Grilled Cheese.” The sandwich arrives with cheese on both the inside and outside and  the dish is stuffed with granny smith apples and cinnamon. It’s rich and sweet, but also savory; it’s definitely worth a try.


Ames offers plenty of restaurant choices, and Macubana is a must. The interior of the restaurant is covered in colorful graffiti, creating a groovy atmosphere. The menu presents an assortment of mac and cheese bowls, Cuban sandwiches and grilled cheeses — complete with a long island iced tea bar. Try the classic mac and cheese to satisfy comfort-food cravings. While on the pricier side, it’s a worthwhile purchase.

Cafe Diem

Cafe Diem is a cozy cafe in Ames’ downtown area. They offer seasonal drinks alongside their regular coffee menu and a limited breakfast selection. The breakfast sandwiches are not stellar, but the coffee is decent and the service is fast. 

Dog-Eared Books

Dog-Eared Books is Ames’ version of The Dusty Bookshelf. It’s cute and homey on the inside, with books covering the walls from floor to ceiling. A coffee bar is nestled at the entrance of the store and the loft above offers a great place to study. 

Life Distilled

Life Distilled cannot be missed. This little store sells plants, crystals and other similar knickknacks. Life Distilled is a great place to pick up a gift or souvenir, and it is a plant lover’s ultimate dream. Here, you can sample an assortment of teas, all of which are available for purchase.

Iowa State University

Iowa State’s gorgeous campus is a must-see. Popping into different buildings and strolling along the neatly paved paths gives a taste of what it might be like to be a student. A walk through the neighborhoods behind campus provides a glimpse of the elegant greek houses and residence halls. Visiting the iconic “campanile” on campus is something else to check off the list; students are always willing to stop and chat about the lore surrounding the infamous bell tower. 

Ames, Iowa is no Manhattan, but if you’re looking for an interesting road trip, it deserves a weekend visit.