Exploring your hometown :Downtown Iowa City Day with Little Ones

June 3, 2024

Living just 25 minutes from Iowa City for most of my life, I never fully appreciated the hidden gems it holds for families, especially those with young kids. Recently, we decided to take a quick day trip to explore, and to our surprise, it turned out to be a delightful adventure. Downtown Iowa City might not seem like a go-to spot for younger kids, but our little ones had a blast and expended all their energy in the best ways possible. Here’s a recap of our fun-filled day and some tips for your own Downtown trip with the littles!

The Ped Mall

Our first stop was the Pedestrian Mall, affectionately known as the Ped Mall. It’s a vibrant hub with something for everyone. The Iowa City Public Library is a fantastic place for kids and adults alike. It’s modern, well-stocked, and even has special areas designed just for kids to explore books, play games, and learn.

Amazing Modern Playground

Right in the center of the Ped Mall is an amazing modern playground. It’s the perfect spot for kids to run, climb, and play to their hearts’ content. The equipment is safe, engaging, and suitable for various age groups, ensuring that all kids can find something fun to do.

Cute Shops

Scattered around the Ped Mall are cute shops that offer unique items and experiences. Even though our time was limited, window shopping was a joy. The vibrant atmosphere and friendly shopkeepers make it a welcoming place for families.


No trip to the Ped Mall is complete without a stop at Yotopia. This original serve-yourself soft-serve froyo shop in Iowa City is woman-owned and operated, adding a personal touch to every visit. The kids loved creating their own froyo masterpieces with a variety of toppings.

The Bep Teahouse

Across the street from Yotopia is The Bep Teahouse, a must-visit for any bubble tea enthusiasts. My kids are all super into boba tea and popping bubbles, making this the perfect stop. While we didn’t try all the food, the stuffed tiger paws were a hit! Reviews rave about their other offerings, so we’ll definitely be back to sample more.

Herky on Parade

Though we visited before the Herky on Parade unveiling, it’s an event that adds to the summer fun in Iowa City. There are 101 Herkys to find in the area, making it a fantastic scavenger hunt for the whole family. You can use the online map to help you on your Herky hunt. Don’t miss the Metronet Herky outside Trowbridge Hall, designed and painted by my friend Samantha!

223 Baby Co.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to visit one of our favorite stores this time: 223 Baby Co. It’s a treasure trove for families with young kids. Their Jellycat selection is unmatched, and they offer exclusive “I found Herky” t-shirts for kids, making it a perfect souvenir from your day in Iowa City.

The best day trip - right here in your hometown!

Our quick day trip to Iowa City turned into a memorable adventure that left our kids happy and exhausted. From the vibrant Ped Mall with its library, playground, and unique shops to the delicious treats at Yotopia and The Bep Teahouse, there’s plenty to keep young ones entertained. And with the Herky on Parade event and a visit to 223 Baby Co., there’s even more fun to be had. So, if you’re looking for a fun day out with your littles, don’t overlook Iowa City—it’s full of surprises that are sure to delight both kids and adults!