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‘Tis the Season for the Unexpected in Ames!


With snow on the ground and a chill in the air, no one gives it a second thought when they see holiday decorations in every town square, ice skating at the plaza, or restaurants advertising favorite comfort foods. But what if you added a twist to your traditions and ventured to Ames for the out-of-the-ordinary this winter? You might find yourself surprised by the unexpected!

Unexpected Eats. As home to a world-class university, USDA centers, the ISU Research Park and more, Ames boasts a diverse community that celebrates in a variety of ways, not the least of which is through food. Instead of turkey and sugar cookies, take an international “meal train” through Ames enjoying Mediterranean and Italian (Bar La Tosca), Brazilian Fusion (Café Beaudelaire), Japanese and sushi (Fuji Japanese Steakhouse), Thai (The Spice Thai Cuisine), and a variety of delights from “across the pond” (+39 Restaurant, Market & CantinaMucky Duck Pub & Ames British FoodsDublin Bay Irish Pub & Grill).

Unexpected Athletics. With talk of Bowl trips and basketball tournaments, don’t overlook dozens of opportunities to watch the intense competition of swimming and diving, the concentrated power of wrestling, or the grace and strength of gymnastics. ISU Cyclone Athletics amaze and inspire all year round and are very accessible – and enjoyable – to the public.

Unexpected Activity. More of a doer than a watcher? Looking to turn up the heat without stoking the fireplace? Things get awfully hot at Ciccotti Art Glass as artist and owner Art Ciccotti marvels audiences with his hand blown masterpieces. His studio and gallery just west of Ames is a mesmerizing experience you can take home when you purchase one of one-of-a-kind works of art. Give your brain a workout at the Ames Historical Society as you see the new “Exploring Historic Ames” photography exhibit featuring photos selected based on their ability to place visitors in the past. Test your memory by seeing if you can figure out what currently stands in each photo set.

Unexpected Outdoors. Looking for an alternative to shoveling? What about a luminary or snowshoe hike at McFarland Park, or an educational opportunity with Story County Conservation staff to learn about animal tracks? Of course, skiing and snowboarding are popular, but for maximum fun with minimal skills, try the snow tubing run at Seven Oaks Recreation where riding the lift back UP is almost as fun as flying down!

Don’t skip the traditions this winter but be sure to include some of the unexpected as well! There’s always so much to do in Ames. For more great ideas of what to check out in Ames, head over to and start planning your trip!