Downtown Iowa City in Iowa has a lot to offer the average traveler. It’s within a short driving distance of Cedar Rapids and boasts a culture-rich city center that will provide hours of entertainment. However, what attracts thousands of people every year is not only this city’s culture but a famous event known as the Mission Creek Festival.
This intimate festival is held in various venues throughout Downtown Iowa City, Iowa. With an emphasis on literature and music, it allows people to explore their literary roots in a way that gets the toes tapping.
Emerging artists, renegade musicians, and free spirits are all part of this must-attend festival that’s held over four days in April. Festival-goers, either who buy a full pass or pay for each event, will be treated to concerts, discussions, readings, a comix and zine fair, an annual book fair, and even a vinyl marketplace. There’s something for everyone if you know where to look.
Popular venues have also been a significant part of this festival in the past, including The Englert Theatre, The Mill, The Yacht Club, Prairie Lights, and Gabe’s.
Whether you’re passing through Iowa at just the right time, or you’re turning the occasion into a motorhome mission, there’s no better event to attend this spring. Jump into the action and start planning your road trip today.
Ticket prices for the Mission Creek Festival can vary, depending on whether you attend one event or them all. Attendees can purchase standard, student, and premium passes, which have been between $35 and $250 in the past. Early birds can often enjoy discounts. Costs for single events have traditionally been between $5 and $25, making it an affordable event for music and literature lovers.
Driving to the Johnson County city of Iowa City shouldn’t lend itself to too many surprises. It’s an eastern Iowa city bordered by the Iowa River and sits 60 miles west of Bettendorf and Davenport in Iowa, and Rock Island and Moline in Illinois. April is one of the better months to travel, for it’s the calm before the storm. Adverse weather conditions, such as rain and thunderstorms, usually kick off in May.
On your travels, the best way to get to Iowa City usually includes I-80. This interstate can bring you from the direction of Des Moines or Davenport. If you’re not familiar with Johnson County, then make sure you download Iowa 511 before you hit the road. This traffic app can provide live information on traffic, congestion, and the best travel routes to take.
Be mindful that upon arriving in Iowa City, there may be a lack of parking for RVs in Downtown Iowa City where the Mission Creek Festival is held.
There are paid on-street parking and parking garages within a short walking distance of Mission Creek Festival venues. However, these may not accommodate larger rigs. Some RV-goers may see the convenience of using their tow vehicle for zipping around Iowa City. If you’ve got an Airstream or something equal in size, then leaving your RV at your accommodation in Iowa City and making use of public transportation may be the best option for you.
Bus services are in operation every half hour within Downtown Iowa City, which makes getting around the city streets effortless without your motorhome. Fortunately, once you’re in the heart of Downtown Iowa City, near Gibson Square and College Green Park, you can be within walking distance of most festival venues. You can then make use of taxis and rideshare services to get to and from your RV accommodation.
A handful of different venues make up the Mission Creek Festival, which means onsite camping is not available for travelers. While there are plenty of parks in the area, such as Hickory Hill Park and City Park, these are not RV-friendly for overnight stays. Fortunately, with a little planning, you can find the best place for RV camping within a short distance of Downtown Iowa City.
Campers are likely to encounter several RV parks in and around Iowa City. Outdoor travelers may want to snag a site near the Iowa River to the north or along I-80 to the east or west just less than 20 miles either direction to find a variety of campground styles.
Look on the outskirts of the city, toward the small community of Hills by the Iowa River to the south, and the small townships surrounding Cedar Rapids. It might take a little longer to get into Iowa City every day, but the drive can be as memorable as the event you’re attending. Note that some campgrounds in the area only accommodate permanent residents.
With congestion during peak hours in Iowa City, the best way to navigate each festival venue is on foot once you reach downtown. Some on the outskirts can require the use of public transportation, but most don’t. Wear the most comfortable footwear you own and spend some time meandering the city streets at your leisure.
Iowa hasn’t quite seen the last of wintry weather, for April still brings with it a chill that’s hard to shake. While you might be desperate to pull your summery attire out of hibernation, Iowa City is not quite ready. Pack your suitcase with warm winter layers, spring coats, and long pants. Sturdy, waterproof footwear may also prove convenient, as will warm blankets for those chilly nights.
Each venue will have a different set of rules regarding what you can and can’t bring, and these rules can vary depending on whether it’s a concert, fair, reading, or similar. Adopt a “less is best” approach for all venues, where you only bring what you need – and no more. Often, your wallet with ID, ticket, cash, and a mobile phone are the basics that can see you through many events. You can leave your camping and cooking equipment in your locked RV, where it’s safe and secure.
April brings with it some bitterly cold temperatures, even if the sun is beginning to break through the watery spring clouds. Don’t underestimate the importance of warmer layers, but don’t forget to drink plenty of water to remain hydrated as well. Carry prescription medication with you that you might need, and load your RV with a first-aid kit before you hit the road. Iowa City has plenty of stores for you to stock up on any other health and safety supplies you might need.
If all that literature and music has made you work up a hunger and thirst, then it’s time to cook up a storm! Pick up supplies at one of the many convenience or grocery stores in Iowa City, then make use of your onboard kitchen appliances. Some of the best places for RV camping also offer communal kitchens and allow the use of fire pits. Ask before you light, and indulge in camp-style chili, hot dogs, stews, and more.
If you don’t feel like cooking, then you don’t have to in this eclectic community. Not only can you pick up a bite to eat at many of the venues within the Mission Creek Festival in Iowa City, but even on the streets surrounding them. Everything from café cuisine to cocktails, hot dogs to hamburgers are available in Downtown Iowa City. On-the-go food is a big hit in this city due to it being considered a college town.
Some venues may cater to the events scheduled in the Mission Creek Festival program. However, many do not. Carry cash to pick up a light snack as you head from one festival venue to the next. You may find that concerts and similar have a no-food policy, so make sure your belly is full and your hands are empty before entering some venues.
Given the number of people that will be attending various events throughout the Mission Creek Festival, you can expect security to be tight. There may even be security at some doors, checking tickets and making sure you’re not bringing anything in that you shouldn’t.
Speed up screening processes by traveling light and leaving as much in your campervan as possible. If you have any concerns or safety questions, the Iowa City Police Department is proximate to many festival venues.
April tends to skip some of the adverse weather conditions that happen either side of the month, but that doesn’t mean the air isn’t fresh, and that storm clouds aren’t brewing. Know what to expect at all times on your travels by tuning into a weather app or site. You can then dress and plan accordingly.
Finding yourself with an illness or injury away from home can be stressful, but you will be pleased to know that help is on hand if the worst happens. There is a hospital within a one-mile driving distance of Downtown Iowa City. You can also get help by dialing 911. If you just need to stock up on first-aid supplies, there is a pharmacy near Gibson Square.