Ames is a bustling college town in Iowa. It’s full of life, culture, and history. It’s also pretty close to Des Moines making it easy to visit and access. If you want to explore the town the best place to start is the local museums in Ames, Iowa.
What’s cool about a college town is that some of the museums are maintained by the local college. Coupled with the museums by the Ames Historical Society and some other private entities there are quite a lot of interesting places to visit in this town.
So, without further ado let’s jump into our list of the most interesting museums in Ames, Iowa. As always we’ll give you the price and opening time. The price is usually the ‘Adult’ price so discounts may apply.
1. Ames History Museum
Open: Tue-Fri 1PM-4PM, Sat 10AM – 4PM
One of the best places to start your exploration of Ames’s history and museums is, of course, the local Ames History Museum. It’s maintained by the Ames Historical Society and it has a permanent exhibition on the history of the town and the area.
In addition to the permanent exhibition, the museum also features one bigger and multiple smaller temporary exhibits that will allow you to learn more about different aspects of the local history and culture.
It’s a small museum but it is the definitive place for everything that’s Ames.
2. Brunnier Art Museum
Price: Free ($8 Donation Optional)
Open: Tue – Fri 10AM – 4PM, Sat-Sun 1PM – 4PM
The Brunnier Art Museum is a unique and distinguished asset. It is the only institution accredited for its decorative art collection in the state of Iowa, and one of the few in the nation situated within a combined performing arts and conference center the Iowa State Center.
The University Art Collection houses a vast array of artistic mediums, ranging from prints and paintings to sculptures, textiles, carpets, wood, lacquered objects, silver, and furniture. From the regular exhibition of pieces to the permanent collection and traveling collections, the museum is great fun for any type of visitor.
It’s a small museum that you can visit quickly but due to the always-changing exhibits, there’s something to explore throughout the year.
3. Anderson Sculpture Garden
The Anderson Sculpture Garden is an open air museum dedicated to sculptures. The sculpture garden showcases a host of sculptures from American modernism and contemporary art.
Variously sized and crafted from different materials, these works of art vividly illustrate the multifaceted nature of modern and contemporary sculpture. All this in an open, welcoming environment.
It’s definitely a great place to stroll around, take in the sculptures, and enjoy the greenery and flowers that surround the garden. The garden is open 24/7 and access is free, although donations are always a great help.
4. Farm House Museum
Price: Free ($8 donation optional)
Open: Mon-Fri 12-4PM
Another museum that’s maintained by Iowa State University. The Farm House Museum is a great piece of history located at the heart of the university. It’s actually the first building on the current campus and throughout the years it has been home to multiple deans and farm students.
After its renovation, it has been transformed into a museum to commemorate the significance of this cute little house right in the middle of a college town. Visit the museum to learn more about the history of the area and how it all connects to Iowa State University.
5. Reiman Gardens
Open: 10AM – 4:30PM (6PM in Summer – Except for the Butterfly Exhibit it’s only until 4:30PM)
The 14 park features multiple flowers, plants, and even a cool butterfly exhibit. To top it all off, you will find hidden sculptures all over the garden. You can even see the World’s Largest Concrete Gnome here.
If that’s not enough there’s even a small model railway system in one of the rooms. All in all, this is a great family museum in Ames. Beautiful flowers in an interesting environment is just a good recipe for keeping even the youngest kids interested.
6. Hoggatt School Museum
The Hoggat School Museum is the first museum that was built in the Ames area. It was erected to serve the local pioneer families. The Ames History Museum preserved this piece of local history and they are the ones currently maintaining it.
You can visit the museum to learn about how schools and education in the age of the very first pioneers. Apart from the exhibits, there are usually exciting events throughout the summer. If you visit during such an event we highly recommend attending.
These interesting events include things like ‘Making Soap the Pioneer Way’ or ‘An 1860s tasting experience’ where visitors can taste what the early pioneers had for lunch.
One thing to note about this cool little museum is the fact that it was not always in the same spot. Originally, you could find the school at 1008 3rd Street. However, the historical society moved it to its current location so it can get the space it deserves.
7. Christian Petersen Art Museum
Price: Free ($8 donation optional)
Open: Mon-Fri 7AM – 5PM
Another museum that’s maintained by Iowa State University in Ames. Iowa State University proudly honors Christian Petersen, its inaugural artist in residence, at this impressive campus landmark. The exhibit is prominently displaying the works of renowned public artists from the area.
+ 1 Iowa Railroad Historical Museum
Open: Thu&Sun 10AM – 4PM, Fri&Sat 10AM – 5PM
Finally, we have an ‘extra’ museum for you. You will find this one close to Ames, Iowa. Being a short drive away it’s a great place for a family outing. The Iowa Railroad Historical Museum is full of interesting trains and train-related relics from the past.
All the intriguing machinery will keep both kids and adults entertained. Meanwhile, you may even go for a vintage train ride for the full experience. If you go on any of the train excursions then you will be able to visit the museum free of charge.
Museums in Ames – FAQ
Yes, you can visit most of the ISU museums free of charge although a donation is always appreciated.
The best family-centered museum in Ames, Iowa is the Reiman Gardens.