By Beth Lobberchet
As ever more students filter on to William Penn’s campus, more and more stories are shared of each individual’s hometown. Whether it be across the state or across the globe, Penn students love recalling stories about the places they grew up. For many, these places were cities or thriving communities where entertainment was around every corner.
And then there’s Oskaloosa, Iowa. At first glance, it is everything it seems to be—a small town with deep historical roots, Iowa-nice citizens, and—as Penn students are quick to point out—not much of anything to do. But while Osky may not be a thriving metropolis, there is certainly enjoyment to be had-and unlike the big city, it is only a short walk away.
If it’s food one is seeking, there are the usual fast food joints dotted across the town. However, if it’s something a bit more sit-down-and-stay-awhile that you’re looking for, there are plenty of those eateries as well. Taso’s on High Avenue will serve you an array of foods, from pasta, to burgers, to fish, to Mexican, to salad—and there’ll always be enough for leftovers. The Riverside II Family Restaurant on A Avenue follows along the same lines, with old country cooking thrown into the recipe. Chuong Garden (also on A Avenue) serves up platters of rice, egg rolls, orange chicken and far more, while the Asian Buffet (again on A) offer similar tastes in the form of an all-you-can-eat buffet. Mi Ranchito inside the Penn Central Mall will quench your Mexican cravings, and On the Green on South 11th will cater to your more fine cuisine-inspired palette. Seeking a relaxed environment with good food, a place to study or read, and friendly people? Osky’s very popular Smokey Row may be your place. Just across from the town square, Smokey Row is often found filled with students from middle school to college level, alongside families, friends and coworkers. Live music entertainment will occasionally grace the stage, and outlets are available at every booth so as to allow patrons to work while they eat. Too nice a day for the indoors? The Alley just outside allows you to eat and work under the sun or stars. Several Penn students (you can find them on the PAC and P.A.S.S. page on Facebook!) also recommended Big Ed’s Barbeque (just off the town square) and The Creamery, located just off of Market street heading towards the edge of town.
Once you’ve had your fill there are plenty of places to keep you entertained—they just have to be searched for a bit. If recreational sports are right up your alley, Edmundson may be the place to start. The beautiful park boasts 12 miles of recreational trail, along with an outdoor pool (operational during summertime) a full golf course, and a Frisbee golf course. There is also a wooden playground for children (or the young-at-heart college student!) as well as several shelters available for rent. For the more coordinated patron, a skate park is located just outside Penn Central Mall. Bikes, skateboards, and the like are all welcome!
Oskaloosa also has plenty of places to frequent on rainy days, or days when the outdoors just aren’t suiting your fancy. Mahaska Bowl on A Avenue (not far from the Riverside Family Restaurant) is a full bowling alley operational most days of the week. If you’re steady on your feet, Spinnin’ Wheels is small-town Oskaloosa’s very own roller-skating rink. It can be difficult to find, however—head off of A Avenue towards the bowling alley and Slumberland, and you’ll find it nestled in the far back of a large parking lot. Penn Centre Theater is also available when you’re in the mood for a good movie, and though it only shows two films at once, you can always count on them being the most popular showings.
Feeling artsy? Head over to the George Daily Auditorium, nestled between the Oskaloosa middle and high schools. Pick up a program and plan on attending one of the many professional shows that the auditorium plays host to. These are the same shows that are performed in the big cities, and each Penn student gets two free tickets to every performance. This is a highly unique opportunity for a town of Oskaloosa’s size, and definitely not a chance to be passed up. Looking for a more subtle, quiet art form? The Oskaloosa Public Library is a beautiful focal point of the town, and carries hundreds upon hundreds of pieces of literature for every taste. It contains three floors, several computer labs, a meeting room (which can also be reserved for special occasions) and year-round activities and reading programs.
Finally, if you are of legal age, there are several establishments that may be of your liking. A favorite of several Penn students, the White Cloud Hookah Bar across from Hy-Vee is a new hot spot for of-age residents, particularly within the college crowd. Hot Shotz Bar and Grill also sits right next door. The Peanut Pub is also a great place for students to grab a brew. Finally, one Penn student gives a high recommendation to the Tassel Ridge Winery just outside of town.
Oskaloosa is certainly no Chicago or New York City, but it has plenty of charm to go around. Whether it’s a night running the trails or an evening sitting around the town square listening to a live band performance, there is always something to do. Entertainment may not be as readily available as in the big cities, but it holds its own against other towns of similar size. And fun, again, can always be had—it may just take a short walk under the stars, in a world where stars can actually be seen, where crickets are heard chirping on warm nights and friends are never far away.