A small town in Polk County, Altoona, Iowa, lies about 14 miles northeast of the capital and makes up an area of just over seven square miles. The city was home to a population of just over 10,000 at the 2000 census, but a special census conducted in 2005 showed that the population had since grown to more than 13,000. Residents here have a median annual household income of around $50,000.
Altoona was named for the Latin word meaning "high," altus, after a surveyor here discovered that the town lay on the highest point on the Des Moines Valley Railroad between Des Moines and Keokuk. It was incorporated as a city on March 11, 1876. The Altoona Area Historical Society documents the history of the town and the area. Finance and insurance are the two largest industries in which residents here find employment and the nearest hospital is just 10 miles away in Des Moines.
The city is probably best known as the home to two major area attractions: Adventureland, an amusement park popular for family and class trips, and Prairie Meadows, a horse racing track and casino. Other sites of interest include an aquatic park, the Sam Wise Youth Complex, eight parks and playgrounds, including Lions Park, home to fields and courses for co-ed softball & Frisbee golf. Altoona City Public Library offers books, Internet access and other media to residents.
Students living in Altoona reside in part of the Southeast Polk Community School District, which has four of its eight elementary schools in the district here. Other schools are in nearby towns however, and students attend Southeast Polk High School. Though there are no colleges physically within Altoona, there are several four- and two-year institutions easily within reach and within a 30-minute drive.