Nestled in the heart of the American Midwest, Des Moines, Iowa, is a city that often surprises visitors with its vibrant culture, rich history, and diverse array of activities. Whether you’re a local looking for something new or a traveler passing through, Des Moines has something for everyone. Join us as we explore the top things to do in this charming city.
- Pappajohn Sculpture Park: Start your Des Moines adventure with a visit to the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park. This 4.4-acre urban oasis in downtown Des Moines features over 30 stunning sculptures by world-renowned artists. Take a leisurely stroll through the park, admire the artwork, and enjoy the harmonious blend of nature and creativity.
- Cultural Enclaves: Des Moines is home to various cultural districts, each offering a unique flavor of the city. Explore the Historic East Village for its trendy shops and eclectic dining options. Head to the Western Gateway for a dose of contemporary art at the Des Moines Art Center. Immerse yourself in the rich Latino culture at the Valley Junction, known for its vibrant events and authentic cuisine.
- State Capitol Building: No visit to Des Moines is complete without a tour of the Iowa State Capitol Building. Marvel at the stunning architecture, learn about Iowa’s political history, and take an elevator ride to the top for panoramic views of the city. The building is a testament to the state’s rich heritage and commitment to public service.
- Biking on the High Trestle Trail: For outdoor enthusiasts, the High Trestle Trail offers a scenic biking experience just outside Des Moines. Pedal through picturesque landscapes and cross the iconic High Trestle Bridge, a half-mile masterpiece illuminated with captivating LED lights. The trail is perfect for cyclists of all skill levels and provides an excellent opportunity to enjoy Iowa’s natural beauty.
- Farm-to-Table Dining: Des Moines has a thriving culinary scene, with many restaurants embracing the farm-to-table philosophy. Indulge in locally sourced ingredients and innovative dishes at one of the city’s top eateries. From cozy cafes to upscale dining, Des Moines offers a gastronomic journey that celebrates the region’s agricultural abundance.
- Living History Farms: Step back in time at Living History Farms, an interactive outdoor museum that provides a hands-on experience of Iowa’s agricultural heritage. Explore the historic farms, interact with costumed interpreters, and gain insights into the daily life of Iowa’s early settlers. It’s a family-friendly destination that combines education with entertainment.
- Water Works Park: Nature lovers will appreciate a visit to Water Works Park, one of the largest urban parks in the nation. Enjoy walking trails, picnicking areas, and scenic views along the Raccoon River. The park provides a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city, making it an ideal spot for relaxation and outdoor activities.
- Blank Park Zoo: For a family-friendly adventure, head to Blank Park Zoo, home to over 800 animals from around the world. Walk through immersive exhibits, feed giraffes, and learn about wildlife conservation. The zoo’s commitment to education and conservation efforts makes it an enjoyable and enlightening experience for visitors of all ages.
- Downtown Farmers’ Market: If you find yourself in Des Moines on a Saturday morning between May and October, don’t miss the Downtown Farmers’ Market. This bustling market spans several city blocks and features over 300 vendors offering fresh produce, handmade crafts, and delectable treats. It’s a perfect opportunity to support local businesses and savor the flavors of Iowa.
- Science Center of Iowa: Spark your curiosity at the Science Center of Iowa, where science comes to life through interactive exhibits and engaging demonstrations. Perfect for families and science enthusiasts alike, the center encourages hands-on exploration of topics ranging from astronomy to physics. The IMAX dome theater adds an extra dimension to the learning experience.
- Historic Jordan House: Step back in time at the Historic Jordan House, a beautifully preserved mansion that provides a glimpse into Iowa’s history, particularly its role in the Underground Railroad. Guided tours offer insights into the Jordan family’s contributions to social justice, making it a fascinating and educational stop for history buffs.
- Adventureland Park: Thrill-seekers will find their haven at Adventureland Park, an amusement park located just outside Des Moines. With a mix of roller coasters, water rides, and family-friendly attractions, Adventureland promises a day of excitement and laughter. During the summer, the adjacent Adventure Bay water park offers a refreshing escape.
- Iowa Cubs Baseball Game: Catch a game at Principal Park and cheer for the Iowa Cubs, the Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. Whether you’re a baseball enthusiast or just looking for a fun evening out, the lively atmosphere and classic ballpark experience make for a memorable time with friends and family.
- Des Moines Botanical Garden: Escape into a world of natural beauty at the Des Moines Botanical Garden. Stroll through lush gardens, explore the tropical conservatory, and discover a diverse collection of plants from around the globe. The garden also hosts events and educational programs, making it a serene and educational destination.
- Salisbury House and Gardens: Marvel at the architectural elegance of Salisbury House, a Tudor, Gothic, and Carolean-inspired mansion surrounded by beautiful gardens. Take a guided tour to learn about the history of the house and its impressive art and literature collections. The picturesque setting makes it a popular spot for weddings and events.
Conclusion: Des Moines, Iowa, may not be the first city that comes to mind when planning a getaway, but its hidden gems and diverse attractions make it a destination worth exploring. From art and culture to outdoor adventures and culinary delights, Des Moines has something for every traveler. So, pack your bags and embark on a journey to discover the charm and warmth of this Midwest gem.