airport_transferbarbathtubbusiness_facilitieschild_activitieschildcareconnecting_roomcribsfree_wifigymhot_tubinternetkitchennon_smokingpetpoolresturantski_in_outski_shuttleski_storagesmoking_areaspastar
Sign In
Top 10 Things To Do And See In Des Moines, Iowa
Save to wishlist

Top 10 Things To Do And See In Des Moines, Iowa

Picture of Benjamin M. Smith
Updated: 9 February 2017
In the minds of many Americans, the state of Iowa is the most emblematic of the Midwest; a region known for its friendly people, idyllic landscapes and hearty food servings. As the capitol city, Des Moines is the best place to visit to get a sense of the Iowan way of life, its history and what to do for fun.
Iowa State Capitol
Iowa State Capitol | © Iowa State Capitol/Flickr
Save to wishlist

Visit the Capitol building

As one of the most spectacular buildings in Des Moines, and as one of the finest capitol buildings in the US, the Iowa Capitol Building is a necessary tour to take while in town. Designed in a polished renaissance style, the dome of this building is something to behold, built of iron and brick and encrusted with 23-carat gold. Schedule a tour to learn more about this grand edifice.

Iowa Capitol Tours, 1007 E Grand Ave, Des Moines IA, USA, +1 515-281-5591

Save to wishlist

Tour the Des Moines Art Center

The architecture of the Des Moines Art Center alone reflects the changing artistic sensibilities the museum has undergone throughout the years, shifting from an original art deco right wing to a modernist design for its second addition, then towards a more natural design to maximize the flow of natural light in the third wing. This not-for-profit institution has a variety of classic works, including the likes of Edward Hopper, Henri Matisse, Claude Monet and Andy Warhol to name just a few. Stop here to catch the latest exhibition, which varies twice a year, for a relaxing afternoon in Des Moines.

Des Moines Art Center, 4700 Grand Ave, Des Moines IA, USA, +1 515-277-4405

Save to wishlist

Buy something at the Downtown Farmers Market

Consider coming to the Downtown Farmers Market on Court Avenue, between 5th and 1st Avenues during the summer, and in Kaleidoscope Mall and Capital Square in the winter. With a variety of baked goods, locally made arts and crafts and fresh produce and meat, the Downtown Farmers Market in Des Moines is the best place to support local business and do some shopping in the process.

Downtown Farmers Market, 300 Court Ave, Des Moines IA, USA, +1 515-286-4928

Save to wishlist

See a show at Hoyt Sherman Place

Originally the home of Major Hoyt Sherman, brother of Civil War hero General William Tecumseh Sherman, the Hoyt Sherman Place stands today as testament to his influence on shaping Des Moines. Today it serves as one of the city’s finest theaters, built for Sherman at the peak of his banking career. With routine performers here like Robert Cray and the Punch Brothers, come to the Hoyt Sherman Place for an intimate concert experience that’s laced with history.

Hoyt Sherman Place, 1501 Woodland Ave, Des Moines IA, USA, +1 515-244-0507

Iowa State Fair
State Fair Time! | © Paul Grillo/Flickr
Save to wishlist

Go to the Iowa State Fair

This Iowa tradition never gets old. The Iowa State Fair, one of the largest state fairs in the country, is one of the best cultural events to attend as a visitor. All 450 acres of the fair are put to use, where livestock competitions, amusement park rides, cultural tents and food trucks rule (with more than 200 food stands, look for the unique, not-so-healthy dishes, like deep-fried snickers for something a little different). Also be on the lookout for the famous butter cow, an Iowa State Fair tradition since 1911.

Iowa State Fair, 3000 E Grand Ave, Des Moines IA, USA, +1 515-262-3111

Save to wishlist

Have a beer at El Bait Shop

El Bait Shop is the beer capital of Des Moines. With 180 beers on tap, and with the world’s largest selection of American craft beers, this bar has its bases covered for thirsty, discerning hops heads. With tasty Mexican and American food offerings, a stop here would cure most ills induced by the road, and would easily fuel another day of travel through the Hawkeye State.

El Bait Shop, 200 SW 2nd St, Des Moines IA, USA, +1 515-284-1970

Save to wishlist

Hang out at the Pappajohn Sculpture Park

The John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park makes its home in the middle of Des Moines’s downtown. With 28 sculptures spread out on a 4.4-acre, pedestrian-friendly green, it is one of the most accessible parks in the city, and a great one to come to for some down time. A traveler’s tip would be to bring the spoils of the Downtown Farmers Market here to picnic and enjoy the relaxing sights of the park.

Western Gateway Park, Des Moines IA, USA, +1 515-237-1386

Save to wishlist

Walk around the East Village

With a variety of trendy bars and restaurants, and many specialty shops, the historic East Village of Des Moines presents a good chance to get a taste of the area’s most bustling neighborhood. From Jett and Monkey’s Dog Shoppe to Fugitive Apparel Co., there’s something for every kind of consumer in the East Village, even those that walk on four legs.

East Village, Des Moines IA, USA

Save to wishlist

Browse the Kavanaugh Art Gallery

The Kavanaugh Art Gallery is a family-owned, world-class art gallery dedicated to art from across the globe. With over 4,000 pieces in-house, this gallery has a collection expected of a bigger coastal city, with a variety of fine paintings, sculptures, and many limited edition prints. Dan and Carol Kavanaugh have been collecting since 1989 at this location, set amidst the old town of West Des Moines.

Kavanaugh Art Gallery, 131 5th St, West Des Moines IA, USA, +1 515-279-8682

Have a meal at Centro

Deli, Restaurant, Italian, Contemporary, $$$
Save to wishlist
Centro
Centro | © Centro

Have a meal at Centro

Housed in a stately brick building that functioned formerly as a Masonic temple, Centro is one of the best restaurants in Des Moines – and with good cause. Chef George Formaro and company dish up some of the best Italian-inspired plates in the city, with dishes like the handmade ricotta gnocchi and the pancetta-wrapped shrimp. Be sure to indulge at least once on a trip to Des Moines, and be sure to do it here!

Centro, 1003 Locust St, Des Moines IA, USA, +1 515-248-1780

More Info
Sun:
10:00 am - 9:00 pm
Mon:
11:00 am - 10:00 pm
Tue:
11:00 am - 10:00 pm
Wed:
11:00 am - 10:00 pm
Thu:
11:00 am - 10:00 pm
Fri:
11:00 am - 11:00 pm
Sat:
11:00 am - 11:00 pm