Des Moines, Iowa. What are the things that pop into your head? Corn, cows, farms, boring. Wrongo! There is so much more in Des Moines and the surrounding area than what you may think. There’s nothing better than a local to share with you the best Des Moines points of interest that travelers will not want to miss! And as a native and proud Iowan, I am happy to be your tour guide to the top 5 Des Moines points of interest worth checking out. So get out your notepad and come along!
5 Des Moines Iowa Points of Interest You’ll Want to Check Out
Des Moines has an amazing food scene. I know people may think its only corn and pork, but there is SO much more. A main factor to that growing food scene is the renovation the city started going through around 15 years ago. Local restaurateurs and national chains have converted old warehouses or buildings into amazing eateries. Some of the best are Django, Proof 39, Bubba’s, and my absolute favorite is Centro (Italian, I can never say no).
We also have amazing local and family run restaurants. Many of these restaurants range from Italian, Mexican, Vietnamese, Chinese, African, and so much more. The influx of recent immigrants to Des Moines from Africa and Asia have helped bring in all types of cuisine.
In the past few years, Des Moines has also seen an arrival of different types of bars in the downtown area. The above is from Hello, Marjorie, a bar specializing in cocktails with its décor that feels like you’re hanging out with friends in your aunt’s 1970’s basement.
2 Funky Places
Des Moines is riddled with funky places. And by funky, I mean different and quirky. If you come to Iowa, you will first notice the hospitality but then you’ll find out that underneath the surface Iowans have a strong sense of humor and self. Below are a couple of the funky places that I love.
Zombie Burger is a local burger joint that has everything themed zombie whether it is décor, drinks, or food. Zombie Burger boasts some of the funkier types of burgers. They have the Walking Ched (burger with mac’n’cheese sandwiched between two deep fried mac’n’cheese buns), Dead Moines, and my personal favorite La Horde (all the bacon and goat cheese).
The Des Moines Social Club is a local organization whose goal is to bring the arts to Des Moines. They own a building that boasts art galleries and a stage for local performances, a courtyard and balcony that showcase some of the best graffiti in the Des Moines area, and a Mexican street food restaurant called Malo.
Raygun is a locally owned (expanded to Kansas City as well) clothing store that let’s just say has it’s own sense of style, and as they say it’s the “Greatest Store in the Universe.” Developed as a way to highlight Iowa and the Midwest, the apparel has quirky sayings and the store always stays on top of current events with their own special twist.
3 Parks and Rec
The Des Moines surrounding area possesses some great parks and recs areas for the family and individual alike. Iowa has made an effort in the past few years to put in more bike paths, parks, and nature areas.
The High Trestle Trail is my personal favorite; I grew up only 8 miles from it. It used to be a train track that stood 13 stories above the ravine, but the state turned the train track into a 25-mile stretch of bike path through 5 towns. Each town has its own scene around the bike path with bars and restaurants.
Des Moines alone has over 76 parks. These range from local community parks to bigger ones such as Grey’s Lake and Raccoon River Park.
Saylorville Lake/Jester Park is a 1,675-acre park about 15 minutes north of Des Moines that surrounds a reservoir. The lake and park have great water activities, golfing, horseback riding, shelters, and walking trails.
The Des Moines Arts Festival and the 80/35 Music Festival are two local festivals that celebrate the arts and music. The arts festival brings in hundreds of artists across the state and nation to showcase their various works of art. 80/35 recently celebrated their 10th anniversary this year and are still going strong. 80/35 is a 2-day festival dedicated to folk and indie music. They showcase nationally, regional, and local bands on multiple stages every July.
The Des Moines Farmers Market is one of my favorite things to do in Des Moines during the warmer months. It is a nationally-recognized market that features local artisans, farmers, companies, and restaurants every Saturday morning from May to October. It’s also one of the best people and dog watching events in Iowa!
Des Moines also brings in many different artists for concerts throughout the year at local venues. Just this year Des Moines featured Sir Paul McCartney, Ed Sheeran, and Tim McGraw and Faith Hill.
For you sports lovers out there, Des Moines does not have a major league team, but we do have many affiliates in the city, including the Minnesota Wild, Minnesota Timberwolves, and the Chicago Cubs.
I personally believe I have saved the best for last. The people of Des Moines and Iowa are one in a million. There is that perfect balance of Midwestern hospitality with forward thinking drive. The people here are more than willing to welcome you and will say hi to you on the streets. They also are pushing the envelope in technology, business, and the arts. Des Moines is a hidden gem in the heart of America that is growing in importance in all aspects. So the next time you are traveling through Des Moines, pull over and see what this great city has to provide, because trust me…it’s so much more than just a field of dreams.
Chris is a beginning travel blogger who is getting ready to travel full time in October of 2017 and sharing her experiences and lessons she’s learned on her blog, Wandering Feathers. After two years of working in the legal world, she decided a desk job wasn’t for her and is leaving everything behind to travel solo across the world and letting her feet take her wherever she needs to go.
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