Best Things To Do in Des Moines Iowa

By  //  October 29, 2023

Des Moines, the capital city of Iowa, is a hidden gem in the American Midwest, offering visitors a rich cultural scene, beautiful parks, and a diverse culinary landscape.

In this guide on Best Things To Do in Des Moines Iowa, we’ll dive into the city’s history, top attractions, outdoor activities, dining options, and more. So pack your bags and get ready to discover the wonders of Des Moines, Iowa!

A Brief History of Des Moines

Des Moines’ history dates back to the early 19th century, when it was inhabited by Native American tribes and later explored by European settlers. Today, the city has evolved into a bustling hub of commerce, politics, and culture, with a population of over 200,000 residents.

Getting to Des Moines

Getting to Des Moines is easy and convenient, as the city is serviced by the Des Moines International Airport (DSM), offering flights to major cities across the United States. Additionally, Amtrak trains and Greyhound buses are available for those who prefer ground transportation.

Best Time to Visit Des Moines

The best time to visit Des Moines is during the late spring, summer, and early fall when the weather is warm and outdoor activities are in full swing. The city is especially vibrant during the annual Iowa State Fair, held in August, which attracts thousands of visitors.

Top Attractions and Activities

Iowa State Capitol

The Iowa State Capitol, with its iconic golden dome, is a must-visit attraction in Des Moines. Take a guided tour of the historic building to learn about Iowa’s political history and admire the stunning architecture.

Des Moines Art Center

Art enthusiasts will love the Des Moines Art Center, which houses an impressive collection of contemporary and modern art. The museum is free to the public and offers rotating exhibits, ensuring a fresh experience each visit.

Blank Park Zoo

A visit to the Blank Park Zoo is perfect for families and animal lovers alike. The 22-acre zoo is home to over 100 species, including giraffes, sea lions, and red pandas. Don’t forget to take a ride on the zoo’s historic carousel!

Pappajohn Sculpture Park

Located in downtown Des Moines, the Pappajohn Sculpture Park features more than 30 large-scale sculptures by renowned artists. The park is an excellent spot for a leisurely stroll, a picnic, or simply soaking in the beautiful art installations. Plus, it’s free to the public!

East Village Shopping District

Des Moines’ East Village is a vibrant shopping district filled with unique boutiques, vintage stores, and trendy cafes. Spend an afternoon browsing the shops and enjoying the lively atmosphere of this charming neighborhood.

Outdoor Activities

Gray’s Lake Park

Nestled in the heart of Des Moines, Gray’s Lake Park offers visitors a serene oasis with picturesque walking trails, bike rentals, and a beautiful beach. Rent a kayak, paddleboat, or stand-up paddleboard to explore the lake and soak up the natural beauty of the area.

Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden

The Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden is a must-visit destination for nature lovers. Wander through the lush indoor and outdoor gardens, featuring exotic plants, vibrant blooms, and tranquil water features.

High Trestle Trail

For a memorable outdoor adventure, head to the High Trestle Trail, a 25-mile paved trail perfect for biking, walking, and running. The highlight of the trail is the stunning High Trestle Bridge, which offers breathtaking views of the Des Moines River Valley.

Food and Drink

Local Cuisine and Dining

Des Moines boasts a diverse culinary scene, with options ranging from classic Midwestern comfort food to innovative international cuisine. Be sure to try the famous Iowa pork tenderloin sandwich, a local favorite found at many eateries throughout the city.

Craft Breweries and Wineries

If you’re a fan of craft beer or wine, you’re in luck. Des Moines is home to several excellent breweries and wineries, offering a wide selection of locally made libations. Be sure to visit Confluence Brewing Company and Jasper Winery for a taste of the local flavors.

Nightlife and Entertainment

From lively bars and clubs to sophisticated theater performances, Des Moines offers a vibrant nightlife scene to suit any taste. Check out the historic Court Avenue District for a variety of bars and live music venues or catch a show at the Des Moines Civic Center.


Des Moines offers a variety of lodging options to fit any budget, from luxury hotels to charming bed and breakfasts. Popular options include the historic Renaissance Des Moines Savery Hotel and the trendy AC Hotel by Marriott Des Moines East Village.

Conclusion on Best Things To Do in Des Moines Iowa

Des Moines, Iowa, is an exciting destination filled with rich history, incredible attractions, and beautiful outdoor spaces. From exploring the city’s world-class museums and art installations to indulging in the local culinary scene, there’s something for everyone in this Midwestern gem. Don’t miss the chance to experience all that Des Moines has to offer! 

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