The state capital of Iowa, Des Moines is a charming city with exceptional food, a huge array of historic buildings, great shopping and outdoor activities for the whole family to enjoy.
The historical side to the city will occupy many days of sightseeing. From the ornately designed Capitol building, to the beauty of Salisbury House and the fascinating exhibits of the State Historical Society Museum, visitors can easily learn about how the city came to be.
There are plenty of other cultural attractions as well. Wander around the Science Centre of Iowa, with its planetarium and interactive child-friendly exhibits, or take in the superb collection of 20th century masterpieces at the Des Moines Art Centre – featuring world-famous artists like Hopper, O’Keefe and Johns. June also sees the city stage a fantastic Arts Festival, with a programme of open air performances.
Food is a big part of the town’s appeal. That may be because Des Moines is at the heart of one of the world’s great farming regions. Visit in July to sample every local delicacy at Taste of Des Moines or dine at eateries serving everything from tacos to hefty burgers.
There are family-friendly attractions as well, such as Adventureland, with its massive swimming pool and vast array of slides, as well as Gray’s Lake where families can race pedalos and canoes.
More serious water sports are catered for at sites like Saylorville Lake, which offers exceptional fishing. Other sports can be enjoyed at Sleepy Hollow Park with different seasonal options to experience such as snowboarding and beach volleyball.
Des Moines is also a jumping off point to visit Iowa’s most beautiful sights, such as the rolling Loess Hills and the eerie Maquoketa Caves. But with so much to do, you may never want to leave the city.
If you are seeking a cultural vacation, then there is really no bad time to go to Des Moines. For outdoor activities, summer is the best time to visit (between June and September), although there are snow-based activities available as well. A trip in June may balance lower prices with outdoor festivals and good conditions for hiking and boating.
Renting a car provides great flexibility (but beware of icy conditions during the winter). The city is known to be quite cycle-friendly as well, and the bus network will let you take your bikes on board, making it possible to access most parts of town without a rental car. Taxis are always available to book, but don’t rely on being able to hail them.