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Your guide to Des Moines
All About Des Moines
Des Moines is a thriving Midwestern hub where the streets are peppered with green spaces, an urban pocket in an otherwise agriculture-dominated state. Iowa’s capital is home to 76 city parks, including Greenwood Park, where you can meander through Pappajohn Sculpture Park’s outdoor gallery. There are more than 800 miles of walking, cycling, and hiking trails to explore here too. Water Works Park, directly across from Gray’s Lake in the city center, has 1,500 acres of wooded space where you can cast a line for shortnose gar or go horseback riding.
Des Moines’s arts scene includes massive public installations — such as the downtown Art Route, comprising 87 pieces extending across more than six miles — as well as numerous live entertainment venues, from small dive bars to the Riverfront Amphitheater. West Des Moines’ historic Valley Junction is a renovated railroad district with fashion boutiques, galleries, antique shops, and restaurants in red brick buildings.
Much of the food here centers around the vast farmlands surrounding the city. Des Moines’ eclectic mix of farm-to-table restaurants and food trucks put local produce in the spotlight. You can get a taste of the city staple Steak de Burgo, which has been a favorite here since the 1930s, alongside craft beers and speakeasy cocktails in the dining corridor between Grand Avenue and East Court Avenue, which spans the river.
When is the best time to stay in a vacation rental in Des Moines?
Des Moines has typical Midwest weather — hot, humid summers and cold, snowy winters. Spring can bring frequent afternoon thunderstorms, but the skies generally clear up quickly. In spring and summer, you can spend a Saturday morning perusing local produce and handmade art from hundreds of vendors at the Downtown Des Moines Farmers’ Market. Don’t let the humidity in summer keep you away from the annual Des Moines Arts Festival, which hosts over 180 national artists, held in June.
Crisp fall days are perfect for enjoying the annual Oktoberfest held in late September — two days filled with polka music, German food, beer tents, and dancing. Temperatures drop come winter, and the accompanying snow makes this the perfect time for skiers and snowboarders to secure their vacation rentals in Des Moines and hit the slopes.
What are the top things to do in Des Moines?
Pappajohn Sculpture Park
The John & Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park in Western Gateway Park houses more than two dozen works by artists from around the world. You can wander around the 4.4-acre grounds, admiring the life-size sculptures and thoughtful landscape design. Sculpture Park Exploration Guides are available from the Des Moines Art Center to promote an interactive experience for people of all ages. The park is open from sunrise to midnight, and visitors are welcome to bring a picnic.
Located on the Des Moines River just north of the city, Saylorville Lake contains over 26,000 acres of beautiful woodland, wetlands, and prairie habitats. The lake has several beaches and multiple boat launches you can take advantage of too. For a leisurely afternoon hike, stretch your legs along the Saylorville Lake Shore Trail.
Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden
Nestled behind the John Pat Dorrian Trail on the eastern bank of the Des Moines River, this seven-acre garden includes a historically significant bonsai tree collection, a tranquil water garden with more than 100 water lilies, and an 80-foot geodesic dome where you’ll find towering palms, delicate orchids, and diverse cacti in a tropical environment.