While the S’s may be silent in Des Moines, our city sure isn’t. Check out this list of just a start of things to do while you’re here. Be sure to let us know what you do while you #CATCHdsm!
Tour of Capitol
We’re probably biased, but our 23-karat golden-domed capitol building is the most stunning capitol in the country. As the only 5-domed capitol in the country, it’s just as beautiful on the inside as the outside, with the Law Library laying claim to the most photographed room in the state. Take a (free!) self-guided tour and explore more than 100 majestic rooms filled with history and charm.
Grab your loved ones and a blanket and get ready for an afternoon surrounded by art at the crown jewel of downtown, Pappajohn Sculpture Park. Featuring 30+ sculptures that spread out over 4.4 acres, it’s (picture) perfect for exploring. Toss a frisbee, take a selfie (or ten) at the popular Nomade or the giant LOVE sculpture, and then grab a bite across the street at Americana or Django, two of the hottest spots in town.
Pack a picnic and bask in the sunshine at Waterworks Park. This is the perfect spot to see the athletes in transition, plus you’ll be in one of the greenest areas of the city. Don’t forget to stop and check out River Constellation, featuring 45 ten-foot poles that hold 12-inch diameter orbs that also happen to pulse with light. It’s beautiful at any time of the day but seeing them at sunset is just mesmerizing.
Bike ride/walk at Gray’s Lake
A large portion of IRONMAN is held at beautiful Gray’s Lake, so why not take some time to explore the beautiful area? This 167-acre lake has a two-mile trail encircling it (locals refer to it as “doing the loop”). Rent a canoe or stand-up paddleboard and check out the Des Moines skyline from the center of the lake. If you’re more of a landlubber, take a hike on the 425-foot-long Coleman Bridge. Pro Tip: The bridge is lit in beautiful colors in the evening, so check out the Des Moines skyline while you’re surrounded by lights!
Chances are, if you spend any time downtown, you’ll see someone wearing a “Des Moines: Hell Yes” shirt. That’s just one of the many self-aware and self-deprecating shirts you’ll find at Raygun, arguably the hippest store in the hip East Village neighborhood. This store is the place for not only all things Des Moines, but all things Midwest. If there’s a current event in the news, they have a t-shirt, coaster or even baby onesie for it. You went to Des Moines and all you got was this
lousy awesome t-shirt.
Walking Tour of all Downtown DSM Murals
We take the saying “the world is your canvas” very seriously here in Des Moines. We are full of murals throughout the city that are perfect to spice up your Instagram feed. Spend your afternoon exploring downtown looking for the best murals and taking way too many selfies. Follow our list HERE or use the Greater Des Moines Public Art Foundation app to guide you along #ArtRouteDSM, which united 87 pieces of public art downtown.
Downtown Des Moines Farmers’ Market
You can’t come to Des Moines in the summertime without making a trip to the #2 Farmers’ Market in the country. Living up to its ranking, this market offers everything. Monster breakfast burritos, fresh produce, beautiful flowers, Instagrammable spots, and all the doggos you can imagine. Covid has caused it to shrink a bit, but we still highly recommend it to get out and get a taste of Des Moines. Happening every Saturday morning May – October.
Here’s a fun fact to stump your friends with. The largest skatepark in the entire country is right here in Des Moines, Iowa. Opening in May, and broken in by the Olympic qualifying Dew Tour, it has more than88,000-square-feet of park and street courses. Nuzzled along the Des Moines River, with views of the skyline and Capitol Building, it has a definite WOW factor… literally, the park has a skateable WOW sculpture. If you’d rather live vicariously through those who do it better, there are plenty of grassy viewing areas to check out the gnarly action.
Blank Park Zoo
Blank Park Zoo is called “Iowa’s Wildest Adventure” for a reason. Whether it’s feeding giraffes or seeing their beautiful red pandas, the Blank Park Zoo will have something for everyone’s wild side. Plus, they currently have the most adorable giraffe calf named Raza and our hearts melt just thinking about him.
An amusement park, water park, and underrated craft beer destination all-in-one. Iowa’s largest amusement park offers multiple ways to unwind or wind up for all ages. Take a ride on the signature Monster coaster if you dare or sip a cold one at the swim-up bar if that’s more your style. Chill vibes and thrill rides abound.