There are plenty of ways to Catch the Madness in Des Moines during NCAA Men’s Basketball First and Second Rounds. If you have tickets to the games – great! And if you don’t – we’ve got you covered on how you can get in on the action. So, whether you are able to catch a game in action or just want to be part of the atmosphere, we’ve got the low down what to do and where to go.


Open Practice
Open Practice will be held on Wednesday, March 15 at Wells Fargo Arena. It is FREE to attend and park, concessions will be open, and merchandise is available to purchase. The schedule of teams is: 

10 a.m. | Doors Open
11  – 11:40 a.m. | Howard
11:45 a.m. – 12:25 p.m. | Illinois
12:30  – 1:10 p.m. | Kansas
1:15  – 1:55 p.m. | Arkansas
2  – 2:40 p.m. | Texas
3:30  – 4:10 p.m. | Texas A&M
4:15  – 4:55 p.m. | Colgate

Fan Fest
You can experience the atmosphere of March Madness without needing a ticket to games during Fan Fest. It’s happening at the Iowa Events Center in Hall C. This is free and open to the public (no ticket required) and will have screens to watch the games, fun activities, and food and beverages. This is a great way to get in on the action if you don’t have tickets to the games. It is expected to start at 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 16. This will only be available on March 16.

Hoops and Hops
Hoops and Hops will be taking over Cowles Commons from March 16 – 18. There will be a heated tent with TVs that will be airing the games, food trucks, Iowa Craft Beer tent, two basketball courts, and other activities. This event is free and runs from 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. each day.


Thursday, March 16, 2023

Session 1:
1 p.m. on TBS – Howard (16) vs. Kansas (1)
3:30 p.m. on TBS – Illinois (9) vs. Arkansas (8)

Session 2:
6:25 p.m. on TBS – Colgate (15) vs. Texas (2)
8:55 p.m. on TBS – Penn St. (10) vs. Texas A&M (7)

Saturday, March 18, 2023
Session 3 teams and times will be announced either Thursday evening or Friday morning.

Where to watch

Beer Can Alley
Catch the NCAA basketball action at Beer Can Alley. This will be having $4.50 tall boys and daily food specials.

Big Grove Brewery
Big Grove Brewery has two projectors and 14 TVs that will be showing the games. The sound will be turned on for select games. 

Buzzard Billy’s
Be close to the action at Buzzard Billy’s for the NCAA watch party. Their basement bar will be open, complete with grab-and-go food, TVs, multiple bars, and plenty of seating. This is a great place to grab a bite between sessions. 

Mad Meatball
Mad Meatball, located at 210 SW 11th Street is hosting NCAA watch parties on March 16 and 18. They will have happy hour specials, games, Raygun giveaways, and no cover charges. 

The Hall
The Hall is hosting Brews ‘N Balls March Watch Party for all of the tournament games. Games will be playing on their big screens with the sound on for games being played in Des Moines on March 16 and 18. They will have game day specials including $2 off beer, $2 off wings, and all day happy hour drink specials. 

Truman’s Pizza Tavern
Join Truman’s for $1 off Boulevard beers while you watch a game or two.

Smash Park
In West Des Moines, Smash Park has 12 days of Madness going on with specials each day. Stop in on March 16 for $1 wells and March 18 for $2 Fireball, all while you watch the games. 

Downtown Des Moines will be a hotspot for people wanting to Catch the Madness, but there are other great options around Greater Des Moines to catch the games. Check out our Des Best Sports Bars blog to scope out the best place to watch for you.

Alumni Bar Locations

Arkansas - Tonic
Colgate - Big Grove Brewery
Kansas - Johnny's Hall of Fame

* Other alumni bar locations will added when/if they announce


Historic Court District
The Historic Court District is your nightlife location. With a variety of bars ranging from country to martini, you’ll be sure to find a few places for everyone in your group. There are also great spots to grab a bite to eat ranging from sushi and small plates to pasta and burgers.  

Historic East Village
Explore the Historic East Village, just across the Des Moines River, where you can find many local boutiques to shop and hip restaurants to grab a bite or drink. Stop in a local brewery for a beer or venture for a cocktail on a rooftop. This is just a 10-minute walk from Wells Fargo Arena or the Court District.  

Jordan Creek Town Center
If you head west from downtown, you’ll find yourself immersed in Jordan Creek Town Center. This is a huge retail, dining, and entertainment destination featuring more than 100 retailers, restaurants, and a movie theater. Shop till you drop and finish out your shopping excursion with a delicious bite. 

Looking for more? Check out The Catch List for tons of itineraries for your weekend in Greater Des Moines, as well as our Des Best blogs, for all the best foods, drinks, activities, and more. 

St. Patricks' Day
You’re in luck – St. Patrick’s Day is Friday March 17 and there are no games scheduled this day. There’s plenty going on in Des Moines to help fill your day with things to do. Check out our St. Patrick’s Day blog to plan your day. 

John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park
Stroll through the Sculpture Park in Western Gateway Park and see more than 30 sculptures. This is a great way to get outside, get some fresh air, and see a different part of downtown Des Moines. You can stop in and grab a bite to eat at some local restaurants across from the park.  

Lauridsen Skatepark
Just across the street from Wells Fargo Arena is the nation’s largest skate park. Lauridsen Skatepark has been open for more than two years, and it’s a great place to see, whether you are into skateboarding or not. On any given day you are bound to see skateboarders dropping in. It’s also a great spot to take in the view of the Des Moines River. 

Des Moines Buccaneers
Take in some hockey action in between game days. The Des Moines Buccaneers will be playing at home at Buccaneer Arena on March 17 against the Lincoln Stars. Game time is at 7 p.m. and tickets start at $10. 


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