The Des Moines Art Center is one of the crown jewels of our city. You’ll know you’ve arrived at a truly spectacular museum as soon as you pull into the parking lot — because the Art Center’s three buildings were each designed by world-famous architects. But, obviously, inside is where you’ll find major works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Edward Hopper, Henri Matisse, Georgia O’Keeffe, Yayoi Kusama and many, many more. With too much to see (and do) in a single day, we figured a top five would help get you started.

1. Always Feel Free to Visit

Admission to the Art Center is always free. Yes, that’s right, free! You can visit Tuesday through Sunday for a grand total of zero dollars. And did you know that the Pappajohn Sculpture Park is an extension of the Art Center? So, you can see the breathtaking collection indoors at the Art Center (for free). Then, you can see the larger-than-life pieces at the Sculpture Park (also for free).

2. Do the Studio

The Art Center is a museum AND school, so you can sign up for what seems like a million different studio classes all year long. There are classes for every age group — kids, teens, adults — that cover all kinds of techniques and topics. We’re talking everything from painting, photography and ceramics to jewelry, calligraphy and merch design. Plus, the Art Center now offers free Art Gatherings for several communities, including Deaf and hard of hearing, blind and low vision, and those with autism.

3. Don’t Miss Special Events

Nearly every week, the Art Center’s calendar is filled with free events like artist lectures, gallery talks with curators and other themed experiences. We recommend checking back randomly throughout the year because the FOMO can be brutal. Also, mark your own calendar for the 2024 Art Center Gala After Party. It’s a fundraiser without the usual formalities, so you can get right into the *ahem* fun part and dance the night away.

4. Drop In for a Tour

You can do both guided and self-guided tours of the Art Center (and the Sculpture Park), but we’ve gotta say, the drop in tours are the way to go. These tours start at 1 pm on Saturdays, and basically, you just have to show up and an Art Center docent will guide you through the collections and exhibitions like you’re the Pope or Beyoncé. All ages are welcome, and no registration is required, so bring friends and/or family along.

5. Become a Member Already

Of course, if you love the Art Center as much as we do, you should definitely sign up for a membership. Without the support of members, the Art Center wouldn’t be free. But, with that said … a membership gives you more than a warm-and-fuzzy feeling. You get a bunch of exclusive benefits, like behind-the-scenes experiences and first dibs on super competitive summer camp spots. Oh, and discounts — a lot of discounts — on studio classes, camps and purchases in the awesome Museum Shop.