Des Moines is an underrated art city, and there’s no better example of that than the Des Moines Arts Festival, happening June 28 – 30. Attracting over 250,000 people over the course of three days, with big name bands, bold artwork, and activities for all ages, there’s something for everyone’s inner Bob Ross. Check out five things to look for at this year’s festival, where you can kick off summer in style.

1. Music

It’s an art festival by name, but with the number of local, national, and even international musicians and bands that play on two different stages, you’d be forgiven for thinking you stumbled into a music festival. And it’s all free! This year, check out the likes of The Marshall Tucker Band (Saturday, 8:30 p.m.), local faves Brother Trucker (Saturday, 6:45 p.m.), or the indie rock stylings of Halfloves (Friday, 6:45 p.m.). Bands start around 1:00 p.m. each day, with headliners playing until 10:00pm.  You can check out a full lineup of all the bands and musicians here.

2. Food

Any type of festival is ultimately going to be judged by its foodstuffs, and thankfully the Art Festival checks all the foodie boxes. With two large food courts that have an eclectic and international flair, there’s something for every taste. A few of our faves include Jambo African Cuisine (shrimp and steak kabobs), Nina’s Tacos (birria nachos), Greek Flame Foods (gyros and salads), and G.G.’s Chicken & Waffles (peach cobbler). A full listing of the tummy rumbling, Instagrammable food vendors is here.

3. Kids’ Stuff

Let’s be honest. Some of our favorite art comes from our kids and hangs not in a museum, but on our refrigerator. At the Des Moines Arts Festival, there are plenty of hands-on activities for the little ones at the Creative Zone. Here kids can do everything from rock painting and LEGO art, to creating spin art paintings and dancing puppets. Check out the whole lineup of interactive activities here.  

4. Film

If your favorite type of art is the moving picture kind, there’s the Interrobang Film Festival, which is a juried festival screening over 40 short and feature length films from nine different countries. It’s at the east end of the festival, inside the Des Moines Central Library. Each day starts with film shorts at 11:00 a.m. and goes to around 5:00 p.m. To see a full list of what’s showing and when, click here.

5. Art

We either buried the lede or saved the best for last (we’ll go with the latter). As one of the best art festivals in the entire world, the Des Moines Art Festival perfectly encapsulates one of the most underrated art cities in the country. With the Pappajohn Sculpture Park serving as a fitting backdrop, it’s fun to wander through the nearly 200 artist tents and immerse yourself in the creativity and aesthetics of the festival, whether you’re in the market to buy art or not. That said, there’s something about buying artwork directly from an artist and having something that is truly one of a kind. From drawings, paintings, jewelry, photography, sculpture, and mixed media, there is something for every taste and price range. Come curious and leave inspired. A full list of all the events and artists can be found here.

When: Friday, June 28 – Sunday, June 30 

Time: 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. (Fri/Sat); 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (Sun) 

Where: Western Gateway Park, Downtown Des Moines  

Admission: FREE 

Parking: Nationwide parking ramp at 1100 Walnut Street (FREE) 

Note: The Art Festival is now cashless, accepting only touchless pay or credit/debit cards.