Des Moines

The state's capital city is buzzing. In this cosmopolitan capital, you'll find quaint neighborhoods, boutique businesses, beautiful parks, award-winning restaurants, an impressive network of trails, and an abundance of public art. Let's get started! 


Historic East Village

Located between the Iowa State Capitol and the Des Moines River, the Historic East Village is a vibrant, diverse neighborhood with more than 90 locally-owned shops, restaurants, and bars. From spices to stilettos, the shopping scene is sure to impress. Make sure to stop at Peace Tree Brewing for some city-brewed favorites or The Iowa Taproom for a sampling of state-wide classics. If you're looking for a taste of sophistication, then sit down for a meal at HoQ, Lucca or Alba. If a casual environment is what you're in search of then, grab a bite at The Continental, Dumpling Darling or Zombie Burger. We could go on and on about the East Village and all its hidden treasures, but we recommend you explore and see for yourself! 

Pappajohn Sculpture Park

This 4.4-acre park is home to over 30 pieces of artwork by 24 of the world's most celebrated artists. Its location acts as a welcoming, pedestrian-friendly entrance to the city. Guided tours of the artwork are available from April to October. Or, there are audio tours and a printable exploration guide on the Des Moines Art Center website. If you'd prefer to peruse the park on your own, may we recommend ordering food from AmericanaCentroExile, The Walnut, or one of the many other restaurants surrounding the sculpture park and make a picnic out of it! 

Gray's Lake

The metro's central park brings a taste of the outdoors to the city. Park-goers can make their way around the 166.6-acre park on foot, bike, rollerblade, or any other non-motorized method of transportation. Free parking, restrooms, a playground, and a boat ramp are all available at Gray's Lake year-round. A designated swimming area, concessions, and rentable bikes, canoes, kayaks, standup paddle-boards, and pedal boats are additionally available from Memorial Day to Labor Day. If you're planning on using the following amenities, then we recommend checking the Gray's Lake social media channels before going. If the facilities are unavailable due to the weather, then it will be noted on social media. 

Historic Court Avenue

Located in the heart of Des Moines, the Historic Court District is considered to be the main entertainment district of downtown. The Historic Court District is home to restaurants, bars, breweries, an abundance of unique murals, and one of Des Moines' favorite events - the Downtown Des Moines Farmers' Market. From May to October, 25,000 people pack Court Avenue and its surrounding side streets to experience one of the top farmers' markets in the country. 


Des Moines' bike-sharing program allows visitors to tour the city efficiently and cost-effectively. With over 20 stations located from the Drake neighborhood to Principal Park, getting around Des Moines has never been easier. How it works: 

  1. Purchase a membership online or at the BCycle station
  2. Choose a bike
  3. Enjoy the city
  4. Park your bike at any BCycle station

With this method of transportation, you can comfortably cruise from Gray's Lake to the Historic East Village to the Sculpture Park all in an afternoon! Find a BCycle station map HERE

Fort Des Moines Park

Looking for a place to picnic or be in the great outdoors? The Fort Des Moines Park is the perfect spot. This 117-acre park holds a deep 14-acre lake as its centerpiece full of activities including fishing, boating, geocaching, picnicking and more.

Western Gateway Park

Relax and explore one of the newest urban developments in Downtown Des Moines. Western Gateway Park incorporates a mix of green space and buildings to give a cultural experience to residents and visitors. The John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park, Des Moines Central Library, The Temple of Performing Arts, and The John and Mary Pappajohn Education Center all hold collaboration with the public and private sectors of the city. 

Water Works Park

Des Moines Water Works Park covers nearly 1,500 acres of woodland and is home to recreational activities such as fishing, boating, hiking, and camping. Plus, check out the Lauridsen Amphitheater for upcoming concerts and events!

Jasper Winery

Love wine? Jasper Winery is the perfect opportunity to sample local wines in a relaxed atmosphere. There is a cozy cafe area and indoor/outdoor patios styled with modern and urban architecture. The tasting room also provides views into the production area and barrel room to give visitors an up-close experience to the world of winemaking.

Robert D. Ray Asian Gardens
Visit the Robert Dr. Ray Asian Gardens, an Asian pavilion atop an undulating bridge spanning a pond that cascades into the Des Moines River with a series of waterfalls. The garden's flowing ambiance transports the strolling visitor to a picturesque Far Eastern paradise.