Date Day in Des Moines
When it comes to romance, Des Moines is pretty much the Paris of the Midwest. Don’t believe us? Why else would Raygun tell us that “Des Moines is French for The Moines"? Is that love in the air? Or just the smell of Steak de Burgo? (Same thing if you ask us.)
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OPTION 1: DISCOVER DOWNTOWN
Hotel: Des Lux
Nestled in the heart of downtown, Des Lux is the perfect place to call home when exploring the city. With rich woods, elegant brick, and some of the largest rooms in the city featuring whirlpools and fireplaces, all the elements for romance are there, now it's up to you to seal the deal.
Hold off on that continental breakfast this morning because you're going to want to save room to sample from the 300+ vendors across the street at the Des Moines Downtown Farmers' Market. Taking place every Saturday morning from May – October, it's the perfect place for holding hands and strolling along 25,000 of your closest friends. Sip on a drink from a pineapple and pick up a bouquet of sunflowers, making for a perfect selfie accessory when you pose in front of the mural wall near RoCA.
When you've had your fill of papusas and performers, head across the river to Historic East Village, which has both "effortless cool" and "quaint charm" in spades. Get a couple's massage at East Village Spa and then wander and explore over 200 shops, bars, and restaurants. Explore shops like Sticks and Wanderlust for her and Fontenelle Supply Co. and Marv's Record Shop for him.
Think breweries can't be romantic? Then you haven't been to Lua Brewing. With its low lighting and exposed brick, the romance will be flowing in no time, especially after one of their famous "push pop" beers. After a drink, head down to Western Gateway Park and get dinner at Django, the best (and most approachable) French restaurant you'll find west of France. Located across the street from the iconic Sculpture Park (make sure to snap a quick selfie in front of the Nomade), the ambiance and steak frites can't be beat. If the phrase 'French food' sounds too intimidating, don't worry, they make one of the best burgers in town too.
On your way back to the hotel, make sure to stop for a nightcap at Hello, Marjorie. The only thing more famous than its craft cocktails is its neon "All the Prettiest Girls in the World Are From Des Moines" sign (it's a Jack Kerouac quote, but even if you didn't know that, it's true). Find a dark corner to enjoy your cocktail, and plan your next night out in Des Moines.
OPTION 2 – GET ARTSY
Hotel: Surety Hotel
The newest and arguably coolest addition to the downtown Des Moines hotel scene is the Surety Hotel. Not only is it a gorgeous space, but it celebrates local art and artisans at every touchpoint, from décor to events. Whether it's the art in the guestrooms or the pottery in the hotel restaurant (Mulberry Street Tavern), the Surety is as unique as it is beautiful.
Des Moines is one of the artsiest cities in the Midwest (promise!), so you'd be well served to begin your day exploring the Des Moines Art Center. With an interesting assortment of rotating exhibits and a permanent collection featuring pieces from artists including Andy Warhol, Claude Monet, and Georgia O'Keeffe, you're guaranteed to come away feeling both enlightened inspired. (Plus, it's free. Free is always good.)
For lunch, head over to HoQ, which specializes in sustainable farm-to-table food (90% local ingredients, to be exact). With a rotating menu depending on what's in season, you can't go wrong with any of their options, from grass-fed burgers to salmon on a sweet bun.
After lunch, take a stroll through the iconic Pappajohn Sculpture Park, the crown jewel of downtown. With 4.4 acres containing over 30 works of art, it's impossible not to find the perfect selfie spot for what will indeed become a "framer."
After that, you'll want to explore Mainframe Studios, which is the largest non-profit art studio building in the nation and home to over 75 artists and galleries and where you'll find everything from jewelry and clothes to paintings and photography.
At this point, you'll probably be feeling inspired to do a little redecorating, so you can head over to West End Architectural Salvage. Featured on HGTV's "West End Salvage," where there are four floors of unique art and furniture custom created and curated from New York, Chicago, England, and the Middle East. Not to mention a cute coffee shop on the first floor.
Food can be art, too; just ask the chefs at Harbinger and Proof, known for their beautifully plated dishes and multi-course tasting menus. Both have James Beard nominations in spades, and both make beautiful choices for dinner. They're only a mile apart, so if you're feeling incredibly spontaneous (and famished), you could even "Beard hop" to both.
For post-dinner entertainment, there is no shortage of performing arts to choose from. Take in a Broadway show like Hamilton or Dear Evan Hansen at the Des Moines Civic Center. An award-winning play at Des Moines Playhouse. A concert or comedy show at the historic and beautiful Hoyt Sherman Place (built in 1877). Or class it up at Noce, the premier home for jazz and cabaret in Des Moines hosting local and national acts, with a world-class cocktail bar.
OPTION 3 – GAME NIGHT
Hotel: Hotel Patee
Located about 40 miles north of the hustle and bustle of downtown is Hotel Pattee, one of the most historic hotels in the state. Built in 1913, it's known as one of the finest historic boutique hotels in the world. It has 40 individually themed guestrooms, a state-of-the-art bowling alley, a charming café, spa, and a library. It's the perfect getaway in and of itself, and the drive to and from Perry is a scenic one.
The couple that plays together stays together! Start your day reconnecting with nature (and each other) by taking a bike ride on the High Trestle Trail. Throughout 25 miles, you'll wind through gorgeous Iowa farmland and five charming small towns, with plenty of stops for a bite or brew, including the popular Flat Tire Lounge in Madrid, Nitehawk Bar and Grill in Slater, and Firetrucker Brewery in Ankeny.
Of course, no bike ride on the HTT is complete without the requisite selfie on the spectacular High Trestle Bridge. One of the tallest trail bridges in the world and adorned with 43 steel cribbings that arch over the bridge and glow blue at night, it's a breathtaking bucket list spot. If you want to make a whole day (or weekend) of it, you can find a detailed itinerary at TrailLink.
Once you've cleaned up, it's time to head to the western burbs for more fun and games. But first, you'll need some sustenance to replenish your energy, and nothing says 'date night refuel' quite like Trostel’s Greenbriar. With big flavors and even bigger portions, it’s one of the best restaurants in the metro, known for their prime rib and pan-fried walleye. If you're looking for a place that is both comfortable and unpretentious while at the same time being inventive and romantic, this is your place. With an environment that allows you to dress up or wear jeans, you’ll feel right at home. From pizzas and sandwiches to their signature steaks like the Gunpowder Ribeye or their Slow Roasted Prime Rib, you’re bound to be pleased. Don’t forget their extensive wine selection and signature cocktails.
Date night doesn't have to be stuffy; sometimes, it can be fun and games. So, check out Ironside Axe Club in West Des Moines because nothing says romance like channeling your inner Viking spirit. From there, it's off to the Operating Room, a bar arcade in West Glen Town Center with both modern and old school arcade games, pinball, and craft cocktail slushies. There's even a beer pong game for those nostalgic for the idea of "college romance." End the night chilling in front of a firepit at Smash Park, home to the largest outdoor patio in the state. If you haven't exercised all your competitive juices yet, try your hand at bocce ball, cornhole, shuffleboard, or giant connect four. Grab a sheet ton of nachos for a late-night munchie; game night has never been this exciting or tasted this good.
Other Des Moines date ideas:
Ice skating at Brenton Skating Plaza with skyline views
Wine tasting at Jasper Winery or Summerset Winery
Sushi downtown at Miyabi 9 or Akebono 515
Tiki drinks at Bellhop Lounge or Revival House
Cooking class with Cooking With Alessandra
Italian dinner in a Victorian mansion at Aposto
Drinks with a view of downtown at Republic on Grand
Steak de Burgo and red velvet cake at Simon’s
Dinner DURING a movie at Flix Brewhouse
Need more travel inspiration? Check out the rest of The Catch List itineraries. And add ideas to your Des Moines bucket list with our Des Best lists and S’s Are Silent videos!