We’re all in favor of guys getaways to Vegas, or trips to the deep wilderness with no cell reception, but sometimes you need to meet in the middle, and that’s where Des Moines is the sweet spot. With great golf, rare steaks, and cold beer, it’s the perfect place to workshop some dad jokes while working on your short game.
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Today we’re going to put some of those long hibernating muscles to the test, so you’ll want to carb load first. Want your eggs with a side of 90s hip hop? Eggs and Jam in West Des Moines serves up chronically good dishes like toast face killah and Ludabiscuits, washed down with a Gin and Juice, naturally.
Now that you have some sustenance, it’s time for a friendly (or perhaps overly competitive) game of indoor paintball at ICU paintball. On the weekends, for $35 a person, you can play for up to three hours with just your friends, or team up against others. Just make sure to wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts (all other equipment is provided), and you’ll pass the test with flying colors. The only thing that hurts is the bruised egos of the losing squad.
Get a little adventurous with some indoor rock climbing at Climb Iowa. The suburban location in Grimes is where you’ll find your traditional ropes courses, with 10,000 square feet of climbing and 200 routes. If you want to channel your inner-Jason Momoa, you’ll want to test out the bouldering wall at the East Village location; just don’t skip arm day before you go. If you opt for the East Village, you can refuel before or after at the nearby Iowa Taproom, where you can devour Iowa delicacies like ham balls, sweet corn chowder, and breaded pork tenderloins, all washed down with a craft brew from one of their 99 taps.
Speaking of craft beer, there are more than twenty buzzy breweries across the metro for you to check out. Lager lover? Check out Kinship in Waukee. Sour supporter? Pucker up at Lua Brewing. Prefer to pair your brewery with a bike ride? Check out Confluence Brewing near Gray’s Lake trail. There's something for every taste, with options including Big Grove Brewery (epic patio), Peace Tree Brewing (one of Iowa’s oldest craft breweries), Twisted Vine Brewery (big on collaborations), and Exile Brewing (biggest brewer in town).
At this point, checking scores on your phone might not suffice and those ham balls are a distant memory. So, head over to Truman’s Pizza to catch some of the games and split a couple of specialty pizzas. With concoctions such as The French Dip, The Mahomes, Spicy Korean, and Meatball Margherita, this is the supreme place to catch a slice of the action.
Once you’ve had your fill, level up at Up Down Arcade Bar in the East Village. It's all fun and games, with more than 60 arcade games, pinball machines, Skee-Ball, Nintendo and Sega consoles, and an extensive beer and craft cocktail menu. All the games cost just 25 cents, and you don’t even need to blow on them to get them to work.
Right next door is Wooly’s, an intimate music club where, depending on the night, you can hear up and coming rock acts, popular cover bands, and even live podcasts.
Mullets are making quite a comeback (not just in hockey), although if you go to Mullets restaurant on the river, you’d never know they left. The theme is silly, but the food, ranging from breakfast staples to BBQ, means business. Business in the front, party in the back (on their patio overlooking the Des Moines River).
Polish off that Bloody Mary and head off to catch your tee time at one of the great golf courses around the metro. If you’re sticking around downtown, we recommend Waveland Golf Course, the only municipal course named by golf writer Davy Hoffman as one of “America’s Greatest Golf Courses.” If you’re down with the suburban scene, check out Tournament Club of Iowa in Polk City, the only Arnold Palmer Signature course in the state. Or check out our full rundown of golf courses here.
We’re going old school today as you head off to Miller High Life Lounge to grab a cold one. Inside you’ll find yourself walking across some shag carpet (no, you're not at grandma’s house). If you prefer craft beer to old man beer, El Bait Shop next door is going to be your vibe. With more than 200 beers on tap, even the biggest beer snob of the group will find something to enjoy. And that's not to mention the cozy, nostalgic food menu. With options like bacon wrapped little smokies, velvet Elvis dip, goulash, and meatloaf dinners, on second thought, maybe you really are at grandma’s house?
Wanna score big? Make your way to Prairie Meadows Casino Racetrack and Hotel in Altoona. They have every game you’d want to play this side of Vegas. From May to October they have live horse racing, and they recently opened a Caesars Sportsbook to help make those regular season basketball games and fantasy football Sundays a bit more compelling. And we haven’t even got to the casino floor, where you can try your hand at everything from slots and blackjack to poker and roulette. If you’re lucky, then it’s winner, winner steak dinner at AJ’s Steakhouse; and if you really want to lean into the high roller vibes, go big with the Presidential Suite at the attached hotel for a real night to remember. What happens in Altoona, stays in Altoona.
We've got an endless buffet of brunch options for the boys this morning. First up is the West Des Moines location of hip brunch spot The Breakfast Club. We’re talking breakfast corndogs, loaded hash browns, breakfast tacos, and apple cheesecake French toast. They have a whole section of a menu called “dranks.” Need we say more? Or head over to Barn Town Brewing and brunch so hard. Mac and cheese waffle sando? Phat stack of pancakes? Banana pecan French toast? We're listening. Plus, you can get a flight of their beer or go for a man-mosa.
Next up is Smash Park. This one-of-a-kind social entertainment and events venue will have the guys battling it out over who buys the next bucket of beers with a game or two of pickle ball. With the largest patio in Iowa, you can enjoy a hand-crafted cocktail while playing a round of shuffleboard, cornhole, or giant beer pong. If you’re more in spectator mode, they have more than 40 HD TVs, making it the perfect place to relive last night’s glories while you catch a game.
The fun doesn’t have to end just yet. Try your hand at axe throwing at Ironside Axe, where an “axepert” will help the uninitiated. Channeling our inner mom: Boys, it’s best to do this before you’ve had too many beverages. They have a bar that features ciders, local beers, and canned cocktails, so all you have to bring is your testosterone and a flannel shirt (optional, but we're sticklers for looking the part).
Wrap up your epic weekend with a pizza in downtown Des Moines that we’re sure you won’t find anywhere else. Crab Rangoon Pizza, Mac and Cheese Pizza, and Ramen Pizza, oh yeah! Fong’s Pizza has 22 different pizza options, along with tiki drinks and shots paired with jet fighter helmets. Sure, it’s cheesy, but that’s why we love it. The perfect place to either start or end the night and start planning the next one.
Des Moines Sports Teams
When in doubt, building a weekend around a sports itinerary is the smart play. We’re the #1 Minor League sports market in the US, making us the major leagues of the minor leagues.
Iowa Cubs: The Chicago Cubs AAA affiliate, Iowa Cubs, play their games at beautiful Principal Park on the Des Moines River from April to September. Catch a rising star, or a hot dog!
Iowa Barnstormers: The former stomping grounds of Hall of Fame QB Kurt Warner, the Iowa Barnstormers, part of the Indoor Football League, play at Wells Fargo Arena, March through July.
Iowa Wild: Cheer on the Iowa Wild, the AHL affiliate of the Minnesota Wild, when they take on the ice at Wells Fargo Arena from October to April. Who says winter in the Midwest is no fun?
Iowa Wolves: Catch the Iowa Wolves as they shoot their shot on the court at Wells Fargo Arena from November through April. The Wolves are an NBA G league affiliate of the Minnesota Timberwolves and often feature former local collegiate stars.
Des Moines Buccaneers: The Bucs are a Tier 1 junior hockey league in the USHL with the season happening September to April. They have a reputation for being rambunctious good time.
Des Moines Menace: The two-time USL champions, Des Moines Menace, play their soccer games at Valley Stadium from May through July.
Iowa Speedway: Considered the fastest short track on the planet, the Iowa Speedway brings in all types of racing, including ARCA and INDYCAR, which returns the weekend of July 21-23, 2023.
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!