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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 Americana, Centro, Exile, The Walnut, or one of the many other restaurants surrounding the sculpture park and make a picnic out of it! 

Iowa State Capitol

We may be biased, but we think our State Capitol is one of the most beautiful in the country. The 23-karat golden dome towers above the city and is a favorite among sightseers. Four smaller domes flank the main dome and within you can find the governor's offices, legislature, and the old Supreme Courtroom. Townie tip: streaming live audio of Senate and House proceedings is available on the Capitol's website whenever the chambers are in session. Touring this stunning building is free. Learn about the grounds, walk through the courts, dive deep into our state's history, and see the best views of Des Moines while peeking out from the golden dome. On the tour, you'll also see the State Law Library on the second floor. It has earned its own recognition as one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. It's a fully functioning library as it provides a highly specialized legal collection of treatises, as well as state and federal statutory, regulatory, and case law to Iowa lawmakers, government employees, the legal community and general public. Tours are available Monday through Saturday, groups of 10 or more need to call in advance. 

Gray's Lake

The metro's main 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 latter amenities then we recommend checking the Gray's Lake social media channels before going. If the amenities are unavailable due to 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 it's 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 easily cruise from Gray's Lake to the Historic East Village to the Sculpture Park all in an afternoon! Find a BCycle station map HERE


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