Des Moines, Iowa may not be a city on many travelers radar but it deserves to be. The capital city and college town has something for every interest and taste. From historical neighborhoods full of one-of-a-kind shops, bars and live music to family-fun activities, trails by the lake, and art. There are endless possibilities of things to do.
The Republic on Grand
Watch the sunset over Des Moines while sipping craft cocktails at this chic rooftop bar located in the AC Hotel. Their small plates are deliciously satisfying and worthy of a place on their Insta-feed. This hotspot is recommended by Nick Lucs, founder of Des Moines Foodster.
401 E Grand Ave, Des Moines, IA 50309 || Website
Greater Des Moines Botanical Gardens
Beautiful day? Make the most of the weather by wandering through the enchanting botanical gardens. Get your nature fix and your next profile photo in one of the many orchards. The garden covers 1,400 acres of land and features an impressive 1,200 different species from all around the world.
909 Robert D. Ray Dr, Des Moines, IA 50309 || Website
Welcome to Germany. Just kidding, we are still in Des Moines but this German-themed restaurant and bar will have you convinced otherwise. Enjoy the carefree atmosphere, live music, German-inspired food, and most importantly, the beer. Oh, by the way, Hessen Haus has the world’s largest selection of German beer. Make the experience even more authentic by telling the waiter “Noch eins, bitte” aka another please because no reason to let the good times end, right?
101 SW 4th St, Des Moines, IA 50309 ||Website
A historic and eclectic neighborhood filled with shops, dining, and nightlife you won’t find anywhere else. This place is a favorite among locals and college students for a reason!
500 East Locust, Des Moines, IA 50309 || Website
Guaranteed to be the coolest t-shirt shop you ever did see. While RAYGUN is located throughout the mid-west, the “Greatest store in the universe” started its roots in Des Moines.
505 East Grand Ave . Des Moines, IA 50309 || Website
How can you resist a name like that? This joint located in East Village is the place to go for fast and deliciously crafted “goremet” burgers made from fresh ingredients and blood. Just kidding about the blood part. Zombie Burger also has a full-service drink-lab for cocktails and their famous spiked milkshakes.
300 E Grand Ave, Des Moines, IA 50309 ||Website
For those who can’t get enough nature, this lake located in the heart of downtown Des Moines is known as the “place to meet”. Take a picnic or go for a bike ride on the trail circling the lake. There are countless activities to choose from and you can even learn how to sail in the summer.
2101 Fleur Dr, Des Moines, IA 50315 || Website
If you happen to ask any locals for a dining recommendation you will most likely be told Fong’s Pizza. This pizza joint was built in an old Chinese restaurant and the Asian influence can be found all through the atmosphere and menu. A Chinese-fusion pizza? Yes, please.
223 4th St, Des Moines, IA 50309 || Website
Felix and Oscar’s Restaurant
Looking for more traditional pizza? Head to Felix and Oscar’s Restaurant where they have been serving up authentic Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza, pasta, sandwiches and more to the community for over 40 years. It’s a welcoming environment and there’s always something going on from their Monday night football parties, trivia Friday nights, monthly stand-up comics, Saturday college football parties, Sunday brunch buffet to their Sunday NFL football parties.
4050 Merle Hay Rd, Des Moines, IA 50310 || Website
Calling all whiskey enthusiasts, this one’s for you. Make your own barrel of whiskey at this soon-to-be-opened distillery. At Foundry Distillery you get to craft a custom barrel of whiskey to your liking. You even get to create your own label!
111 South 11th Street West Des Moines, Iowa 50265 || Website
Hey sweet tooth, we haven’t forgotten about you! This award-winning cupcake and dessert shop’s mission is to make people happy and to be different from everyone else. Oh how she succeeds. Not only does the shop sell an array of freshly made, drool-worthy cupcakes and cakes, they also have a dessert lounge dedicated to custom pastries and house cocktails designed by a mixologist. Did we mention owned Christina Moffat was runner-up on The Food Network’s Cupcake Wars? Probably best you head here first.
543 28th St, Des Moines, IA 50312 || Website
John & Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park
This non-profit sculpture park located in downtown Des Moines features super unique artwork by 22 of the world’s most honored artists throughout the 4.4 acre park. The park is an extension of the Des Moines Art Museum which also features world-class art. Both exhibits are free admission!
1330 Grand Ave, Des Moines, IA 50309 || Website
This farmhouse-boutique hotel located in West Des Moines will blow your mind with how country-chic and cozy it is. You won’t find a hotel like this anywhere else. The hotel features 102 urban farm inspired guest rooms, spa amenities, full restaurant and bar, fitness center, pool and outdoor seating. Everything about Renovo embodies their motto of Refresh, Renew and Revitalize.
11167 Hickman Rd, Urbandale, IA 50322|| Website
Salisbury House & Gardens
A historic house museum located on nine acres of beautiful gardens and woodlands. The 42-room estate features a diverse collection of art, literature, and lots of other little treasures and artifacts. The house also hosts events like Shakespear On The Lawn, Halloween activities, and even concerts!
4025 Tonawanda Dr, Des Moines, IA 50312|| Website
This historic district is said to be the heart and soul of Des Moines. Valley Junction is the place to go for all things art, antiques, live music, and unique finds. It is home to over 150 specialty shops, restaurants, and services. There is something for everyone here!
137 5th St, West Des Moines, IA 50265 || Website
If you happen to be in Des Moines on a Thursday, check out the farmers market located in the Valley Junction. Over 100 vendors gather to sell fresh produce, baked goods, flowers, crafts and prepared foods every Thursday between 4 and 8:30 pm. Shop and enjoy the live music with different bands playing each week.
5th Street West Des Moines, IA 50265 || Website
Jasper Winery located just minutes from downtown specializes in premium quality wines using grapes from vineyards found in Iowa. Sample some Jasper wine in the tasting room or enjoy a glass in the cafe or on the large outdoor patio. Want to become a wine expert and impress all your friends? Try the VIP tasting & tour where you learn all you could ever want to know about wine and the history of Jasper Winery.
2400 George Flagg Parkway, Des Moines, Iowa, 50321 || Website
This restaurant specializing in southern comfort food aims to bring a little “Dixie to Des Moines” with meals like fried green tomatoes, grits, and of course, fried chicken. Yankees, even you will find something you will like on the menu. Bubbas also specializes in cocktails with a large selection of whiskey, beer, wine, and spirits.
200 10th St, Des Moines, IA 50309 || Website
Tursi’s Latin King
An iconic Des Moines restaurant that has been serving the town traditional Italian food for over 50 years. The Latin King is regarded as the “best Italian restaurant” by local press and foodies. Expect authentic Italian dishes like iconic Chicken Spiedini and Spaghetti alla Carbonara.
2200 Hubbell Ave, Des Moines, IA 50317 || Website
A newly-opened cocktail lounge in the heart of downtown Des Moines specializing in creative cocktails in a retro atmosphere. Hello, Marjorie also has beer on top and are the only ones in the country to have whiskey on tap. They keep things refreshing and unexpected by changing the drink menu with the changes.
717 Locust St, Des Moines, IA 50309 || Website
The Cheese Shop of Des Moines
Cheese lovers, you’re in for a treat here. The shop offers over 100 artisan and farmhouse cheeses, craft beer, wine, cured meats, and workshops. Become a cheese export in the Cheese 101 workshop offered or learn everything there is to know about cheese and wine pairings in the Cheese & Wine workshop.
833 42nd St b, Des Moines, IA 50312 || Website
Still in the mood for some cheese? The Cheese Shop of Des Moines recently opened up a bar dedicated to all things cheese. We’re talkin’ cast iron mac & cheese, grilled cheeses (emphasis on the extra S), fondue and a whole lot of other cheesy things. They also serve wine, beer, and cocktails.
2925 Ingersoll Des Moines, Iowa 50312 || Website
This inviting art store and gallery in East Village features art work from local, national, and global artists. The vibe here is welcoming and the space is beautiful. Whether you are decorating your home, searching for a cool gift or admiring the pieces, Moxie is your place.
505 E Grand Ave #105, Des Moines, IA 50309 || Website
Jett and Monkey’s Dog Shoppe
Had to leave your furry friend behind at home? Bring them a souvenir from Jett and Monkey’s Dog Shoppe and they will totally forgive you. This friendly and locally-owned shop specializes in all things pets from toys, treats, collars, dog and cat food, grooming supplies, apparel and more! Bonus: everything here is eco-friendly.
503 E Locust St, Des Moines, IA 50309 || Website
Blank Park Zoo
This indoor/outdoor zoo is the perfect place to take your little ones. They will love exploring, learning about the animals, riding the train, and visiting the petting zoo. The zoo is not just for children though, people of all ages will enjoy the experience. Blank Park Zoo is home to more than 800 animals and has 15 exhibits.
7401 SW 9th St, Des Moines, IA 50315 || Website
Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden
Have a green thumb? Take a tour of the Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden sight. It serves as a display garden, a testing ground for plants, and a photography studio for the company’s magazine and websites. The garden is located next to the headquarters of Meredith Corporation, the parent company to Better Homes and Gardens and many more magazines.
1716 Locust St, Des Moines, IA 50309 || Website
World Food Prize Hall of Laureates
This one of a kind museum and venue features exhibits about agriculture and the fight against hunger. Take in the murals, sculptures, photography exhibit, and the interactive exhibits. Locals and tourists love the museum because each room tells a different story.
100 Locust St, Des Moines, IA 50309 || Website
Feel the history in this Victorian landmark home built by abolitionist James C. Jordan in 1870. The house became a station for the Underground Railroad where slaves seeking freedom would hide in the fields, barns, and outhouses on the property. Today the house is a museum with an Underground Railroad Exhibit and serves as the office for the West Des Moines Historical Society.
2001 Fuller Rd, West Des Moines, IA 50265 || Website
Water Works Park
Enjoy the day, outdoors, and good company at this park with jogging/cycling trails, fishing, sports fields, and picnic area. The 1,500-acre park located along the Raccoon River near downtown Des Moines is one of the largest urban parks in the United States. Escape the city for some peace and beautiful sceneries.
2201 George Flagg Pkwy, Des Moines, IA 50321 || Website
There is so much to do at this fun park, you could spend hours here. The park has playgrounds, nature trail, pond, lilac arboretum, Children’s Forest, dog park, BMX track, and even an 18-hole disc golf course
5300 Indianola Ave, Des Moines, IA 50320 || Website
Snookies Malt Shop
Local, old-fashioned ice cream parlor serving a variety of frozen treats with a creative twist. Expect lots of flavors and topping options with a cute bonus: every cone is topped with an animal cracker! No shame in going back for seconds, #noregrets. Bring your pup along for free puppy cone.
1810 Beaver Ave, Des Moines, IA 50310 || Website
A relaxing cafe to grab lunch located inside the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden. If you get a spot out on the patio, you may never leave thanks to the beautiful views of water, trees, and downtown. Trellis features a small, but very fresh plant-inspired menu ranging from salads to sandwiches and soups.
909 Robert D. Ray Dr, Des Moines, IA 50316 || Website
A place dedicated to all things chocolate is my kind of place. Chocolaterie Stam has been selling supreme European chocolates since 1913. So basically, they are chocolate experts. Here you will find Dutch chocolate, gourmet chocolate truffles, specialty items, and homemade Stroopwafels. If you’re unfamiliar with Stroopwafels, they are traditional Dutch wafers filled with honey and caramel.
2814 Ingersoll Ave, Des Moines, IA 50312 || Website
Des Moines Marriott Hotel
Reliable and classy hotel near the city center with lots of restaurants and shops nearby. The hotel has a bar & grill along with a lounge serving cocktails. Amenities include a gym, barber shop and an indoor pool. If you’re flying into Des Moines, this is a good option for you. It is only 5.5 miles from Des Moines International Airport.
700 Grand Ave, Des Moines, IA 50309 || Website
Brenton Skating Plaza
Outdoor skating rink and entertainment venue for ceremonies, social events, festivals, shows, and concerts located along The Principal Riverwalk. Skate under the stars at this awesome, open-air skating rink. It’s the perfect way to end an evening!
520 Robert D. Ray Dr, Des Moines, IA 50309 || Website
Sleepy Hollow Sports Park
There is so much to do at this park from go-carts, batting cages, mini-golf, laser tag, snowboarding, sledding, and more. Children will definitely have an unforgettable experience here but adults will love it too. Winter, spring, summer, or fall, it is the place to go for year-round fun!
4051 Dean Ave, Des Moines, IA 50317 || Website
This popular restaurant and bar specialize in…well…pretty much everything. The contemporary style joint serves lunch, dinner, and brunch (with over 40 items). They take all your favorites and add a little modern flair and lots of flavor. Favorite dishes include the Thai Tacos, Loaded Mac N Cheese (is that even legal?), and their steak & chops. But you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu!
1312 Locust St, Des Moines, IA 50309 || Website
801 Chop House
The perfect restaurant to go for special occasions. Why? This legendary steakhouse sits inside the tallest building in downtown Des Moines has an oh-so-posh atmosphere, amazing views, excellent service, premier steaks, and award-winning wine. 801 Chop House is the definition of fine dining. If you’re looking for somewhere to show off that new outfit, this is the place to do it.
801 Grand Ave #200, Des Moines, IA 50309 || Website
Missing the good ol’ days? Don’t worry, Bauders is here to help you reminisce and make new memories. The old-fashioned ice cream shop sells premium ice cream, shakes, floats, and so much more. They even have an authentic soda fountain serving all your favorites in an old fashion soda glasses.
3802 Ingersoll Ave, Des Moines, IA, 50312 || Website
With a name like that, this Caribbean barbeque restaurant should definitely make it on your places-to-try list. Expect bold flavors, mango salsa, and unconventional yet unforgettable cuisine. BBQ lovers you will be in heaven because they smoke just about everything here. Flying Mango also appeared on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives. No big deal.
4345 Hickman Road, Des Moines, IA 50310 || Website
This trendy farm-to-table in East Village is unexpected in the best way possible. They keep things fresh with their ever-changing New American menu. Not familiar with New American? This cuisine fuses together traditional American and another cultures flavors or techniques. HoQ does this all while being exquisite, sustainable, and organic.
303 E 5th St, Des Moines, IA 50309 || Website
El Bait Shop
Not a fish market but a renowned bar specializing in beer, beer, and more beer. If you love beer, this is probably not the place for you. Jokes. This IS the place for you seeing as they have an impressive 222 beers on tap. This place is the definition of a good time with the contagious atmosphere and live music in the indoor/outdoor setting. El Bait Shop also serves Mexican-American eats, including their famous fish tacos.
200 SW 2nd St, Des Moines, IA 50309 || Website
This Historic East Village bar was voted one of the best new bars in the city and we’re not surprised. The bar is located in a downtown Des Moines basement and has all the 1980s and 1990’s video games one could ever hope for. Is there anything better than sipping your go-to cocktail while playing Mario?
500 E Locust St, Des Moines, IA 50309 || Website
Want to go to London but can’t get the time off? The Royal Mile will have you convinced you’re on the other side of the pond in no time with its authentic British-style food and ales. A couple drinks in and you will totally be able to master a British accent. Get cozy by the fireplace and watch your favorite soccer team (or football, if you will) do their thing. There’s even bar upstairs where Central Iowa’s only Belgian bar is located.
210 SW 4th St, Des Moines, IA 50309 || Website
Zzz Records, Des Moines oldest independent record store, specializes in new and used vinyl LPs. They also sell CDs, cassettes, 8-tracks, and more. Music lovers, add this to your list and check out their collection!
2200 Ingersoll Ave, Des Moines, IA 50312 || Website
Wellman’s Pub and Rooftop
We are a huge fan of rooftop patios here so Wellman’s definitely had to make our list. This sports bar, restaurant, and nightclub located in West Des Moines is a favorite among locals for the casual atmosphere, live music, and great food. It’s the place to go to kick back and chat the evening away with your favorites.
597 Market St, West Des Moines, IA 50266 || Website
Iowa State Fair
Plan your getaway around the internationally-acclaimed Iowa State Fair which attracts millions of people each year. The fair lasts for 11 days and starts the second Thursday of every August. People come from all over the world for the free entertainment, Thrill Parks, livestock shows, contests, petting zoo, arts & crafts, antiques, and of course, the food. Mark your calendar for next years fair which starts on August 9th, 2018!
E. 30th Street & E. University Avenue | Des Moines, IA 50317 || Website
Downtown Farmers Market
Farmers market= happiness, especially this Downtown Des Moines favorite. The market is enjoyable for all ages and is open Saturdays from 7 am to noon. Shop for seasonal flowers, farm fresh produce, cheese, meats, eggs, and more along with music and entertainment.
Court Avenue District
Embassy Suites by Hilton Hotels Downtown Des Moines
Located on the riverfront and close to the Iowa State Capitol, trendy shopping, restaurants and everything else the Historic East Village has to offer. The perfect location for a getaway weekend. Bonus: stay here and enjoy a free cooked-to-order breakfast. You won’t regret it! Amenities include pool, restaurant, fitness center, room service, bar & lounge.
We hope you loved learning the scoop on Des Moines, Iowa! Have fun hitting all these fabulous destinations the next time you’re in the area.