34 Fabulous Things to Do in Des Moines, Iowa

Looking for things to do in Des Moines, Iowa? You won’t be disappointed!

This vibrant city offers something for everyone, from art and history lovers to foodies and outdoor enthusiasts.

Downtown Des Moines is home to world-class museums, iconic architecture, and delicious restaurants, while the surrounding area boasts beautiful parks, recreational opportunities, and more.

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Whether you’re visiting for a weekend or a week, you’ll find plenty of ways to keep yourself entertained in Des Moines!

Capitol Building

The state capital is home to the Iowa State Capitol building, which is one of the most prominent and recognizable buildings in the city. 

Visitors can take a tour of the stately building, which houses the Iowa General Assembly and the offices of the governor and lieutenant governor. 

For those who want to learn more about the history of Iowa, the State Historical Museum is a must-visit. 

The museum houses a collection of artifacts that tell the story of the state from its earliest days up to the present. 

And for political junkies, a visit to the State Capitol wouldn’t be complete without stopping by the Legislative Information Office, where you can watch live coverage of the Iowa legislature in action. 

Iowa State Fairgrounds

The Iowa State Fairgrounds are a great place to spend a day or two if you’re looking for some family fun. 

There’s something for everyone, with a wide range of activities on offer. The fairgrounds are home to a number of historic buildings, including the State Capitol Building, which is well worth a visit. 

The grounds also host a number of seasonal events, such as the Iowa State Fair in August, which is one of the largest and most popular events in the state. 

If you’re looking for something a little different, the Iowa State Fairgrounds are also home to the world’s largest corn dog, which is sure to be a hit with kids and adults alike!

Blank Park Zoo

The Blank Park Zoo is home to more than 800 animals representing over 100 species, as well as a variety of plant life. 

The zoo’s primary mission is education, and it offers a number of programs and events designed to teach visitors about the importance of conservation. 

In addition to its educational offerings, the Blank Park Zoo is also a great place to spend a day with the family. 

There are a number of exhibits to explore, and the zoo also has a cafe and a gift shop. 

Whether you’re looking to learn more about wildlife or just want to enjoy a day out, the Blank Park Zoo is sure to please.

Gray’s Lake Park

Gray’s Lake Park features a large lake that is perfect for swimming, fishing, and boating, and there are also plenty of hiking trails to explore. 

In addition, the park is home to a playground, picnic areas, and a sand volleyball court.

Best of all, admission to the park is free! So whether you’re looking for a place to cool off on a hot day or just want to explore the great outdoors, Gray’s Lake Park is the perfect destination.

Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park

The Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park is four-acre public park that is home to over two dozen sculptures by artists from all over the world. 

It’s the perfect place to take a leisurely stroll, have a picnic lunch, or just spend some time admiring the works of art. 

Best of all, admission to the park is free! So whether you’re a local or just visiting Des Moines, be sure to add the Pappajohn Sculpture Park to your list of must-see attractions.

Principal Park

One can’t-miss destination is Principal Park, home of the Iowa Cubs Minor League baseball team. 

The ballpark is located in the heart of downtown and offers a beautiful view of the city skyline. 

During baseball season, catch a game and enjoy some local craft beer. And if you’re feeling really adventurous, try the famous Iowa Cub Burger, a one-pound burger topped with bacon, onion rings, and two grilled cheeses. 

If art is more your thing, head to the Pappajohn Sculpture Park to see over 30 sculptures by world-renowned artists. 

Or for a truly unique experience, check out the Des Moines Art Center’s collection of contemporary art from around the globe. 

Downtown Farmer’s Market

The Downtown Farmer’s Market in Des Moines, Iowa, is a fantastic place to find fresh produce, handmade goods, and locally-sourced foods. 

Every Saturday from May through October, the market comes to life with over 200 vendors selling everything from fruits and vegetables to flowers and baked goods. 

In addition to being a great place to do your weekly shopping, the market also offers a variety of entertainment options. 

Live music is often performed, and there are often special events taking place. For example, the market hosts a “Chef in the Market” cooking demonstration on the first Saturday of every month. 

If you’re looking for a fun and festive way to spend your Saturday morning, be sure to check out the Downtown Farmer’s Market in Des Moines, Iowa.

Greater Des Moines Botanical Gardens

One of the best places to explore is the Greater Des Moines Botanical Gardens. 

The Gardens are home to over 15,000 plants, including many rare and endangered species. 

The Gardens also feature beautiful gardens, a butterfly house, a rainforest conservatory, and much more. 

With so much to see and do, the Greater Des Moines Botanical Gardens are a must-see for any visitor to Des Moines!

Des Moines Art Center

The Des Moines Art Center is a world-renowned museum that is home to an impressive collection of art from around the globe. 

With a focus on contemporary art, the museum is constantly rotating its exhibits to ensure that there is something new to see and enjoy. 

In addition to its impressive collection, the Art Center also boasts a beautiful setting, with gardens, fountains, and sculptures scattered throughout the grounds. 

Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the property or participate in one of the many educational programs offered by the museum.

Des Moines Performing Arts

Looking for something to do in Des Moines, Iowa? Then be sure to check out Des Moines Performing Arts! 

This world-class performing arts organization offers a variety of performances throughout the year, ranging from musicals and plays to dance and opera. 

In addition, they offer a wide range of educational programs and events, making them the perfect place to learn about the arts. 

And if you’re looking for a truly unique experience, be sure to check out their one-of-a-kind sensory-friendly performances, which are specifically designed for individuals on the autism spectrum. 

State Historical Museum

The State Historical Museum of Iowa is a great place to learn about the history of the Hawkeye State. 

The museum is divided into four main galleries, each of which tells a different story about Iowa’s past. 

Visitors can explore the state’s Native American heritage in the First Peoples gallery, learn about the state’s early settlement in the Pioneering gallery, discover the stories of Iowa’s diverse immigrant communities in the Immigrant gallery, and see how Iowa has changed over time in the Changing gallery. 

In addition to the galleries, the museum also features a library and research center, where visitors can explore the museum’s extensive collection of documents and photographs. 

Whether you’re a history buff or just looking for something fun to do on a rainy day, the State Historical Museum of Iowa is definitely worth a visit.

Science Center of Iowa

The Science Center of Iowa is a museum that is perfect for families, with plenty of interactive exhibits to keep kids entertained. 

Plus, there’s a planetarium on site where you can catch a show about the night sky. 

And if that’s not enough, the Science Center of Iowa also offers a variety of special events throughout the year – from science-themed concerts to spooky Halloween parties.

Des Moines Civic Center

The Des Moines Civic Center is one of the most popular attractions in the city. 

The center is a multi-purpose facility that hosts a variety of events throughout the year, including concerts, Broadway shows, and other live performances. 

The center also features a Museum of Art, which houses a collection of paintings, sculptures, and other works of art from around the world. 

Salisbury House

The Salisbury House is a historic mansion that was built in the 1920s. 

The house has been beautifully preserved and is filled with art and antiques. 

You can take a tour of the house or simply stroll through the gardens. 

World Food Prize Hall of Laureates

The World Food Prize Hall of Laureates is a must-see for anyone visiting Des Moines, Iowa. 

The hall is dedicated to celebrating the achievements of individuals who have made a significant contribution to improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world. 

Visitors can learn about the work of past laureates, see unique exhibits and even attend special events. 

The hall is also home to the John Ruan International Center, which hosts conferences and other events throughout the year. 

East Village

East Village is one of the most popular and vibrant areas of Des Moines, Iowa. Filled with unique shops, delicious restaurants, and lively bars, East Village is the perfect place to spend a day or night out on the town. 

Begin your exploration of East Village at the Historic Court District, where you can learn about the area’s rich history and see some of the most beautiful architecture in Des Moines. 

Then, head to one of the many art galleries or boutiques to find a unique gift or piece of art. 

If you’re looking for a bite to eat, East Village has no shortage of options, from casual cafes to upscale restaurants. 

And when night falls, the area comes alive with live music and dancing at the many clubs and bars. 

West End Architectural Salvage

If you’re looking for something different to do in Des Moines, Iowa, then you should definitely check out West End Architectural Salvage. 

This unique store specializes in selling reclaimed and vintage building materials, and it’s a great place to find that perfect piece to finish off your home decorating project. 

The staff is very friendly and knowledgeable, and they’re always happy to help you find what you’re looking for. 

Even if you’re not looking for anything specific, it’s still fun to browse through the store and see all of the interesting items that are available.

If you love antique stores or if you’re just looking for a unique shopping experience, then you’ll definitely want to add West End Architectural Salvage to your list of places to visit in Des Moines.

Hoyt Sherman Place

Nestled in the heart of downtown Des Moines, Hoyt Sherman Place is a historic entertainment venue that offers a wide variety of events and activities for locals and visitors alike. 

Built in 1877, the ornate Victorian-style building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and features a grand concert hall, an art gallery, and a beautiful gardens. 

Concerts, plays, dance performances, and other live entertainment are held throughout the year, making Hoyt Sherman Place a popular destination for nightlife in Des Moines. 

The art gallery showcases rotating exhibitions of local, national, and international artists, while the gardens provide a tranquil oasis in the midst of the city. 

Whether you’re looking for culture, history, or just a fun night out, Hoyt Sherman Place has something for everyone.

Robert D. Ray Asian Gardens

One of the most popular attractions in Des Moines is the Robert D. Ray Asian Gardens. 

The gardens are located on the east side of town, and they feature a beautiful array of flowers, trees, and plants. 

Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the gardens, or they can participate in one of the many workshops and classes offered. 

The gardens are also a great place to relax and enjoy the peace and quiet.

Clive Greenbelt Trail

The Clive Greenbelt Trail is a five-mile loop trail that is perfect for hiking, biking, and running. The views of the Des Moines River are stunning. 

The trailhead is located at the intersection of NW 86th Street and University Avenue, making it easily accessible from anywhere in the city.

The Clive Greenbelt Trail is one of the most popular trails in Des Moines, and for good reason. 

The trail is well-maintained and provides a great workout for all skill levels. In addition, the trailhead is located near a variety of restaurants and businesses, making it easy to grab a post-hike snack or drink. 

Court Avenue

Court Avenue in Des Moines, Iowa is a great place to visit for a fun night out. 

The street is lined with restaurants, bars, and clubs, making it the perfect place to grab a bite to eat or enjoy a few drinks with friends. 

There is also a variety of shopping options, from boutique stores to major retailers. 

And if you’re looking for entertainment, Court Avenue has it all, from live music to stand-up comedy.

Terrace Hill

Terrace Hill is a historic mansion in Des Moines, Iowa that is open to the public for tours. 

The grand estate was built in the 1870s and has been beautifully preserved, making it a must-see for history buffs and architecture lovers alike. 

Visitors can explore the mansion at their own pace or take a guided tour to learn more about the property and its significance. 

In addition to the main house, Terrace Hill also features several outbuildings, including a carriage house and a summer kitchen. 

The estate grounds are also worth exploring, as they feature manicured gardens, scenic walking paths, and stunning views of the city. 

Brass Armadillo Antique Mall

Des Moines, Iowa is a great place to find unique Antiques. The Brass Armadillo Antique Mall is one of the best places to start your search. 

With over 250,000 square feet of space, this is one of the largest antique malls in the country. 

You can find anything from vintage furniture to collectible glassware. And if you get hungry, there are several restaurants located within the mall. 

So whether you’re looking for a unique piece of furniture or a rare piece of china, the Brass Armadillo Antique Mall is sure to have what you’re looking for.

Easter Lake Park

Easter Lake Park features a large lake that is perfect for fishing, swimming, and canoeing. 

There are also plenty of hiking trails to explore, and the scenery is simply beautiful. 

In addition, Easter Lake Park is home to a variety of wildlife, including ducks, geese, and even bald eagles.

Better Homes and Garden Test Garden

Every year, thousands of people visit the garden to see the latest in horticultural innovation and design. 

The garden is home to over 350 different species of plants, including rare and endangered species. 

In addition to the plant collection, the garden also features a variety of interactive displays and exhibits. 

Visitors can learn about the history of gardening, try their hand at planting their own garden, or simply enjoy the beautiful setting. 

Des Moines River Trail

Des Moines is a great city for exploring on foot, and the Des Moines River Trail is one of the best places to do it. 

The trail runs for nearly 4 miles along the river, and it’s a great spot for walking, running, biking, or just enjoying the scenery. 

There are also several bridges that cross the river, so you can explore different parts of the city. 

The trail is also a great place to see wildlife, and you might even spot an eagle or two.  

If you’re looking for a fun and scenic place to walk or bike, the Des Moines River Trail is definitely worth a visit.

Rotary Riverwalk Park

Rotary Riverwalk Park is one of the best places to go in Des Moines, Iowa. 

The park has a beautiful walking path that goes along the river. 

There is a wonderfully modern bridge that goes over the river, which are great for taking pictures. 

In addition, there are many benches throughout the park where you can sit and relax. 

The park also has an interesting fishing pole playground and a picnic area. 

Des Moines Social Club

The Des Moines Social Club is a modern-day community center that offers a little something for everyone. 

For the foodies out there, they offer cooking classes and demonstrations in their fully-equipped kitchen. 

Or, if you’re looking to get active, they have a state-of-the-art fitness center with classes ranging from yoga to kickboxing.

And if you’re just looking to relax and take in some art, the Social Club is home to a art gallery, performance spaces, and even an outdoor beer garden.

Saylorville Trail

If you’re looking for a great place to hike, bike, or just spend time outdoors, the Saylorville Trail is the perfect spot. 

The trail runs for nearly 30 miles along the shore of Saylorville Lake, and offers stunning views of the Iowa countryside. 

Plus, there are plenty of opportunities for wildlife watching, picnicking, and fishing along the way.

If you’re looking for a fun and unique activity the whole family can enjoy, look no further than the Heritage Carousel in Des Moines, Iowa. 

This one-of-a-kind carousel features hand-carved animals from around the world, including an elephant, zebra, giraffe, and more. 

The carousel is also wheelchair accessible, so everyone can enjoy a ride. 

In addition to riding the carousel, you can also take a tour of the on-site museum which tells the story of how the carousel was created. 

Plus, there’s a gift shop where you can purchase souvenirs and hand-crafted items. 

Ewing Park

Ewing Park is one of the most popular parks. The park features a playground, a swimming pool, a basketball court, and a picnic area. 

The park is also home to a variety of trees, shrubs, and flowers. Visitors can take advantage of the park’s walking trails or sit and relax on one of the benches. 

In addition, the park serves as a venue for a number of events throughout the year, including concerts and festivals. 

Lake Red Rock

Lake Red Rock is a man-made lake and is the largest in Iowa.

Lake Red Rock is perfect for swimming, fishing, boating, and camping. The lake is located just a short drive from Des Moines and is surrounded by scenic hiking trails. 

There are also several restaurants and shops near the lake, making it the perfect place to spend a day or weekend.

Water Works Park

Des Moines, Iowa is a great place to visit for many reasons. One of the best reasons to visit Des Moines is Water Works Park. 

The park has many different water activities that are perfect for a hot summer day. There are also picnic areas and a playground for the kids. 

The park is also a great place to walk or run because there are miles of trails. 

Water Works Park is a great place to spend a day with the family or friends.

Brown’s Woods

Brown’s Woods is a great place to take a nature hike, have a picnic, or just take in the scenery. 

The woods are located on the west side of Des Moines and offer a variety of trails to explore. 

In addition to the hiking trails, there is also a disc golf course, playgrounds, and a nature center. 

The nature center offers educational programs for children and adults. 

Best Places to Eat in Des Moines

Skip’s

Skip’s is a Des Moines institution, serving up delicious greasy burgers and fries since 1974. The small chain has grown to six locations around the city, all of which are known for their friendly staff and casual atmosphere. The menu features a variety of burgers, sandwiches, and salads, as well as hearty entrees like chicken-fried steak and pot roast. And of course, no meal at Skip’s is complete without one of their signature enormous milkshakes. Whether you’re in the mood for a quick bite or a leisurely meal, Skip’s is the perfect place to satisfy your hunger.

Jethro’s BBQ

If you’re looking for the best BBQ in Des Moines, look no further than Jethro’s BBQ. This local favorite has been serving up mouth-watering ribs, pulled pork, and brisket since 1994, and there’s no shortage of satisfied customers. The secret to Jethro’s success is simple: they only use the freshest ingredients, and they never cut corners on quality. Plus, their prices are very reasonable – especially for the level of care and attention that goes into each dish. So if you’re looking for an authentic BBQ experience, be sure to check out Jethro’s next time you’re in Des Moines. You won’t be disappointed!

Flying Mango

Looking for a great place to eat in Des Moines? Then be sure to check out Flying Mango! This restaurant is known for its delicious BBQ, and it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re looking for some good food. The menu features all sorts of classic BBQ dishes, and there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Plus, the prices are very reasonable, making Flying Mango a great option if you’re on a budget. So if you’re in the mood for some delicious BBQ, be sure to head on over to Flying Mango! You won’t be disappointed.

Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse

If you’re looking for a tasty steak in Des Moines, Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse is the place to go. This restaurant is known for its juicy steaks, and its menu features a wide variety of cuts to choose from. The steaks are cooked to perfection, and they’re served with a delicious selection of sauces and sides. In addition to steak, Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse also offers a variety of other Italian dishes, including pasta, chicken, and seafood. And if you’re looking for something to wash it all down with, the restaurant has an extensive wine list that’s sure to please. Whether you’re in the mood for a hearty steak or a light pasta dish, Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse is sure to have something that will tantalize your taste buds.

Best Accommodations in Des Moines

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the funnest thing to do in Iowa?

There’s no shortage of fun things to do in Iowa, but some of the most popular activities include hiking, camping, fishing, and visiting state parks. For those who enjoy the outdoors, Iowa is a great place to explore. And for those who prefer a more urban environment, Des Moines offers a variety of shops, restaurants, and cultural attractions.

What is the number 1 attraction in Iowa?

There’s no definitive answer to this question, as it depends on what type of attractions you’re interested in. However, some of the most popular tourist destinations in Iowa include the Amana Colonies, the Iowa State Fair, and the Field of Dreams movie site. Whatever your interests may be, there’s sure to be an attraction in Iowa that will appeal to you.

What is Des Moines famous for?

Des Moines is the capital of Iowa, and it’s also the largest city in the state. The city is known for its diverse population, its array of cultural attractions, and its vibrant nightlife. In addition, Des Moines is home to a number of major businesses and corporations, making it a great place to live and work. Whatever your reason for visiting, Des Moines is sure to have something that will interest you.

Is Des Moines worth visiting?

Absolutely! Des Moines is a great place to visit, whether you’re interested in its history, its culture, or its food. The city has something to offer everyone, and you’re sure to enjoy your time there. If you’re planning a trip to Iowa, be sure to add Des Moines to your itinerary. You won’t be disappointed.