Things to Do in Des Moines: A Guide to the Best Attractions and Activities in Iowa’s Capital City

Des Moines is the capital and the largest city of Iowa, a state in the Midwest region of the United States. Des Moines is a vibrant and diverse city that offers a variety of attractions and activities for visitors of all ages and interests. Whether you are looking for culture, history, nature, entertainment, or sports, Des Moines has something for you. In this article, we will explore some of the best things to do in Des Moines, and why you should visit this charming and friendly city.

Things to Do in Des Moines

Culture and History

Des Moines is a city rich in culture and history, with many museums, landmarks, and historic sites to explore. Here are some of the cultural and historical attractions that you should not miss in Des Moines:

  • The Iowa State Capitol: This is the seat of the Iowa state government and a stunning example of 19th-century architecture. The capitol building features a golden dome, a grand staircase, a library, and several art collections. You can take a guided tour of the capitol and learn about the history and politics of Iowa.
  • The Des Moines Art Center: This is a museum and a school of art that showcases a diverse collection of modern and contemporary art from around the world. The art center features works by artists such as Andy Warhol, Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Hopper, and Grant Wood. The art center also offers classes, workshops, and events for art lovers of all ages and levels.
  • The State Historical Museum of Iowa: This is a museum that tells the story of Iowa’s past, present, and future through exhibits, artifacts, and interactive displays. The museum covers topics such as the Native American history, the pioneer life, the Civil War, the World Wars, the agriculture, and the culture of Iowa. The museum also hosts special exhibitions, programs, and festivals throughout the year.
  • The Salisbury House and Gardens: This is a historic mansion and a museum that was built in the 1920s by a wealthy businessman and his wife. The mansion is inspired by the King’s House in Salisbury, England, and features a Tudor-style architecture, a Gothic library, a Renaissance dining room, and a collection of rare books, art, and antiques. The mansion is surrounded by beautiful gardens and woodlands that are open to the public.

Nature and Adventure

Des Moines is a city that embraces nature and adventure, with many parks, trails, and outdoor activities to enjoy. Here are some of the nature and adventure attractions that you should not miss in Des Moines:

  • The Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden: This is a botanical garden that features a variety of plants, flowers, and trees from different regions and climates. The botanical garden has a tropical conservatory, a rose garden, a water garden, and a bonsai collection. The botanical garden also offers educational programs, events, and tours for visitors of all ages.
  • The Blank Park Zoo: This is a zoo that houses over 800 animals from around the world, including lions, tigers, giraffes, rhinos, penguins, and monkeys. The zoo also has a children’s zoo, a discovery center, a carousel, and a train. The zoo is dedicated to conservation, education, and recreation, and hosts many fun and educational activities and events throughout the year.
  • The Adventureland Park: This is an amusement park that offers a variety of rides, attractions, and entertainment for the whole family. The park has roller coasters, water slides, bumper cars, ferris wheels, and more. The park also has a resort, a campground, a golf course, and a casino. The park is open from April to October and is a great place to have fun and make memories.
  • The High Trestle Trail: This is a trail that spans 25 miles and connects five towns in central Iowa. The trail is popular among bikers, hikers, and runners, and offers scenic views of the countryside, the rivers, and the bridges. The trail’s highlight is the High Trestle Bridge, a 130-foot-high and half-mile-long bridge that features a stunning art installation that lights up at night.

Entertainment and Sports

Des Moines is a city that offers a lot of entertainment and sports options, with many venues, events, and teams to watch and support. Here are some of the entertainment and sports attractions that you should not miss in Des Moines:

  • The Des Moines Civic Center: This is a theater and a performing arts center that hosts a variety of shows, concerts, and events throughout the year. The civic center is home to the Des Moines Symphony, the Des Moines Opera, the Des Moines Ballet, and the Broadway Series. The civic center also features a sculpture park, a cafe, and a gift shop.
  • The Wells Fargo Arena: This is an arena and a multipurpose venue that hosts sporting events, concerts, and shows. The arena is home to the Iowa Wild, the Iowa Wolves, and the Iowa Barnstormers, the professional hockey, basketball, and football teams of Des Moines. The arena also hosts major events such as the NCAA basketball tournament, the WWE, and the Cirque du Soleil.
  • The Iowa State Fair: This is an annual fair that takes place in August and attracts over a million visitors every year. The fair is one of the largest and oldest in the country and features a variety of attractions, such as livestock shows, agricultural exhibits, carnival rides, food vendors, and live entertainment. The fair is also famous for its butter sculptures, its giant slide, and its corn dogs.
  • The Prairie Meadows Casino and Racetrack: This is a casino and a racetrack that offers a variety of gaming, dining, and entertainment options. The casino has over 2,000 slot machines, table games, poker rooms, and a sportsbook. The racetrack has live horse racing, simulcast racing, and wagering. The casino and racetrack also have a hotel, a spa, and a convention center.


Des Moines is a city that has something for everyone, whether you are looking for culture, history, nature, entertainment, or sports. Des Moines is a city that is friendly, diverse, and fun, and that will make you feel welcome and at home. Des Moines is a city that you should visit and explore, and that will surprise you and delight you. Des Moines is a city that you will love and remember.

Hello, I’m John Ahmi, the founder and chief editor of USA Travels Guide. I’m an award-winning travel blogger with over [15 years] of experience exploring the diverse landscapes, cultures, and cuisines of the United States. My passion for travel and storytelling led me to create this platform, where I share in-depth, reliable travel guides focusing on the best places and menu prices across the USA.