12 Best Things to do in Des Moines, Iowa

Nestled within the sweeping landscapes of Iowa, Des Moines emerges as a vibrant tapestry of culture, history, and natural beauty. Often an unsung hero among American cities, Des Moines beckons with a magnetic allure that promises both adventure and serenity. From its iconic landmarks that whisper tales of bygone eras to contemporary art spaces that pulse with creativity, the city is a treasure trove waiting to be explored. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a curious explorer, Des Moines offers a journey that resonates with the soul, captivates the mind, and ignites the spirit. Dive in, and let the magic of Des Moines unfold before you.

12 Best Things to Do in Des Moines, Iowa

Des Moines, Iowa

State Historical Museum: Exploring the Rich Tapestry of Iowa’s Past

Nestled in the heart of Des Moines, the State Historical Museum offers visitors a deep dive into the rich history of Iowa. From the early days of Native Americans to the tumultuous times of the Civil War, the museum showcases a myriad of artifacts and exhibits. As you walk through the halls, you’ll encounter stories of the pioneers who shaped the state and the significant events that left an indelible mark on its history.

Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden: An Oasis of Nature and Beauty

Step into a world of lush greenery and vibrant flora at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden. Located along the banks of the Raccoon River, this botanical haven is a testament to nature’s splendor. Wander through themed gardens, marvel at exotic plants, and attend workshops that delve into the art of gardening. It’s not just a place to admire nature; it’s an experience that rejuvenates the soul.

Blank Park Zoo: Wild Adventures Await

Des Moines’ Blank Park Zoo is a family-friendly attraction that brings the wonders of the animal kingdom to your doorstep. From the majestic lions of Africa to the playful penguins of Antarctica, the zoo houses a diverse range of species. Engage in interactive sessions, watch animals in their naturalistic habitats, and learn about conservation efforts to protect these magnificent creatures.

Salisbury House: Architectural Marvel with a Touch of History

The Salisbury House stands as a beacon of Renaissance Revival-style architecture. A tour of this historic mansion reveals a blend of art, culture, and history. Each room tells a story, adorned with antiques and artworks from around the world. The house isn’t just an architectural wonder; it’s a journey through time.

Des Moines Art Center: Where Art and Imagination Converge

Art enthusiasts and casual visitors alike will find themselves captivated by the Des Moines Art Center. With a collection that spans various eras and styles, the center is a hub of creativity. From Ai Weiwei’s thought-provoking installations to Barry Flanagan’s dynamic sculptures, there’s something for everyone. Regular workshops and exhibitions ensure that the center remains at the forefront of the art world.

Principal Park: The Heartbeat of Baseball in Des Moines

For sports aficionados, Principal Park is a must-visit. Home to exhilarating baseball games, the park buzzes with energy and excitement. Feel the adrenaline rush as teams battle it out on the field, and immerse yourself in the spirit of the game. With state-of-the-art facilities and a vibrant atmosphere, it’s a home run for visitors!

Living History Farms: Agriculture, Heritage, and Learning

Travel back in time at the Living History Farms, where history comes alive. Experience farm life from different eras, from the Ioway Indian Farm to the Pioneer Farm and the bustling times of the Industrial Revolution at Walnut Hill. Engage in hands-on activities, learn about sustainable farming practices, and understand the evolution of agriculture in Iowa.

Gray’s Lake Park: Scenic Beauty and Outdoor Adventures

Gray’s Lake Park is Des Moines’ answer to outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you’re keen on kayaking, hiking, or simply enjoying a picnic by the lake, the park offers a plethora of activities. The Kruidenier Trail Pedestrian Bridge, illuminated at night, adds a touch of magic to the landscape. It’s nature’s canvas, painted with picturesque views and serene moments.

Downtown Farmers Market: Flavors, Crafts, and Local Delights

Every weekend, the heart of Des Moines transforms into a bustling marketplace. The Downtown Farmers Market is where locals and tourists flock to sample the best of Iowa’s produce. From fresh fruits and artisanal cheeses to handcrafted jewelry and unique crafts, there’s a treasure trove waiting to be discovered.

Pappajohn Sculpture Park: Art Meets Nature

Sprawling across 4.4 acres, the Pappajohn Sculpture Park is a testament to contemporary art. Marvel at sculptures from renowned artists like Jaume Plensa’s Nomade and immerse yourself in a world where art seamlessly blends with nature. It’s a space that inspires, challenges and captivates.

Capitol Building: The Epicenter of Governance and Grandeur

Standing tall with its golden dome, the Capitol Building is a symbol of Iowa’s governance and history. Embark on guided tours to explore its architectural wonders, learn about the state’s legislative processes, and soak in panoramic views of Des Moines from the observation deck.

Iowa State Fairgrounds: Festivities, Fun, and Fair Delights

The Iowa State Fairgrounds is synonymous with fun, festivities, and a celebration of Iowa’s heritage. From thrilling rides and live performances to agricultural showcases and mouth-watering delicacies, the fair offers a kaleidoscope of experiences. It’s not just an event; it’s a tradition that brings communities together.


Des Moines, the vibrant capital of Iowa, is a city that seamlessly blends its rich history with modern attractions. From its deep-rooted agricultural heritage to its thriving arts scene, the city offers a diverse range of experiences for visitors of all ages.

FAQs: Best Things to Do in Des Moines, Iowa

1. What are the best attractions for young adults in Des Moines?

Young adults can explore the vibrant nightlife in the city, attend live performances at the Des Moines Art Center, or engage in outdoor activities at Gray’s Lake Park.

2. Are there unique activities to do in Des Moines?

Yes, the Living History Farms offer a unique insight into the agricultural history of Iowa, and the Downtown Farmers Market provides a taste of local flavors and crafts.

3. What are the romantic spots for couples in Des Moines?

Couples can enjoy a serene walk at the Pappajohn Sculpture Park, have a romantic dinner at a downtown restaurant overlooking the Raccoon River, or take a sunset boat ride at Gray’s Lake Park.

4. What events can I attend in Des Moines this weekend?

The Iowa State Fairgrounds frequently hosts events, fairs, and exhibitions. It’s best to check their official website or local listings for current events.

5. Are there any nighttime attractions in Des Moines?

The Kruidenier Trail Pedestrian Bridge at Gray’s Lake Park offers a magical nighttime view, and the city’s downtown area is bustling with bars, live music venues, and theaters.

Final Thoughts

Des Moines, often overshadowed by its larger counterparts, is a hidden gem in the heartland of America. Its attractions, both natural and man-made, tell a story of a city that values its past while embracing the future. Whether you’re an art enthusiast, a history buff, or someone looking for adventure, Des Moines has something to offer.

Remember, the essence of travel is not just to see new places but to experience them. And in Des Moines, every corner has a story, every street echoes with laughter, and every attraction invites you to be a part of its tale.

So, pack your bags, set your itinerary, and embark on a journey to explore the best things to do in Des Moines, Iowa. Safe travels!


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.