If you’ve never visited Des Moines, Iowa, you might not know where to start with your vacation itinerary. Fortunately, there’s plenty to keep you busy in Iowa’s state capital, but make sure you don’t miss the following four must-see destinations.
Spend Time in Downtown Des Moines
Whether you arrive in the morning or after dark, make the downtown district your first stop. Consider taking a tour of the historic Iowa State Capitol Building, which houses the state legislature. The inner dome with its glass floor and flag display case make the visit worth your while. Plus, you’ll see the Secretary of State’s office, the gorgeous Westward Mural, and the peaceful West Capitol Terrace.
After your tour, indulge in some much-deserved retail therapy at the Kaleidoscope at the Hub. It’s an enormous indoor mall with a food court as well as both upscale and casual shops. If you’re more interested in architecture than merchandise, head to the Des Moines Historic District instead.
Visit the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden
Situated on the east bank of the meandering Des Moines River, the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden features acres of native plants, lots of opportunities to spot butterflies, and a restaurant that serves a diverse menu of delicious food. Tickets cost just $8 for adults and $6 for children, and you can easily spend an entire afternoon exploring the foliage.
Don’t miss the conservatory, which includes several indoor gardens designed to host non-native plants. Though you’ll find the air a bit humid inside, you’ll see unique plants and get to talk with the garden staff. Plus, the Botanical Garden is just 15 minutes from Des Moines International Airport. If you’re staying in one of the several convenient airport hotels, you won’t have to spend much time in transit.
Spend a Day at the Blank Park Zoo
Who doesn’t love spending a morning, afternoon, or entire day among wild animals? The Blank Park Zoo features a stable of fascinating wildlife, from monkeys and tigers to elephants and meerkats. Keeper talks are scheduled throughout the day, during which both kids and adults can enjoy learning about the animals’ natural habitats, feeding preferences, and in-zoo care.
For a few extra dollars, you can take part in extra experiences. Animal feedings, for instance, get you an up-close-and-personal view of the animal you choose. There are also train, carousel, and camel rides, so don’t miss out.
Step Back in Time at the Living History Farms
History buffs will want to check out Living History Farms, which tells the story of Iowa’s culture through interactive exhibits and activities. You can take guided or self-guided tours, depending on your preferences, and there are several farms involved, so you decide which ones interest you most. From lush landscaping to gorgeous architecture, you’ll never lack for beautiful views. Each of the farms represents a period of Iowa history, from 1700 to 1900.
Des Moines is one of the most fascinating cities in the Midwest, so start your visit with the above suggestions. Round out your visit with meals at Fong’s Pizza and Alba Restaurant to get the full experience, and don’t forget to select a premium hotel to ensure your utmost comfort.