Travel doesn’t have to mean a long flight and a hotel. Sometimes, you can find neat things right in your own backyard! One of our favorite places to visit is Des Moines, Iowa’s capital.
HISTORY: Des Moines wasn’t always the capital of Iowa. It was originally in Iowa City, and you can still see the old capitol building there today. It moved to a more central location in Des Moines in 1857. Des Moines is French. Don’t pronounce the “s.” And it translates to “the monks.”
Read on for some of my favorite things to do in Iowa’s capital.
GOOD EATS: One of the best perks of Des Moines is the wonderful places to eat! Recently, I was introduced to Krunkwich Ramen House, a place to “get krunk on noodles!” As you can imagine, we had tons of fancied up ramen, and we tried to get to the bottom of our bowl to see the cat printed there, but it was just so much delicious food!
My all-time favorite in Des Moines is The Cheese Shop.
Let me tell you something: I. Love. Cheese. There’s no other way around it. I love cheese so much that if I was marooned on a deserted island, and I could only bring one thing, I’d bring cheese.
The Cheese Shop is a tiny, hipster-ish type place that you would never find on your own without knowing about it. Now you do. Type it into your GPS, and go! I’d recommend the meat platter and the cheese platter with a side of bread. (Don’t bother counting calories. You shouldn’t do that to yourself.) The staff are all experts and will tell you were the cheese is from and the story behind it. My favorite was a cheese that a farmer would give to an old man, who took it to a cave and let it age. You could taste the cave—and it was delicious.
LAW LIBRARY: Often on the list of the most beautiful libraries in the world, is the Law Library in Des Moines with its thousands of beautiful, old books and winding staircases. It’s open to tourists during visiting hours at the capitol. It is quite extraordinary, and it makes me think of the library that Beast gave Belle but on a smaller scale. Even if the content is above most of our heads or not in our interest range, the overall feel and look of the library is well worth a peek. Don’t forget to tour the rest of the capitol while you are in there!
BLANK PARK ZOO: Did you know Des Moines has a zoo? It holds more than one hundred different types of animals and almost 1,500 animals. It’s perfect for all ages; however, the real perk of the Des Moines Blank Park Zoo is Zoo Brew. Every Wednesday night for a few hours, the zoo is closed to all under the age of 21. There are free alcoholic beverage samples, and you can walk around and look at the animals while sipping on a cold one. Unfortunately for out-of-towners, the Zoo Brew starts at 5:30, so you might have to take the afternoon off to get there. I’d recommend getting there on time, too. The free samples run out quickly! They also often have a band playing.
IOWA STATE FAIR: Of course, I have to mention the Iowa State Fair. It’s so famous, there’s even a musical made for it. From the fried butter to biggest bulls, pigs, and more, there’s something for everyone at the fair. We always visit a particular stand that has fried pickle wraps. I live for one of those every year. And our other favorite is the double ferris wheel. Marshall and I laugh like maniacs when we are on it. It’s a little janky looking, but it’s all good!
WELLS FARGO ARENA: Des Moines even gets some big bands/singers into the area at the Wells Fargo Arena. The latest news that I heard about was Garth Brooks. I’m not a huge Garth fan, but a few big names that I’ve seen there include Taylor Swift, Shania Twain, Bon Jovi, Bob Dylan, Stevie Nicks and the rest of the Fleetwood Mac gang.
SALISBURY HOUSE: If you are missing Europe, you should stop at the Salisbury House. Before turning it into a museum, the former owners filled the house with antiques from Europe, including a chapel ceiling that Shakespeare is rumored to have stood beneath. There’s a special tour you can take and see the attic where there are a bunch of swords, paintings, and even real shrunken heads. Of course, I’d highly recommend the regular tour as well to see everything else! The Salisbury House hosts weddings, Shakespeare plays, and more. It’s a mansion full of surprises.
COLOR RUN: There are always fun events going on downtown, such as the Color Run! I’ve done it a couple times in Des Moines. They amped it up this year and added glitter into the mix. Rain or shine, we glitter!
I feel like I barely touched on the cool places in Des Moines. Downtown is fun to run around and shop or barhop. The Des Moines Art Center is a really nice, little art museum. They have some really cool pieces. The Historic Valley Junction area is neat, as well as the East Village. Sadly enough, I have yet to go to the famous Downtown Farmers’ Market, but I’ve heard it’s massive! If you like shopping, there’s a decently new giant mall. If you’re a gambler, there’s a casino. You can even hit up a couple roller coasters at Adventureland. (I’m pretty sure it’s every Iowan’s right of passage to ride the Tornado at some point in their life.) What’s your favorite place in Des Moines?