Visitor’s Guide to Des Moines: See, Eat, Stay, Play


things to do in des moines. downtown

Des Moines is a hidden gem of a city in the midwest. It’s big enough to feel like a city with great restaurants, culture, and attractions, but still small enough that it’s easy to get around. Whether you’re coming for an event, family, or visiting for a weekend, here are the things you don’t want to miss when you’re visiting Des Moines.

What to do in Des Moines


The iconic gold dome of the State Capitol is hard to miss as you’re driving into Des Moines on I-235. If you’re a history buff or looking for something educational while you’re in town, take a free tour. Be sure to peek in the library and walk around the grounds for great views of downtown. 

The Pappajohn Sculpture Park is a must-visit if you’re in downtown Des Moines. Take a photo in front of the iconic Nomade sculpture or Robert Indiana’s LOVE. Bring a picnic to enjoy on the grassy grounds.

Enjoy the best of Broadway without the high-ticket prices of bigger cities and catch a show at the Civic Center or the Des Moines Playhouse

Looking for a great photo op or place to take a selfie? Head to one of the murals around town. 

If you’re in Des Moines on a Saturday between May and October a stop at the Downtown Farmers Market is a must! There’s a reason it’s consistently ranked one of the best farmers markets in the country. From fresh produce and tasty food to artisans and live entertainment, it’s a feast for the senses. During the summer months, you can find a local farmers market most days of the week. 

Experience culture, eat great food, and listen to live music at one of the many festivals happening throughout the year. The Des Moines Arts Festival, World Food & Music Festival, 80-35 Music Festival, and National Balloon Classic are favorites.

The Iowa State Fair is a must if you’re in Des Moines at the beginning of August. If you’ve never been, check out our family guide to the state fair

des moines skyline. Des Moines MomEat

The food scene in Des Moines is top-notch! If the weather’s nice, hit up one of our favorite patios and enjoy drinks and dinner al fresco.

Check out a place where kids eat free and cheap.

Feeling adventurous? Find a food truck.

Go out for brunch, the best meal of the day! 

Satisfy your sweet tooth with ice cream, donuts, or a cozy coffee shop

Looking for more family fun in Des Moines? Check out: 

Guide to Family Fun

26+ Things to Do Outside in Des Moines

10 Best Parks in Des Moines


Need a place to spend the night? Kids will love these hotels with pools. Want a romantic night away? The Surety Hotel is a boutique hotel with stylish midcentury modern rooms and is conveniently located downtown. 


The hottest new attraction in town is the Lauridsen Skate Park. Located along the Des Moines River it’s the largest outdoor skate park in the country. Any day of the week you can find amateurs and professionals skating together. Make sure to bring your skateboard, scooter, or rollerblades!

Des Moines may not have a beach or mountains, but it still offers plenty of outdoor fun! Explore the 3-mile loop at Raccoon River Park, hike at Jester Park, or rent paddleboards at Gray’s Lake downtown.

Looking for the thrill of an amusement park? Head to Adventureland, where you can spend the day riding rollercoasters or enjoy the waterslides and relax in the state’s longest lazy river at Adventure Bay. 

Kid-free? Check out our favorite date ideas

If you’re visiting Des Moines with your family we welcome you! 


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