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Top Things To Do In Des Moines

There’s a reason Des Moines is one of the fastest-growing cities in the Midwest. With more than 850 restaurants to choose from, traveling foodies will find plenty to enjoy. Outdoors enthusiasts have parks and day trips around Greater Des Moines too. Accessible to lifestyle, Des Moines offers a diverse selection of places to visit and things to do. Continue reading for top-rated Des Moines activities, tourist attractions, and more.

As the capital of Iowa, there’s plenty to keep people entertained in Des Moines. The city has taken many steps in the last few decades to emerge as a vibrant cultural landscape with sculpture parks, botanical gardens, and a thriving shopping and dining district.

The best activities near Des Moines include:

  • Visiting the gold-domed Iowa State Capitol at the edge of downtown Des Moines
  • Sprawling out in Jester Park
  • Exploring Gray’s Lake Park, featuring a 1.9-mile walking path around the lake
  • Seeing a show at Des Moines Performing Arts
  • Learning more about Iowa history at State Historical Museum

Free & Affordable Things To Do in Des MoinesView All

When visiting a thriving foodie city like Des Moines, budgets and itineraries help keep our trips at a reasonable rate. Save a buck by spending your time doing one of these free or affordable Des Moines activities.

Cheap attractions near Des Moines include:

  • Visiting the Des Moines Art Center, a free admission art museum focused on contemporary work
  • Heading to the East Village, a dynamic and popular neighborhood host to many events Learning the history of Iowa at the Iowa Hall of Pride
  • Window shopping areas like Historic Valley Junction, Historic East Village, and West Glen Tower
  • Enjoying one of the many events hosted at Des Moines Public Library
  • Viewing local art at Ankeny Art Center, just minutes from downtown Des Moines

There’s plenty to explore when visiting Des Moines. Whether it is touring impressive art collections or catching a baseball game under the lights, this friendly city is easy to explore.

Popular attractions near Des Moines include:

  • Seeing the statues at Pappajohn Sculpture Park
  • Explore the nature reserve with trails, camping, and fishing at Walnut Woods State Park
  • Experience the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates, honoring global achievements in science, agriculture, and humanitarianism
  • Built more than 100 years ago, the Carnegie Library Museum is on the National Register of Historic Places
  • Explore the 4-mile long downtown skywalk system

Des Moines has many interesting things you can do as soon as you touch down in the city. If you’re lucky, you’ll even arrive on the day of a Des Moines event.

Exciting activities near Des Moines include:

  • Exploring Water Works Park, a daytime spot with jogging areas, cycling trails, fishing spots, and a picnic area
  • Trying one of more than 850 restaurants in Des Moines
  • Visiting The Iowa State Fairgrounds, which has food, sun, and fun for the whole family
  • Finding French-inspired brunch nestled in the Beaverdale neighborhood at Le Jardin
  • Eating dinner at Park Street Kitchen & Bar

With more than 50 bars in Downtown Des Moines it's easy to kick back with friends. Find a favorite hotspot or live music venue to kick it with the locals.

Nighttime activities near Des Moines include:

  • Order a late night meal at Jethro’s
  • Find dessert before dinner at Crème Cupcake
  • Get the party started at Hessen Haus
  • Check out the beer genius at El Bait Shop
  • Grab an Iowa craft beer at The Iowa Taproom
p>However you like to spend your weekends, Des Moines has enough to keep you busy until Monday. Start with brunch plans and let the city guide you towards other weekend attractions.

Weekend activities near Des Moines include:

  • Visiting Prairie Meadows Casino, Racetrack & Hotel
  • Grabbing Saturday morning brunch at Mullet’s
  • Getting bottomless Bloody Mary’s at Americana
  • Watching home runs from the Iowa Cubs at Principal Park
  • Biking to lunch at Gateway Market

Let your inner child out. Des Moines is full of kid-approved adventures. Find interactive exhibits, hands-on learning opportunities, and dessert lounges the whole family will enjoy.

Family-friendly things to do near Des Moines include:

  • Visiting Blank Park Zoo, which houses indoor and outdoor animal exhibits
  • Exploring the Great Des Moines Botanical Gardens, with a combination of horticultural exhibits and art galleries
  • Seeing the 500-acre museum site called Living History Farms
  • Ewing Park has extensive green spaces, an 18-hole disc golf course, and a playground for the kids
  • Stop by Chocolaterie Stam where fine European chocolate and gelato melt in your mouth

Des Moines has evolved into quite the foodie city. That means dinner dates should be commonplace when you’re trying to get to know someone. It also means coffeehouses, bars, and wineries make for perfect De Moines date spots.

Date night ideas near Des Moines include:

  • If it’s a first date, taste what West End Café has brewing — they roast coffee beans daily and host live music throughout the week
  • Unscrew the cork at Jasper Winery, close to downtown Des Moines
  • Listen to live music at Summerset Winery in Indianola
  • Hear Broadway performances and classical tunes at the Des Moines Symphony
  • Get tickets to the opera at Des Moines Metro Opera

Exploring Des Moines is more fun with a group. Your friends will thank you when your vacation itinerary is filled with group-friendly outings.

Things to do with your friends near Des Moines include:

  • Raccoon River Park is where you can play football with your friends, go swimming together, or fish on the pier
  • Malo features bottomless tacos, burritos, omelets, and more
  • Do a wine tasting at Tassel Ridge Winery
  • Find headlining acts at Wells Fargo Arena
  • Catch a local show together at Wooly’s

Though Greater Des Moines is abundant in outdoor activities, its museums, galleries, and thriving food scene ensure there’s plenty of reasons to stay indoors.

Things to do indoors near Des Moines include:

  • Taking a guided tour through the Historic Swanson House and Clive Depot
  • The Iowa Gold Star Military Museum displays artifacts and tells the story of Iowa veterans from the Mexican War of 1846
  • Moberg Gallery is a contemporary gallery representing fine Midwest paintings, metalworks, glass, and more
  • Exploring seasonal menus at renowned restaurants like Alba
  • Taking a break and jamming at the music venue, Hoyt Sherman Place

Greater Des Moines is filled with lakes, hiking trails, and historic neighborhoods to explore. Earn your dinners with a workout or find your next Instagram photo op while exploring Des Moines’ natural beauty.

Outdoor attractions in Des Moines include:

  • Explore the expansive Neal Smith Trail
  • Catch the picturesque High Trestle Trail over the Des Moines River near Ankeny
  • venturing the Clive Greenbelt Trail
  • Go fishing at Big Creek State Park
  • Go the distance and cycle through downtown Des Moines

Des Moines has many local favorites that every visitor should experience. Whether it’s iconic gourmet burgers or unique fusion foods, Des Moines offers hidden things to do that many other cities only dream of.

Must-see places near Des Moines include:

  • Louie’s Wine Dive offers breakfast pizza flatbread as well as four different mimosas
  • Stop for a pint at 515 Brewing Company
  • Join the undead with the Dead Moines burger from Zombie Burger
  • Drink white, green, yellow, or black tea at Gong Fu Tea in Historic East Village
  • Try something new like a crab rangoon pizza at Fong’s Pizza

Top Attractions