101 GuidescityTravel

des moines guide

by Grace Bonney

today’s city guide is dedicated to the des moines, iowa. freelance interior designer, and author of the blog yolksy, annie may is responsible for today’s incredibly comprehensive guide. not only has annie included places to shop, eat, and drink, but she’s also included places to stay, local music and theater spots, cultural events, outdoor recreation, and museums/galleries. i know feel entirely set when i make my way to iowa one day (i’m dying to find an excuse to interview mma legend pat miletich in bettendorf). thanks so much to annie for this fantastic guide to des moines- i hope you’ll all enjoy her thorough roundup as much as i did! [image above via living downtown des moines]

CLICK HERE for the full guide after the jump!

Annie May is a freelance interior designer and author of the blog Ikonix Studio

For years Des Moines had been struggling with finding a way to keep people from leaving. The city is now being renovated and restructured at such a rate it’s hard to keep up. The Historic East Village was saved from demolition in 2000 and has become the epicenter of downtown Des Moines. This pedestrian friendly area is filled with hip eateries and boutiques, loft-style living, and has been attracting local and national business owners. Des Moines is now home to what may just be one of the most renowned sculpture gardens in the world, the Pappajohn Sculpture Garden. The city has been enticing the film industry with incredible tax incentives and the industry has been biting! Not only are the big guns coming, but it’s also attracting the independent artists from big cities looking to gain the respect and appreciation of an up and coming art scene. Due to this “creative movement” people are finally starting to see opportunities in Des Moines which before only bigger cities could offer. Many young people are choosing to stay and those that left are even returning to take advantage of this. It will be very exciting to see how this growth plays out. Des Moines is a great place to raise a family, has fabulous schools and universities, and some of the friendliest people. Add culture, arts, and music to this mix and you have a prosperous city! Winter in Des Moines may be a little harsh, but this is a great time to cozy up in the local coffee shops and theaters, catch some live music, practice yoga, and a perfect time to let those creative wheels spin. I would love to see a couple more interior design boutiques and an art hotel, but I think this is only a matter of time.

{NOTE: Des Moines is a very maneuverable city and traffic and parking is a breeze so I decided to put this guide together by categories rather than neighborhoods. I have noted the neighborhood at the end of each description.}


1. Projects Contemporary Furniture : Interior Designer, Kelli Linnemeyer, opened this modern furniture store in 1998 before the East Village had been developed into the hip, hot spot it is today. She is passionate about modern European design and wanted to bring these products to Des Moines. She has an amazing showroom filled with fine brands such as Moroso, Alessi, Flos, Droog, B + B Italia and much more. Kelli is definitely a tastemaker of Des Moines and her boutique is the go to spot for interior design! {East Village}
2. Eden : Another tastemaker in Des Moines is Jennifer Hansen, the owner of the Eden, a premiere bath boutique also located in the heart of the East Village. Every Christmas when my mom asks me what I want I tell her “anything from Eden”. She has the best selection of products from Kiehl’s, Fresh, Tokyo Milk, Kai, Tocca, Caldrea, and so much more! Jennifer has one of those great stories where she had an “a-ha” moment, made her dream of owning a bath boutique a reality, and hasn’t ever looked back. She has outgrown the adorable corner shop and will be moving into a beautiful new space any day now! When visiting her shop be sure to ask her about the wonderful story of her grandmother and Eden. It will give you goose bumps and maybe even bring a tear to your eye! She has big plans for her new space, so be sure to check back and see what’s going on! {East Village}
3. Smash : This little gem of the East Village is a clothing store, screenprinting, and design shop known for it’s clever quotes and humorous pokes and praises of Iowa. It is owned by the 26 year old Mike Draper, who left Iowa for the East Coast in search for something bigger and better. After selling t-shirts out of a bag at Union Square, a few realizations, and a lot of hard work later, he ended up back in Des Moines where in 4 years Smash has expanded to a 4200 SF retail space, 12 employees, and over 1 million in gross sales this year. “Iowa…the land of opportunity”…this should be their next T-shirt! {East Village}
4. Sticks : This amazing craft studio specializes in creating whimsical hand-carved and painted works of art out of fallen timber, such as birch, poplar, and driftwood. Each of their pieces tells an amazing story and will take you on a journey through a little wonderland. You must check out their showroom in the East Village and if you want a real inspirational treat, check out the design studio and see their team at work. {East Village}
5. West End Archtiectural Salvage : With 4 stories of treasures take some time and get lost in this amazing historic building filled with one of a kind salvaged items. From lighting to tin ceilings, moldings to barn doors and windows, vintage schoolhouse chairs to filing cabinets, this place has it all! The first floor is filled with an incredible coffee shop perfect for just relaxing and reflecting on the possibilities of what you can do with all these treasures! {Western Gateway}
6. Pure Paper : This is your stop for the finest selection of handmade papers and stationary from around the world. Pure Paper offers custom design, wedding and event invitations, collateral design, and pretty much anything else you dream up. Or if you want to do-it-yourself, stop in and look around. You will be amazed by how friendly and helpful the staff is. {East Village}
7. Found Things : Architectural and one of a kind finds sold at reasonable prices. The inventory is always changing as Marsha Steele, the finder, is out searching for eclectic and perfectly used inventory. {East Village}
8. Kitchen Collage : Teresa and Molly’s love for the kitchen and an opportunity to open a small business prompted them to open Kitchen Collage in 1999. As the East Village began to expand they jumped on the opportunity to open up shop in this great area where they moved in 2004. This fun store has a full service kitchen as well an extensive collection of gourmet cookware, extensive bakeware selections, Italian pottery, and beautiful linens. Check their events page on their website to stay current on all of the great happenings! {East Village}
9. From Our Hands : This fun East Village shop houses beautiful handmade one-of-a-kind artwork, sculptures, glassware, and paintings, from local artists as well as artists all across the United States. {East Village}
10. Simply for Giggles : Owner and designer, Tanya Keith, promises “rooms as unique as your child.” She has everything from bedding to wall murals, and the interior design services to go with them. She offers great gifts for infants to school age children all with an eco-friendly focus. {East Village}
11. Steven Vail Fine Arts : The space, located in the historic Teachout Building on East Locust, was restored by its owner, international award winning Iowa architect, Kirk Von Blunck, FAIA. The 1500 square foot gallery consists of one single salon. Throughout the year, the gallery will be open to the public, offering prints and works on paper by European and American contemporary artists. It will be continuing it’s tradition of representing works by world-renowned 19th, 20th century artists including Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, Claes Oldenburg and Andy Warhol. {East Village}
12. American Plumbing Supply (504 E. Grand Ave. (515) 244-6749): One of the oldest shops in the East Village and still one of the best! Stop by here for all your hard to find plumbing fixtures. {East Village}
13. Epherma Stationary Studio : In this adorable shop you’ll find handmade invitations, announcements, and cards for any occasion. You can be sure each piece was created with love! This studio is the perfect place to pick up that new journal you’ve been dying for, the handmade knitted glasses case, or those too cute to be true designer magnets. {East Village}
14. Accenti + Arte Gallery {East Village}
15. Des Moines Art Center Museum Shop {Western Gateway}: This is the best place to shop for that unique gift! Filled with a great collection of contemporary art books, pottery, as well as gorgeous jewelry and accessories. If you need some inspiration head here, you will leave feeling rejuvenated! {Western Gateway}
16. Divine Flowers by Saley : The name says it all, this shop is truly divine. Not only does Saley have a great assortment of fresh flowers, but the collection of ceramics, pots and accessories will have you drooling! {Western Gateway}
17. Chadwick and Bergstrom >: The highest quality modern custom furniture that Des Moines has to offer. {Western Gateway}
18. Best Wishes (833 42nd St. Des Moines, Ia): A great little spot where you’re sure to find that unique something you never knew you wanted, but when you see it you’ll have to have it! {42nd St. to S. of Grand}
Two Rivers Soap Company >: I cannot speak fondly enough of these handmade artisan soaps and body care products. They are handcrafted with love by Jennifer Thompson in her “microsoapery” aka her kitchen and are infused with only the finest vegetable and essential oils! The scents are so delicious and the presentation is so beautiful, you’ll want to eat them. Some of my favorites are the Red Currant, Black Raspberry, and Margarita soaps as well as the Cranberry Yuzu Sugar Scrub. You’ll never want to use grocery store soap again! {Downtown Farmers Market + South Des Moines}
20. Bead Creative (906 42nd St Des Moines, IA 50312 ph. 515.255.3363): The name says it all! Go dip your hands in the beads at this fun shop and “bead creative”! {42nd St. to S. of Grand}
AIM Kitchen and Bath : The quaint little family owned shop in the heart of Beaverdale is the place to go for all of your kitchen and bath remodeling needs. {Beaverdale}
22. Beaverdale Books : The eclectic collection of books in this family owned shop will have you mesmerized for hours. You will not leave empty handed! {Beaverdale}
23. Fashion Junction : Looking for that “Find”? Fashion Junction is a great source for unique second-hand vintage, collectible furniture, clothing, and accessories. Stock changes frequently so be sure to check in often. {Beaverdale}
24. Wander This World (4505 Forest Ave. Waveland Area): Yet another quaint little neighborhood shop sure to take you on a little shopping adventure of your own. Get your incense, fair trade coffee, and a little world music to help you forget about those cold winter days in Iowa. {Drake Historic Neighborhood}
25. The Mansion Interiors : This full-service interior design studio and retail boutique has the most gorgeous collection of high-end traditional and classic furniture and accessories sourced from High Point, North Carolina. {Ingersoll Ave.}


1. Vitae Design Collective : This co-op located in downtown is putting local Iowa Designers on the map. The team of 5 independent fashion designers find inspiration in vintage pieces and then turn these vintage pieces into unique one-of-a-kind wears! Julie of Magpie says, “ It’s about being resourceful and making new and not just making do, with what you are presented with.” This talented group of artists includes Sarah Johnson from Rock and Reconstruct , Alyssa of Acanthus Apparel , Melissa of Pink Revolver , Sarah of Jae Anonyma Jewelry, and Erin of the popular Rok:Her:Roots. I love and believe in this Collective and see amazing things in their future. This is a great place to just stop by, chill out, sip coffee, talk fashion, or just share stories! {Western Gateway}
2. Dorothea’s Closet Vintage : “Why wear the newest thing everyone else can have when you can rock vintage designer pieces that no one else will have?” This great vintage shop was Voted No. 5 on Vintage Clothing Top 100 sites. {Western Gateway}
3. Worn : This second hand shop located near the Shops of Roosevelt accepts clothing from only top of the line designers such as Seven for All Mankind, Chanel, True Religion, BCBG, Theory, Rock and Republic, and many more exceptional lines. This isn’t a hit or miss shop; you’re guaranteed good results. {42nd St to South of Grand.}
4. Back Country Outfitters (Beaver Ave.): My all time favorite shop for clothing, shoes, and accessories! This local Beaverdale shop always has the best boots and shoes from great lines such as El Naturalista, Cydwox, and Simple. Ladies be sure to check out the great selection of clothing from Free People and other top designers. Gentlemen, you will for sure be rugged in style in any of their outdoor gear. {Beaverdale}
5. The Velvet Coat : The best of the best in fashion, shoes, and accessories are offered here. Diane Von Furstenberg, Trina Turk, and Vera Wang to name just a few. Also get your Hanky Panky’s and Spanx here! {East Village}
6. Urban Belly : It’s important to feel beautiful when expecting, so Urban Belly is here to help you accentuate those curves with fashionable clothing and accessories. They also offer a program called “Urban Expectations Program” in which they collect used maternity clothes. They then deliver it to local women’s shelters to help those that may not have the resources to purchase clothing to get them through their pregnancy! {East Village}
7. Aimee : Stop by to get a peek inside Aimee’s oversized closet. Each piece of clothing in this darling boutique is hand chosen by Aimee from quaint and independent designers from all over the world. She wants everyone that walks out of the store to look their best, even if that means walking out with nothing at all. It’s like having your own personal stylists! {East Village}
8. Dornink Couturier a>: This fab couturier specializes in highly customized, master dressmaking. You will find your perfect dress here that is guaranteed to flatter! {East Village}
9. Bargain Basket (520 E 6th St Des Moines, IA 50309): This great second hand shop has been around for decades. Be sure to peek your head in; you just never know what you may find! {East Village}


1. Café DiScala : This European style restaurant, located in a century old mansion, is the most romantic spot in the city! The menu is contemporary Italian cuisine made up of fresh and local ingredients that change with the seasons. The owners are never far. The restaurant and wine bar are located on the first floor and the owners reside upstairs! This restaurant was formerly Chat Noir and has been a favorite of mine for years. {Sherman Hill Historic Neighborhood}
2. Gateway Market : You could grocery shop here for hours or take the easy way out and grab something from their fabulous café. Their pastas are delicious, the salads are wonderful, and they always have a great selection of soups. You can also grab a glass of wine or cold beer made at one of the local vineyards or breweries! {Sherman Hill Historic Neighborhood}
3. La Mie Bakery : Delicious! My all time favorite spot for breakfast. This French bakery serving only breakfast and lunch, not only has the BEST pastries, but also has incredible omelets made with all farm fresh, local, and organic ingredients. Be sure to savor each bite, because you will not want that one to be your last! The design of this space is something you would not expect to find in Des Moines. The concrete floors, the large industrial marble slab cart filled with delicious pastries, the black chalkboard menu, the gorgeous modern artwork, and the little (and I mean little) flower vase on every table will give you a slight feel of New York in the midwest! {42nd St to S. of Grand}
4. Le Jardin : Yes it is sad that La Mie Bakery is open only for breakfast and lunch, but when you realize it transforms into Le Jardin, a fabulous French Bistro at night, your eyes light up again. The same great design, but with a more upscale experience. The wine list is sure to impress. {42nd St to S. of Grand}
5. Centro : An upscale, but casual Italian inspired restaurant located in the heart of downtown within The Historic Masonic Temple Building. It is known to be one of the best in Des Moines. A great place for an after work drink, a pre-theater dinner date, or just a fabulous lunch. My personal favorite is the seared scallops, but they also serve up some of the best handmade pastas, and pizzas from the coal fired brick oven. The delicious bread from South Union Bread Co, is too good to pass up, but be sure to make a conscious effort not to fill up on it before your entrees arrive! (Western Gateway}
6. South Union Bread Café : Great lunch spot located in the Historic Masonic Temple building right next door to Centro, which are both owned by George Formaro. Amazing sandwiches on some of the best bread you have ever tasted! {Western Gateway}
7. Great Harvest Bread : A wonderful family owned bread store in the Ingersoll area. You must try their apple pie swirl mini loaves on Wednesday and Friday, but be sure to get there early or they may be sold out. {Ingersoll Ave.}
8. Palmer’s Deli : Choices, choices, choices. This deli mecca on Ingersoll offers something for everyone and has only the finest selection of ingredients! A busy place for breakfast and lunch with so many lines, so many choices, and so many seats you’ll be surprised at the efficiency. I’ll have the gazpacho soup, the turkey, apple, swiss, and apple butter sandwich on Multigrain Bread, and a raspberry lemon bar please! This is a great laid back atmosphere with plenty of outdoor seating, and even live music on Fridays. {Ingersoll Ave.}
9. Flying Mango : Another great neighborhood spot with incredible ambience. Owner’s Mike and Suzanne had a hobby of making people try unique foods, so they turned this hobby into a business. Since 1997 they have been creating memorable meals with bold flavors and a Caribbean flair. {Beaverdale}
10. Flarah’s : The bright orange chairs and the white tables will have you smiling from the second you walk in! They are open for lunch, serving up great sandwiches and salads with original and fresh ingredients. You must check out their gourmet cheesecake delights! Come here for your mid-afternoon sweet craving. Even after lunch stops, your sweet tooth won’t be turned away because desserts are served until 3:30 daily. {Beaverdale}
11. Miyabi 9 (512 E Grand Ave Des Moines, IA 50309-1922 (515) 288-8885: Best Sushi in Des Moines…hands down! Owner and Chef Miyabi, a classic trained Japanese chef, has owned sushi restaurants in LA, Maine, and Boston. When one of his patrons moved to Des Moines from Boston, they missed Miyabi 9 so much they asked Mr. Miyabi to come to Des Moines…and so he did! Great food, service, and a very minimal and zen like interior make this a space you’re sure to frequent on a regular basis. {East Village}
12. Bob Monkey’s Noodle Zoo : It was all a dream…well at least that how it started for Varlene Vanderpool owner of Noodle Zoo. The artful interior and handpainted floors and ceilings are sure to grab your attention if somehow the name doesn’t. They have wonderful salads (my favorite is the fajita chicken salad) and incredible sandwiches on grilled focaccia bread. They offer one of the best “brown bag lunches” in town for those of you on the go! {East Village}
13. Basil Prosperi Lucca : A unique spot in the East Village (named after the Tuscany village in Italy) serves a prix fixe menu Tuesday-Sunday. A perfect date spot with gorgeous presentations, a romantic atmosphere, and a stellar wine list. {East Village}
14. Django (Hotel Fort Des Moines): All French, no fuss, that’s what this restaurant boasts. A laid back atmosphere serving classic French dishes such as Duck Cassoulet. This is the latest venture of Centro chef George Formaro! Definitely check out their happy hour from 4-6 and build your own seafood plateau at their raw bar with $1 oysters and shrimp and $5 martinis! {Western Gateway}
15. Ritual Café : Serving up locally brewed Java Joe’s coffee, this quaint neighborhood café is more than a coffee shop. Call it a cultural hub and feel free to express yourself in any artistic way you wish. Check out the artwork by local artists, live music, and open mic. They also have a pretty stellar vegan/vegetarian menu offering you more than just a salad. { Western Gateway}
16. Zen Sushi and Noodle Bar : Mmmm….think Buddha tempura roll with spicy tuna, mango, and cream cheese, or go for a classic stir fry with soy glazed salmon. This sushi bar is sure to please! {East Village}
17. Proof : Voted “Best New Restaurant of 2008” by Cityview, this modern and minimal space with all white walls, hardwood floors, white tables, citron accents, and exposed ceiling, serves up a menu as modern and honest as the environment. The menu, written daily on the black chalkboard, changes with the seasons and available ingredients, and offers up unique dishes filled with eclectic Mediterranean flavors. {Western Gateway}
18. Mooncheez : This clever little mobile vendor will serve you up a hashbrown filled grilled cheese @ 2 am…why not get your late night fix with a specialty grilled cheez sandwich from Mooncheez.?! {Court Ave.}
19. Azalea : You are sure to have a unique experience in this social gathering spot. The innovative architecture divides the space into 3 niches, including a loft, and each niche has a different menu. Offering New American food with a Mediterranean twist made with all organic and fresh ingredients and a great collection of inexpensive wines! {Western Gateway}
20. Fong’s Pizza : A “frozen in time” dive bar which is part Chinese restaurant, part pizza parlor, hence the asian inspired pizzas. Best part…free pizza M-F 4-6 and $2 drafts! {Court Ave.}
21. El Bait Shop : Voted “Top 200 Bars in America” by Draft Magazine 2009. They have over 100 hundred beers on tap and a great menu filled with 10 kinds of wings, fish tacos, and delicious burgers. With over 26 bike racks (and a shower) El Bait shop is a frequent stop for cyclists and those on their way to and from I-Cubs games. {Court Ave.}
22. Tasty Tacos : Family owned and operated for almost 50 years, this little “hole in the wall” has become the talk of the town. You haven’t ever tried a flour taco this delicious…I promise. Tasty Tacos was just voted “Best Place for a $5 Lunch” in Cityview’s 2009 Best Of. {East Des Moines}
23. Latin King : For over 50 years, Latin King has been bringing fine Italian cuisine to the East Side. A little speckle of gold on this side of town winning many Best of Awards in recent years! {East Des Moines}
24. Snookie’s Malt Shoppe : This family owned ice cream shop (actually owned by my 6th grade teacher) is synonymous with summer in Des Moines. People are even known to camp out for their first ice cream cone of the summer. On a nice day, expect a line, but it is well worth the wait! {Beaverdale}


1. Gung Fu Tea : A high-end tea house catering to the tea enthusiasts and challenging you to “rethink your drink”. This is a great spot for tea lovers or those just dying to learn more about the positive benefits of tea. This modern shop also offers teaware and unique gifts. {East Village}
2. Java Joe’s : Talk about a fresh cup of coffee! Java Joe’s is the oldest coffee roaster in Des Moines and roasts it’s beans fresh daily. This eclectic coffee house has a great atmosphere, food, and music, and they are open late! Check out the calendar for the weekly events. Also, check out their Rice Krispy treats…AMAZING! {Court Ave}
3. Zanzibar’s Coffee Adventure : “It’s a feast for your eyes even before you order”, that’s what they’re saying! Great coffee, great art, and great conversations is what Zanzibar’s is all about. A variety of people, from all different lifestyles and cultures, you never know what will be the topic(s) of the day. {Ingersoll Ave.}
4. Grounds for Celebration : Stop by the Beaverdale Grounds for Celebration for some fresh roasted coffee and gelato! Or in the wintertime, grab some coffee and a book and curl up by the fireplace. A quaint neighborhood shop you won’t want to leave. {Beaverdale}
5. Mar’s Café : The funky retro vibe of this coffeehouse/café is perfect for Monday night’s Scented Vinyl featuring live interviews, performances, and record collections showcasing Iowa musicians. (happy hour prices all night long!) Winner of Cityview’s “Best Coffeehouse” 2007 + 2008 and runner up for “Best First Date Spot”, offering the best coffee, food, wine, beer, tea, and desserts. {Drake Historic Neighborhood}
6. The Royal Mile/Red Monk : I head straight to the back of this dimly lit bar, grab a large comfy leather chair by the bookcase, and sip on a Lambic. Royal Mile is a favorite hangout for the low key and eclectic crowd and is often times referred to as “Des Moines’ Living Room”. This British Style Pub was voted by Esquire magazine “One of America’s Best Bars”. They have an incredible selection of beers on tap and some great Fish and Chips. Always an interesting crowd where you can probably catch a good conversation with just about anyone around. Don’t forget to head upstairs to the Red Monk, Iowa’s only Belgium Bar. {Court Ave}
7. Sbrocco Wine Shop : Offering 42 wines by the glass and over 200 wines by the bottle, this is your one stop shop for all things wine. A great environment with a knowledgeable staff that will help you pair your wine with the perfect entrée or appetizer. {Court Ave}
8. Hessen Haus : A perfect recreation of an old German Bier Hall with 21 German Biers on tap! Come with a group and pass the boot around or if you come with a few be sure to join a group. With communal seating and polka music you’re guaranteed a good time. Just be sure to call for a cab ride home! {Court Ave}
9. Star Bar : The tall ceilings, dark wood, and gorgeous artwork create an amazing ambience. Busy for lunch, dinner, and late night, this is the perfect time to chill out with a martini! {Ingersoll Ave}
10. Greenwood Lounge : Another one of Esquire’s “Best Bars in America,” this old local hangout is said to have opened the day prohibition ended. A high class dive located in the ever so eclectic Ingersoll area has the perfect mix of patrons and the “friendliest strangers”. {Ingersoll Ave.}
11. Carl’s Place (1620 Woodland Ave. Sherman Hill Neighborhood): A true neighborhood dive located in the historic Sherman Hill Neighborhood. You never know who or what you might encounter. Sometimes referred to as the “Cheers” of Sherman Hill. From brawls to politicians, just beware! {Sherman Hill Historic Neighborhood}
12. B+B Martini : A classic Beaverdale hangout with great outdoor seating, a rooftop patio, and live music in the summer. On Fridays get your delicious Key Lime or Chocolate Maritini for $5.00. {Beaverdale}


1. Market Street Media Foundry : A membership based space for artists, designers, makers and anyone else who likes to be around people while they work. If you’re missing the collaboration and inspiration found in your college art studio, you must join. Even if you’re not an artist there are many ways to support the talent within. Stop by the studio to see the artist’s work in progress. Also check out the “Events” page frequently and be sure not to miss out on the next Drink and Draw or Market Day, which are open to the public!

3. Artdive : Owned by artist Christine Mullane, this 1600 sf gallery located in downtown is committed to helping the art scene in Des Moines evolve. {East Village}
4. Moberg Gallery : This modern art gallery is home to many fine artists in Des Moines. {Ingersoll Ave.}
5. Instinct Gallery : My favorite gallery in Des Moines! Representing the underground and pop surrealist generation of artists and really promoting growth and acceptance of this new type of art in the community! Exhibits change monthly! {East Village}
6. PappaJohn Sculpture Garden : This incredible Sculpture Garden, featuring 24 sculptures by 19 artists, has been given as a gift to Des Moines by art collectors John and Mary PappaJohn to beautify Des Moines’ Downtown. Each of the sculptures in this garden are works from world-renowned sculptors, “the best of the best”. This donation is likely to put Iowa on the map for having one of the best sculpture gardens in the world! It is scheduled to open this September! {Western Gateway}
7. Science Center of Iowa : This brand new 110,000 SF facility puts the experience in the hands of the users and teaches you “how” to learn not “what” to learn! Check out the brand new IMAX dome theater for a true adventure! {Western Gateway}
8. Des Moines Art Center : It’s not just about the amazing art collection, but also the architecture! A collaboration of some of the greatest modern architects, Eliel Saarinen, I.M. Pei, and Richard Meier have fused their styles in such a way to create this amazing architectural achievement. An amazing place for lunch. Or go on a Thursday evening to catch the beautiful Maytag Reflecting Pool and grab a bite to eat or a glass of wine at the 5 star café! {42nd St. to S. of Grand}
9. Iowa Historical Building : Want to learn more about the growth and development of Iowa? Go no further! It will be exciting to see how the present times fit into the history of Des Moines. There are so many changes happening I am anxious to find out! {East Village}
10. Living History Farms : A great experience for you at any age! Another one of the “1000 Places You Must See Before You Die”. This 500 acre outdoor museum will take you on a 300 year journey showing you how they transformed the Iowa prairies into the most productive farmland in the world! {Urbandale}
11. State Capital Building : One of the most gorgeous capitals and the only one in the country to have 5 domes. If you’re in Iowa in the winter time, sledding at Capital Hill is a must!
12. Meredith Gardens : Located across the street from Meredith Corporation (home to Better Homes and Gardens, Ready Made, and Traditional Home) these display gardens are used for testing, displays, and photo shoots for many of their magazines. They are open to the public on Friday from noon -2pm. {Western Gateway}
13. Des Moines Public Library : After an extensive selection process, London architect, David Chipperfield, was selected to design the new Central Library. This state of the art facility offers free wi-fi, a fun children’s library, has gorgeous interiors, as well as views of the city. You can also grab a snack at the Flarah’s…cheesecake, coffee, and a book! {Western Gateway}
14. Herbert Lewis Kruse Blunck Architecture : While nationally known for their contemporary work they have also restored some of the best landmarks in Des Moines. And for this they have been noted as one of the “Top 10 Restoration Architectural Firms”. Some of these restorations are noted on this city guide and include 1) The Temple for Performing Arts (Masonic Temple) 2) State of Historical Building 3) Hoyt Sherman Place and 4) The Saarinen Wing of the Des Moines Arts Center {Western Gateway}
15. RDG : This diverse group of design and planning professionals is the creative force behind many of the great projects in Des Moines. Their purpose is to “creatively influence life for the better through purpose-driven design”. Peek inside this incredible office space when you’re downtown and you will definitely be inspired by the creative interior architecture and design of this industrial space. {Court Ave./East Village}


1. Hoyt Sherman Place : Built in 1877, this historical landmark in the gorgeous Sherman Hill is one of the most magnificent venues in Des Moines and possibly the nation! This gorgeous theater attracts some divine talent including the acts of Ani Difranco, Steve Poltz, Silversun Pickups, and Andrew Bird. {Sherman Hill Historic Neighborhood}
2. People’s Court Avenue : This downtown bar and music venue attracts some of the best indie concerts in Des Moines. When musicians were on tour they used to always pass through Des Moines and head to the larger cities like Kansas City, Minneapolis, or even Omaha. Not the case anymore! Some great bands to pass through People’s are local faves, The Nadas and Damon Dotson , as well as MGMT, Sanitgold, Meiko, The Airborne Toxic Event, The Little Ones, and so many more! {Court Ave.}
3. Vaudeville Mews : This is a place for true music lovers. You’re sure to catch an eclectic line-up almost every night of the week. Great indie music from both local and national acts in an intimate environment. It is open only on days of shows, so check the schedule before heading over. If it is closed you can always peek your head in Java Joe’s Coffee Shop, which is right next door, and see what’s happening! {Court Ave}
4. The Des Moines Social Club : Zach Mannheimer decided it was time to leave New York theater scene in search of something “new”. He came across Des Moines and saw the transformation that was beginning here, and knew this was his destination. In March 2009, The Des Moines Social Club opened and is what they are calling “a movement uniting all Iowans who wish to participate with passion in their hometown arts scene”. The Des Moines Social Club is a nonprofit organization, made up of Des Moines residents using art as the catalyst in a city filled with people aching for a way to grow, a way to stay, and a way to be part of a movement. Their mission is to bring together all walks of life in a venue where they are free to express themselves. This community house offers tapas and wine bar, educational programs, theater, dance, yoga, wrestling classes, an art gallery, and more than 50 new jobs to the community! It’s a little hard to explain and understand what is happening here as this something that has never existed before at this scale and is sure to be a new model for the non-profit world! This is incredibly exciting for the future of Des Moines! {Western Gateway}
5. Simon Estes Amphitheatre : This beautiful outdoor venue overlooking the Des Moines River is best known for it’s summer concert series called “Nitefall On The River”. Check out the live concerts @ 7 every Thursday during June and July. Bring a blanket and a lawn chair and enjoy the Nite! {Court Ave}
6. Iowa Events Center : This new facility is Des Moines primary venue for sporting and concert events. If you need a little Coldplay, Britney Spears, AC/DC, or Bruce Springstein in your life this is the place to be!
7. Blues on Grand : Voted “Best Blues Club in the Nation” in 2002 by the Blues Foundation. This venue is keeping Blues alive with a stage motto “No Mustang Sally”! Catch a Blues show 5 or more nights a week and don’t miss “The Thursday Night’s Blue’s Jam” which has been going on since 1992. {Gateway West}
8. Civic Center : The Best of Broadway in Des Moines. The large venue has great acoustics and intimate seating. This season you can catch Wicked, Mamma Mia, The Lion King, and Jersey Boy’s! {Court Ave}
9. Stage West : This resident company of the Des Moines Civic Center brings in a great variety of contemporary theater. A small, intimate theater, where you really feel like you are part of the show! {Court Ave}
10. Varsity Theater : By far my all time favorite movie theater in Des Moines. This gorgeous family owned theater located in the Drake Neighborhood was owned by Bev Mahon since 1954. (Bev just recently passed away at age 86, but the show still goes on exactly as he would want it to.) He truly helped shaped the art’s scene in Des Moines. This movie house plays the independent, often overlooked film that a true movie lover is sure to enjoy! {Drake Historic Neighborhood}
11. Temple for Performing Arts : Located in the newly renovated Masonic Temple, this historic building in downtown is home to the Des Moines Symphony. The interior architecture of this building in incredible and something you won’t want to miss, while the original architecture has also been carefully restored. The building caters to the Urban Lifestyle and also houses a coffee shop, Divine Flowers, Centro Restaurant, and South Union Bread Co. {Western Gateway}


1. Des Moines Art Festival : Last year this festival was ranked No. 5 on the “Top 10 Art Fairs and Festivals”. It is working it’s way to No. 1 as this incredible Art Festival continues to grow and attract talent from all over the world! This festival features 185 visual artists, live music stages, emerging Iowa artists, Live Performance Stages, Sculpture Garden, and many eclectic food vendors. A gorgeous festival happening every June, and the admission is FREE! Don’t miss it! {Western Gateway}
2. Des Moines Farmers Market : Come January you will begin counting down the days until the Farmer’s Market opens. One of the biggest gems of the city is open from May 1st and continues through October 31st. Each year this farmer’s market keeps expanding and you can now see over 200 vendors from more than 47 counties across Iowa. You can find the best produce, meats, and eggs, as well as some of the most delicious pies, pastries, jams, and sweets, made especially for you! This market offers more than just food. If you’re looking for local handmade arts and crafts, rugs, clothing, and amazing soaps and body butters, they just might have it all! Also, it’s dog friendly! {Court Ave}
3. Big Hair Ball : This is a wild and crazy event put on by Art Noir, affiliates of the Des Moines Art Center. Top salons put together killer choreographed shows that will blow you away! It’s not only about the big hair, but it’s the choreography, fashion, and freedom of self-expression! {42nd St. to S. of Grand}
4. Iowa State Fair : For starters, the Iowa State Fair is featured in the New York Times best selling book, “1000 Places You Must See Before You Die”. Over 1 million people swarm to the Iowa State Fairgrounds in this 10 day period. Top 7 things to see and do at the Iowa State Fair 1) People Watch, you’ll be amazed. 2)DRINK + EAT, Try the best hand-squeezed and shaken lemonade at Brafford’s Lemonade . You must try one of the 55+ plus foods on a stick. This year was the premiere of chocolate dipped bacon on a stick. You could also go for the deep fried snickers or the famous pork chop on a stick! 3) The Butter Cow weighing in at over 1000 lbs. or Olympic gold medalist, Butter Shawn Johnson 4) Dunk the Clown in the Midway, take the chance, he deserves to go down! 5) Pioneer Hall has the best antiques and chotchkies and is definitely worth a look! 6) The Ugly Cake Contest, check this out before you get that deep-fried hostess cupcake, you’ll probably change your mind! 7) Big Boar and Big Bull, after this you might just decide it’s time to go home! {East Des Moines}
5. World Food Festival : This great festival takes place in the downtown East Village. Enjoy samples of culinary delights for only $1! There’s also live entertainment, cooking demonstrations, a marketplace, and international beers. Happy tasting! {East Village}
6. 80/35 Music Festival : 80/35 was founded 2 years ago by the Greater Des Moines Music Coalition to raise awareness of the thriving local music scene. This 2 day festival in downtown brought in great acts like Ben Harper, Public Enemy, G-Love + Special Sauce, and Broken Social Scene. I can’t wait for next year’s line-up! {Western Gateway}
7. Ragbrai : This non-competitive bike ride across the state attracts riders from all over the world. This party on wheels might make you want to dress up in a banana costume, rig a keg to the back of your bike, or simply take in all the beautiful scenery and happenings around you! Next year will be the 38th annual Ragbrai, so be sure to mark your calendars for July 25th-31st, 2010!
8. Des Moines Fairgrounds Flea Market: East 30th Street and University @ the Iowa State Fairgrounds. First Saturday and Sunday of the month all year long. (except July and August) Several hundred vendors sell their wares, including antiques, collectibles and scrumptious baked-goods at this Midwestern flea market. {East Des Moines}
9. Market Days @ Market Street Media Foundry: Farmer’s market die-hards and thrift-conscious art lovers this place is for you! Bring your cash and shopping bags and you will be sure to leave with some fabulous art, vintage, handmade, and found objects! Happening the last Saturday of every month, but be sure to check the schedule for special dates. {Court Ave.}

Saturday November 7th, 2009. Treasures galore will fill Hoyt Sherman Place as the Women’s Club invites all its members to bring in their unwanted and gently used household items to sell at the annual flea market. This year’s event will also feature the famous bean soup mix. {Sherman Hill Historic Neighborhood}


1. Hotel Fort Des Moines : The history of this nearly century old hotel is worthy of it’s own quiz! Check it out on their website, you’ll be impressed. This landmark hotel is on the National Register of Historic Places and is so gorgeous, even if you’re not staying it’s definitely worth a look! You can also stop in at the restaurant Django!
2. Renaissance Savery Hotel . Come during caucus or campaign time and you have a good chance of rubbing elbows with the candidates and the media who favor this hotel. This Historic Landmark Hotel is linked by the climate controlled skywalks and can connect to almost all of downtown!
3. Embassy Suites on the River : A great location in downtown located directly on the river. You have the Simon Estes Amphitheater outside the front door and the trendy East Village and Court Ave. Entertainment District within walking distance. You are also right at the Riverwalk, the great connector of downtown!


1. Gray’s Lake Park : A gorgeous lake with so many activities to take part in. Rent a paddleboat, have a picnic, go for a swim, or to take a stroll, run, or rollerblade around the 2 mile trail encircling the lake with a gorgeous pedestrian bridge that is lit up at night! This summer they started Yoga in the Park, and it was a major hit with over 300 people showing up the first week! {Gateway West}
2. Principal Riverwalk : This project was presented to Des Moines as a gift in 2004 in honor of Principal Financial Group’s 125th anniversary. This project connects the East and West side of Downtown via 2 new pedestrian bridges. The Meredith Trail connects downtown to Gray’s Lake as well as over 300 miles of trails throughout Iowa. This project is scheduled to be completed in 2011 and will include a landscaped promenade path connecting the riverfront amphitheater and plazas to the Brenton Skating Rink and summertime fountain. {East Village, Court Ave., Gateway West}
3. Downtown Des Moines Skywalks : Yes, Des Moines has cold winters, but they also have skywalks, and the largest per capita climate-controlled skywalks that is! Get your map and take a tour, it’s sure to be an adventure! {Court Ave to Gateway West}
4. Saylorville Lake : The lake is the place to be in the summertime if you have a boat that is, or have a friend with a boat! The beaches aren’t great, but the party cove is sure to be a happening spot! {North Des Moines}
5. Firehouse Yoga : A beautiful studio for yoga and wellness. They offer a variety of classes, but the schedule changes frequently so be sure yours is up to date. She also has a great clothing boutique with some fabulous second hand finds! {Drake Historic Neighborhood}
6. Shakti Yoga : Best Yoga studio in Des Moines, in my opinion! This Anasuara Style Yoga studio is for all levels. You are sure to have a great practice, intense workout, and will get lots of instruction! {42nd St. to S. of Grand}
7. Brenton Skating Plaza : An open air ice skating rink along the Principal Riverwalk. A romantic place for a date in the wintertime under the snowflakes and the stars! {East Village}

Suggested For You


  • I have interviewed MMA legend Pat Miletich and it was truly spectacular. But not as spectacular as you or your blog. Thanks for the Iowa love!!

  • WOOT, WOOT. I’ve called the big DM home for the last 4 years and it just keeps getting better and better.

    Des Moines has blossomed in the time I have lived here. Good eats, creative people and a real push to create a downtown people want to come to.

    I’m a Midwesterner by way of the East Coast and I couldn’t be more proud to call Iowa home.

    Thanks DesignSponge and Annie for this awesome guide. I know about these places and frequent many, but I really thank you for not passing us by.

    And of course you know the prettiest girls live in Des Moines, right?

  • Hey hey Des Moines!
    I just moved here last fall from Chicago and I’m still getting used to a smaller city and the lovely state of Iowa. Thanks for the shout out to my new hometown!

  • LOVE THIS! DSM has a lot of great locally owned shops and restaurants, as outlined above. as a long time resident and fan of the new changes to the downtown scene, THANK YOU for writing this pieces. SUPER fun and notes nearly all my faves! nice work

  • As a fellow Des Moines resident I can fully agree with this list – DM is a truly unappreciated city, and it gets better every day. I would add that we have two wonderful craft fairs: Craft Saturday, usually held seasonally at the 4th St. Theater, and Market Day, held monthly at the Market Street Media Foundry in the East Village.

    Also, there is a bitty error in the listing about Vitae Design Collective. Melissa Speridon designs Rock n Reconstruct and Sarah Johnson does Jae Anonyma.

    Thanks so much for this guide!

  • Love the guide but lets not forget historic Valley Junction – an eclectic mix of shopping, dining, and history that was well established long before the East Village was a germ of an idea.

  • YEAY!!! Go DSM!!
    An Iowa girl from the get-go, Des Moines is one of my favorite places go visit, eat and shop!

    I lived in Ames for close to 4 years and frequented DSM on a regular basis. I’ve since moved further north and continually miss all that Des Moines has to offer. From the ease of the traffic to all of the cultural activities there are to take part in.

    Thank you VERY much for such a comprehensive guide on Des Moines. It’s great to see this gem of a city featured on such an awesome blog!!

  • Thanks so much for the DSM shout out! I’ll be using this as a guide to my own hometown and any visitors that come my way.

    One minor correction: The downtown (western gateway) branch of the Des Moines Art Center museum shop has closed; as will the exhibit space later this month. So disappointed!

  • What a treat to see Des Moines in the spotlight! I’m an Iowa native who moved to Philadelphia for a job in the arts, thinking that opportunities were slim in my home state. I’m so pleased to see that things are changing!

  • Wow, how fantastic to be mentioned on DesignSponge!! Hope to see a lot of travellers pop in to my vintage boutique! I do want to amend my quote up there a bit to say designer *vintage*, as I don’t carry current designer’s pieces….just the great older things! Nothing but vintage here!

    Thanks for the love!!! So happy….


  • Very cool to see this! I moved (hesitantly)here from Michigan 2 years ago… and have found a flourishing, creative, friendly community. I am a working artist, and it is wonderful to have a community SO committed to the arts!

  • Thrilled to finally see a Des Moines guide here. We’re becoming a much more vibrant scene for artists and creatives. I’m glad my friends at Ephemera got a mention. The shop is owned and operated by two women under 30 who are smart AND charming. They took the live/work lofts concept here to a new level. Another interesting hub for the creative community that I didn’t see listed is the Market Street Media Foundry: http://marketstreetmediafoundry.com/ – a collaborative space that hosts monthly craft events.

  • go dsm! i love that d*s has covered this! as someone who commutes by the sculpture garden daily im so glad other people get to see it!

  • Love it! Terrific to see Des Moines recognized by DesignSponge. I love the creative spirit in DM. One way creativity and community unite is through Des Moines’ amazing array of cause–related events and activities e.g. Metro Arts Alliance and Bras for the Cause.

  • So exciting to see DSM get a little love!! See-we have paved roads and everything!! Although, I’m sure that when I travel the fist thing people will continue to ask me when they find out where I’m from is, “Do you live on a farm?”

  • I had several layovers in Des Moines while I was a flight attendant and always thought it would be an interesting place to live. Any tips for what to search on Craigslist for cute places? Keywords? Neighborhoods?

  • Great list. Thanks.

    For those touting other spots like Valley Junction – keep in mind VJ is NOT in Des Moines. This is a Des Moines list and focuses exclusively on things inside the city limits and not suburbia.

  • I planned a vacation to Iowa and set aside two days in Des Moines – it was so much fun. I’m glad I rented an SUV for the trip because I filled it up. West End Architectural Salvage is amazing. I wanted to move there. The whole town is so lovely – I’m so happy to see a guide showing it off. I only wish I lived closer so I could visit all the time!

  • This is a nice list. While I am used to seeing these places all the time to see them all listed reminds me there wasn’t a list this nice just a few years ago in Des Moines. Things are good here right now and it’s going to get even better.

  • Thanks for covering Des Moines! You did a great job highlighting our gems in the city. One small correction… It lists the Des Moines Social Club on Court Ave. We are on 1408 Locust in Western Gateway Park.

    Thanks so much for showing Des Moines love!

  • I work at both Market Street Media Foundry and Metro Arts Alliance and I have to just say thanks to Cara, Brianne and Lori for the howdies.

  • I used to work for a taekwondo magazine and interviewed Pat for that lovely pub. The article is not online sadly, or fortunately, for my career. Which ever.

  • Another wonderful thing about Bargain Basket in the East Village: it’s run by the Junior League of Des Moines and proceeds go to benefit the League’s mission, childhood obesity. So stop in and shop–there are super finds in there AND you’re benefiting a great cause!

  • Hooray!! As a native Iowan (Des Moines to Dallas) this is nothing but delight. Gives me a taste of home from hundreds of miles away. DSM is a lovely little gem in the midwest.

  • Thanks for publishing this great guide! I grew up in Des Moines, but moved as soon as I could. I still go back to visit my parents but never know what to do while I’m there. Now, I’ll be referring to this guide this Christmas time and any other time I get back to Dsm.

  • Great list…however, B&B martini has been closed for a couple weeks now. even though it is changing into a new restaurant, i’m sure going to miss the old B&B.

  • After your mocha mex at Zanzibars coffee shop on Ingersoll, please stop into Tandem Brick Gallery just across the street. I grew up in Des Moines and worked at this great shop for years throughout high school and college. Tandem Brick does the best custom framing in the city and has a wonderfully unique selection of home objects, jewelry and gifts thanks to the great eye of the owner Kathie Anderson.

  • Perfect timing d*s! I’m heading to DSM this Sunday for a last minute labor day weekend road trip and I just booked my stay at the Hotel Fort Des Moines! Looking forward to checking out the list and eating well =) Fun!

  • Yay for the sculpture garden! My dad works for the Art Center and has been busy helping install those sculptures. It’s so neat to get to see them. I’m dying to go home to get to see it in person. If you haven’t been to the Art Center, you should definitely go. It’s a world-class museum. They have some of Andy Goldworthy’s cairns. My dad helped make those. I actually got to have my wedding photos taken in those too.
    Yay for Pure Paper too. Those guys do fabulous invitation/wedding/event design work. And they are a great source in DSM for materials.
    La Mie is my favorite breakfast spot. They have wonderful challah.
    I know it’s not really a design spot, but it should be mentioned that Christopher’s is a great local place to eat, as is F & O’s, and the Waveland Cafe.
    I’m SO happy Snookie’s got a mention too, my dad and I used to walk there all the time when I was a kid. Yay Beaverdale!!!

  • There is a larger Art Center museum shop at the main Art Center on Grand. Which is a lovely street to take a walk on and admire the old houses, including my godparents house, and go down to Greenwood Park, and see the Mary Miss bridge. I love Des Moines! Home sweet home!

  • The Hotel Fort Des Moines isn’t that expensive relatively speaking. We had our wedding rooms booked here and it was affordable for all our guests and relatives.

  • Nice write up about DM…I moved away 3 yrs ago & it looks like DM is really blossoming. I miss Ingersoll Ave shops & the East Village too. A great town in the Midwest.

  • Moved to Des Moines just over 2 years ago, and I absolutely love it. All 4 seasons, a growing art and music scene, great restaurants, and the nicest people on earth. Zanzibar’s Coffee is world class, and Lucca is one of the my favorite restaurants I’ve been to in any city.

  • Des Moines offers some great renovated plant and warehouse turned lofts. We visited them in my high school design class. My favorite is the Tone Lofts. They kept the old exposed brick on the outside, while the lofts themselves are European style hardwood floors and high ceilings. Also look into the Capital Village Lofts and Designs on Downtown.

  • Thanks Grace and Annie for the DSM love. While I’ve just started spending time in Des Moines, I’ve really grown fond of the place. There are so many nooks and crannies to discover and its architecture is surprisingly good. Personally I’m in love with the YMCA building downtown. Cafe di Scala is one of the best restaurants in the country I dare say. And the bike trails are truly top notch. The green-belt is spectacular and it is amazing the lengths you can ride unimpeded by autos. Oh yeah, one final bit of love…if you find yourself in DSM on a Wednesday night, please, do whatever you can to check out the JG Faux Show at the Des Moines Social Club. It is put on by three amazingly talented individuals and it’ll have you cracking up for days after…enjoy!

  • Des Moines IS a fantastic cultural city.
    It gets better all the time. Thanks for the great Des Moines highlghts outline. Great job!

  • Your Des Moines guide is awesome but you missed the Locust Tap in the heart of the East Village. A real fun bar that has a diverse crowd with some of the best bartenders and cheapest drinks in the city. Need to check this hot spot out!!!

  • @ Andrew Wagner I am glad you mentioned the downtown YMCA it is also one of my favorite places. I love the building and have been going there since I was a little girl! I even worked at the after school program and as a summer camp supervisor there, one of my favorite jobs! Let’s me also mention how fabulous the Downtown School is! http://www.downtownschool.org/index.html The bike trails are amazing and a great way to get around the city, I ride everywhere when I’m home!

  • Love to see DM on the list! I lived in Ames for 4 years (while at Iowa State University) and then lived in DM for a year. It is a really fun city to live in, the downtown area offers a lot but is not too overwhelming! Some of my favorite tea has come from Gung Fu! LOVE!

  • Excellent guide to Des Moines. I was born and raised here, lived most of my life (except for 10 years on the west coast) here and had the city been as vibrant then as it is now, I’m not sure I would have left. I work in the East Village area and love patronizing the businesses in the area. Eden is by far the best bath & body boutique I’ve ever been in and just a few weeks ago, I bought an awesome State Fair t-shirt at Smash. I’m thrilled for the DSM love!

  • Yippee! I’m so glad Des Moines getting the recognition it deserves!
    I’m gonna have to second the Valley Junction addition to the list, mostly because of the Atomic Garage! It’s always been a must for me when I visit. They have the coolest retro clothes! And across the street is a store with some cool retro furniture (can’t remember the name though). I haven’t visited in a year so things might have changed, but it’s a really fun cute place nonetheless.
    Thanks for the lovely post!!

  • I’d just like to add that “aimee” serves complimentary champagne daily and some of the most fashionable women in the Des Moines area are part of the “aimee” family and continue to have great success with their special “aimee” pieces! Great write up!

  • Just wanted to add a great neighborhood coffee shop to the list: Java B Good in Boesen the Florist at 3801 Ingersoll. It’s cozy, friendly and you can buy flowers when you’re done with coffee or lunch! Great iced tea, too.

  • Thank you so much for the Des Moines guide! I’m an Iowa girl transplanted to Pennsylvania and I miss it there so much!
    Do you think one day we could get an Iowa City guide? :)

  • I was so excited when I saw this post. As an Iowa teen reading this blog I spend a lot of time dreaming about the incredible world of design somewhere far, far away. Thanks for showing me where I can find inspiration and excitement just a couple hours away.

  • It’s great to see Des Moines featured! I’m an Iowa native (currently in MN) and I’ve enjoyed strolling around downtown there… loved the Gung Fu Tea shop and Pure Paper right next door, so it was great to see them on the list. Thank you. :)

  • I l-o-v-e Des Moines, and have been thinking about an apartment downtown. Where’s the best place (for me AND my dog!)?

  • Wonderful resource list! I’ll be sharing this with all of my new clients. I’d like to add the following under “Places to Stay” – Des Moines-based B&B’s:

    o Butler House on Grand (www.butlerhouseongrand.com) – across the street from the Des Moines Art Center
    4507 Grand Avenue
    515-255-4096 or 866-455-4096
    Owners Clark and Lauren Kiernan-Smith

    o The Cottage (www.thecottagedsm.com)
    1094 28th Street
    Owner Becky Brown

    o The 1900 Inn (www.the1900inn.com) – about 2 blocks south of Drake University
    1033 26th Street
    Owner Jane Niess (pronounced nees)

  • Great review of Des Moines. I’m a former Chicagoan, and love it here. One place you didn’t mention that is great is Chocolaterie Stam on Ingersoll. The homemade chocolates are great, and the gelato is to die for.

  • Great write-up on DSM and it is fun to read all the positive comments following the blog too!

    We’re not natives, but my family loves living here and can’t imagine any reason we’d ever want to leave. It is so fun to watch downtown transform in front of my eyes although I’m getting a bit impatient awaiting the completion of the Riverwalk.

    A couple corrections/additions.: Zen Sushi & Noodle Bar is located in the Court Ave area (not the East Village) and so is Azalea. Both are on the street level of the Kirkwood Hotel Apartments (same area as Java Joes, Fong Pizza, Royal Mile.)

    I’d like to give a shoot out to my favorite watering hole downtown that didn’t make your list – Shorty’s. I like small, out-of-the way places and this Court Ave bar is just that. It is in the basement of building that also houses Sbrocco. You enter from the alleyway in the back. Nice, small, cozy bar.

  • An addition to the “MUSEUMS/GALLERIES/ARCHITECTURE” is Salisbury House. Fantastic architecture and furnishings!

  • I’ll have to make a pilgrimage to some of these places once the weather warms up again.

    I just want to add that the cultural renaissance in Iowa isn’t just happening in Des Moines. A lot of small towns are getting in on the act, too. We have a population of around 3000 and we have an arts council, a puppet theater, a film festival, a county fair, and an amazing amount of restaurants for the size of the town, and we’re just getting going. I know this is happening all across the state. It’s about time “rural” and “cultural” went hand in hand.

  • i live 15 minutes away from des moines for about 12 years now. it is a wonderful place! i recognized most of these places, but i hadn’t known about others. it is great that you took the time to make a post so close to home.

  • This is great! Iowa is a surprising, delightful mix of cozy and culture. I second the Iowa City comment–please, an Iowa City guide one day?

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