Some visitors to Des Moines are surprised by its modern, cosmopolitan beat. The city’s art, architecture and culinary scenes are thriving. From classic gems to cutting edge innovation, Iowa’s capital city has much to offer.
1. Pappajohn Sculpture Park
John and Mary Pappajohn donated their collection of enormous artworks to Des Moines if the city would find an appropriate spot. The result, opened in 2009, was Western Gateway Park. One of the nation’s top outdoor sculpture gardens features works by Robert Indiana, Keith Haring and Jaume Plensa. It’s also become a popular site for events such as the Des Moines Arts Festival and the 80/35 music festival. And no, it’s not about pizza.
2. Lauridsen Skatepark/Principal Riverwalk
The May opening of Lauridsen Skatepark brought a fresh, young vibe to the city. Professionals from around the world came to participate in the professional Dew Tour, which served as an Olympic-qualifying event. It is the nation’s largest open skatepark, comprising 88,000 square feet. It’s the newest gem in the Principal Riverwalk, where guests can cross the Des Moines River on a pedestrian bridge or walk 1.5 miles along the water.
3. Downtown Farmers Market
From fresh produce to prepared foods, Des Moines’ Downtown Farmers Market stretches along historic Court Avenue for blocks on Saturday mornings from May to October. A total of 165 vendors offer Iowa-grown goods from asparagus to apples as well as hot and fresh treats. Enjoy a Central American delight, a savory stuffed pastry called a pupusa, or some of the city’s best egg rolls.
The golden dome of Iowa’s signature building shimmers on sunny days. Built on high ground perched in the city’s East Village neighborhood, it stands as a monument to statewide pride. Construction was from 1871 to 1886. The building is available for self-guided tours, and the grounds offer seasonal wildflowers and prairie grasses.
5. City-wide murals
An essential part of the city’s art scene, outdoor murals offer both whimsical and contemplative opportunities throughout downtown and Des Moines suburbs. Bright colors and caricatures stretch out across the sides of brick buildings, providing fun stops for selfies.
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