Des Moines is the largest city in Iowa and the annual site of the Iowa State Fair. Because of Iowa's early presidential caucus date, the city is also a hotbed of political dreams and discourse every four years when presidential candidates tour the state and have multiple debates within the city.
The meaning of 'Des Moines' itself is not clear as local Native Americans, the Moingona, had already been using a term (which meant 'river of the mounds') due to the number of burial mounds which were popular in the area. French Trappist Monks (Moines de la Trappe) called their settlement areas at the mouth of the Des Moines River 'La Riviere des Moines' which, in English, translates to 'the river of the monks.' "De Moyn," which means "middle," may have been used on the map of explorer Jacques Marquette to help others locate the Des Moines River-area (equidistant between the larger Mississippi and Missouri rivers). "Des Moines," today pronounced "duh MOIN," is located at the junction of the Des Moines River and the Raccoon River.
Fort Des Moines was settled in 1843 by a group of dragoons from the Sac and Fox Agency (Fort Sanford) led by Captain James Allen. Originally, Allen was going to name the area Fort Raccoon but was instructed by the War Department to use the name Fort Des Moines. In 1846, the Fort dissolved and the city was officially created.
In 2010, U.S. Census Bureau data estimated the population of Des Moines proper to be at 203,433; the metro area has more than 500,000 residents.
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Due in part to the moist and rich soils that make Iowa an agricultural powerhouse, summers are filled with very humid air. Coupled with heat, this can result in a very high heat index. This can make outdoor life very uncomfortable (and sometimes dangerous) for those unaccustomed to such conditions, even visitors from hot climates, such as the Southwest, where the heat lacks the coupling of humidity. In the winter, it is not at all unusual to have road closures due to snowfall or ice.
Most travelers to Des Moines are likely to come via interstate, on either I-80 (from the east or west) or I-35 (from the north or south). Travelers will not have to worry about encountering any tollways or major traffic jams. Once in the area, those wishing to enter the city will use I-235 to get into Des Moines proper. The majority of area residents get around by use of their automobiles, so bringing or renting one is a good idea. The roads are in good shape and most drivers would not be classified as aggressive.
- The main thoroughfare, I-235, runs through the downtown area and is free of tolls. Semi-trailers passing through are advised to avoid I-235 as the traffic is usually heavier, particularly during the morning and evening rush hours (7AM-8AM and 4:30PM-6PM) as people travel to and from work. Additionally, the speed limit on I-235 is 5–10 m.p.h. less than on I-80/I-35.
- The city has two interstates surrounding it, I-80 (running east/west) and I-35 (north/south). Chicago is roughly 330 mi (539 km) east of Des Moines while Omaha is about 135 mi (215 km) west of the city. Popular destinations along I-35 include Kansas City, just under 200 mi (320 km) to the south and Minneapolis/Saint Paul to the north, nearly 250 mi (500 km) away.
- Safe-driving tips, road closures due to weather and construction, and other pieces of information, are available from the Iowa Department of Transportation. Wi-fi is available throughout the state at public rest areas.
1 Des Moines International Airport (IATA: DSM), 5800 Fleur Dr, ☎ . Des Monies' airport is fairly small for a major airport, consisting of only a single terminal. Although the airport has had a reputation of being expensive in the past, many flights are now more affordable and travelers have noticed, breaking usage records year-in and year-out. Most hotels offer free shuttle service and rental cars are also available. Long-term parking varies in price from $5-12/day. The following airlines have services to Des Moines: Allegiant Air, American, Delta, Frontier, Southwest, and United, all of which operate non-stop flights between Des Moines and their respective major hubs.
- Jefferson Lines, 1501 2nd Ave, ☎ . Regional transport, primarily the Midwest but also the South, Great Plains, Rocky Mountains and parts of Canada.
- Burlington Trailways, 1501 2nd Ave, ☎ , toll-free: , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com.
- Amtrak (Amtrak code OSC) (I-35 S to US-34 E exit, turn right at S Ridge Rd), toll-free: . Nearest Amtrak station is 45 mi (72 km) south in Osceola at Main and E Clay Sts. In the town there are not many traveler services, although there is a casino to help pass the time, so it's best to do any extensive overnight stays in Des Moines. It is also possible to reach Des Moines from Osceola (or vice-versa) by Jefferson Lines bus which leaves from Osceola Amtrak station and arrives at Greyhound bus station in Des Moines.
Drivers who are used to warmer climates should be advised that the colder weather months (Nov-Feb) often bring snow and ice to area roads. Visitors who park their cars should be prepared in case their car is "snowed in" by snow removal trucks. Also, strict attention to parking rules and snow emergencies is recommended to avoid being towed away at the car owner's expense. During the winter months, a snow brush, ice scraper, and plenty of windshield washer fluid is essential, and many natives opt to carry a shovel, some sand, and a bag of ice melt/road salt in the trunk just in case.
Gasoline is reasonably cheap in the Des Moines area, partially from subsidies afforded to ethanol which is widely available at most gas stations to travelers. The most popular mixture, 10% ethanol and 90% gasoline, is generally considered safe for newer autos (not to be confused with 85% ethanol/15% gasoline blend). Ethanol and its usage can stir up quite a debate even in the corn-loving state of Iowa.
The Des Moines River serves as the marker for street names having the prefix "East" or not (and occasionally "West" when on the western side). This is especially important for streets running north-south. "1st Ave" would be on the west side of the river, E 1st Ave the eastern side and are thus completely different streets. Streets running east-west and which exist on both sides of the river typically have an "East" prefix if east of the river. There are some "West" prefixes for those on the other side of the river but this is less common. Perhaps more confusing, there are streets which lie on both sides of the river, such as Grand Ave, which is "E Grand Ave" east of the river but simply "Grand Ave" west of the river; yet "E University Ave" is officially named "W University Ave" when on the western side of the river. Unlike the north-south streets, it is possible to arrive at your destination by simply continuing east or west—depending on your final destination. The demarcation for "SE" and "SW" prefixes is a bit more ambiguous but would certainly refer to a street south of Grand Ave/E Grand Ave and either the western or eastern side of the river. For most part, "NW" refers to streets west of the river and "NE" east of it, but not always so. Additionally, there is no standard reference point for determining when a street gains a "NW" or "NE" prefix.
Downtown has several one-way streets to ease traffic flow during rush hours. Turning left is allowed unless otherwise designated.
By rental car
The airport is a popular place to get a rental car and has the following rental companies present next to the baggage claim area: Alamo, Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz, and National. There are other locations throughout the city to rent.
- Des Moines Area Regional Transit (DART), ☎ . Routes are available throughout the day with some routes running well into the evening. Additionally, bus passes may be purchased through MTA. Most buses will accommodate users with bicycles. The bus also provides services for door-to-door pickup and para-transit services. Regular, express, commuter, and downtown shuttle routes are available. $1.75, express fare $2.
- The free D-Line shuttle bus route 42 operates a downtown loop. This bus travels from Western Greenway Park to the State Capitol Building along Grand Avenue and Locus Street. The bus stops at several downtown hotels, the State Historical Society of Iowa Museum, city hall, and central public library. This bus runs Monday through Friday from 6:30 AM to 6:00 PM.
Drivers tend to not be overly aggressive in Des Moines, and there is ample shoulder room or sidewalks to avoid a date with a jalopy. Some corridors to downtown have bike-only lanes and all city buses allow bikes on board. (See the Do section for more information on getting to your destination on a nicely-shaded, groomed trail.)
- Des Moines B-Cycle. Bike sharing program with stations in downtown. $6/24 hours.
- Budget Cab Company, ☎ . 24 hours.
- Capitol Cab Company, ☎ . 24 hours.
- Genes Transportation, ☎ .
- Yellow Cab Company, ☎ . 24 hours.
- 1 Capitol Building, E 9th and Grand Ave, ☎ . M-F 8AM-3:30PM, Sa 9:30AM-2:30PM, closed Su. One of the more popular state capitols to tour, it is easy to spot it with its sparkling 23-karat gold leaf dome and four-surrounding smaller copper-topped domes. Those wishing to see the inside from a bird's eye view will climb 298 steps before reaching the top from their start on the second floor. Historic flags, some hailing from the U.S. Civil War-era, are on display, and tour staff are available during all hours in which the capitol is open to visitors. The Capitol Room, located in the Capitol building, is available to rent for events such as weddings, corporate conferences and other private gatherings. Cafeteria is on the bottom floor. Free.
- Salisbury House, 4025 Tonawanda Dr, ☎ , fax: . Tour schedule varies. The house, originally built between 1923-1928, features Tudor, Gothic, and Corolean styles all throughout its 42 rooms. Also shelters many artifacts, including objects of art, furniture, tapestries and books. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has labeled it a "national treasure" and the property has also been featured on A&E and Home and Garden Television. Hosts many events during the year, including chamber music concerts, Gatsby Gala, Salisbury Automobile Classic, group meetings and Shakespeare on the Lawn. $7, aged 6-12 $3, 65+ $6.
- 2 [dead link]Terrace Hill (Governor's Mansion), 2300 Grand Ave, ☎ . Mar-Dec, Tues-Sat every 60 min from 10:30AM-1:30PM. Since 1971, has served as home for the Governor and First Family of Iowa during his or her term. The site was the home of Iowa's first millionaire, Benjamin Franklin Allen, with construction beginning in 1866 after being designed by William Boyington (designer of the Water Tower of Chicago which survived the Great Fire). Aptly named as it sits atop the Raccoon River.
- 3 [dead link]Des Moines Art Center, 4700 Grand Ave, Sculpture Park at 13th St and Grand Ave, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Tu-W, F 11AM-4PM, Th 11AM-9PM, Sa 10AM-4PM, Su noon-4PM, closed M. The Center boasts a permanent collection of contemporary art from the 19th and 20th centuries, including works from Edward Hopper, Jasper Johns, Georgia O'Keeffe, Henri Matisse, and Francis Bacon. It also boasts a restaurant with a 5-star rating from The Des Moines Register, featuring a different menu weekly and open for lunch only. In 2009, the Pappajohn Sculpture Park was opened in Western Gateway Park downtown and showcases more than $40 million of public art, topping off a complete overhaul of the Gateway area in little more than a decade. Free, Center and Sculpture Park.
- State Historical Society of Iowa Museum, 600 E Locust St (East Village), ☎ , fax: . Tu-Sa 9AM-4:30PM, Su noon-4:30PM, closed M and holidays. Exhibits include a venture into Iowa's past when glaciers pushed their way through and mammoths roamed the plains, state's frontier and prairie past where kid-friendly activities such as pushing a plow or carrying buckets with a shoulder yoke can be had. Fossil, Native American, wildlife, and Iowa U.S. Civil War flags on display. Cafe Baratta's inside.
- 4 Science Center of Iowa, 401 W Martin Luther King, Jr. Pkwy (Court District downtown), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. M-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su noon-5PM. The Center hosts six different experience platforms including Science is Where You Find it (including exhibits Kitchen Chemistry and Physics in the Field), When Things Get Moving (including Design a Propeller and Robot Run), Who are We? (including Color my World and In Your Genes), Why the Sky? (including Cosmic Video Jukebox and Viewing the Night Sky, in addition to planetarium shows in the 50-foot dome), Small Discoveries (including Bubble Bay and World of Wonder, all geared toward children 7 and under), What on Earth? (including Iowa Habitats, Ant Farm, and the WHO-TV Weather Studio) and limited exhibits in Principal Hall. $16, aged 2-12 $13, 65+ $14 ($11/$7/$10 without IMAX).
- 5 Blank Park Zoo, 7401 SW 9th St, ☎ . Permanent exhibits as well as activities, such as "Behind the Scenes" tours and "Feed the Giraffes", all throughout the year. Also hosts several special events throughout the year, including Zoo Brew (geared towards those 21+). Adults $10.95, aged 3-12 $5.95, 65+ $8.95.
- Des Moines Botanical Garden, 909 Robert D. Ray Dr, ☎ . Particularly popular during cold Iowa winters. Special events and learning modules all throughout the year. Connected to the parking lot is the Robert D. Ray Asian Gardens with a featured Asian pavilion, built in honor of both the Asian Americans who immigrated to Iowa in the late-70's and former Gov. Ray. Tours $5, $3 children, $4 seniors.
The city and surrounding area has a vast array of activities for all ages, from the annual Iowa State Fair, rated by USA Today as one of the Top 10 best things to do in the summertime in the U.S., to the Des Moines Arts Festival in downtown, also rated as a Top 10 member for the nation's arts festivals, indeed there are plenty of sights and sounds to make your experience a memorable one.
- Des Moines Arts Festival (downtown in Western Gateway Park). 3-day weekend in June. Started in the late-90's after promoters decided to replace the 40-year running "Art in the Park." Attendance of around 250,000 people each year. Over 150 artists--from all over the country--bring their original creations to be seen and purchased. In addition to the various forms of art you'll see, there are also stages offering entertainment and food vendors selling their own edible creations. Free.
- Iowa State Fair (Fairgrounds). 10 days in Aug. Each year, the Fair draws around 1 million visitors through its gates. Has a variety of things to see and do, much of it based around agriculture, the arts and food. At night, the beer tents and Grandstand come alive (past performances by Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, The Jackson Five, and Reba McEntire). Park (cheaper) near the capitol building and take an MTA bus over to the fairgrounds, or park closer in front yards of residents (more expensive). $10, $6 for kids 60+, 5 and under free.
- Taste of Des Moines. mid-July. The one and a half-day event is still in its infancy but is improving each year. The event typically takes place downtown but has been at the zoo in the past. More than 40 vendors--most of which are local--provide food for hungry patrons. It's a good way to try new creations from area restaurants and for not a whole lot of cash. Alcoholic drinks are also available. $5, free before 5PM.
- Salisbury Automobile Classic. Antique and classic automobiles of a by-gone era are on display in one of the most unique car show settings in the U.S. It has been called the "Pebble Beach of the Midwest" by Old Cars Weekly (in reference to the famous Pebble Beach Auto Councour). All proceeds going to benefit the historic Salisbury House. $10, children free.
- 515 Alive (Court District downtown). Saturday night in Jul/Aug. DJ festival is a hit with 20-somethings and brings better acts as it matures. See more than 50 DJs boom their bass and showcase their freestyle turntable talent. You'll also get a chance to see artists do paintings or graffiti. Alcoholic drinks available. $10 pre-ordered tickets in 2010.
- 80/35 Music Festival, Western Gateway Park, 13th & Locust. First Friday and Saturday in July. A new music festival that brings over 40 nationally-known, regional, and local musicians in various genres to downtown Des Moines. As of 2009, two day passes are $80, one day passes $40-50.
- Des Moines Symphony, 221 Walnut St, ☎ . Since 1937. Concerts are held at the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines in downtown.
Professional and college sports
While the city is not host to any of the "big league" teams, events are a lot of fun and there's plenty left in your wallet after you've purchased a ticket. Home games are well-attended and oftentimes the team is tops in its own respective league in terms of attendance.
- Des Moines Buccaneers, 95KGGO Arena, 7201 Hickman Rd, Urbandale, ☎ . United States Hockey League (USHL) Tier 1 team member. Very close to the ice no matter where one sits. From $12.
- Des Moines Menace, Valley Stadium, 4440 Mills Civic Pkwy, West Des Moines, ☎ . Semi-professional soccer team, family friendly games. $10.
- Drake Bulldogs, Knapp Center, 2601 Forest Ave, ☎ . 9 am–5 pm M-F. Drake University sports, competing in most sports as a member of the Missouri Valley Conference and also in the Pioneer Football League for that sport only. $15–25 men's basketball, $12 football, $10 women's basketball, $8 volleyball, $5 other sports.
- Drake Relays, Drake Stadium, 2719 Forest Ave, ☎ . Arguably the nation's top outdoor track & field event. Past participants include Michael Johnson, Bruce Jenner, Gwen Torrence, Natasha Kaiser-Brown, and Jeremy Wariner. $20-85, varies on event session.
- Hy-Vee Triathlon (Downtown). First weekend in September. World Triathlon Corporation's 5150 Series Championship and IronKids triathlons take place downtown, as does the namesake triathlon.
- Iowa Barnstormers, Wells Fargo Arena, 833 5th Ave, ☎ . Arena football team in the new AFL. Tailgaiting in the adjacent parking lot is perhaps just as busy as the game. Bear the name of the team Kurt Warner played for before making it in the NFL $12-40.
- Iowa Cubs, Principal Park, One Line Dr, ☎ , toll-free: . Member of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League (one level below the Major Leagues) and the top farm team of the Chicago Cubs. The team is consistently near the top of attendance figures each year. Great view of downtown. Usually have fireworks every Friday night.
- Iowa Energy, Wells Fargo Arena, 833 5th Ave, ☎ . Member of the National Basketball Developmental League (NBDL). Affiliated with the NBA's Chicago Bulls and Phoenix Suns. In 2011, the Energy were D-League champions. From $8.
Get up and move
- Adventureland Amusement Park and Adventure Bay Water Park, 305 34th Ave NW, Altoona, ☎ , toll-free: . Iowa's largest theme park with over 100 rides, shows, and attractions. The water park has 13 water slides, 6,000-sq ft swimming pool, and a bar where patrons can swim up and order a drink, then perhaps drift away on the longest lazy river in the state. $35 aged 10+, $30 aged 4-9 and 65+, aged 3 or less free.
- Big Creek State Lake and Park (20-min drive N of downtown). A popular location for boats, swimmers, and fishing enthusiasts. The lake is much smaller than Saylorville. Trails, shooting range, and picnic facilities on-site.
- Recreational Trails. For those wanting a chance to see the area at their own pace, 300+ mi of trails available for use. The trails are expanding each year and they offer a great way for visitors to see the quieter parts of the area as well as getting a chance to enjoy the outdoors. Cross-country skiing in the winter.
- Gray's Lake. Busy at all times of day, urbanites of all ages come to breath in the fresh air or get in their workout before heading heading home or to their cubicle. 167-acre park with a 1.9-mi paved track encircling the lake. Paddle boats, canoes, sailboats and bikes may be rented. A small beach area for swimming. Restrooms and grills provided, while some fishing and bird watching also takes place around the edges.
- Saylorville Lake (25-min drive N of downtown). One of central Iowa's most popular places for water activities, including boating, swimming, and fishing. Also has camping facilities, hiking trails, wildlife areas, and two golf courses--Tournament Club of Iowa (designed by Arnold Palmer) and Jester Park--nearby.
- [dead link]Sleepy Hollow Sports Park, 4051 Dean Ave, ☎ . Various sports throughout the summer and winter seasons. Summer options include batting cages, go-Karts, sand volleyball, golf, mini golf, driving range, and climbing wall. Winter sports include skiing, snowboarding, and tubing--lifts available for all. Rental equipment available. Prices vary.
- Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino, 1 Prairie Meadows Dr, Altoona (I-80 to exit 142), toll-free: . Horse racing, gaming tables, slot machines, restaurants and drinks, live music and occasional concerts.
Further from Des Moines are two casinos of mention:
- Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel, 1504 305th St, Tama (60 mi NE of Des Moines on US-30), toll-free: .
- [dead link]Terrible's Lakeside Casino, 777 Casino Dr, Osceola (40 mi S of Des Moines on I-35, then W on US-34), ☎ , toll-free: . Hotel and RV park available.
Many of the state athletic tournaments, for both girls  and boys  take place in Des Moines. For three consecutive weekends, wrestling, girls' basketball, and boys' basketball brings much activity in February and March to the Wells Fargo Arena area and downtown. The state track meet is held at Drake Stadium and boys' soccer tournaments at Cownie Park in May. The boys' baseball tournament, in July, is played at Principal Park.
The following are events not unique to Des Moines but the city will have the pleasure of being host to listed events:
- 2012 USA Volleyball High Performance Championships. 25–29 July 2012.
- 2011 and 2012 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, Drake Stadium. 8–11 June 2011, dates TBA for 2012.
- 2013 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, Wells Fargo Arena.
- National Junior College Wrestling Championships, Iowa State Fairgrounds. From 21–23 February 2013.
Des Moines is home to a few institutions of higher learning, the largest being Drake University with enrollment around 5,000.
- Drake University, 2507 University Ave. Founded in 1881 and today offers more than 70 degrees of study through three colleges and three schools. DU is the home of the Bulldogs and offers Division 1-A athletic competition for nearly all varsity sports. Home of the Drake Relays, arguably the nation's top track and field event.
- Des Moines University (DMU), 3200 Grand Ave. The university was originally named Dr. S.S. Still College of Osteopathy in 1898. Offers six degree programs available through the College of Osteopathic Medicine, College of Podiatric Medicine and Surgery, and College of Health Sciences.
- Grand View University [dead link], 1200 Grandview Ave. Four-year liberal arts college offering 35 areas of study. The athletic program is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).
- Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC), Various locations. Iowa's largest two-year college program.
- AIB College of Business, 2500 Fleur Dr. Founded in 1921, AIB is a non-profit, coeducational two-year college of business which offers associate degree and diploma courses of study.
- Mercy College of Health Sciences, 928 6th Ave. The school was founded in 1899 (then-known as Mercy Hospital Training School) and is a subsidiary corporation of Mercy Medical Center-Des Moines. Its purpose is to train nurses and allied medical care professionals.
- World Food Prize. The Prize has been awarded to individuals from all over the world who contribute their talents to help sustain vital crop land, food resources and technologies, and introduce new methods to help end poverty and maintain crop development—anything to further assist the world food supply. First awarded in 1986 and is the brainchild of former Nobel Peace Prize recipient Dr. Norman E. Borlaug. The symposium is held in October.
Des Moines—and Iowa in general—has fared quite well despite the realities the 2008 recession brought to several economies in the world. As recently as 2012, Forbes ranked the capital city of Iowa only behind the nation's capital, Washington DC, in terms of best cities for jobs.
The shopping experiences in East Village can be described as progressive, as it's a pedestrian friendly area downtown which offers a variety of small businesses and boutiques. The streets are nicely lined and there's much to do after hours to fill a hungry traveler's stomach. In West Des Moines, the historic Valley Junction is also an outdoor line-up of shops and local businesses with much to offer, including live music and art and craft fairs throughout the year. Jordan Creek Town Center and Valley West Mall both lie in West Des Moines, the former being the state's largest shopping mall with a variety of stores and entertainment, including ice skating in the winter. Merle Hay Mall and Southridge Mall rest on the northwest and southeast corners of the city, respectfully. Altoona, on the east side, will have an enclosed outdoor shopping experience available once The Shoppes at Prairie Crossing is completed.
- [dead link]Downtown Farmer's Market, Court District. May-Oct 7AM-noon. Get a taste of rural Iowa each Saturday morning. Fresh produce, pastries, wines, cheeses, art and jewelry, and more are all available for those wishing to taste and view. Event takes place rain or shine. Free.
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- B and B Grocery, Meat and Deli, 2001 SE 6th St, ☎ . Family owned and operated since 1922. In 2008, the readers of The Des Moines Register voted their Dad's Killer as the "Best Deli Sandwich" in the city and many subsequent "best of" awards by locals. The Food Network's "Outrageous Food" featured the Killossal Sandwich, a combo of four sandwiches, in May 2011.
- [dead link]B-Bops. Few sit-down restaurants can match the goodness of the most popular menu item, the 1/4-lb. hamburger. If the weather's nice, you can sit under an umbrella and listen to classics from the 50's and 60's. The burgers are so good they've won the "Best Burger in Des Moines" award more than 10 years running (per Cityview). $3-7.
- 1500 E Euclid Ave, ☎ .
- 4820 SE 14th St, ☎ .
- 1105 73rd St, Windsor Heights, ☎ .
- 4565 86th St, Urbandale, ☎ .
- 3635 8th St SW, Altoona, ☎ .
- 2205 SE Delaware Ave, Ankeny, ☎ .
- Big Tomato Pizza Co., 2613 Ingersoll Ave (1/2 mi W of MLK, Jr Pkwy), ☎ . Very late delivery. Near the downtown nightlife area. Carry out or delivery only. $4 slice, $25 pie.
- City Bakery, 407 E 5th St (East Village), ☎ . Talking serious sandwiches and tough-to-beat thin crust pizza. Salad selections include Roquefort-beet. Craft beers available. $5-6 sandwiches, $6-7 salads, $7.50-14.50 pizzas or $4 slices.
- La Mie Bakery and Restaurant, 841 42nd St (1 block N of I-235 in Roosevelt Shopping area), ☎ . Closed Su. French-style bakery featuring all the goods you'd imagine, with quality omelets and coffee. High ceilings and modern setting make it a popular place to dine for all 3 meals rather than simply carry out fare. Outdoor patio on the back with a few tables. Can also find offerings at Downtown Farmer's Market. $2 goodies, omelette and coffee $10.
- Mustards, 6611 University Ave, Windsor Heights and 1701 N Ankeny Blvd, Ankeny, ☎ . , Su-Th 11AM-9PM, F Sa 11AM-10PM. BBQ and pizza, excellent pork ribs and tenderloin sandwiches for those looking for an Iowan tradition. $6 sandwiches, $11 pizzas, $13 1/2 slab ribs.
- Snookies Malt Shop, 1810 Beaver Ave (across street from Beaverdale Dahl's), ☎ . Soft-serve ice cream joint is the cat's meow come summertime. Real fruit is used and the servings are generous. Dogs are invited, as well, as they serve up puppy-sized ice cream cones. Popular to sit outside but drive thru and indoor A/C also available. $3.
- Tasty Tacos. M-Sa 11AM-10PM. Local fast food joint rivaling taste of some of the sit down places. $6.
- 1418 E Grand Ave, ☎ .
- 5847 SE 14th St, ☎ .
- 2900 E Euclid Ave, ☎ .
- 2401 SE Delaware Ave, Ankeny, ☎ .
- 8549 Hickman Rd, Urbandale, ☎ .
- Paul Revere's Pizza, 3018 Forest Ave (NW cnr of Drake Univ), ☎ . 11AM-3AM. Handmade everything. Amazing breadsticks. Popular with the Drake crowd. Expect to deal with drunken customers on weekend nights. On-line orders available. $4-30.
- Waveland Cafe, 4708 University Ave (1 block E of Waveland Golf Course in Roosevelt neighborhood), ☎ . If you're expecting a fancy diner, then you better get lost. This place is for the real Saturday morning crowd and a good place to recover from a hangover. If it was legal to light up a smoke, this is where you'd get no gruff from fellow patrons. $8.
- Zombie Burger, 300 E Grand Ave (in the East Village), ☎ . Su-Th 11AM-midnight, F-Sa 11AM-2AM. A popular local burger joint with a humorous undead theme — the decor inside is rife with references to zombie flicks — and lots of creative burger and milkshake creations. The menu is full of intriguing options worth exploring but of particular note is "the Walking Ched," a beef patty atop fried mac and cheese with bacon. The fries and shakes are also excellent. A bar in the back serves draft beers and cocktails.
- Chuck's Restaurant, 3610 6th Ave, ☎ . M-Th 4:30PM-10:30PM, F Sa 4:30PM-11:30PM. If the number of years one's been in business is the standard way to rate, few in Des Moines could mess with Chuck's 50+-year reign on the northside of Des Moines. Chuck's has proven if you take old classics, such as spaghetti and meatballs, meatloaf, and steak, and treat them with respect, you'll be in the neighborhood for a long time. Excellent pizza.
- Drake Diner (North Side Diner in Johnston and West End Diner in West Des Moines), 1111 25th St (1 block SE of Drake University), ☎ . M-Sa 7AM-11PM, Su 7AM-10PM. Drake location is the original location. Favorites such as omelets, French toast, reubens, crinkle-cut fries, and bacon cheeseburgers and Drake's own "Bulldog burger" dominate the menu (all three Diner's feature the Maytag Burger, oozing with Iowa's own Maytag blue cheese). During nice weather, there's a screened-in patio available to sit. Shakes and malts are made with Des Moines's very own Anderson and Erickson Dairy Ice Cream. $5 shakes, $9 omelets, $10 burgers.
- Flying Mango, 4345 Hickman Rd (Beaverdale), ☎ . Open for dinner but lunch by special appointment only. Originally began as a catering business but when their uniquely smoked Cajun and Creole creations caught on, they soon started to get a bigger loyal following. Full wine list. $15-25.
- Jethro's BBQ, 3100 Forest Ave, 2601 Adventureland Dr, Altoona and 9350 University Ave, Waukee. Quickly earning locals' favor. Featured on the third season of the TV series Man v. Food, where host Adam Richman tried (and failed) to conquer the Adam Emmenecker Challenge (named after the former Drake basketball star).
- Miyabi 9, 512 E Grand Ave, ☎ . One of the more successful sushi joints in the area and perfect for those hanging out in the East Village. Don a Japanese fighter helmet should you indulge in a sake bomb.
- Noah's Ark Ristorante, 2400 Ingersoll Ave, ☎ . A Des Moines classic specializing in Italian food. Thin crust pizza. Convenient for those visiting the airport. $15-20.
- Paradise Pizza Cafe, 2025 Grand Ave, West Des Moines, ☎ . Creative pizza toppings. The Italian Wedding soup is a great starter. $15-35.
- Trostel's Dish, 12851 University Ave, Clive. Tapas-style plates that are meant for sharing. Pineapple cheesecake, large enough to share but you might want your own. Extensive wine list by the glass (mostly reds). Very trendy, big-city feel. Dim lighting. Live music each Sa 8PM-11PM. $7-15 for tapas.
- Woody's Smoke Shack, 2511 Cottage Grove Ave (take MLK, Jr Pkwy exit from I-235), ☎ , fax: . M-F 11AM-8PM, Sa 11AM-4PM, closed Su. You'd be a fool to miss out on barbeque while in Iowa's capital, especially pork ribs, considering Iowa vies with North Carolina for the top pork-producing state in the nation. Ribs smoked on-site. Small patio available. $10-15.
- 801 Chophouse, 801 Grande Ave #200, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Being atop the Principal Building, along with their class of wines, steaks and seafood, 801 has a reputation for the city's nicest restaurant. The fare is amongst the best downtown, with freshness and ingredients resembling the prime rib (rare, get it?) being their ticket to success.
- Baru 66, 6587 University Ave, Windsor Heights, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. M-Sa 5PM-close. Noted for their French-American food that comes without too much hassle. $27-45 3 course menus, $75 6 course specials.
- Basil Prosperi's Lucca Restaurant and Bar (Lucca), 420 E Locust St (East Village), ☎ . French- and Italian-themed cuisine. Wonderful contemporary decor. Dinner menu changes weekly. $20 lunch, $40 dinner.
- Centro (pronounced Chentro), 1007 Locust St (adjacent to the Temple for the Performing Arts in East Village), ☎ . M-F 11AM-2PM, Sa 11AM-3PM, M-Th 5PM-10PM, F Sa 5PM-11PM, Su 4:30PM-9PM. Italian fare featuring terrific coal fired pizzas. Specialize in $8.50 martinis. $25.
- Christopher's, 2816 Beaver Ave (3 blocks N of Hickman Rd in Beaverdale), ☎ . A restaurant with a great reputation for serving up quality prime rib and Italian dishes for over 50 years. The restaurant is larger than it appears from outside. $30.
- The Continental, 428 E Locust St (East Village), ☎ . Upscale urban setting with live jazz (Th-Sa) and fresh cuisine ideas are the highlights of this blossoming restaurant. The place has a reputation for their mini plates which allow customers to try all sorts of different features but without paying the full portion price. $20.
- Cosi Cucina (Cosi's), 1975 NW 86th St, Clive (2 blocks S of Hickman Rd), ☎ . Tu-Th 11AM-9:30PM, F 11AM-10:30PM, Sa noon-10:30PM, Su 4PM-9:30PM. Traditionally known as one of the most authentic Italian restaurants in the area, with over 30 wines by the glass. Fresh bread and minestrone. According to their Website, it was once voted Best Italian Restaurant and Most Romantic Restaurant. Small and also near some other bars and trendy clubs. $20.
- Django, 210 10th St (Court District), ☎ , fax: . M-Th 11AM-10PM, F 11AM-11PM, Sa 4PM-11PM, Su brunch 10AM-2PM and 4PM-9PM. French cuisine establishment featuring a raw oyster bar and favorites like steak frites and duck. $10 burgers, $33 tenderloin filet.
- Jesse's Embers, 3301 Ingersoll Ave, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Closed Su. Quality surf and turf offerings. A local standby nearing 50 years in the area. Lunch offerings will save you a few bucks from dinner prices. $8 burgers, $20 steaks, $35 lobster tail.
- Tursi's Latin King (The Latin King), 2200 Hubbell Ave (corner of Hubbell and E University Aves), ☎ . One of the longest-standing restaurants in the area (since 1947), the Italian cuisine and beautiful restaurant setting will please anyone with a desire for a bit of originality. Very busy during the lunch hour, particularly when the state's legislative branch is in session. Small patio available. Full wine list. $20.
- Trostel's Greenbriar (Greenbriar), 5810 Merle Hay Rd, Johnston, ☎ . In 2003, The Des Moines Register awarded the restaurant with 4-stars and several awards from reader polls. Prime rib, seafood, aged steaks, rack of lamb and duck are featured on the menu. For those seeking a casual dining experience, the bar is available in addition to the outdoor patio (during warm months). Live music on various nights. $30.
Cook it yourself
- Fareway, 10 area locations. Quality meat department. A popular rural grocery chain with several urban locations as well.
Travelers would likely find the Court District [dead link] district downtown enjoyable. There, one can find a variety of bars, breweries, dance clubs, live music hot spots and restaurants. It also draws a larger crowd when events downtown take place, such as games for the Iowa Cubs and Barnstormers. East Village rests near the capitol and has several restaurants featuring wine and mixed drinks which can be classified as upscale, but also has bars and live music venues. From the Western Gateway on westwards, bump elbows at any number of sipping places along Ingersoll Avenue. On the west side, in Clive on NW 86th Street, rests a bevy of bars, dance and comedy clubs, which tend to be particularly busy on Fridays for the "Clive after Five"  event, where live music and vendors gather to enjoy the end of the work week.
Alcohol sales cease at 2AM for all locations selling alcohol (stores included) in accordance with state law.
Coffee and tea
- A Ritual Cafe, 1301 Locust St Ste D (downtown on 13th St between Grand and Locust), ☎ . A locally owned coffee shop that serves fair trade organic coffee and espresso as well as the only all-vegetarian menu in town and live music on weekends. The coffee is hot and the food is fresh.
- Friedrichs Coffee. If you're looking for a down-to-earth but nice atmosphere place where you can get a great cup of java or a nifty shot of espresso, pull up a chair. One of the owners' great-grandfather owned a coffee shop across from a castle in Charlottenburg, Germany and spirit has passed to the next generation. The owners, a husband and wife team, opened their first coffee shop only a few months after returning from Costa Rica. $2.
- 4126 University Ave, ☎ .
- 801 Grande Ave (downtown Principal Financial Bldg), ☎ .
- 699 Walnut St (downtown Kaleidoscope at the Hub).
- 1821 22n St #101, West Des Moines, ☎ .
- 4632 8th St, Urbandale, ☎ .
- Gong Fu Tea, 414 E 6th St (East Village), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. M-F 7AM-6PM, Sa 7AM-5PM, closed Su. Lots of tea pots and bulk tea available as well. Very clean establishment.
- Grounds for Celebration, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Wonderful place for fresh coffee, tea, and gelato and some lunch items. The coffee beans are from the cafe's privately owned cropland in Panama. Consistently rated as one of Des Moines' best coffeehouses. All locations offer free WiFi.
- 2709 Beaver Ave, ☎ .
- 6600 University Ave, Windsor Heights, ☎ .
- 4800 Mills Civic Pkwy in Somerfield Plaza, West Des Moines, ☎ .
- Java Joe's Coffehouse, 214 4th St (Court District downtown), ☎ . Known for their beans as much as their entertainment, drawing from all ages but particularly from the teenage through 30-somethings crowd. Open-mic poetry readings, rap contests, and a stage where local acts come to show their song-writing capabilities. If the act isn't good, you can get your coffee to go--popular for the nearby bar crowd needing a quick shot of espresso before their next stop. Offers Wi-Fi for paying customers, plenty of space to sit. Also serve alcoholic drinks, sandwiches and homemade soups. $2.
- Zanzibar's Coffee Adventure, 2723 Ingersoll Ave, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. M-Th 7AM-9PM, F Sa 7AM-11PM, Su 8AM-6PM. Features local art displayed around the coffee house. Great spot to sit and drink a cup or talk, study. Sit at the coffee bar or a table. Serves great breakfast. Sells their amazing beans as well so you can enjoy their coffee at home. Very friendly to all walks of life. Also provides catering services and can be reserved for private parties and meetings. You can also order their beans online or over the phone to be shipped. $2-7.
- Cabaret Lounge (2 other locations in Johnston and West Des Moines), 8450 Hickman Rd, Clive, ☎ . Outdoor patio available. Karaoke various nights. Big screen TVs and jukebox. Drink specials every night and also serve up some decent food. Same owners as "The Cab" and "Cabaret at West Glen". $2.
- Chicago Speakeasy, 1520 Euclid Ave, ☎ . A Des Moines classic. Live music, excellent prime rib and a number of fish offerings.
- Court Avenue Restaurant and Brewing Co (CABCO), 309 Court Ave (Court District downtown), ☎ , fax: . Su-Th 11AM-midnight, (Nov-Apr) F Sa 11AM-2AM, (May-Oct) 9AM-2AM. Beers made on-site are featured and are the only ones available (Bud Light fans need not enter). Live music a few nights a week, including jazz. The food is equally delicious. Outdoor patio and gluten-free menu available. Martini specials on Saturdays. $4 drinks, lunch from $9, $15-30 dinner.
- Raccoon River Brewing Co, 200 10th St (few blocks W of Court District downtown), ☎ . If you're wanting a place with a classy atmosphere, handcrafted brews and incredible food, look no further than this spot. A variety of home brews. Local ingredients used in some entrees. Live music during the week. Outdoor patio and billiards available. $15-25 dinner.
- Star Bar, 2811 Ingersoll Ave, ☎ . M-F 11AM-2AM, Sa 9AM-2AM, Su 9AM-midnight. Featuring plenty of snack foods (BBQ chicken spring rolls $8), sandwiches (Niman Ranch Jambon Royale $10), and plates such as New York Strip ($20). Outdoor seating available. Martinis from $7.
- [dead link]The Underground Lounge (Underground), 500 E Locust St (Lower Level) (corner of E 5th and Locust Sts in the East Village), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 5PM-2AM. Great new lounge and is actually located underground. Get a drink and relax with friends in one of the booths. Bar has Wi-Fi, and offers live music on weekends. Check out the shot closet and kung fu movies playing in the game room.
Dance and live music
- Aura, 2700 University Ave, West Des Moines (in Governor's Square), ☎ .
- Club Crush, 2249 86th St, Clive. Beats, sometimes made by live DJs. Dress code.
- Drink, 8410 Hickman Rd, Clive, ☎ .
- Liars Club, 216 Court Ave (Court District downtown), ☎ . 3PM-2AM daily.
- People's Court, 216 Court Ave, 3F, ☎ . Live music acts.
- Vaudeville Mews, 212 Fourth St, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Live touring musical acts, but also an eclectic mix of indie everything (not just music). Lots of release parties.
- el Bait Shop/High Life Lounge, 200 SW 2nd St (Court District downtown), ☎ . List of 105 beers via tap or bottle from a lot of west coast brewers not so popular in Iowa. Mexican and BBQ fare available, as well as a working shower. Rent fishing supplies, as well.
- Hessen Haus, 101 4th St (Court District downtown), ☎ . If you order a pint, the whole place will look at you and ask, "What's wrong?" so it's best to get a half-liter. Although they do serve the mass-produced American standbys the reason it's popular is for the 15+ German beers they offer. Serve wine and a full array of cocktails and traditional German food, too.
- The Royal Mile Bar and The Red Monk, 210 4th St (Court District downtown), ☎ . M-Sa 11AM-2AM, Su noon-2PM. This is the place to go on Court Avenue if you want a good urban setting and a multitude of imported draft and bottled beers to from which to choose--nearly 30 on tap and over 100 bottled brews. More than 85 varieties of Scotch whisky as well. On top is the Belgian themed Red Monk. $5.
- Several major chains have rooms available in the area. The city does not have a large number of bed and breakfast establishments (although not the case with Iowa in general). Peak booking periods, especially downtown near Wells Fargo Arena, are common for three successive weeks in March when the city hosts the state athletic championships for wrestling, girls' basketball and boys' basketball.
|This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:|
- Travelodge, 4685 NE 14th St (approx. 1 block S of I-80/35), ☎ . Includes breakfast, wifi, pool, and in-room appliances.
- 4 J's Horse Ranch, 4310 NE 62nd Ave, Ankeny, ☎ , toll-free: . Bed and breakfast with pool and pond on-site.
- Baymont Inn and Suites, 4685 NE 14th St (I-80 and exit 136), ☎ . Jacuzzi suites available with free breakfast, wifi, newspaper, pool, fitness room, in-room applicances. 21 and over only for suites, 8 different styles including 2 Japanese suites. $70-140.
- The Cottage, 1094 28th St (just N of I-235 in the Drake neighborhood), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Bed and breakfast surrounded by a white picket fence.
- Hampton Inn, 7060 Lake Dr, West Des Moines, ☎ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. Close to Jordan Creek Mall shopping and dining. Enjoy an On The House Hot Breakfast every morning, free hi-speed Internet access, business center, indoor pool and Whirlpool, and fitness center.
- Ramada Tropics Resort & Conference Center, 5000 Merle Hay Rd, ☎ . Offers guests the opportunity to enjoy the only indoor water park in the Des Moines area.
- Valley West Inn, 3535 Westown Pkwy, West Des Moines (1 block NW of I-235), ☎ . Good place to stay for those wanting to shop at Valley West Mall. Free 24-hour airport shuttle.
- Butler House on Grand B and B, 4507 Grand Ave, ☎ , toll-free: , e-mail: email@example.com. Picked one of 2006 Top Ten Most Romantic Inns by American Historic Inns. $105-190.
- Embassy Suites on the River, 101 E Locust St (next to Simon Estes Amphitheater along the Des Moines River), ☎ , toll-free: , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Hotel Fort Des Moines, 1000 Walnut St, ☎ , toll-free: , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Member of the National Register of Historic Places. Famous former guests include Charles Lindbergh, Elizabeth Taylor, Henry Fonda, Nikita Kruschev, Joe Louis, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and several U.S. Presidents.
- Renaissance Savery Hotel, 401 Locust St (downtown), ☎ , toll-free: , fax: . Formerly the historic Savery Hotel, built in the 1800's, it is now operated by Marriott. Features Bos restaurant, which sources from local and regional vendors to create contemporary Midwestern fare. Connected to the 3.5 mi Des Moines Skywalk. No two rooms are the same. Free 24 hour airport shuttle. From $129.
- Sheraton West Des Moines Hotel, 1800 50th St, West Des Moines, ☎ . 285 guest rooms and suites with in-room Internet, Sheraton Sweet Sleep bedding, Shine for Sheraton bath products and flat-screen televisions. On-property dining includes the Park Place Restaurant and the Waterfall Grille. The hotel features 15 convention rooms totaling 23,000 square feet of meeting space.
In case of an emergency requiring police, fire, or medical assistance, dial 911 for help. The Des Moines Police is the local law enforcement agency. Each suburb also has its own police department, such as the Windsor Heights Police Department.
Des Moines is an extremely safe city during all parts of the day. One can take the evening air without feeling nervous. Just like in all other cities with a sizable amount of people, there are areas and neighborhoods that may be more troublesome for some groups of people than others. Visitors are likely to avoid these small pockets, however.
Pickpockets and grand ripoff schemes that plague other cities in the U.S. and across the globe are not pervasive in the area. Still, the best thing to do is use your judgment—if you don't want attention, don't do things to draw people's attention.
In any emergency which requires medical assistance, call 911.
All hospitals—not clinics—have 24-hour emergency services available.
- The local area code is "515." Calling to nearby areas, such as Ames 35 mi (56 km) north, which also begins with "515," is not considered "local," however, and thus the area code must be included when dialing.
- Des Moines International Airport - Offers wireless Internet access.
- Iowa was one of the first states in the U.S. to provide wireless Internet access at rest areas.
- The Des Moines Register - Iowa's most-circulated daily newspaper.
- City View - Free alternative newsweekly with features on social issues and heated political talk.
- Juice - Free weekly which focuses on fashion, events, and light-hearted issues for their young adult readers.
- Datebook - Features information about local shows, concerts, movie showtimes and releases, and restaurant reviews. Released weekly and is free. Also appears as an insert in The Des Moines Register towards the end of the week.
- Mexico, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. In 2011, a mobile consulate came to process requests one day in March.
- Bob Feller Museum, 310 Mill St, Van Meter, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Tu-Sa 10AM-3PM, Su noon-4PM. Iowa's most famous baseball player, "Rapid Robert" was an 8-time all-star pitcher for the Cleveland Indians and World Series winner (1948). Before making the big leagues, "Bullet Bob" learned how to throw a baseball in Van Meter before starting off on his eventual Hall of Fame career. $5, children and seniors $3.
- Historic Covered Bridges of Madison County, Winterset. When built in the 19th century, few might have guessed the fanfare attributed to the bridges, features of both the novel The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller and later Clint Eastwood-directed movie of the same name. No admission or gate to walk thru.
- Iowa Speedway, 3300 S 24th Ave E, Newton, ☎ . Iowa's largest racetrack, featuring Indy Car Series, ARCA Remax Series, USAC Racing, Rolex Sports Car Series, ASA Late Model Series, USAC Silver Crown, and USAR. About 30 mi (48 km) east of Des Moines via I-80.
- Knoxville Raceway, 1000 N Lincoln St, Knoxville, ☎ . Roughly 30 min southeast of Des Moines. The Raceway holds 24,000 spectators and is filled each August when the Knoxville Nationals take place. The dirt track features sprint car racing and events start in April and last through October.
- National Balloon Classic, Launch field 3 mi (5 km) E of Indianola via Hwy 92, ☎ . Hot air balloon competitions.
- National Balloon Museum, 1601 N Jefferson Way, Indianola, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 1 May - 23 Dec M-F 9AM-4PM, Sat 10AM-4PM, Su 1PM-4PM, 24 Dec-30 Apr M-Sa 10AM-2PM, Sun 1PM-4PM, check website for holiday closings. Also houses the U.S. Ballooning Hall of Fame.
- [dead link]Reiman Gardens, 1407 University Blvd, Ames, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. 9AM-4:30PM daily, extended summer hours, closed Thanksgiving, 1 Jan and 25 Dec. Iowa State University's campus features Reiman Gardens, which also includes an indoor butterfly garden. $8, 65+ $7, aged 4-14 $4.
|Routes through Des Moines|
|Minneapolis-Saint Paul ← Ankeny ←||N S||→ West Des Moines → Kansas City|
|Omaha ← West Des Moines ←||W E||→ Ankeny → Davenport|
|Omaha ← West Des Moines ←||W E||→ Newton → Davenport|
|Albert Lea ← Mason City ←||N S||→ Chillicothe → Sedalia|
|END ← West Des Moines ←||W S||→ Carlisle → Boonville|
|END ←||W E||→ Pella → Ottumwa via|