The 10 Best Museums in Des Moines

Des Moines, a hidden gem in the heart of the Midwest, is home to an eclectic array of museums that cater to a variety of interests. From art aficionados to history buffs, there’s a museum in this city that’s sure to pique your curiosity. Let’s dive into a curated list of the top 10 museums that are a must-visit in Des Moines, where culture and history come alive in the most fascinating ways.

1. Des Moines Art Center

First up, the Des Moines Art Center stands as a beacon of creativity. It’s a place where modern and contemporary art converge, offering a feast for the eyes. With its impressive collection of paintings, sculptures, and mixed media, the Art Center is a haven for those who appreciate the finer things in life. The rotating exhibitions mean there’s always something new to discover, making each visit a unique experience.

2. State Historical Museum of Iowa

For a deep dive into the rich tapestry of Iowa’s past, the State Historical Museum of Iowa is the place to be. Here, you’ll find yourself whisked away on a journey through time, exploring everything from the state’s natural history to its pivotal role in American history. The interactive exhibits are a hit with visitors of all ages, making it a perfect spot for a family outing.

3. Science Center of Iowa

Got a curious mind? The Science Center of Iowa will satisfy your thirst for knowledge with its hands-on exhibits and live demonstrations. It’s a place where science comes to life, sparking the imagination of both the young and the young at heart. Whether you’re exploring outer space or getting up close with the laws of physics, the Science Center is a playground for the inquisitive.

4. Pappajohn Sculpture Park

Art isn’t confined to indoor spaces in Des Moines. The Pappajohn Sculpture Park is an outdoor gallery that showcases magnificent works of art under the open sky. Stroll through the park and you’ll encounter sculptures that challenge your perceptions and invite contemplation. It’s a breath of fresh air for those who love to combine their cultural excursions with a bit of nature.

5. Living History Farms

Step back in time at Living History Farms, where Iowa’s agricultural heritage comes to life. This open-air museum offers a glimpse into the lives of Iowan farmers from different eras. You can watch blacksmiths at work, visit a Victorian farmhouse, or even take a ride on a horse-drawn cart. It’s an immersive experience that connects you with the land and its history.

6. Fort Des Moines Museum and Education Center

The Fort Des Moines Museum and Education Center honors the U.S. military’s legacy of progress and diversity. It tells the story of the first officer candidate class for African American men in 1917 and the establishment of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps in 1942. The museum’s exhibits are a tribute to those who broke barriers and paved the way for future generations.

7. The World Food Prize Hall of Laureates

Food is more than just sustenance; it’s a topic of global importance. The World Food Prize Hall of Laureates celebrates the achievements of individuals who have contributed to improving the quality, quantity, and availability of food worldwide. The grandeur of the building is matched by the inspiring stories of the laureates within.

8. Iowa Hall of Pride

Feeling proud of Iowa’s accomplishments? The Iowa Hall of Pride showcases the achievements of Iowans in sports, science, the arts, and more. Interactive displays and engaging stories make this museum a source of state pride and inspiration. It’s a testament to the spirit and determination of the people of Iowa.

9. Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden

While not a museum in the traditional sense, the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden is a living exhibit of plant life from around the world. Wander through the lush landscapes and discover the beauty and diversity of the botanical world. It’s a tranquil retreat for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.

10. The Jordan House

Last but not least, The Jordan House is a vital piece of Iowa’s Underground Railroad history. This Victorian home was once a safe haven for escaped slaves seeking freedom. Today, it serves as a museum that educates visitors about this dark yet important chapter in American history.


  • What are the admission fees for these museums?

    Admission fees vary by museum. Some, like the Pappajohn Sculpture Park, are free, while others charge a modest fee. It’s best to check each museum’s website for the most up-to-date information.

  • Are there any special events or exhibitions I should look out for?

    Definitely! Many museums in Des Moines host special events and temporary exhibitions throughout the year. Keep an eye on their event calendars to catch unique displays and activities.

  • Can I visit these museums with children?

    Absolutely! Museums like the Science Center of Iowa and Living History Farms are particularly great for kids, offering interactive and educational fun.


Des Moines is brimming with cultural treasures waiting to be explored. Each museum offers a window into different facets of art, science, history, and more. Whether you’re a local or just passing through, these top 10 museums provide enriching experiences that are both enlightening and entertaining. So next time you’re in town, why not immerse yourself in the stories and wonders these institutions have to offer? You’re sure to leave with new insights and a deeper appreciation for this vibrant city.

Remember, whether you’re marveling at the masterpieces in the Des Moines Art Center or reflecting on history at the State Historical Museum of Iowa, there’s a slice of Des Moines’ rich cultural pie for everyone to savor. So go ahead, plan your visits, and get ready to be inspired!

Kurby Team

The Kurby Content Team is a diverse group of seasoned real estate experts dedicated to providing insightful, reliable information for homebuyers, real estate investors, and real estate agents. With backgrounds ranging from real estate brokerage, property investment, and residential home buying, our team combines decades of experience with a passion for demystifying the real estate world. We at Kurby are committed to helping you make informed, successful real estate decisions. Whether you're a first-time homebuyer, a seasoned investor, or a real estate professional, count on the Kurby Content Team to deliver the most relevant, actionable real estate content you need.