The 10 Best Things To Do In Des Moines

Imagine a place where the charm of the Midwest meets a vibrant urban scene, and you’ve got Des Moines, Iowa. It’s a city that’s been quietly upping its game, and let me tell you, it’s packed with surprises. Whether you’re a culture vulture, a nature enthusiast, or just in town for a good time, Des Moines has got you covered. So, let’s dive into the top 10 things that should be on your must-do list when you visit this hidden gem of the Heartland.

1. Wander the Des Moines Art Center

Art lovers, rejoice! The Des Moines Art Center is a feast for the eyes, with its impressive collection of modern and contemporary pieces. It’s not just the art that’ll catch your gaze; the building itself is a masterpiece, designed by renowned architects. Strolling through the galleries, you’ll find works by legends like Hopper and O’Keeffe. And guess what? Admission is free, so you can soak up all that creativity without spending a dime.

2. Explore the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden

Need a touch of greenery in your life? The Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden is a lush oasis in the heart of the city. With exotic plants and seasonal blooms, it’s a tranquil spot to reconnect with nature. The geodesic dome is a standout, housing tropical and desert plants. It’s the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle, and maybe even snap that perfect Instagram shot.

3. Catch a Show at the Des Moines Civic Center

For a night out on the town, the Des Moines Civic Center is where it’s at. This premier venue hosts Broadway shows, concerts, and comedy acts. The acoustics are top-notch, ensuring you’ll hang onto every word and note. Make sure to check their schedule; you might just catch a Tony-winning musical or a laugh-out-loud stand-up routine.

4. Get Outdoors at Gray’s Lake Park

Gray’s Lake Park is a local favorite for a reason. It’s the go-to spot for outdoor activities, from paddleboarding to jogging along the picturesque trail. The park’s centerpiece, Gray’s Lake, is a hub of activity, especially in the warmer months. Don’t miss the chance to see the city skyline reflected in the water at sunset—it’s nothing short of magical.

5. Step Back in Time at the Living History Farms

History buffs, you’re in for a treat. The Living History Farms bring the past to life with interactive exhibits spanning 300 years of Iowa’s agricultural history. You can chat with costumed interpreters, visit a working farm, and even try your hand at some old-fashioned farming techniques. It’s a unique way to experience the Midwest’s rich heritage.

6. Savor the Flavors at the Downtown Farmers’ Market

Foodies, mark your calendars for the Downtown Farmers’ Market. It’s a smorgasbord of fresh produce, artisanal eats, and local crafts. With over 300 vendors, you’ll find everything from juicy tomatoes to homemade pastries. The market is a Saturday morning staple from May to October, and it’s the perfect spot to mingle with locals and sample the best of Iowa’s bounty.

7. Take a Capitol Tour

No visit to Des Moines is complete without a stop at the Iowa State Capitol. This architectural marvel boasts a stunning 23-karat gold leaf dome that you can see from miles away. Inside, you’ll find a treasure trove of history and art. Free guided tours are available, offering insights into Iowa’s legislative process and a peek at the governor’s office.

8. Enjoy the Thrills at Adventureland Park

Looking for some adrenaline-pumping fun? Adventureland Park has got you covered with over 100 rides, shows, and attractions. From roller coasters to water slides, there’s something for everyone. Don’t miss The Monster, a roller coaster that’ll have your heart racing with its twists and turns. It’s a family-friendly spot that guarantees a day full of laughter and excitement.

9. Discover the East Village

The East Village is Des Moines’ hippest neighborhood, brimming with boutiques, eateries, and bars. It’s the perfect place to shop for unique finds and enjoy some of the city’s best dining. The vibe here is eclectic and energetic, making it a must-visit for anyone looking to experience the local culture.

10. Unwind at the Pappajohn Sculpture Park

Last but not least, the Pappajohn Sculpture Park is an urban sanctuary that art enthusiasts and casual visitors alike will adore. This outdoor gallery features over 20 sculptures by world-renowned artists, set against the backdrop of Des Moines’ skyline. It’s a serene spot to ponder the intersection of art and nature, and it’s completely free to explore.


  • What’s the best time of year to visit Des Moines?

    Des Moines shines in the summer and fall. The weather is ideal for exploring outdoor attractions and attending festivals. However, the city offers year-round activities, so any time is a good time to visit.

  • Is Des Moines a family-friendly destination?

    Absolutely! With parks, museums, and entertainment options like Adventureland Park, there’s plenty to keep kids and adults alike entertained.

  • How walkable is Des Moines?

    The downtown area is quite walkable, with many attractions close to each other. For exploring further afield, a car or public transport is recommended.


Des Moines is a city that’s full of surprises, offering a rich tapestry of experiences that cater to all tastes. From the cultural treasures at the Art Center and Civic Center to the natural beauty of Gray’s Lake Park and the Botanical Garden, there’s no shortage of things to do. History comes alive at the Living History Farms, while the Downtown Farmers’ Market and East Village provide a taste of local life. The State Capitol impresses with its grandeur, and Adventureland Park delivers thrills for the whole family. And for a peaceful retreat, the Pappajohn Sculpture Park awaits. Des Moines is a city that invites exploration and promises memorable moments. So why not add it to your travel list and discover its many charms for yourself?

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.