Iowa's history is still in the making and on full display in Des Moines. Places like the gold-domed State Capitol building shimmer with the state's 170-plus-year history. Other spots like the Salisbury House and Gardens and the Hoyt Sherman Theater display the rich cultural heritage of the city, as do downtown storefronts and historic landmarks.
State Capitol Building
Home to the governor's office and many sectors of the Iowa government, including the Iowa Senate and the Iowa House of Representatives, the interior of the State Capitol is also adorned with large works of art and a hand-carved design that radiates the prestige of the history made within its walls.
Free guided tours are available throughout the week for groups of 10 or more. Every visitor can roam the halls and tour the open rooms on their own, including standing atop the glass floor that gives a great view of the gold dome interior.
Science Center of Iowa
While it's particularly entertaining for children of all ages, don't be surprised to find adults also having fun at the Science Center of Iowa. This award-winning space features permanent and rotating hands-on exhibits that promote experimental learning. The Science Center is also home to a planetarium to gaze upon the stars, plus an IMAX Theater to give a better picture of the world around us.
John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park
Centrally located in downtown Des Moines within Western Gateway Park, the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park is a 4.4-acre landscaped space featuring more than 20 works of sculptured art. The park has been entertaining Des Moines urbanites with wonderful sculptures since 2009 and is a great place for families, tourists, and anyone on their lunch break.
The Sculpture Garden and surrounding Gateway Park are fun places to visit at any time of year, but come summertime, these celebrated spaces serve as venues for various community gatherings, including the Des Moines Arts Festival.
Salisbury House & Gardens
Built in the 1920s by businessman Carl Weeks and his wife Edith, the Salisbury House and Gardens sits quietly in the neighborhoods south of Grand Avenue. While no one has officially occupied this 42-room estate in more than six decades, there is still plenty of life and culture to explore.
Whether you consider yourself a history buff or antique admirer, even just a casual explorer, the Salisbury House and Gardens and the history it holds can interest every member of your family.
Des Moines Art Center
The Des Moines Art Center has been exhibiting fine arts since 1948. During this time, this critical cultural attraction has seen some expansion in floor space, exhibits, and the community that surrounds it.
Featuring constantly rotating exhibits from local and nationally renowned artists, plus permanent pieces from artists like Matisse, Monet, and O'Keeffe (just to name a few), the Des Moines Arts Center offers plenty to see. The Des Moines Art Center also proudly offers free admission.
Once known as Sec Taylor Stadium, Principal Park is located at the scenic confluence of the Iowa and Racoon River in downtown Des Moines. Home to Iowa's own Triple-A minor league baseball team, the Iowa Cubs, Principal Park was remodeled in 1992 and has since been noted as one of the best minor league stadiums in the nation.
Over the last few decades, Des Moines has been growing into a cultural hub and capital of new tastes and styles. No better example of this cultural emergence can be found than on the streets of the commercial and residential neighborhood of the East Village.
Located east of the Des Moines river in downtown, this burgeoning neighborhood is lined with local restaurants, shops, and lively spots to enjoy at night.
Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden
With plants ranging from temperate to tropical, the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden takes you indoors and out while you tour the carefully planted collections. Something is always in bloom at this urban botanic center.
Whether your visit is part of an adult-education class on gardening, or you're attending a tastefully decorated event in the rentable venue space, you can admire the garden's beauty.
Water Works Park
Water Works Park contains nearly 15,000 acres of green space close to the streets of downtown Des Moines. This manicured green space is popular with activities like running, biking, bird-watching, fishing, and intramural athletics.
Among the many ways to enjoy everything Water Works Park has to offer is simply setting down a blanket to relax in the sunshine. To extend your adventure from the park, a bike trail leads beneath Fleur Drive to connect with the waters of Gray's Lake and its scenic pedestrian pathway. Boat rentals are also available to access the water.
Iowa State Fair
A tribute to the agricultural spirit that supports the state of Iowa, the Iowa State Fair is a nearly two-week celebration that happens every August at the fairgrounds in Des Moines. It provides community members and tourists alike the opportunity to experience the many facets of the industry that defines the state. You don't have to be a farmer or active in the agricultural industry to enjoy the Iowa State Fair, not in the least bit.
Some of the many ways to experience the Iowa State Fair include trade shows, exhibits, art galleries, amusement rides, live music, and more food stands than one can shake a stick at. The eleven days of the Iowa State Fair is packed with entertainment and things to do. Several local and big-name concerts take place at the fair each year.