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Des Moines is the capital of Iowa and a business, cultural, and recreational destination in the Midwest. This Iowa city has an exciting past; it was originally inhabited by Native Americans and later settled by Europeans in the mid-19th century.
Today, history lives on in downtown Des Moines with landmarks like the capitol building and State Historical Museum — each paying tribute to the state’s past. In addition to such historical sites, visitors can experience golfing and biking trails through wooded parks and campgrounds along riverside beaches. Just set your expectations low on the beaches if you’re used to anything a bit more exotic.
From its abundant restaurants with different cuisines to try to museums and theaters hosting regular events, there is surprisingly a lot to do while visiting Des Moines. If you want to try something a little different be sure to make this off-the-beaten-path city a part of your travel plans so you can experience it first-hand!
Getting a United States Visa (Coming from overseas)
Obtaining a visa or travel authorization is an essential part of the process for travelers to enter the United States. Depending on the purpose of the stay and length of time, the type of visa needed will vary.
Examples of visas include tourist, business, student, and work visas. It is important for travelers to note that visa applications can take up to several weeks or months to process.
If you plan to visit Des Moines, you should begin the US visa application process as soon as possible. Be sure to check the US Department of State website for more detailed information about the types of visas, requirements, and processing times.
Having all the necessary paperwork can help facilitate a smooth entry into the country. Most short-term stays require a nonimmigrant visa, while longer terms may require an immigrant or working visa.
Ensuring valid proof-of-identity documents, such as a valid passport, and a return ticket to your home country will help ensure that your travel plans go off without a hitch.
The many types of visas available provide category-specific information on when one might be needed and which type it should be to accommodate travel plans best.
Where to stay
Quality Inn Des Moines offers a good value at only $67 per night but might be lacking a bit of comfort. Located just 9.7 km away from the excitement of Adventureland and within easy reach of popular attractions like the Iowa State Capitol, Des Moines Botanical Garden, and Living History Farms, it’s an ideal destination for those looking to explore the area.
Each room comes with a TV, a refrigerator, a desk, and a microwave in some rooms. Hotel facilities include a heated indoor pool, business center, laundry facilities, complimentary hot breakfast, free WiFi, and free parking. Although, I’d set low expectations for the breakfast.
Non-smoking rooms, family rooms, and facilities for disabled guests are also available.
Days Inn & Suites by Wyndham Des Moines Airport
The Days Inn & Suites by Wyndham Des Moines Airport is less than 1.6 km from the Des Moines International Airport. The hotel is a reasonable drive away from attractions such as the Iowa State Fairgrounds, Blank Park Zoo, Wakonda Country Club, and Southridge Mall.
Additionally, this high-value hotel provides guests with a range of in-room amenities such as microwaves, refrigerators, tea, and coffee-making facilities, air conditioning, free WiFi access, and private bathrooms with baths or showers.
Recreation-wise, guests can enjoy a refreshing swim in the indoor pool or work out at the onsite fitness center. The complimentary continental breakfast served each morning adds to the convenience of one’s stay. You can get all of these at just $70 a night.
Quality Inn & Suites Des Moines Airport
The Quality Inn & Suites Des Moines Airport is a convenient option for travelers visiting the area for business or pleasure.
It is located within one kilometer of the Des Moines International Airport. It provides easy access to attractions such as Blank Park Zoo, Iowa Events Center, Wells Fargo Arena, and the Living History Farms museum.
Business travelers will appreciate the hotel’s free wireless high-speed Internet access, perfect for conducting research or printing documents. At the same time, all guests can benefit from its amenities like complimentary 24-hour airport transportation, free local calls, and an indoor heated pool and hot tub.
For added convenience, pets are welcome onsite. With an attentive staff and a great value of $69 per night, this inn offers comfort and affordability for a pleasant experience.
Red Roof Inn Des Moines
Red Roof Inn Des Moines is a decent option for those staying in the area.
It’s located 8 km from downtown, a 10-minute drive to Adventureland Park, and 15 minutes from The Science Center of Iowa. Offering competitive rates starting at $61, guests can expect services such as free WiFi, private bathrooms, a 24-hour front desk, laundry facilities, and more.
All rooms come equipped with tea and coffee makers. Family rooms and non-smoking rooms are available as well. With a limited breakfast included in most packages, Red Roof Inn Des Moines has some decent options at prices that won’t break the bank.
Best places to live in Des Moines
Downtown and Civic Center Area
The Downtown and Civic Center area in Des Moines is the perfect place to live for those looking for a vibrant city atmosphere with the familiarity of small-town charm. Located along the Des Moines River and surrounded by lush parks, this urban center has something for everyone.
With its close proximity to downtown shops, tasty restaurants, major employers, universities, and cultural activities all within walking distance, residents will surely enjoy an entertaining life in Downtown and Civic Center Des Moines.
Something exciting is always happening, whether you want to get involved in Iowa’s beloved sports teams or seek an eclectic nightlife scene. Safe, welcoming neighborhoods make the area an excellent choice for individuals of all ages.
West Des Moines
West Des Moines is perfect for establishing your life and feeling content. With abundant outdoor recreational activities and plenty of shopping, entertainment, and dining options, there is something for everyone in West Des Moines.
The city offers a warm, welcoming atmosphere with well-maintained neighborhoods and a wide range of accessible amenities. Additionally, the proximity to other towns makes up for a unique experience where you can enjoy big city attractions while still living in a laid-back suburban neighborhood.
Ankeny, Des Moines, is ideal for modern convenience in a small city. With a population of 45,000 and growing, this town offers easy access to shopping, dining, outdoor recreation, and multiple educational opportunities.
It has also become known for being the hometown of two members of the popular rock band Slipknot, making it a notable tourist destination. Moreover, Ankeny is the perfect spot for young families who want to settle down away from the hustle and bustle of larger cities.
This charming city gives residents the best of both worlds — metropolitan life with a laid-back atmosphere.
With a population of just over 44,000 people and located in Des Moines, Urbandale offers big-city amenities with an intimate community feel.
Its safe streets, family-friendly neighborhoods, excellent schools, and reasonably priced housing have earned Urbandale recognition as one of Money.com’s 50 Best Places to Live in America in 2020
Despite its size, the city continues to grow at an impressive rate and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon; evidence of this can be seen in the numerous new apartment complexes, townhomes, and single family homes that are now popping up all over town.
The Des Moines suburb of Waukee has long held a special place in the hearts of its residents. Its family-friendly atmosphere and top-tier public schooling make it a popular destination for families around Iowa.
Furthermore, as the fastest-growing school district in the state, it has positioned itself as a standout in the education world.
Not to mention that Waukee also gave us Jason Krohn, the founder of RandomKid — an organization designed to inspire kids to do amazing things — making it clear that this city is fostering positive change and inspiring a new generation of go-getters.
Clive is a vibrant, transit-friendly city located in Des Moines. It’s renowned for its lush Greenbelt Park system, which runs through the town center and offers plenty of recreational activities.
The miles of well-lit bike paths and direct access to train stations make it incredibly convenient to get around the metro area.
Additionally, since most residents here fall between the ages of 25 and 44, it provides newcomers ample opportunities to connect with those in similar life stages and explore all the city has to offer.
Whether you’re looking to explore the park trails or find your new favorite spot downtown — Clive is an ideal place to settle in and get settled!
Where to Eat in Des Moines
Des Moines is known for its vibrant food culture, with a wide range of flavors and cuisines to choose from.
With an increasing focus on local sourcing, a bustling farmer’s market scene, and emerging artisanal food products like candy bars, Des Moines has become an increasingly exciting destination when exploring the culinary delights of the Midwest.
Fong’s Pizza is a unique culinary experience that has become known as the place to go for truly delicious, imaginative pizzas. Their award-winning menu incorporates flavors and inspiration from both the East and the West to create an eclectic blend of innovative dishes that will surely tantalize the taste buds.
For just $15, you can enjoy a delightful meal of handmade appetizers, sandwiches, salads, or fan favorites such as the original Crab Rangoon Pizza.
After dining on their delicious cuisine, patrons can complement their meal with fresh tiki drinks or craft beers. Whether you’re looking for a unique twist on traditional comfort food or something new and exciting, Fong’s Pizza is guaranteed to delight.
Harbinger is a culinary venture that showcases flavorful dishes inspired by the restaurant’s Chef’s travels across Southeast Asia. The dining experience here is exploration and discovery as readers journey through the inventive menu items packed with locally sourced ingredients.
Knowing the inspiration behind each dish makes every bite even more special. Furthermore, Harbinger’s approachable meals don’t have a hefty price tag — you can enjoy an exquisite meal for only $15!
Proof is a culinary program that invites guests to enjoy the finest ingredients and a memorable seven-course Chef’s Tasting Experience.
Crafted from their chefs’ native roots and interests, the menu offers full flavors, expertise, and an engaging staff ready to guide you through a journey of tastes and fond memories.
As experts in hospitality, modern techniques, fresh produce, and unique stories, Proof provides the perfect setting for an exciting evening of fine cuisine and spectacular drinks every Tuesday through Saturday from 5 pm to 9 pm. The average cost of a meal is $50.
Smokey D’s BBQ
Smokey D’s BBQ is a family-owned restaurant and catering business founded in 2006 by Darren and Sherry Warth. The couple’s commitment to excellence on the BBQ circuit translated into the same high standards for their restaurant.
They serve up championship-level BBQ at an affordable rate — most meals averaging around $15. Their consistent quality philosophy has earned them well-deserved praise as Central Iowa’s go-to spot for great-tasting barbecue.
Local dishes to try
Steak de Burgo
Des Moines’ famous Steak de Burgo is a must-try culinary experience. With its rich flavor and lengthy history, one can easily see why this Iowan specialty has gained such recognition.
The dish was first made famous by Johnny and Kay’s Restaurant in the late 1940s, and today remains a staple. Crafted with sautéed garlic and basil in butter, this tenderloin recipe can be traced back to its roots from over seven decades ago.
For those looking for an authentic eating experience, The Latin King has them covered. This Italian landmark has been around since the ’40s, close to the same time when Johnny and Kay’s began serving Steak de Burgo to the Des Moines area.
Thus, one should expect a genuine representation of the classic dish at Latin King Restaurant. This delicacy costs around $40.
Giant Pork Tenderloin
For those looking for an experience, the giant pork tenderloin at Jethro’s BBQ is second to none.
The tenderloin patty is larger than your dinner plate and comes with multiple different toppings, including pickles, cheddar cheese sauce, bacon, and chicken tenders, all inside a bun.
Staying true to its poster child, Jethro’s also offers the Adam Emmenecker Challenge: finish an entire meal — including a pound of waffle fries! — in 15 minutes or less for only $35.95!
This dish has been featured on shows such as Man v. Food. No other pork-based meal can compete with its generous serving size and flavorsome ingredients.
Crab Rangoon Pizza
Craving something different? Look no further than the Crab Rangoon pizza from Fong’s Pizza!
The original creation features fried dumplings stuffed with cream cheese, onions, seasonings, and surimi set atop a spread of cream cheese and topped with mozzarella, green onions, asiago cheese, wontons, and sweet chili sauce.
This pizza isn’t cheap, but it’s worth it for its unique experience. You’re looking at $16 for the 10-inch and $24 for the 16-inch.
Things to do in Des Moines
Music at Wooly’s
Wooly’s offers the perfect place to experience some of the finest live music. With a bar, modern lighting, sound systems, and room for up to 683 patrons, it is one of Iowa’s favored places to witness diverse acts perform.
Since 2012, the venue has drawn in fans from all over to see renowned bands such as Ice Nine Kills, Andrew McMahon, Jade Bird, The HU, and Grouplove take the stage.
Whether you’re out enjoying with someone special or seeking entertainment alone, Wooly’s will charm you with its riveting atmosphere.
Shopping at Raygun Store
Raygun Store is a paradise for shoppers looking for vintage apparel, iconic tees, and stylish accessories. The store offers an extensive range of apparel items designed with quirky details and extraordinary graphics.
Its merchandise is carefully curated to ensure a unique shopping experience filled with individuality. Customers can explore the over 3,000 square foot space and find something special that speaks to their personality.
Raygun Store also includes custom items created in-house and selections from other independent brands to develop its unique inventory. With endless options, Des Moines’ customers can create bold looks that make a statement every time they walk into the room.
Birdland Park in Des Moines is an excellent destination for those who want to enjoy the outdoors and recreational activities.
This spacious park offers a variety of amenities, including an accessible playground, enclosed and open shelters, portable restrooms, numerous picnic tables and benches, charcoal grills, a drinking fountain, a parking lot, open space, and a walking/bike path.
Whether spending time with family or taking a solitary stroll through the park’s lush vegetation and warm sunshine, Birdland Park has something for everyone.
Gray’s Lake Park
Visitors to Gray’s Lake Park in Des Moines can enjoy various amenities, including a spacious beach, accessible playground, walking path/bike trail, and restrooms.
For those who wish to use the watercraft available for rent, an array of options are obtainable at both the Christine Hensley Terrace and Beach locations.
These include 2- and 3-person canoes, double kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and 4-person pedal boats. Prices vary depending on the type of boat tenants prefer, with half-hour rentals starting at $8 and hourly at $15.
The boat ramp is conveniently positioned near the concession stands, where cold drinks and snacks can be purchased.
Ledges State Park
Ledges State Park offers visitors an unparalleled outdoor experience, with spectacular sites and natural wonders. Hikers can venture along the four-mile trail system, winding through steep slopes and beautiful sandstone ledges above the Des Moines River.
Many Civilian Conservation Corps structures from the 1930s line the path; the most iconic is the stone bridge over Peas Creek. For campers, a stream walk near Hutton Memorial presents those wishing to honor Murray Lee Hutton with a great opportunity.
For those looking for something peaceful and secluded in nature, Ledges State Park has two shelters available for reservation — each offering a unique ambiance and breathtaking views of Iowa’s beauty.
Summerset State Park
Visitors to Summerset State Park in Des Moines can enjoy the peaceful scenery and outdoor fun. This 222-acre state park was opened in 2004 on the site of an old 1930s coal mine.
Adventurers can bike along the two-mile, picturesque, paved bike loop that connects with the 12-mile Summerset bike trail between Carlisle and Indianola.
Hiking trails wind through Banner Lakes, ideal for exploring their stunning natural beauty. Fishing is also popular in both lakes — they’re stocked with channel catfish, largemouth bass, bluegill, and crappie.
Lake Ahquabi State Park
Lake Ahquabi State Park offers an unforgettable outdoor experience, perfect for anyone looking to escape the rigors of modern life. The park features sandy beaches, tranquil waters, and abundant wildlife – including deer and bald eagles.
Those seeking adventure can explore the park’s trails by foot or bike. Or, if you prefer a slower pace, fishing from shore or renting a kayak or paddleboat can be worthwhile. Camping is available for those wanting to stay overnight, with plenty of tent and RV sites.
Original Iowa Guided Brewery Tour with Lunch or Dinner
Immerse yourself in the world of craft beer and discover the tastes and stories behind locally brewed beers. Enjoy a guided tour of four of Des Moines’ best breweries, hand-picked to provide visitors with an insight into the culture emerging from this city.
With VIP access, tastings, transport, and an experienced guide, educational and entertaining discussions will teach you why craft beer has been embraced so passionately in recent years.
And what better way to round out your introduction to craft beer than with a tasty lunch or dinner included? For only about $130, you’ll have the perfect opportunity to explore Des Moines’ rich craft beer scene.
Downtown Farmers’ Market
The Downtown Farmers’ Market is an alluring experience for visitors to the Historic Court District in May. The Market is an excellent destination for Iowa’s farmers, growers, and artisan food entrepreneurs.
While at the Market, you can shop for produce, eggs, meats, and more. Grab something delicious from one of the many breakfast vendors before perusing the various stands and booths.
Not to be missed is the charming atmosphere allowing families to gather and make memories while listening to live music entertainment.
Festivals, events, and nightlife
For those who crave excitement, Des Moines is home to a busy schedule of festivals and events, such as the Iowa State Fair, attracting millions of people each year.
The city also boasts an exciting nightlife scene with numerous bars, clubs, restaurants, and lounges catering to different tastes. Live music fans can check out some of the major venues in the area, such as Wooly’s and the Val Air Ballroom.
Popular festivals near Des Moines
Pella Tulip Festival
The Annual Pella Tulip Festival promises to be an exciting event. On the first weekend in May, visitors will flock to Downtown Pella to experience all the attractions this festival offers.
Visitors can savor Dutch delicacies, watch performances, and take tours of local museums. But the real show-stopper is the hundreds of thousands of vibrant tulips waiting to be admired — it’s a sight you won’t want to miss!
Des Moines is buzzing with enthusiasm for Newton Fest, taking place in June. The two-day celebration showcases all the fantastic things Newton, Iowa, has to offer — from its incredible art scene and mouthwatering cuisine to the vibrant history of Red Pride.
Iowa State Fair
The Iowa State Fair is a one-of-a-kind event that draws over a million people from all corners of the globe every year. Des Moines welcomes visitors to experience their salute to Iowa’s best in agriculture, industry, and entertainment, which is unlike any other in the country.
Alongside traditional fair attractions, you can find auto shows, antique markets, concerts, and more taking place throughout the 11 days the fairground is open each August.
But even when it’s not hosting the state’s grand celebration, you can still explore the fairgrounds for other exciting events. There are livestock exhibitions, trade shows, flea markets, and much more for everyone to participate in all year.
Governors Days, one of the Des Moines area’s most spectacular summer festivals, takes place in the heart of Grimes, Iowa.
A feast for the senses, this event features a vibrant array of attractions: music and dance performances, parades, rides at carnivals, and much more.
Dedicated volunteers ensure it goes off without a hitch, and local businesses provide free admission to visitors. Recently relocated to Grimes South Sports Complex, Governors Days will surely be an experience that will stand out in visitors’ memories.
Johnston Green Days
Every year, Johnston residents eagerly anticipate the return of Green Days! Families flock to Terra Park to join in the fun, laughter, and activities the festival is known for.
From the humble beginnings of a picnic lunch in 1933, it has grown into a lively event with live music, food vendors, and games. There are myriad opportunities to create memories that last a lifetime; kids can meet turtles at an animal petting zoo or race around on go-karts!
With its wide variety of performances, rides, and unique attractions, there’s something for everyone at this festival.
ArtFest Midwest was founded to provide a platform for Iowa’s artistic talent and increase public access to quality art. Since its launch in 2002, it has become a popular two-day festival that draws thousands of attendees and an array of talented regional artists every summer.
Attending this event is a great way to support local artists, as well as take in the vibrant atmosphere of Des Moines. There are also plenty of food vendors and family-friendly activities for visitors to enjoy.
Best bars in Des Moines
Up-Down Arcade Bar is a nostalgic trip through gaming history with its ’80s and ’90s games that cost only a quarter to play. For those looking to up the ante, there are skeeball, pinball machines, and console gaming with Nintendo 64.
But you don’t have to stick to games — Up-Down also offers an extensive craft beer selection. Best of all is house-made pizza-by-the-slice with plentiful options for topping combinations.
My Dad and I had a great time hanging out here and highly, highly recommend visiting this place if you’re looking to pass the time playing retro games. It made for one of my favorite memories as an adult and absolutely love hanging out there.
One bar stands out regarding the Des Moines cocktail scene: Hello, Marjorie. Founded in 2017, this cozy establishment quickly fused into the city’s nightlife.
Guests instantly feel at home in the spacious lounge, appointed with deep green leathers, retro lampshades, and art depicting Marjorie (the owner’s grandmother).
Of course, the crown jewel is that unmistakable neon sign featuring Jack Kerouac’s memorable phrase: “The prettiest girls in the world live in Des Moines.”
It makes for an especially perfect photo backdrop and provides an intimate atmosphere that’s as welcoming as Elizabeth Taylor’s living room.
If you’re looking to get a true taste of Iowa, the beer-hall-style hotspot, Iowa Taproom, is the place. With 99 taps surrounding their bar featuring all Iowa beers, you’re sure to find something new and exciting to sip on.
You won’t be able to try them all in one go, but ordering flights give you a chance to scratch that beer exploration itch and leaves room for return visits.
Get the full Iowa experience by pairing your favorite drinks with their elevated pub grub — think ham balls or breaded tenderloin strips. You must try Barn Town Neon Hazy IPA for an especially unique sip — it’ll blow you away!
Kung Fu Tap and Taco
Kung Fu Tap and Taco is one of the South Side’s hottest hangout spots. On any given night, patrons can enjoy ice-cold Hamms while playing a game of pool at one of their tables or indulging in the famed hard-shell tacos.
As if this weren’t enough to make it an appealing spot, there is also an abundance of bike memorabilia and even a giant motorcycle behind the bar! Tree stump barstools add to the unique atmosphere, making it easy to stay for hours without wanting to leave.
Plus, there have been multiple reports of celebrity sightings — such as Jason Momoa — so don’t miss out on your chance to rub elbows with a potential star!
A mere stroll inside The Royal Mile offers visitors a complete British experience. An unveiled gift to their taste buds, the menu includes hearty English favorites like fish and chips, bangers and mash, and more.
If sports are your thing? The pub has multiple TVs playing soccer matches from around the world daily. To complete the full British pub experience, visitors can take advantage of the establishment’s wide variety of craft beers and nearly 100 varieties of Scotch whiskey.
Best clubs in Des Moines
The Garden Nightclub
Known for its top-notch service and amazing entertainment, The Garden Nightclub in Des Moines, Iowa, is the place to go if you want to relax after a long week or reduce jet lag.
You can expect to find great music playing on the club’s large dancefloor and a great patio area where guests can enjoy themed performances each week.
Whether you’re looking for an escape from the grind of everyday life or want to party with friends, The Garden Nightclub has something for everyone.
Miss Kitty’s Clive Nightclub
Miss Kitty’s Clive Nightclub has been a Des Moines mainstay since its founding in 1977, providing a countryside atmosphere to revelers and partygoers alike.
Known for its fun mix of live Country music, karaoke nights, and DJs, Miss Kitty’s is the perfect spot to hang out in Iowa. The club even has its own website, where you can check out the upcoming events or make reservations for your group.
If that wasn’t enough to convince you to stop by, Miss Kitty’s also features a full bar with signature cocktails and craft beer to get his customers in their dancing shoes before hitting the dance floor.
Whether you’re looking for a place to let loose, enjoy music and drinks, or have memorable good times with friends, Miss Kitty’s Clive Nightclub is the ideal option.
The Voodoo Lounge
There is no better place to dance the night away than Voodoo Lounge in Des Moines. It has earned its reputation as the hottest Nightclub in town, thanks to its impressive Live DJ nights and exceptional bottle service.
The party atmosphere of the club is further enhanced by its large bar, stylish leather seating, and superior sound system. Music enthusiasts will appreciate the unique in-house DJ booths — where well-known guest DJs keep the vibes going long into the night.
Boasting an exciting and vibrant atmosphere, the Ricochet Club in Des Moines is a popular choice for nightlife entertainment. This cutting-edge club features some of the best DJs and musical talent, providing guests an unforgettable experience.
The state-of-the-art sound system ensures that even a standing-room-only crowd can hear every beat perfectly. It’s no surprise that Ricochet often attracts large crowds who come to dance and feel the tremendous energy generated between ravers and music lovers alike.
A highlight of the venue is its impressive light show, casting a magical aura over its inhabitants as they get lost in the music until closing time.
This club is a must-visit with outstanding service, delicious drinks, dinner menus, and craft beers paired with unparalleled events like Live Production Nights.
Safety in Des Moines
The level of crime in Des Moines is moderate, with reports of high increases in the past three years. Local citizens are moderately worried about home break-ins and theft, as well as car theft. People also express some concern over having their items taken from their vehicles.
Attacks and insults occur less, though they still take place. Drug dealing and property crimes such as vandalism and theft are reported to be moderate issues. In contrast, violent crimes and corruption are relatively low.
Generally speaking, the safety of walking alone during daylight hours is relatively high. During the nighttime, however, it can be somewhat lower. Those living in or visiting Des Moines must remember street smarts for maximum safety awareness.
Women’s Safety in Des Moines
Disclaimer: (Provided by local writer and additional sources)
As a major city in the US, Des Moines faces many safety challenges that disproportionately affect women.
Despite recent improvements that have been made with greater access to public transportation, brighter street lighting, and increased police protection at night, sexual predators continue to threaten women’s safe passage in the city.
Women who are traveling alone will want to be especially aware of their surroundings, as well as any suspicious persons or activities.
In addition, women should take extra precautions when using ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft, as well as taxis and public transportation.
Overall, women in Des Moines must remain vigilant and practice safety measures to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience in the city.
LGBTQ+ in Des Moines
(Provided by local writer and additional sources)
The safety of LGBTQ+ people in Des Moines is an important issue. The city’s Pride Center, located downtown, is dedicated to ensuring that all members of the LGBTQ+ community can feel safe and comfortable in Iowa’s capital.
Through various services like support groups, training, and advocacy, the Pride Center strives to reduce discrimination and promote equality.
Plus, they’ve recently established a hate-crime task force aimed at identifying any local incidents involving bias or discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, thereby helping LGBTQ+ people in Des Moines thrive and find peace in their own city.
Working in Des Moines
Des Moines is an often underrated choice for remote workers, but it has much to offer. The city enjoys a lower cost of living than most major metro areas, allowing freelancers and remote workers alike to enjoy more spending power while they live and work here.
Not only that, the high fiber-optic internet speeds make working from almost anywhere in the city super fast and convenient. There are several coworking spaces available in Des Moines, too.
On top of all this, there are plenty of opportunities for exploring nearby nature or relaxation during your downtime away from your freelance gigs or contracts.
Best cafes for working
With its exceptional coffee, Mars Cafe in Des Moines prides itself on being a community-driven coffee shop.
Here, guests can discuss moonshot ideas, build the community, and get creative. As Des Moines’ craft coffee shop, Mars Cafe takes pride in offering nothing short of excellent-tasting coffee.
With its fast Internet, relaxed atmosphere, and plenty of outlets for charging devices, Mars Cafe is a great spot to enjoy the city and get some work done.
Scenic Route Bakery
For those searching for great coffee, pastries, and sweets in the East Village of Des Moines, Iowa, Scenic Route Bakery is the ideal place to visit. Focused on providing the highest quality products, they use locally roasted Tugboat coffee and make all their food fresh daily.
Open from 7 am to 4 pm Monday through Saturday with lunch served from 11 am to 3 pm, customers can enjoy full espresso bar drinks and order pastries and coffee for delivery or pickup — in-store or curbside.
With fast internet access, inexpensive menu options, and a cozy environment for working in, Scenic Route Bakery offers a total destination experience for all its patrons.
Ritual Cafe is integral to Des Moines’ cultural scene and has been a local favorite since 2005. Located in downtown’s esteemed Gateway Park, Ritual Cafe is both a coffee house and a vegetarian restaurant with special treats from local bakeries.
Featuring rotating art from rising stars in the city, it also serves as a hub of creativity — it hosts open mic nights monthly to support local poets.
Beyond just serving delicious java, burgers, and pastries, Ritual Cafe also offers fast internet access and a cozy ambiance, making it the perfect spot for freelancers to get some work done while they relax.
Best coworking spots
For those looking for a professional workspace in Downtown Des Moines, visiting Gravitate Coworking at 500 Locust Street is a perfect choice.
A great benefit to Gravitate Coworking is the selection of a la Carte options — choose between Day Passes, which provide access to the coworking from 8 am-5 pm on weekdays and start at just $25 each day, or 10-day passes for $200.
The vibe in this coworking is pretty cool and chic, making it a great spot to work on projects solo or meet up with your team for collaborative work. Plus Geoff Wood is a really good dude!
The Depot is perfect for freelancers, entrepreneurs, and artists seeking a custom workspace. It offers various renting options, such as a floating desk for $125 a month or a dedicated desk for $175 a month.
Apart from the desks, it includes unlimited conference room use and breakroom access with complimentary coffee and snacks. Internet access is provided with printer and copier use, and secured entry to the building is possible via keyless entry.
Plus, all the renters get five uses of season I-Cub tickets as an added benefit. The ambiance of The Depot is perfect for getting your creative juices flowing, making it the ideal spot for getting some work done.
Located at 3106 Ingersoll Avenue, Collaborate DMS provides coworking and designated desk memberships. Each membership comes with access to their amenities from Monday – Friday, 8:00 am – 5:00 pm.
At $150/month for the coworking membership, $250/month for the designated desk membership, and $650/month for the private office, patrons can access executive-style conference rooms with all the latest technology.
Plus, free parking is available on Ingersoll Avenue or in the lot for designated desk members. The vibe of Collaborate DMS is relaxed and creative, making it the perfect spot for getting work done.
Visitors can also take advantage of their barista-style espresso bar with signature drinks or enjoy snacks from their café.
The Regus at Hub Tower
The Regus is ideally located in the heart of the bustling business district.
Regus’s all-inclusive Coworking Plan is perfect for busy working professionals and entrepreneurs because it includes accessible coworking spaces and live receptionist services.
You can choose between a full-month plan at $180, a 10-day plan at $116, or a 5-day plan at $70.
Nearly 97% of residents and visitors staying in hotels or Airbnbs can enjoy download speeds of 100 Mbps or higher. The wide availability and reliability of internet service providers make high-speed access an effortless experience for everyone in town.
Public transportation in the Des Moines Metro area is plentiful and easy to access. The Des Moines Regional Transit Authority (DART) provides extensive bus services throughout the metro area. It even has a popular, free Downtown DSM D-Line shuttle service that runs six days a week.
Public transport passes
DART provides many payment options to give customers the most convenient experience. MyDART is a mobile application that allows customers to purchase tickets, tokens, and passes ahead of time so they may go straight to boarding.
For those who prefer to use cash, bring the exact amount for your fare because the driver does not carry change on the bus. Prices start at $1.75 for full-fare and $0.75 for half-fare. Children ages 6-10 and adults 65+ can purchase half-fare tokens. Children under 5 are free. If purchasing tokens for future fares, they must be purchased in packages of 10.
If you’ll be hopping on and off the bus all day, we recommend purchasing a day pass: $4 per day or $16 per week. Monthly passes are available for purchase as well!
Online social groups for digital nomads and creatives in Des Moines
Digital Nomads Hub
The Digital Nomads Hub is an incredible resource for those seeking freedom through the digital realm. It’s an international Facebook group that is open to anyone and offers countless tips, resources, and advice to help nomads who are navigating a global lifestyle.
From finding ideal work-from-home opportunities to researching budget travel options, this supportive community will provide you with everything you need to live life on your own terms, regardless of where you choose to be anchored.
Things to do in Des Moines Iowa
For those who are seeking networking opportunities, the Things To Do in Des Moines Facebook private group provides virtual mingling with locals and visitors alike who are looking to make the most of their time in the Hawkeye State.
With discussions on must-see locations, unique workshops, live events, and more, this private group is a great resource where members can share tips on making visits memorable.
Connecting visitors with hosts in Des Moines and other areas of Iowa, this public Couchsurfer group guarantees a comfortable stay for those looking to explore the state’s natural beauty, unique attractions, and diverse range of cultures that exist there.
Not only is this beneficial for those who want to spend time in Iowa, but it is also an incredible opportunity for both hosts and guests alike — as they share stories and learn more about each other.
Those who want to experience everything the city offers can find the perfect travel partner with this public Couchsurfer group. By connecting tourists and digital nomads with local hosts, they can explore Des Moines in comfort and style while saving time and money!
Health and Fitness
Planet Fitness Des Moines is the perfect place to stay in shape. It offers top-notch fitness at a competitive price. Free trials are available to help you decide if it’s the right fit for you. Planet Fitness also offers Black Card memberships at $22.99/month.
For this price, users can take advantage of worldwide access, guest privileges, and even luxuries such as tanning beds, massage chairs, and hydromassage sessions.
Anytime Fitness is a top-notch gym that provides exceptional fitness solutions. With the goal of giving customers a 360 approach to wellness, Anytime Fitness offers individual training, group classes, nutrition, and recovery programs.
The membership at Anytime Fitness includes a free consultation, access to 4,800 gyms worldwide, and extended 24-hour convenience. Above all, they provide a seven-day free trial, so new customers can sample their services before committing.
With three different plan options, there’s something to suit all budgets. Their 24-Month Plan has a great rate of $61, as does the shorter 18-Month Plan and the 12-Month Plan for the same price.
Krave Gym’s mission to help athletes of all levels challenge and surpass their personal fitness goals. From experienced lifters to those just getting started, the training program provides an intense but safe workout experience three days a week.
Through tailored exercises, knowledge, and motivation from expert trainers, each athlete can unlock their own full potential and find success. For only $99 a month, members have access to programs that ensure success and growth along the way.
Power Life Yoga Barre Fitness
Power Life Yoga Barre Fitness is a community where everyone is welcome regardless of skill level or experience. With this in mind, their dynamic group fitness classes are designed to challenge and empower all practitioners.
At Power Life Yoga Barre Fitness, they strive to create a welcoming atmosphere where you can come to de-stress, detoxify, and improve your blood circulation — all while connecting with other practitioners during a class.
As far as pricing goes, new students start off with an unlimited week for just $10, and existing members can purchase ten class packs for $175; single-day drop-ins are available for $22, and 30 days of access cost just $150.
Mathew Koder Yoga
Founded by Mathew Koder, Mathew Koder Yoga is a spiritual body conditioning yoga studio. It provides practitioners with the opportunity to explore their practice in an inviting and serene atmosphere.
With its extensive training, personal practice, and a wealth of teaching experience, this center gives everybody, from beginner-level to advanced practitioners, an ideal platform for developing their skills and ultimately transforming themselves spiritually.
Furthermore, the center offers a variety of service packages at reasonable prices — such as drop-in classes at $20 or the ‘Love Bomb’ 10 class pass at $150.
Shakti Yoga Des Moines is the perfect body-strengthening studio to step into and deepen your yoga practice.
The highly trained teachers have an in-depth understanding of the body, energy centers, and postures, tailoring each class towards your specific needs and providing individual attention.
Their classes are designed to explore the relationship between your body, breath, and awareness.
You can explore different packages that fit your budget — from a single class at $18 to monthly packages starting at $99 or a 10-class package for $130 — so there’s something for everyone.
Des Moines is a wonderful city and a great tourist destination, but what happens if you get sick while you’re there? Knowing the answers to those questions can help tourists be confident and prepared when they are in town.
Most urgent medical issues can be taken care of by hospitals or walk-in clinics that offer quality care for those visiting the area. The cost will vary depending on what services are required, but most accept health insurance and credit cards.
If you’re visiting from abroad, it’s crucial that you have travel medical insurance that will provide reimbursement for American medical facilities — as many don’t. In general, it’s going to cost you a decent amount of money for medical treatment anywhere in the country.
A 15 doctor’s visit could cost anywhere from $85 – $500 and costs only increase from there.
Sustainable businesses and projects to support in Des Moines
This project seeks to improve the environment through sustainable landscaping, improving air and water quality, recharging aquifers, managing stormwater runoff, and protecting habitats for wildlife.
In addition to reducing carbon emissions, this project could make Des Moines greener than ever while providing generations of residents with cleaner air and healthier land.
As advocates for environmental improvement continue to become more vocal in their communities, this project allows everyone to help make their home even healthier.
Supporting this project is an easy way for people to make a huge difference in their local community.
Jamie Nicolino’s passion project, The Collective, is a sustainable one-stop shop that provides consumers access to reusable goods in downtown Des Moines.
It hopes to offer customers usable alternatives to everyday essentials, such as face masks and shampoo that would typically come in plastic packaging.
With its 900-square-foot store space at the AP Lofts located at 340 Southwest Fifth St., Nicolino believes this will be an achievable way for people to contribute to making their environment more sustainable.
Green Des Moines Partnership
The Des Moines Green Partnership is an ambitious project that seeks to make a tangible difference in the lives of those living in the city.
It encourages communities to come together and develop strategies for restoring grounded forest areas, providing a beneficial and practical resource for volunteers, schools, nonprofits, businesses, and the local government alike.
Collectively, these partners strive to promote a strong culture of leadership and stewardship within their city’s parks, dedicated to protecting the natural environment that surrounds them.
Living in Des Moines, monthly costs
Living in Des Moines can be surprisingly affordable. Those looking for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center can expect to pay anywhere between $800 and $1,294 per month, while those looking to rent outside of the center can find a one-bedroom for around $800 per month.
Those who prefer more space have three-bedroom apartments available in the center at an average price of $1,500 per month or outside of the center at an average price of $1,120.
For those interested in buying a home, apartments within the city center range from $2,034 per square meter up to almost $5,000 for those with more luxurious tastes.
Des Moines is a great place to sample the delicious local cuisine, ranging from casual fare to upscale dining. If you’re in the mood for something inexpensive yet tasty, check out one of the city’s many restaurants, which offer an average meal for one person at just $15.50.
For a more luxurious dining experience, sample a three-course meal for two people at an average price of $60.00.
For an after-dinner treat, grab yourself a cappuccino or soft drink. Average prices are usually around $4.68 and $2.17, respectively, for regular servings or even a bottle of imported beer at approximately $6.00 per 0.33-liter bottle.
If you don’t feel like spending much, most venues will have bottled water for about $1.29 for a 0.33-liter bottle. Eating out for a month in Des Moines wouldn’t be too expensive, with an average monthly budget for two people estimated at around $500 per month.
Where to buy groceries
Downtown Farmers’ Market
DSM’s farmers market is a much-loved tradition among locals. Every Saturday from May to October, residents can purchase specialty items downtown at the Des Moines Farmers’ Market in the Historic Court District.
Winter Markets are also held in November and December, where holiday items are sold. The farmers market is a great place to buy fresh produce, bakery goods, and flowers while supporting local businesses.
Gateway Market is an iconic Downtown DSM establishment that provides a memorable food experience. Guests can browse and choose from an extensive selection of organic, natural, and specialty foods that come from the area as well as around the world.
There’s even a café in the store with hot, freshly made meals to satisfy just about any craving. All customers are treated like family in this warm atmosphere, where grocery shopping is a fun adventure for all ages.
Additionally, Gateway Market provides fair prices, so you always get more for your money.
Fourth + Court Hy-Vee
Fourth + Court Hy-Vee is the perfect downtown store option, conveniently located just down the road from buzzing businesses and government buildings of Fourth Street and Court Avenue in Downtown DSM.
Along with the aisles of fresh produce, there are plenty of organic treats and dine-in options to choose from. Not only is this Downtown DSM newbie well-equipped to provide customers with products they need on their daily trips, but shoppers don’t need to worry about spending too much either.
Not only does Fourth + Court Hy-Vee have terrific selections, but it also offers fair prices for its customers.
In Des Moines, the average cost of basic utilities — electricity, heating, cooling, water, and garbage — for a 900 ft2 apartment is approximately $168 per month.
For cell phone, we recommend finding a month-to-month SIM card from a service like Metro PCS or T-Mobile, with prices ranging from $30 – $80 depending on the package.
For internet usage, those looking for speeds of 60 mbps or higher can expect to pay around $70 per month.
Most of the time, the cost of utilities is not included in rental contracts, so it’s important to be aware of these expenses.
The transit system in Des Moines is cost-effective for daily commuters. Bus tickets can often be purchased for as low as $1.75 per one-way trip, and monthly passes are available at a flat fee of $48.00 — a price that’s hard to beat.
However, if you need to use a taxi, rates start at $2.50 with an additional charge of $2 per mile and a waiting fee of $25.00 per hour.
Goods and services
Goods and services such as massages, haircuts, clothing, and movies are a large part of life in Des Moines. Although there are many different costs associated with these items, the city offers plenty of discounts and deals on them to ensure that they remain accessible to all.
The city also offers reasonably priced amenities such as a one-hour rental of a tennis court on weekends for $30, or an adult membership to a local fitness club for just $45 per month. Even catching the latest international release at the cinema won’t break the bank, with tickets available from just $10.75 each.
Generally, each person would spend about $200-$250 per month. But this varies depending on the lifestyle and needs of an individual.
Des Moines, Iowa, is a great destination for those exploring the Midwest. From the lush parks and trails to the stunning architecture, Des Moines offers plenty of activities that both tourists and locals will enjoy.
Not only is it an exciting destination to explore on holiday, but its vibrant community provides travelers with an opportunity to experience genuine Midwestern hospitality.
Whether you are looking to relax or be adventurous, Des Moines has something unique for everyone. The city is full of energy and surprises — there’s plenty to do and explore in this intriguing corner of America.