16 Best Places and Things To Do in Des Moines, Iowa

Des Moines, the capital city of Iowa, is a vibrant and dynamic destination with plenty of things to see and do. Here are some of the best places to visit and activities to enjoy in Des Moines:

1. Pappajohn Sculpture Park

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Located in downtown Des Moines, this 4.4-acre park features over 30 sculptures from renowned artists around the world. Visitors can enjoy the park’s green spaces, walking trails, and art installations.

2. Gray’s Lake Park

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Located on the south side of downtown, Gray’s Lake Park is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. The park features a 2-mile trail around the lake, a playground, and picnic areas.

3. State Historical Museum of Iowa

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This museum showcases the history and culture of Iowa through interactive exhibits, artifacts, and multimedia displays. Visitors can learn about the state’s Native American heritage, early settlers, and important events in Iowa’s history.

4. Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden

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The Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden is a must-visit destination for plant lovers and those seeking a peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. The 7-acre botanical garden is located in downtown Des Moines and features a variety of indoor and outdoor exhibits.

5. Des Moines Art Center

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The permanent collection at the Des Moines Art Center features works by some of the most famous artists of the 20th and 21st centuries, including Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe, Francis Bacon, and Jasper Johns. The museum’s collection is particularly strong in the areas of American regionalism, abstract expressionism, and pop art.

6. Blank Park Zoo

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Blank Park Zoo is a popular family-friendly attraction located in Des Moines, Iowa. The zoo is home to a wide variety of animals from around the world, including lions, tigers, giraffes, zebras, and monkeys.

7. World Food Prize Hall of Laureates

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The museum features a variety of exhibits, including interactive displays that showcase the work of World Food Prize laureates, as well as artifacts and memorabilia from around the world related to agriculture and food production. Visitors can learn about the history of the World Food Prize and the impact that it has had on addressing global hunger and malnutrition.

8. Science Center of Iowa

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The Science Center of Iowa is a popular interactive museum and educational institution located in downtown Des Moines. The museum features a wide variety of exhibits and experiences designed to engage visitors of all ages in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning.

9. Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden

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The garden features a variety of themed areas, including a rose garden, a water garden, and a vegetable garden. Visitors can stroll through the gardens and admire the different plants, flowers, and landscaping features. There are also several seating areas throughout the garden where visitors can sit and enjoy the peaceful surroundings.

10. Des Moines River Trail

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Des Moines River Trail is the High Trestle Trail Bridge, which spans the Des Moines River between the towns of Madrid and Woodward. The bridge features a unique design, with 43 steel frames that are illuminated at night, creating a stunning visual display. The bridge is a popular destination for photographers and sightseers, and offers breathtaking views of the river valley below.

11. Ewing Park

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Ewing Park is the 18-hole golf course, which offers scenic views and challenging holes for golfers of all skill levels. The park also features several hiking and biking trails, which wind through the park’s natural areas and offer a chance to spot a variety of wildlife, including deer, birds, and other animals.

12. Rotary Riverwalk Park

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located in the heart of downtown Des Moines, situated along the banks of the Des Moines River. The park spans approximately 1.2 miles and features a beautifully landscaped walking and biking trail that offers stunning views of the river and the city skyline.

13. Easter Lake Park

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located on the southeast side of Des Moines. The park offers a variety of recreational activities for visitors of all ages, including fishing, hiking, biking, boating, and more.

14. Margo Frankel Woods State Park

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The park is also home to a variety of wildlife, including songbirds, woodpeckers, and other bird species. The park offers several opportunities for birdwatching and nature observation, with several observation platforms and benches located along the hiking trail.

15. MacRae Park

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The park is also home to a variety of wildlife, including songbirds, woodpeckers, and other bird species. The park offers several opportunities for birdwatching and nature observation, with several observation platforms and benches located along the hiking trail.

16. Fort Des Moines Museum & Education Center

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located in the historic Fort Des Moines district of Des Moines, Iowa. The museum is dedicated to preserving and sharing the history of the Fort Des Moines military installation, which played a significant role in the civil rights movement and the history of African American soldiers in the United States Army.

Des Moines is a great destination with plenty of things to see and do. Whether you’re interested in art, history, nature, or just having fun, there’s something for everyone in Iowa’s capital city.