Central Iowa, IA

Travel Guide
Reiman Gardens which includes a park and signage as well as a family
Delve into rural America in the heart of Iowa, where rolling farmland, the state capital and a wealth of cultural attractions await.

Visit Central Iowa for some of the United States’ most traditional landscapes and friendly people. Rolling hills and acres of green, lush farmland provide a true picture of rural America. The central part of this big state is characterized by bucolic villages and towns, where occasional farms and their red-sided barns are the only things breaking the panorama of pastures.

Between the fields, Central Iowa also has fascinating towns and cities. Stop first in the capital city of Des Moines. Look up at the sparkling golden dome of the State Capitol. Wander through the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park to see works by more than 20 artists as well as a staggering panorama of the city. Visit in the summer and attend the legendary Iowa State Fair, a large collection of rides, food and animals.

Southwest of Des Moines is Madison County. Seek out the iconic covered bridges, the largest group of which exists in one area in the western half of the Mississippi Valley. Nearby, visit the John Wayne Birthplace and Museum.

Just east of the winding Des Moines River, Fort Dodge is an interesting town to explore. Wander around the Blanden Memorial Art Museum, have a tasting at a local winery, attend a community festival or concert, or head off for fun in the outdoors. Find numerous parks including the Brushy Creek State Recreation Area with hiking and horseback riding.

Head east to Iowa Falls on the shores of the Iowa River. Walk over the Iowa Falls Swinging Bridge, stroll through one of the city parks or take a trip down the river on an iconic and traditional riverboat.

The large international airport in Des Moines serves as the main entry point to Central Iowa. Embark on a memorable road trip and drive along I-80, the major east-west route through the state. Entering from Illinois, it passes many points of interest before going through Des Moines and west toward Omaha, Nebraska.

Where to stay in Central Iowa

State Historical Society of Iowa Museum which includes landscape views, a skyscraper and a city

Downtown Des Moines

4.5/5(711 area reviews)

Downtown Des Moines boasts corporate campuses, fine dining, and unique retail destinations. Explore the Pappajohn Sculpture Park, and enjoy easy access to DART transit and skywalk connections.

Downtown Des Moines
Historic East Village

Historic East Village

Directly east of Downtown Des Moines, this nationally recognized historic district boasts the Iowa State Capitol complex, State of Iowa Historical Museum, and Des Moines Botanical Gardens. Explore eateries, boutique shops, and loft-style housing in its charming structures.

Historic East Village
Grays Lake featuring a lake or waterhole

Greater South Side

4/5(189 area reviews)

While Greater South Side might not have many sights to explore, venturing just a little farther will lead you to top things to see and do like Gray’s Lake Park and Lauridsen Amphitheater.

Greater South Side
View into downtown from the Capitol Building.

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Court District