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Des Moines, IA

Travel Guide
Des Moines showing a bridge, a skyscraper and a sunset

Admire beautiful buildings and indulge in boutique shopping in Iowa’s capital city, which is also close to hiking trails and adventure parks.

Known for its beautiful State Capitol Building and as the host of the annual Iowa State Fair, Des Moines is also home to popular hiking trails, a zoo and a huge botanical garden.

Many of the city’s attractions are in the East Village, a historic area on the east side of the Des Moines River. Start out at the State Capitol Building, a grand three-story 19th-century building. Its dome is gilded with thin sheets of gold and its peak is 275-feet (84 meters) high. You’ll need to phone ahead to book the free guided tour; find contact details on the Iowa Legislature website.

Just a 10 minute-walk from the capitol is the the State of Iowa Historical Museum, which has free admission, parking and family-friendly activities. Much of Iowa’s history is documented at the museum, from the earliest days of the Native Americans through to the pioneers and, more recently, military troops. See vintage aircraft, fossils, a simulated coal mine and the complete skeleton of a 12-foot mammoth, believed to have died 15,000 years ago.

Head to the riverside to find the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden. Here, you can see more than 15,000 plants, one of the largest collections in the Midwest. There is a fee for entry but check the website as the garden offers a number of free days each year. At the Blank Park Zoo, enjoy more than 49 acres (20 hectares) dedicated to 104 animal species including red pandas, lions and giraffes.

Don’t leave Des Moines without exploring the East Village shopping and dining scene. You’ll find plenty of bars, specialty stores and cute cafés.

Getting around Des Moines is easy. The free D-Line Trolley will take you to major downtown attractions. Use the Des Moines Skyway System, more than 4 miles (6 kilometers) of enclosed walkways, to get around on foot. To cover a greater area, subscribe to the bike-sharing facility, B-cycle. If you are driving, there is user-pay parking in the downtown area, with free street parking on weekends.

Where to stay in Des Moines

Wildwood Lodge
Wildwood Lodge
3 out of 5
11431 Forest Ave, Clive, IA
The price is $129 per night from Aug 3 to Aug 3
Situated in a shopping district, this hotel is 0.5 mi (0.9 km) from Clive Aquatic Center and within 9 mi (15 km) of Pump It Up and Wells Fargo Arena. Des Moines ...
4.6/5Exceptional! (1,637 reviews)
"No microwave in the room. No meats like I can or sausage at breakfast. The refrigerator in the room was tiny"

Reviewed on Jul 30, 2021

Wildwood Lodge
Des Lux Hotel
Des Lux Hotel
3.5 out of 5
800 Locust St, Des Moines, IA
The price is $169 per night from Sep 1 to Sep 1
Located in Court Avenue Entertainment District, this romantic hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Ruan Center and Des Moines Civic Center. Wells Fargo Arena ...
4.7/5Exceptional! (963 reviews)
"The decor was original, eclectic, phenomenal. Really quite original. It was cool and quiet and right downtown. The fitness room was well-equipped and the hot tub was clean. The breakfast was bountiful although I wish there would have been real plates and silverware. I would definitely recommend this ..."

Reviewed on Jul 21, 2021

Des Lux Hotel
Renaissance Des Moines Savery Hotel
Renaissance Des Moines Savery Hotel
3.5 out of 5
401 Locust St, Des Moines, IA
The price is $134 per night from Aug 30 to Aug 30
Located in Court Avenue Entertainment District, this hotel is within a 5-minute walk of World Food Prize Hall of Laureates and Des Moines Civic Center. Wells ...
4.2/5Very Good! (719 reviews)
"Price was reasonable and Beds are exc"

Reviewed on Jul 27, 2021

Renaissance Des Moines Savery Hotel
Lowest nightly price found within the past 24 hours based on a 1 night stay for 2 adults. Prices and availability subject to change. Additional terms may apply.
Frontdesk | Rowat Lofts East Village Des Moines
Frontdesk | Rowat Lofts East Village Des Moines
3 out of 5
601 East Vine Street, Des Moines, IA
The price is $56 per night from Aug 9 to Aug 9
Located in Downtown Des Moines, this apartment building is within 1 mi (2 km) of State Historical Society of Iowa Museum and Des Moines Civic Center. Wells Fargo ...
3.7/5Good! (19 reviews)
"The exterior of this building is modern, and very upscale feeling with great landscaping. The location is great and close to a lot of fun nightlife. Communication and instruction was all fantastic and no contact. Easy for our quick 1 night stay in DSM. Only thing we didn't like much (Or would suggest) ..."

Reviewed on Jul 26, 2021

Frontdesk | Rowat Lofts East Village Des Moines
Home2 Suites by Hilton Des Moines at Drake University
Home2 Suites by Hilton Des Moines at Drake University
2.5 out of 5
2650 University Ave., Des Moines, IA
The price is $152 per night from Aug 8 to Aug 8
Situated in Des Moines, this aparthotel is within 1 mi (2 km) of Knapp Center and Drake University. Wells Fargo Arena and Hoyt Sherman Place are also within ...
4.5/5Wonderful! (69 reviews)
"A great stay on a long journey"

Reviewed on Jul 28, 2021

Home2 Suites by Hilton Des Moines at Drake University
Frontdesk | R&T Lofts Downtown Des Moines
Frontdesk | R&T Lofts Downtown Des Moines
3 out of 5
717 Locust Street, Des Moines, IA
The price is $68 per night from Aug 9 to Aug 9
Located in Downtown Des Moines, this apartment building is within 1 mi (2 km) of The Temple for Performing Arts, Hoyt Sherman Place, and Des Moines Civic Center. ...
4.3/5Excellent! (3 reviews)
"It’s a bit of an adventure! The communication as to how to get the key and fob was excellent. The loft apartment was very clean and modern, and the bed was very comfortable. I’m not the biggest fan of polished concrete floors, but that’s just me. Cute apartment!"

Reviewed on Jul 27, 2021

Frontdesk | R&T Lofts Downtown Des Moines
Lowest nightly price found within the past 24 hours based on a 1 night stay for 2 adults. Prices and availability subject to change. Additional terms may apply.

Getting around Des Moines

Downtown Des Moines is compact enough for you to walk around, and there’s no need to be worried about the cold winter temperatures; a network of heated skywalks allow you to walk above the city in comfort. When the weather warms up, take advantage of the B-cycle public bike-share program. Renting a car is an option throughout the year, although you should be wary of icy roads in the winter. Visit the Des Monies Area Regional Transport Authority website.Browse Des Moines rental cars.

Best time to visit

You’ll find plenty to do in Des Moines throughout the year, but you’ll find the most pleasant weather in the spring and fall. In May, for example, average high temperatures reach the low 70s F (low 20s C), which is perfect for touring attractions like the Capitol Building and the city’s gardens. Winters get very cold, but locals turn it to their advantage. Join them ice skating on Brenton Plaza, for example.

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