What to do in Des Moines, IA

Activities, attractions and tours
Des Moines showing a bridge, a skyscraper and a sunset

Des Moines Attractions

Victorian houses, outdoor sculpture, and tree-lined rivers set the stage in Iowa’s largest city, where you can find plenty of arts, culture, and nature in the relaxed setting of a classic Midwestern metropolis. The things to do in Des Moines reflect the city’s transformation from a frontier boom town into a modern crossroads, as stately museums share space with a working fairground, covered walkways link the convention centers and coffee shops, and attractions from studios to open-air galleries abound.

Explore thousands of experiences from activities and attractions to day tours and transfer.

Skip the line- book tickets online in minutes to top attractions with free cancellation on many activities.

Members get extra discounts on thousands of experiences and hotels. Sign up today.

What to do in Des Moines

Free Things to Do in Des Moines

There's no need to max out your credit card in Des Moines. The following won't cost a cent.

World Food Prize Hall of Laureates - Check if there are any special displays or guided tours on at this fascinating museum.

Sleepy Hollow Sports Park - Fun, fun, fun awaits you at this terrific place.

Drake University - This landmark is an interesting backdrop for that vacation profile pic.

Walnut Street Bridge - Visit this historic landmark and learn something about the area's cultural heritage.

Valley Junction - See for yourself why both visitors and locals love the charm and character of this place.

Iowa Women of Achievement Bridge - Well known among those who reside here, this site is worth stopping by.

John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park - Arrange a picnic date and enjoy a relaxing walk around the gorgeous plant life.

Areas & Neighborhoods in Des Moines

Downtown Des Moines

Home to most of the skyscrapers in the state of Iowa, Downtown Des Moines is a lively collection of hotels and event centers surrounded by restaurants and a well-served entertainment district. An extensive skywalk system links most of the area’s central buildings, while park benches and period street lamps line the sidewalks between jazz clubs and restaurants at street level.

East Village

Across the river from the skyscrapers of downtown Des Moines, the East Village packs a vibrant collection of specialty shops, attractions, and favorite hangouts. An outdoor theater stands along the waterfront, and the Iowa State Capitol stands on a hilltop park overlooking downtown and the river.


One of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, Drake gets its name from the private college that’s anchored the area since 1881. Peaceful tree-lined roads dominate the scenery, but the concentration of college kids has encouraged a healthy collection of cafes, coffee shops, and diners among the historic homes.

What to See in Des Moines

The Des Moines and Raccoon rivers meet at the edge of downtown, making for miles of greenways, forests, and fields running through the city. Pedestrian trails lead you along the riverfront and across the water, and you can relax in the shade at the Arie Den Boer Arboretum and admire the sculptures at Pappajohn Sculpture Park. There’s plenty of elegant architecture around, from the golden dome of the State Capitol to the unique Second Empire design of the governor’s mansion at Terrace Hill and the Tudor-style manor of Salisbury House.

Sightseeing in Des Moines

Des Moines offers a showcase of nature at both the Blank Park Zoo and the immense indoor conservatory at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden. For a deeper look at the past, visit the State of Iowa Historical Museum, which features a 15,000-year-old mammoth skeleton. See what the country looked like in the wild old days, and check out exhibits on the state’s history through pioneer times and into the 20th century.

Try your luck at the Quarter Horse racetrack of Prairie Meadows, a suburb of Des Moines, or check out the thrill rides and family attractions at Adventureland. Look back in time at Living History Farms, or make a stop at Jordan House, a Victorian mansion that served as a stop on the Underground Railroad.

Things to Do in Des Moines with Kids

You'll find loads of fun activities to do with the kids in and near Des Moines. Keep the crew happy with our family friendly experiences.


Looking for sports, concerts, or theater events in Des Moines? Search event tickets to see what's happening today, or to plan what to do this weekend!



Read travel guides and advice on visiting Des Moines

Frequently asked questions

What should I not miss in Des Moines?
You simply can’t go home without checking off the following incredible attractions:

  • Adventureland
  • Iowa State Fairgrounds
  • Blank Park Zoo
  • Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden

Are there cheap things to do in Des Moines?
If you’d like to make your travel funds go further, you can’t beat a Kayak Rentals at Quarry Springs Outfitters.
What can you do in Des Moines for free?
Your trip to Des Moines needn’t blow the budget with free things like these to keep you busy:

  • Iowa State Fairgrounds
  • Iowa State Capitol Building
  • Des Moines Art Center
  • Jordan Creek Town Center

Popular places to visit

Explore areas of Des Moines

Day trip destinations from Des Moines