West Des Moines
A city in its own right, West Des Moines is situated on the edge of Des Moines and attracts visitors for its historic buildings and beautiful hiking trails.
A great way to get a feel for the history of West Des Moines is to stroll around Valley Junction. An economic hub since the 1890s, this downtown area has many interesting shops, quaint bars and a weekly farmers market. Browse the collections of locally owned antique shops, art galleries, and jewelry stores for a handcrafted souvenir made by West Des Moines artisans.
Take a tour of Jordan House which played a role in the anti-slavery movement in Iowa and is now a museum. Learn how this Victorian house served as a stop on the Underground Railroad, an organization which smuggled slaves into the north. Tours of the house, which is believed by some to be haunted, are conducted every Friday and on the first Sunday of each month.
Visit the southeast part of town for beautiful nature walks along the Raccoon River. Choose the Jordan Creek Trail, which wraps around a large pond or take the Browns Woods Loop. This 1.9-mile (3-kilometer) loop has a cellular phone audio tour which provides information about points of interest and local tips.
See a concert at Val Air Ballroom where West Des Moines residents have danced since it opened in 1939. Its bright neon lights have been an icon of West Des Moines nightlife for generations.
West Des Moines is accessible by car and train from nearby Des Moines. If you are flying in, use the Des Moines International Airport and take a bus into West Des Moines.