Let’s welcome Eleni from miscelenious to the blog! Eleni has a guide to the lovely Des Moines, Iowa for us today.
I am a born and raised Iowan, but I’ve only been living in Des Moines for about a year and a half. I thought Des Moines was just a detour for me, but I fell in love with the city so quickly that I can’t imagine leaving anymore! There are so many things to do here, and I haven’t even scratched the surface. We have local theater and Broadway shows, amazing concerts, beautiful bike trails and street art, insanely cool eateries and one of the best farmers markets in the country — seriously!
But, first things first: When I talk about Des Moines on my blog, I am almost always referring to the whole Des Moines metro, which includes a bunch of suburbs. I’ve kept my tour guide in the heart of Des Moines (aka, “downtown”) because it’s such a booming area that you could spend an entire weekend here and still not make it through all the city has to offer. It was hard to narrow down my top picks for this guide (especially in the bar/restaurant category!), but I picked some of my favorites and some of the best Des Moines has to offer — and I hope you all get a chance to experience them soon!
Click through to read Eleni’s Des Moines travel guide!
EAT + DRINK
Probably the thing I love most about Des Moines is the dining/nightlife scene (which only makes sense because food is my favorite thing ever). Des Moines has talented chefs and unique restaurants to rival many bigger cities. My personal favorites are RoCA (short for Restaurant on Court Avenue), which has the best flatbreads and cocktails, and Eatery A, which has the best lasagna I’ve ever had. There are so many places to eat and drink here that I haven’t even made a dent, but the places I have been able to check out always impress me.
- The Rooftop – a small rooftop bar with a fabulous sunset view (and a mean Manhattan!).
- Zombie Burger – some of the most fabulous burger creations you’ll ever find, all within the coolest zombie-themed bar/restaurant. Tip: try the spiked cereal shakes.
- Sidebar – imported Italian gelato…need I say more?
- RoCA – best flatbreads in town, craft cocktails that can’t be beat and the coolest interior design.
- Eatery A – half-priced gourmet pizzas and wines during happy hour.
- Crème Cupcake – a cocktail bar that also serves desserts (aka, heaven).
- La Mie Bakery – the best macarons, a huge bakery, plus a smoked salmon omelet to die for.
- Hoshi Sushi – the Drake Roll (named for the local university) is hands-down the best sushi I’ve ever had.
- The Village Bean – great coffee and the nicest baristas.
- El Bait Shop – more than 100 (!) beers on tap. No, seriously.
When I was growing up in Iowa, I always thought it was the most boring place in the world. Clearly I had not spent enough time in the capital city. Des Moines has been kind of an “up-and-coming” city for several years now, and it’s become so much more of a destination. We have music, art and food festivals practically every weekend, we have some very cool music venues that get great local bands and a mix of touring artists, and we have some of the coolest public art displays. Walking downtown is always a cool experience because it seems there’s always something new to see or do.
- State Historical Society of Iowa – learn a bit of Iowa’s rich culture.
- Fleur Cinema – a small theater that also sells beer and food.
- Des Moines Arts Festival – all kinds of art, all kinds of people.
- Wooly’s – an intimate live music venue in the heart of the city.
- 80/35 – Iowa’s biggest music festival.
- Public murals – if you watch The Bachelor, you’ve seen one of them already.
- The Iowa State Fair – okay, this one is a little tourist-y, but it’s one of the best in the country for a reason. It’s just something everyone should experience.
- Gray’s Lake Park – one of the area’s most beautiful sites for outdoor fun.
- Simon Estes Amphitheatre – my favorite venue for outdoor concerts, the amphitheater sits right on the river and looks beautiful both day and night.
Des Moines may not be the fashion capital of the world (yet ;), but it’s certainly got a lot to offer in terms of unique shopping experiences. The city is filled with more adorable boutiques than I ever would have imagined — it’s just a matter of finding them. It’s also got some really unique food stores and a couple of the coolest home décor stores I’ve ever seen. If you’ve got time and a little money to spend, Des Moines’ got you covered!
- Matilda Muse – trendy and affordable clothes.
- Domestica – cards, stationary and the cutest odds and ends
- Allspice – literally, all the spices.
- Raygun – witty T-shirts for every occasion — the political ones are my faves 🙂
- Graziano Bros – generations of authentic Italian products (served at tons of local restaurants, too!).
- Projects Contemporary Furniture – I’d design my whole home here if I could.
- Aimee – chic (and slightly pricier) clothes from the same owner behind Matilda Muse.
- Plain Talk Books and Coffee – the cutest tiny bookstore with a café tucked in back.
- Funky Finds Vintage and Retro – vintage shopping like you can’t imagine.
For a unique experience outside of Des Moines, Madrid (not the city in Spain!) is less than an hour outside the city and offers some fun things to do for a day. Tour the Hindu Temple Cultural Center on your way into town, then take a walk or bike ride on the High Trestle Trail. You’ll definitely want to stop for pictures on the Trestle Trail Bridge, which is an architectural masterpiece, and then stop for a drink and a bite to eat at the Flat Tire Lounge.
If you’re looking to make it a full weekend excursion, extend the trip to Ames, which is about 30 minutes outside of Madrid and around 40 from Des Moines. I might be a little biased because I went to college here, but Ames has so much to offer! When the weather is nice, you can walk through Reiman Gardens and even have a picnic there. It’s right next to Jack Trice Stadium, where you can catch a football game in the fall, or walk a little further and watch Iowa State’s basketball team and experience Hilton Magic for yourself. Finish up the night with an authentic Italian dinner at Plus 39 or fill up a growler at Olde Main.
ELENI UPAH //
Eleni is a recent college graduate still trying to decide what she wants to be when she grows up. Her blog, miscelenious, focuses on a little bit of everything, but mostly her two favorite things: fashion and Des Moines. She spends her free time making hilarious jokes with her friends and eating way too many chips and queso. Besides blogging, her other hobbies include reading, car singing, cheering on the Steelers, watching Dancing With The Stars and testing out new lipsticks.