Des Moines Tourist Information and Tourism

(Des Moines, Iowa - IA, USA)

Located within the American Midwest, Des Moines (pronounced 'Dee Moyn') may not be the most exciting of state capitals, but it certainly does have a few major tourism magnets that reliably draw visitors to the city.

This city was officially established in the year 1843 and was originally named Fort Des Moines by early French visitors, before gaining its current name and capital status the following decade. Today, the city is a major player in America's insurance, financial and publishing industries. However, the busy downtown district can often feel unexpectedly quiet, since many buildings and blocks are connected by elevated skyways. In fact, this unusual skywalk network stretches for more than 4 miles / 6 km in total.

The Iowa State Capitol Building is without question one of America's most impressive, with a particularly grand entrance being provided by the West Capitol Terrace, while the city's annual Iowa State Fair each August also attracts thousands, with its country music, tasty food and unusual cow sculpture created from butter. First held all the way back in 1854, the fair now incorporates huge grandstand concerts, monster trucks and auto racing, beginning with a parade in downtown Des Moines starting outside of the Capitol itself.

Tourists will find that many places of interest and recreational spaces line the banks of the Des Moines River. The trendy East Village resides on the eastern banks of the river and is brimming with culture, bars and eateries. To the west, the Court Avenue Entertainment District is central to local nightlife and dining. For tourism advice, the local Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau on Locust Street provides all the local tourist information that you could ever possibly need, and then some.

Des Moines Tourist Information and Tourism: Top Sights

Families, couples, general holiday makers and senior citizens are all well catered for in Des Moines when it comes to sightseeing and tourist attractions. Culture comes in the form of performances by the Des Moines Symphony Orchestra at the Civic Center, open-air summer concerts at the enormous Simon Estes Riverfront Amphitheater, and regular opera shows in the neighboring suburb of Indianola, to the south. Children will enjoy spending a long afternoon exploring Blank Park Zoo and its 1,500+ animals, or perhaps finding out all about chimps and orangutans at the Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary. For thrills and excitement, the Adventureland Amusement Park in nearby Altoona certainly more than delivers, with its rollercoasters and water park complex with multiple water slides. All ages will enjoy wandering around the Des Moines Botanical Center, where exotic plants and birds live in a giant domed conservatory. For a day out, choose between Gray's Lake, Saylorville Lake and the Big Creek State Park, which between them offer nature trails, recreational activities and even beaches. More information about Des Moines Tourist Attractions.

A big part of any trip to Des Moines is simply taking time out to walk along its very pedestrian-friendly downtown streets, passing by a number of stylish buildings, sculptures and pavement cafes. The Iowa State Capitol sits in between East Grand Avenue and East Walnut Street, where its golden dome is clearly visible from a distance. Visitors are able to climb almost 300 steps to reach the dome and enjoy some superb cityscape panoramas, whilst also admiring the decorated interior of the rotunda. Located a few blocks to the west and right next to the river, the Des Moines City Hall is another building that exudes authority and presence, being listed on the National Register of Historic Places and known for its beautiful Beaux Arts style architecture. On the western side of the river, the Iowa Governor's Mansion is close to both the Raccoon River and also the Western Gateway Park. Other landmarks of note include the historical halls of Drake University, the James Jordan House, the Henry Wallace House and the WWII Freedom Memorial, which stands just across from the Capitol. More information about Des Moines Landmarks and Monuments.

The State Historical Society of Iowa Museum on East Locust Street is home to an extensive collection of Native American artifacts and information, as well as further exhibits relating to aviation, genealogy, wildlife and agriculture. At the Science Center of Iowa on the West Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway, visitors are able to view a large T-Rex skeleton, and then perhaps visit the state-of-the-art planetarium named the Star Theater. A taste of yesteryear is offered at Salisbury House on Tonawanda Drive, and this mansion is brimming with antiques and collections of old books, paintings and weapons, with beautiful landscaped gardens setting the tone.

On the westerly outskirts of Des Moines, the Living History Farms attraction can be reached in approximately 20 minutes by road and features the chance to learn all about Midwestern agriculture, with a recreation of a historic 18th-century village and 19th-century pioneer farm. If you prefer to indulge your artistic side, then consider visiting the Des Moines Art Center on Grand Avenue, the Pappajohn Sculpture Park at the Western Gateway Park, or the Major Hoyt Sherman Place on Woodland Avenue, which comprises a gallery, events hall and performing arts center. More information about Des Moines Museums and Des Moines Art Galleries.

Being located on the southern side of central Iowa means that getting around the entire state is relatively straightforward, thanks to a network of intersecting interstates, such as the I-35, the I-80 and the I-235. However, if you are here during the winter and plan to drive, do bear in mind that frosty weather may well result in icy roads at times. If you are considering the possibility of a day trip or two, then options include an excursion to the Newton Arboretum, to the east, or to the Knoxville Raceway, to the southeast. Head northwards and the Reiman Gardens at Ames is reachable in around 45 minutes, while some 30 minutes south is the National Balloon Museum at Indianola. You may also like to see the famous covered bridges of Madison County, which date from the 19th-century and are within comfortable reach of Des Moines. Further afield, Omaha lies just across the border and to the west, in the state of Nebraska, and Kansas City is to the south, in the state of Missouri. More information about Des Moines Attractions Nearby.

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