A temple for art lovers and learners, the Des Moines Art Center houses artworks like Edward Hopper's Automat, which was reproduced as a postage stamp. Other artists included in the permanent collection are Andy Warhol, Claude Monet, and Roy Lichtenstein. The building is considered a work of art in and of itself, first built in 1948 and later redesigned in 1968. The art center even has a reference library, restaurant, and gift shop. It also has arrangements for seminars and workshops on regularly.
The Iowa State Fairgrounds was originally the Charles Thornton Farmstead and has been the home of the rewnoned Iowa State Fair since 1886. Spread across 435 acres (176.03 hectares), these sprawling grounds also have historic buildings and are registered on the National Register of Historic Places. These include structures like the primary house and barn, the 1902 Livestock Pavilion, and the 1904 Agriculture Building. Around half of the open space is used for the annual fair and the remaining is enjoyed as a campground. The entire area is divided into departments, which host concerts, flea markets, livestock exhibitions, and antiques, auto, and trade shows. If you're in Des Moines during the Iowa State Fair, put it at the top of your to-do list.
Eye-candy for botanists and admirers of nature, the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden prides itself on its beautiful plantations, exotic flowers, and manicured hedges. You'll find an incredible variety of tropical plants, as well as features like small waterfalls to help set the scene. Beyond creating visually stunning experiences, the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden also endeavors to create awareness among visitors about horticulture and the environment through its several educational tours. Plant lover or not, head here to soak in the lovely atmosphere or simply for a breath of fresh air.
An exciting journey awaits those who are curious about the state’s history at this museum. Located at the Iowa State Historical Building, this museum houses documents and artifacts that detail the history of Iowa. Among the collections here, you will see rare antique cars like the Duesenberg automobiles, as well as the animals and plants that are native to the region. After being acquainted with the history of the state, do head down to the Cafe Baratta, where a sumptuous lunch awaits you. See the website for more information.
Gas Lamp is Des Moines' quintessential bar-next-door and a favorite joint among locals and those in the know. One of the most happening spots for live music in the city, the stage sees local bands and emerging talent cover blues, country, folk, and alternative rock among a host of other genres. Grab either a domestic or international pint and enjoy weekly open jam nights. Gas Lamp is unpretentious and has a certain old-world, motel-esque vibe going for it. Dimly lit with only a hint from LED signs, the decor features wall-mounted animal heads, exposed brick walls, an intricate ceiling, and funky graffiti art on the lavatory interiors.
Wooly's is a music venue in Des Moines, lauded by some as the best place in the city to take in a live show. Its name is a wink to the Woolworth Store that once occupied the building, and while its new owners have developed a modern space, they have retained certain elements of the original structure. Wooly's is a spacious venue, capping at around 800 guests. Its shows typically feature indie-rock artists, both locally and nationally recognized singer-songwriters, though various genres are welcome. Check the website for upcoming performances.