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Top Rated Attractions in Des Moines

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John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park

Opened in 2009, John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park is a popular landmark in the downtown area. Named after the couple who donated most of the artwork showcased in the park, it is spread across 4.4 acres (1.78 hectares). Get amazed by the interesting and intricate sculptures laid out beautifully throughout this park. Many are created by renowned artists from across the globe. Guided tours can be availed from April through October however there is no need for one. Click photos, enjoy picnicking or just admire these artistic creations at this sculpture park.

Iowa State Capitol

This courtly state capitol is perched atop a verdant hill, and is a canopy of elegance and dignity. A landmark structure in Des Moines, the building is at once imposing and regal, historic and contemporary. Constructed between 1871 and 1886, it is the only state capitol in the United States that has five domes, notably the gilded central dome. One of the tallest buildings in Iowa until 1924, this iconic government building houses the Iowa State Senate and House of Representatives, as well as the offices of the Governor of Iowa, Attorney General, Secretary of State, and other major agencies. With a gilded dome glimmering under the radiance of the sun and sky, the Iowa State Capitol also acts as a panoramic vantage point over the city's bustling downtown. The capitol's exterior is complete with Corinthian columns, porticoes and a finely-sculpted pediment, while the interior is adorned with opulent furniture and remnants like ship models and ceremonial gowns attached to historic luminaries. The grounds of the capitol also shelter the soul-stirring Lincoln and Tad Statue and the Soldier and Sailors Monument.

Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden

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.

Gray's Lake Park

Once a sand and gravel quarry which grew into a huge oxbow-shaped lake, Gray's Lake Park came into form in 2001 and has been an integral part of the city ever since. Spread across 167 acres (67.58 hectares) which includes the 100-acre (40.47 hectares) namesake lake, this beautiful urban park offers a lot of recreational activity for residents within the locality. The lake is fed by the nearby river and is full throughout the year. Abounding with fish like catfish, largemouth bass and crapies, it is a favorable spot for fishing. Permit is required for this. The Kruidenier Trail Pedestrian Bridge during the night with its colorful light display is a sight to behold. Sailing, boating, canoeing and kite-flying are other popular activities. Well planned trails, biking trails, picnic spots, a swimming area, a beach and playground complete this park. Bicycles and watercrafts can be rented from the park. Pets on leash are allowed.

East Village

The historic East Village neighborhood in Downtown Des Moines is dotted with various bars, restaurants, and shops. The fun, eclectic atmosphere of this village is what attracts many visitors. The historic East Village also hosts many annual events, including the World Food Festival. This iconic neighborhood features a combination of residential and commercial areas.

Iowa State Fairgrounds

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.

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