There are countless exciting things to explore in Des Moines, Iowa, from museums and interactive attractions to shopping districts and historical sites. With its rich history and friendly locals, Des Moines is definitely worth visiting.
Fun Facts About Iowa and Des Moines
- Des Moines is home to the Waveland Golf Course, which opened in 1901. It’s the oldest municipal golf course in the U.S. west of the Mississippi river.
- Rap artist Drake shares his name with Drake University, which is located in Des Moines.
- During a celebrity golf tournament in West Des Moines, actor Rob Lowe hit a golf ball that struck and killed a goldfinch (the state bird) while it was flying.
- Des Moines is pronounced di-ˈmȯin (rhymes with “coin”).
- Iowa is famous for giving the world sliced bread, the Red Delicious apple, actor John Wayne, and Arabella Mansfield, the first female lawyer in the country.
What Does Des Moines Mean?
Historians agree the city’s name comes from the Des Moines River, which French explorers named. In French, des moines means “from the monks” or “of the monks.” Though it seems obvious that the French explorers simply chose a word from their own language, historians and linguists believe that the name actually comes from the indigenous people of the area.
One explanation is that European explorers simply shortened the Algonquian clan name of a local tribe from Moingoana to Moines. A 2015 linguistic study of the Miami-Illinois language tells a slightly different story. In this version, Moingoana wasn’t the true name of the tribe in question. Rather, it was a derogatory nickname that the rival Peoria tribe used and gave to 17th-century French explorers as a joke. Unfortunately, the “polite” translation of Moingoana is “excrement-faces.”
There isn’t a consensus about what to call a person from Des Moines. Sources list various possibilities: Des Moinesian, Des Moineser, and Iowan.
What Is Des Moines Known For?
Des Moines is the state capital, and the capitol building features a gilded dome that’s one of the largest in the world. The city also has about 4 miles of climate-controlled skywalks that cover about 30 blocks, allowing residents and tourists to avoid icy winter winds and sweltering summer weather. The Des Moines Farmers’ Market sees over 20,000 attendants every week.
Things To Do in Des Moines During the Day
Here are some top Des Moines attractions:
- Iowa Gold Star Museum: This military museum seeks to honor Iowa’s veterans from all wars, and it features exhibits from various conflicts from the Civil War to Operation Enduring Freedom.
- Living History Farms: Covering over 300 years of history, this outdoor museum features reenactors in period costumes. These interpreters provide information about the history of Iowa during five different time periods, focusing on agriculture and farming.
- The Science Center of Iowa: This scientific museum includes interactive exhibits for both children and adults as well as a planetarium and an IMAX theater.
- Blank Park Zoo: Home to more than 1,000 creatures, the zoo is hailed as one of the best in the state.
- Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden: The center has both indoor and outdoor gardens featuring plants from diverse climates, including many native Midwestern species.
What To Do in Des Moines at Night
Consider these fantastic options for evening activities in Des Moines:
- See a baseball game at Principal Park. It’s the home of the Iowa Cubs (the Chicago Cubs’ Triple-A affiliate team).
- Enjoy food, drinks, and vintage arcade games at the Up-Down Arcade Bar.
- See a show at the Des Moines Performing Arts Center.
- Check out the shops, bars, art galleries, and restaurants in the up-and-coming East Village.
Plan an Enjoyable Trip to Des Moines, Iowa
As you can see, the Hawkeye state is anything but boring. You can find plenty of fun things to do in Des Moines, and Sioux City is only a three-hour drive away. In the other direction, Dubuque, Iowa, is home to the Mathias Ham House Historical Site. This restored 19th-century house includes period furnishings.
If you’re in Des Moines in August, you can attend the Iowa State Fair. This iconic event is held every year on fairgrounds that are over a century old. It features concerts, agriculture exhibits, livestock competitions, and a giant cow sculpture made of 600 pounds of butter. Next time you’re planning a trip to the Midwest, be sure to schedule some time to enjoy Des Moines.