Des Moines skyline at dusk

How to Enjoy Your Downtime in Downtown Des Moines

Des Moines skyline at dusk

How to Enjoy Your Downtime in Downtown Des Moines

Des Moines' Midwest charm and friendly atmosphere combined with beautiful art, history, and more make it an easy place to find things to do during your downtime.

With its winning combination of Midwestern friendliness, arts and culture, and fabulous restaurants, Iowa’s capital city offers no shortage of things to do in your spare time. Whether you have a few short hours free between meetings or an entire afternoon and evening free to explore, you can make every minute count. Spend your downtime experiencing a few of the unique spots that make Des Moines like no other city in the U.S.

Meander through Pappajohn Sculpture Park

Part park, part public art installation, this 4.4-acre area serves as downtown’s pedestrian-friendly entryway. The lush landscaping and world-class art make it unlike any other park in the country. Pappajohn Sculpture Park offers plenty of green space to spread out and enjoy your lunch break. It features 28 sculptures created by 22 global artists, including Yoshitomo Nara, Mark di Suvero, Jaume Plensa, Gary Hume, and Scott Burton.

Explore the East Village

This historic downtown neighborhood is home to some of the city’s hippest restaurants, bars, and shops. It’s a great place to wander around, do some people watching, and admire the local architecture. Many of the buildings in the area are on the National Register of Historic Places, and East Village browsing is perfect when you have a couple of hours. Grab a quick bite to eat at the ever-flavorful Zombie Burger + Shake Lab or one of the open-air cafes, and then explore the vibrant small businesses and funky boutiques.

Visit a Museum

Downtown is home to a variety of museums, including the striking Des Moines Art Center with its contemporary architecture and extensive collection of works from famous artists from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. Surrounded by nine acres of lush gardens, Salisbury House and Gardens is a historic house museum filled with various art collections and artifacts from around the world.
The best spot to learn more about the rich heritage of the “Hawkeye State” is at the State Historical Museum of Iowa, located in the East Village downtown. The museum boasts thousands of historical artifacts and a variety of exhibits that bring the state’s legacy to life.

Tour the Capital

No trip to downtown Des Moines is complete without at least a quick stop to admire the glittering, 23-karat gold dome atop the ornate Capitol Building. Visit the Whispering Gallery to possibly learn a secret or two, take a guided tour, or just snap a few pictures while admiring the beautiful architecture.
State Capitol Building in Des Moines

Browse the Farmers’ Market

The best way to spend a Saturday morning in downtown Des Moines is browsing the Farmers’ Market. Mingle with friendly locals while sampling some of the fresh foods sold by local farmers and vendors. The market offers tons of fresh produce along with a variety of crafts and gifts and live music for entertainment.Woman picking vegetables at farmer's market in Des Moines

What do you like to do between business meetings in downtown Des Moines? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page.