Des Moines, the capital city of Iowa, has 10 free things to do that will help you have an affordable family vacation. Des Moines regularly pops up on the business and political radar. It is considered one of the foremost locations for basing an insurance company and makes headlines during presidential elections. The Iowa Caucuses have kicked off every presidential election since 1972.
Des Moines is known for its creative arts, boasting several art and history museums along with a symphony, opera company, ballet company, and several theaters and performing arts groups.
1. Des Moines Art Center – Includes a permanent collection of major 19th, 20th, and 21st century recognized masterpieces in a contemporary building complex designed by three internationally recognized architects.
2. Iowa State Capitol – The 23-karat golden dome towering above the city is flanked by four smaller domes. The capitol houses the governor’s offices, legislature and the old Supreme Court room. Guided tours available.
3. National Balloon Museum – Learn about ballooning – the new, the novel, the nostalgic and the historic. Includes hot air, gas, smoke and airships. Located in Indianola.
4. State Historical Museum – This modern granite and glass structure at the foot of the State Capitol houses several permanent and temporary exhibits. Explore the people, places, events, and issues of Iowa’s past. Features a genealogy and Iowa history library and museum store.
5. Downtown Farmers’ Market – The Downtown Farmers’ Market is open every Saturday from May through October. Browse nearly 200 vendors from 47 Iowa counties and experience eclectic live entertainment including jugglers, mimes, stilt walkers and local musicians. Open 7 a.m.–noon, rain or shine.
6. Des Moines Library – The Des Moines Public Library offers programs and cultural events such as story time for the kids, book discussions, and interactive displays.
7. 100 Miles of Public Trails – Des Moines boasts over 100 miles of trails and was recently named the No. 1 walking city in Iowa by Prevention magazine. Walk, run, or bike.
8. Fishing, boating and swimming – Saylorville Lake contains 394 wet slips, secure docks, a floating restaurant & bar, full boat service facility, ship store, pump-out, fuel, boat and bike rentals, bathrooms and showers. Gray’s Lake features a boat rental facility, a fishing pier, floating boardwalks, and a park resource center. The centerpiece of the park is a lighted trail which encircles the entire park. Visit Easter Lake for its beach, boat rental and concession area.
9. Des Moines Arts Festival – Iowa’s only free, three-day celebration of the arts, held annually in late Une. Features 175 artists and original artwork, family art activities and lve music.
10. Pappajohn Sculpture Park – The park showcases a collection of sculptures. Located from 10th to 15th streets between Grand Avenue and Locust Street in Western Gateway Park. Picnicking is allowed.